With the rise of “geek culture” and the ever-growing popularity of Comic Cons has come a boom in creative cosplay, a once tiny hobby now elevated to an artwork. What began as a dude in a plastic Darth Vader mask playing pretend became an array of movie accurate costumes, the product of hours of tireless labor to get every last stitch right. Not content to just copy, some creative cosplayers even began blending, gender-bending or generally reimagining their favorite heroes.
Of course, for some of us, our childhood heroes didn’t all have capes and cowls; some had long flowing dresses, determined drive, and dreams of a whole new world. Indeed, are there more iconic and easily recognizable women in popular culture than those fairytale princesses immortalized in Disney’s animated classics? It’s impossible to try and picture those century-old characters like Snow White, Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty without seeing them in the same style and color-scheme Walt conceived for them in the mid-20th century. So what better canvas is there for these talented tailors to create their transformative works than cosplay? Here we’ve collected some of the most clever, audacious and sometimes downright insane Disney Princess cosplays to ever grace a Comic Con show floor.
25 SLAVE LEIA PRINCESSES
Inarguably, Disney Princesses are the most iconic female fantasy figures of contemporary culture. Equally inarguable is the fact that, for better or worse, the most iconic female costume in science fiction is the “Slave Leia” metal bikini. Needless to say, a combination of the two isn’t an uncommon sight at any Comic Con or costume affair and mashups have become fairly standard.
However, top honors have got to go to the flawless execution by this collection of cosplayers. From the customization and attention to detail to their eye-catching use of color, cosplayers Elizabeth Rage (Belle), Rain Synnth (Mulan), Hendo Art (Pocahontas), Maid of Might (Ariel), Reagan Kathryn (Rapunzel) and Ashlynne Dae (Merida) have set a high bar for any for plan to don the metal-kini after.
24 ASSASSIN SNOW WHITE
Assassin’s Creed is one of the most ubiquitous gaming franchises of the modern era, just as popular (if not more) for its historical setting and aesthetic as it is for its gameplay. The franchise has traveled to such far-reaching locales as Jerusalem, Venice and Victorian England. The one place it never traveled to, however, was the Magic Kingdom.
That is, it never went there until cosplayer Amie Lynn decided to take a character once dubbed “Disney’s folly” (prior to the film's groundbreaking success, Hollywood insiders expected Snow White And The Seven Dwarves to bomb) and turn it into Disney’s Fury. Her amiable aristocrat with wrist blades is ready to slice through any poisoned apple. Mirror, mirror on the wall, we think this is the fiercest one of all.
23 BALLERINA PRINCESSES
Not all cosplayers set out to subvert or sensualize their subjects. Here we see a natural extension of the inherent grace and elegance that was always stressed in the design of the early Disney princesses, a melding of Disney’s fairytale figures with one of the earliest mediums to dabble in live-action fairy tales -- ballet.
Of course, the venue explains the choice in costume. As opposed to the chaotic confluence of conflicting costumes at your typical Con, this picture hails from the 2015 D23. D23 is a convention devoted exclusively to all things Disney, where disciples of Mickey can gather to discuss their favorites, trade memorabilia, and be the first to see all the new rides, trailers and innovations from their beloved company. As evidenced by this picture, sometimes the fans like to do some innovating themselves.
22 WARRIOR JASMINE
Though Disney princesses certainly became more feminist during the '90s Disney Renaissance, many have argued that it wasn’t enough. Sure, they had a bit more agency, but they ultimately still fell into the “damsel in distress” category whenever the narrative called for it. Why were we getting stories about captured Princess Jasmine needing rescue from Jafar when we could be getting a film about Khawlah bint al-Azwar, blood-drenched warrior woman leading the Siege of Damascus?
Well, one intrepid cosplayer at Anime Expo 2014 decided to split the difference with a brilliantly conceived adaptation. Here, we see Jasmine, still in her traditional color-scheme, but with armor instead of flowing fabric (we’d question how protected most of that exposed midriff is, but we’ll go with “video game logic”). Also notable is the inclusion of Jasmine’s fierce companion Raja, embedded into the design of her shield.
