If there’s one thing needed to bring any Disney classic film to life on the big screen, it’s the costumes created by imaginative designers and artists alike. Costume design is something that has always fascinated me and being a long-time Disney fan, I was excited to visit the Heroes & Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
Presented by the Walt Disney Archives the exhibit explores about six decades of films produced by The Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Television, and Disney Theatrical Group. Heroes & Villains has a total of 79 costumes from 32 films. These costumes represent 24 different designers in total worn by 71 different actors.
The exhibit carries an array of costume pieces such as dresses, capes, and tiaras. Along with each costume piece, visitors can learn about the designer’s insight into creating each costume along with photographs and costume sketches. Normally when you watch a Disney movie or TV show you just get a glimpse at these statement pieces and how they connect with the characters that wear them. It was so interesting to learn how designers got creative with the materials used for each outfit and how it reflects the character’s personality.
“Costume design allows you to do a different type of research and create characters, whereas in fashion, you create an image and clothing for the masses.”
-Colleen Atwood (costume designer)
I loved this exhibit to pieces. It was such an incredible opportunity to see some of these iconic outfits up close. Though some costumes were encased in glass visitors still got an opportunity to see the small details up close. For Cinderella’s dress (2015 film version) you could see how the Swarovski crystals glittered across the gown and the intricacies of the butterflies that lay on the shoulder sleeves.
Some of the costume highlights in this exhibit collection include:
- Hocus Pocus (1993) – Sanderson Sisters dresses and vacuum
- Mary Poppins (1964) – Traveling dress
- 101 Dalmatians (1996) – Cruella de Vil
- Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) – Red and White Queen
My favorite piece in this entire exhibit was the gowns from Cinderella (1997 film version). That film meant so much to me as a young girl because of all the on-screen representation. Seeing Brandy’s and Whitney Houston’s gowns up close made me emotional, and I was overcome with joy. I have had a special love for Disney movies since my childhood and seeing these costumes in person really enhanced my connection to these special films.
I really hope I can get to see another Disney exhibit soon. You still have time to visit the Heroes & Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume at the Henry Ford Museum until January 1, 2023. Visit the museum’s website for more information about tickets. Stay tuned for the next Walt Disney Archives traveling exhibit, Disney 100, coming in 2023.