Disney's representation of its princesses has often come under fire (for good reason) for its sexism, glorification of traditional gender roles, and its relationships that would now be considered to be riddled with abusive red flags. That being said, one expert on color has a different take on something subtle about the princesses that could be quietly sending another message; the color of their dresses.
Several Disney princesses wear blue dresses, and Leatrice Eiseman, executive director at the Pantone Color Institute, spoke with Allure about the symbolism behind that. It turns out, much of the meaning that we place on the color blue has to do with our own feelings about the sky.
“It’s dependable. It’s reliable. It might cloud up, but we know it’s there," Eiseman said.
Other positive qualities that are linked to the color blue, such as stability, depth, loyalty, consistency, confidence, and intelligence are qualities that are much more encouraged in little boys' development than in a little girl's. Hence all of the blue "it's a boy" baby stuff, blue toys, and general "blue is for boys" mentality that is still prevalent. Eiseman believes that introducing this color in the otherwise gender-normative setting of the Disney princess's world may have been a slight touch of empowerment for Alice, Belle, Cinderella and Dorothy.
“You’re adding a bit of power to the character by giving her the blue,” Eiseman said. “It’s a very subtle way of saying, ‘Yeah, but young women, young girls, can be empowered, too.’”
This theory holds up when we look at how and when these characters' costumes change throughout their respective films. Cinderella's outfit changes from a ratty pink housedress to a beautiful blue ball gown when it's time for her big moment at the ball...
...Alice's blue dress stays with her through a tumble down the rabbit hole, and brings her to the other side with a fantastical new way of looking at the world...
...and Dorothy's iconic blue gingham dress carries her through tornadoes and other disasters, all the way home again, where she returns with renewed strength and perspective.
“There is a sort of refinement and crispness to light blue, but there’s also blue in workwear. It is a practical color, and a color that you can work in. In that sense, it is full of active strength," Eiseman said. Here's to active strength being portrayed in the characters that young girls look up to!