21 JEDI PRINCESSES
Disney films and Star Wars have both always functioned within the structure of fairy tales; stories of magic and wizards and destinies discovered. The eventual uniting of the two franchises under one roof sparked a million imaginations, particularly the way the much maligned prequels showed how various cultures adapted to the Jedi customs, each with their own bits of flavor.
It stands to reason that some would recast their favorite childhood royalty into the fierce Jedi order, but this particular group earns top honors for the little details you might miss at first glance. Is that a thermal detonator in the hands of Belle? No, it’s actually Chip, the tea cup. Note the apple on Snow White’s utility belt, the fishing net strapped on Ariel (presumably to fish alongside Luke on Ahch-To), and the incorporation of Raja on Jasmine as a tattoo (resembling the body art adorned by Anakin in the 2D Clone Wars cartoon).
20 MANDALORIAN ARIEL
Say what you will about Attack of the Clones, it opened up the world of a Mandalorian culture which, until then, had been buried within novels and fanfic. Once just “cool looking armor” on a minor character, fans now understood the meaning behind the helmet through characters like Satine Kryze in The Clone Wars and Sabine Wren in Rebels. With this new fictional culture came a new opportunity to create and customize.
Musician and Adorkable Apparel founder Traci Hines decided to combine her favorite animated mermaid, Ariel, with the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy, who just so happened to also make his debut in animated form (never forget the Star Wars Holiday Special). Bonus points for incorporating the sea-shell top into the armor, and the fins into the boots. She just needs to keep an eye out for sea witches and blind guys with sticks.
19 PIN-UP PRINCESSES
Maybe it was Mad Men, maybe it was nostalgia, or maybe the pendulum of pop culture swung back into the Eisenhower-era abyss, but scantily-clad costumes have fallen out of vogue in favor of a revival of the curvaceous and covered pin-up culture. Capitalized on by the beautifully drawn (and astonishingly well-written) DC Bombshells series, it seems every pop-culture icon has been given the pin-up treatment.
What’s remarkable about this expansive assemblage of cosplayers (a full credits list of which can be found at CosIT Photography’s Facebook page) is the sheer number of characters they incorporate, and the varied ways they adapted these characters' looks to the period and genre. From the sultry secretarial style of Megara to the Baby Spice evoking ensemble of Anna, we could picture any one of these lovely ladies painted on the side of the Rocketeer’s bomber (yes, we know he actually has a jetpack. Cut us some slack. Not a lot of WWII-era aeronautics in Disney).
18 XENA, DISNEY PRINCESS
You may be surprised by this inclusion, but let’s face it, Xena fulfills all the criteria to be a Disney Princess. Is a Princess? Check! Sings songs? In the musical episode “The Bitter Suite,” check! Is owned by Disney? …alright, shut up. The point is, Xena is a princess and it's about time somebody gave her the Disney treatment.
Thankfully, Chad Hill and Castle Corsetry agree, and came up with this wonderfully faithful melding of both beloved franchises. Modeled here by Bernadette Bentley, this costume incorporates both the color and texture of Xena’s iconic armor from the bodice on down, while retaining the more extravagant shape of a traditional Disney Princess dress. The incorporation of Xena’s classic Chakram as an accessory is a perfect finishing touch.
17 BEARDED PRINCESSES
As American society has begun more and more to recognize gender as little more than a limiting social construct, gender-bent cosplays have become more and more prominent. Some intricately reconfigure classic characters through a lens of contemporary androgyny, others rework them through the visual social protocols associated with the opposite sex. And then some say, “Hey, what if the princesses had beards”, and darned if we don’t salute them for it.
These intrepid heroes, dubbed the Disney Princess Stunt Doubles (a la the bearded stunt doubles in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs), regularly appear at DragonCon, decked out in their dresses and ready to deck someone. Special snaps need be given to Matt Hoffman’s Rapunzel, rocking a full Robert De Niro sneer in the front row.
16 HARLEY QUINN ARIEL
After a few years of Comic Cons lost in a sea of Harleys, you’d feel pretty hard pressed to find any variations on the oversaturated character that could still impress. Yet, then you stumble across a unique mash-up like this. Ariel, who debuted in 1989, and Harley, who hit screens in 1992, could practically be sisters, both possessed with a rambunctious and rebellious attitude, and a predilection towards trusting menacing monsters.
Here we see a variation on the Suicide Squad design, a film which paired Quinn with, among others, an inexplicably BET-loving Killer Croc. As such, we want to believe this particular mash-up of Harley and Ariel came with a really jacked Sebastian the Crab in a hoodie jamming out to Rick Ross. In fact, that gives us an idea for that live action reboot they’re planning. Someone call Disney!
15 SAILOR SCOUT PRINCESSES
The mid- to late '90s saw an anime boom in the US, replacing American animated shows with hastily assembled dubs of Japanese classics. Of the mass of anime exported, few have stood the test of time in the American pop culture memory, but for a generation of girls and boys desperate for female heroes in a pre-Powerpuff Girls world, Sailor Moon and the Sailor Scouts will forever matter.
There’s plenty of fan art turning the Disney princesses into Sailor Scouts, but this actualized array of costumes by Glitzy Geek Girl and co. (as seen at AKon 25) takes the cake. The gorgeous detail in the costumes, making them instantly recognizable to fans of both franchises, is worthy of recognition alone. But, as nerds, we’ve gotta freak out over the inclusion of Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Seriously, find it on Netflix. That film holds up.
14 STEAMPUNK ARIEL
Disney saw a massive return to the public consciousness in the ‘90s, coming off of hits like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. At the same time, steampunk had a real shot at capturing the public consciousness at the tail end of the decade via a giant mechanical spider in the wiki-wiki-Wild Wild West.
The latter didn’t work out too well, but perhaps the confluence of concepts left a mark on cosplayer The Artful Dodger. Here we see a steampunk take on the curious collector mermaid Ariel, who presumably uses her dinglehopper to power a large submarine, or possibly a zeppelin. Sure, both seem counterintuitive to aquatic life, but who knows? In this alternate timeline, maybe the world has become so polluted everyone has to live in underwater domes or something. Possibly called Rapture? Nah, that sounds silly, we’ll keep workshopping.
13 STEAMPUNK SNOW WHITE
A lot of people think steampunk is just goggles and top hats. But those truly committed to the genre are drawn to its storytelling potential. Through your costumes, you get to tell not just a story, but an entire alternate history, whose trials and tribulations are shown through the necessities designed into your wardrobe.
The Snow White we see isn’t the innocent soul we met in her 1937 debut. No, this Snow White has seen some stuff, and she is a survivor. Check out that gas mask, a fun reference to her poisoning in the original tale. Between the mask, the goggles and the gloves, we know that this rough and tumble Snow White is ready for action at a moment’s notice. Sure, the heels might get in the way, but the design work on them is so on point, we’ll let it go.
12 BATTLE ARMOR PRINCESSES
Did you grow up watching those classic clamshell Disney VHS films and think “I wish there was more straight-up murder?” If so, this seeming crossover between the ladies of Disney and League of Legends is right up your alley. Ready to take on dragons and the patriarchy, these fierce fighters were photographed by William Phan at Anime Revolution in Vancouver.
There’s a lot to love about these beautifully conceived costumes, which feel as at home in the World of Warcraft as they are in the Magic Kingdom. While the intricacy of Snow White’s design or Ariel’s glorious trident might catch your eye, we’d like to draw your attention to Anna’s tiny blade, perfect for up close combat. You don’t want to know what she does if you don’t want to build a snowman.
11 ART NOUVEAU SNOW WHITE
Rather than redefining or “mashing up” the inaugural Disney princess, it’s admirable that Cindyrella Cosplay endeavored to recreate the character through the lens of an older design style. Art Nouveau was the style from 1890-1910, meaning had Walt been born a generation earlier, we likely would have seen a Snow White that looked like this.
Sometimes, for a truly remarkable cosplay, the picture matters as much as the costume. On its own, this Art Nouveau Snow White would be eye catching. But take a moment to really look at the setting, the framing, and of course those gold embellishments that form the infamous apple up top, all done by photographer Chris Herrera. All together, it makes for something that wouldn’t feel out of place even in a museum.
10 TWISTED PRINCESSES
We’re not easily disturbed here at CBR. We’ve all read Alan Moore. We all bought Todd McFarlane’s Twisted Fairy Tales. We even sat through that whole pig baby thing on Hannibal and didn’t flinch. But we had to take a step back when we saw this and just ask… how? Oh, and we mean that in the best way.
Jane’s conjured the beasts of the jungle. Wendy is forced to sail the seas of Neverland eternally young. Pocahontas learned that, yes, those white men were dangerous. For those that remember the honestly outright disturbing Fates in Hercules, it’s clear that Megara has become the latest to join their ranks. But easily the most chilling is Cinderella, who appears to have been made into a human garment by some over-eager mice. That or she’s hanging out with the Other Mother from Coraline. Somehow, the option involving the “Other Mother” is the less creepy one.
9 SNOW LOKI
Some kids don’t care for the heroes. There’s a reason Disney has villain Meet and Greets. The heroes all seem to fit some cookie cutter mold, but Maleficent, Captain Hook, Jafar, they’re all their own thing. The same is true with the Marvel movies. The trickster god Loki has captured the public’s imagination more than some of the heroes in their stable.
Of course, if you’ve ever seen a Thor movie, you know that glam is more than a bit of Loki’s persona (how does he maintain that mane?). So this fab San Diego Comic Con mashup was perhaps inevitable. But who could have expected it to be this good? Call it gender-bent (though Loki can always bend his gender), bask in the Maleficent vibes; whatever you do, just make sure to show her your respect, and kneel before her.
8 MERIDA LINK
Despite Brave not being the best received of the Pixar films (it’s no Good Dinosaur, after all), Merida still captured the imagination of certain kids young and old because she was, first and foremost, a fighter with a strong heart. It stands to reason, then, that many would see parallels between her and Nintendo’s silent archer Link from the Legend of Zelda franchise.
This Link/Merida mashup comes complete with a companion, a blend of the Will o’ the Wisps from Brave, the ancient spirits from Scottish mythology, and Navi from Ocarina of Time, the absolutely grating guide that caused us to mute the TV. Whether she’s shooting for her own hand or rescuing the princess, we think this costume is an absolute bullseye.
7 POST-APOCALYPTIC PRINCESSES
Oh, where to begin with this fabulous blend of Disney World and Tank Girl? Right up front is the fantastic “Fairy Godmother” bazooka on Cinderella, firing pumpkins. The decapitated Maleficent skull wielded by Aurora is also a fabulously grim touch.
Though, while a trident-wielding Ariel or a Pocahontas strapped with gats is fun, the highlight of the image has to be Tinkerbell. See, Belle has her hunter’s rifle, Merida her crossbow, all modified versions of weapons befitting their stories. Tinkerbell is ready for war. She has gone to the mattresses. She’s not just packing a sword, but guns and even grenades. These ladies best hope they all stay on the same side, because while the rest of these ladies are playin’ checkers, Tink is playin’ chess.
6 FIFTH DOCTOR SNOW WHITE
You’d be forgiven for thinking at first glance that this is just a simple Snow White in a TARDIS, albeit one with great makeup game (seriously, killin’ it). That’s a testament to how clever, subtle and cohesive this crossover is. In actuality, this costume is a perfect blend of the first Disney Princess with the Fifth Doctor, as played by Peter Davison.
The red lining on the lapels of Snow’s jacket are identical to those on the coat of Davison’s Doctor, but of course the sleeves are classic Snow White. The color scheme of the dress even perfectly copies the striped pants of the intrepid Time Lord. One likes to imagine that Snow White stumbled upon the TARDIS one day in the woods, and stayed because it had room for all the dwarves. It is bigger on the inside, after all.
5 UNDEAD DISNEY PRINCESSES
Zombies are all the rage, and plenty of properties have given their IP the undead treatment. Call of Duty, Marvel, The Simpsons have all done it, but Disney would never sanction anything so vile for their beloved characters. Thankfully, cosplayers do what the corporate suits won’t, and we all reap the benefits.
At first blush, it just seems like zombified versions of our childhood heroes. But take some time, and you’ll see many character-specific injuries -- Mulan’s halved face representing the dual identities she held in life, Alice wielding a severed rabbit head, Belle waving the bone of a wolf (or maybe Gaston). Perhaps best of all are the claw marks on Aladdin and Jasmine, implying they lost a fight with the fearsome Raja.
4 PRINCESS KYLO REN
We often use the term “princess” for a temperamental, entitled child of privilege/royalty, prone to hissy fits and indifferent to the feelings of others. By that standard, who better fits the bill as a princess than the inspiration for the Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account, Ben Solo.
Tara Lynne, of A Geek Saga, made that observation, took that tri-blade baton and ran with it with this gorgeous dress and headband combo. That’s right, that’s not a helmet, that’s her hair (well, probably a wig) and a really cleverly designed headpiece. The dress was adapted from a black Quinceanara dress, proving that one needn’t start from scratch to craft a killer costume. Lynne stated on her website her intention to add a cape to the costume, and as Kylo would say, we hope she finishes… what she started.
3 WALKING DEAD ANNA & ELSA
Though the inspiration for the costume is The Walking Dead, this duo feels like it would fit right in in Resident Evil or any of the myriad post-apocalyptic anime out there. Assembled and modeled by Ophelie Jones and Lexi Farron, these two look like they just stumbled out of the coolest, most violent Asylum mock-buster version of Frozen ever.
A fun little character touch is that the normally closed off, housebound Elsa doesn’t take the role of sniper, letting the adventurous Anna wield the big gun. This Elsa likes to get up close and personal, and apparently traded in an ice dress for some torn jeans and a bra. That, of course, makes sense, regardless of the weather. We’ve heard tell that the cold never bothered her anyway.
2 GREEN ARROW MERIDA
Merida is great and all, but let’s face facts: she wasn’t the first gallant archer decked out in all green. The truth is, Merida would probably have made a better sidekick to Oliver Queen than either Speedy turned out to be. But since they can’t team up (unless Disney acquires even more IP) this convention crossover is the best we’re gonna get, so lucky us that it’s pretty darned great.
Of course, if it weren’t for the long flowing orange locks, one might think this was simply a gender bent Green Arrow costume. But eagle-eyed Arrow fans would notice the very specific bow our Emerald Archer is wielding, bearing identical markings to those on the bow of the Dunbroch princess.
1 STORM AND SHURI
With Black Panther in theaters, the world is finally becoming familiar with the Wakandan royalty whose saga has populated the pages of Marvel for half a century (minus T’Challa’s mutant wife, held captive for now by Fox). By the transitive properties of royal titles, that would qualify at least Shuri, if not also Storm, for an honorary Disney Princess title.
Let’s face it, both have better claims to royal titles than Tiana or Mulan, but they’re both official. And before you say “Well, Marvel isn’t Disney,” neither is Pixar, yet Merida has been given the honor. We’re saying it here, and make no mistake: Shuri is a Disney Princess, and we will not rest until she’s wielding weapons next to Cinderella.