Rounding up the proclaimed colors of the year for 2018 reveals one thing: we’re done with green. Last year, the bright and neon hues were influenced by Pantone’s Greenery. While the risky tone aspired to feel fresh, Greenery didn’t deliver a universal appeal (creating comparisons to the Mucinex Snot Monster).
This year, neons are out. Nuanced, almost muted, tones dominate all the major paint brands and fashion houses. While the bright, primary colors pop faithfully as accents, they aren’t overtaking 2018 palettes.
Colors of the Year for 2018
In my opinion, Pantone remains the truest predictor as they scour all areas for top color trends. This hue feels both fresh and nostalgic, as the muted purple echos royalty while forecasting a turn toward neo-luxury.
“We are living in a time that requires inventiveness and imagination. It is this kind of creative inspiration that is indigenous to PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet, a blue-based purple that takes our awareness and potential to a higher level. From exploring new technologies and the greater galaxy, to artistic expression and spiritual reflection, intuitive Ultra Violet lights the way to what is yet to come.” – Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute.
My main critique is not of the color but rather, the galaxy-inspired styling. It’s derivative and reflective, mirroring the several-years-old Gen Z affinity for star-scape.
My hope: Maybe Ultra Violet will replace Millennial Pink.
For me, this pick disappoints with its obvious application. Are you updating your oak-cabinet kitchen? Make it look like a bistro with this red. Are you sick of your dull tresses? Add these mulled wine undertones to your brown bob. Did you hit a midlife crisis? Pick the compact SUV without a silver or navy finish.
While this brand is known for timeless selections, this color doesn’t impress. It’s too overdone to feel fresh and too safe to become a real classic.
My thoughts: If I saw this chip, I wouldn’t assume it was part of the Benjamin Moore brand.
PPG created a color that was much more nuanced than I expected from their team. It falls into a similar family as last year’s Shadow from Benjamin Moore. When I saw it, I immediately thought of three literary references:
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austin
- Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Any tone that takes me away from pure design into another passion is one worth considering. I imagine this as the handmade-purple dye that springs from soaking linen in purple onions.
While the color clearly resonates more as a tame accent wall, I can appreciate the layers of subtlety.
My opinion: It’s the Ultra Violet for people who like to smell their books.
I have tried so hard not to hate this tone. I cannot like it. Jewel tones are so done, like on-clearance-at-Walmart done. Jewel tones will never really be classic and at best their styling becomes tawdry. I only appreciate them as something bourgeoisie, ironic or costumed.
For set design, Oceanside could evoke the flamboyance of a Victorian brothel without defaulting to gold and maroon. For real life, it’s impossible to light in a home and outdated to wear.
The pity? I actually like the name. I wouldn’t paint a cottage this color but, I want to go somewhere with walls painted in Oceanside. I just don’t want it to be this Oceanside.
My issue: I never liked the jewel-tone trend and I’m not going to start liking it now.
My only local choice, Cozy Cover comes from James T. Davis. The tone mimics last year’s similarly subtle hue. A reflective choice, this color uncovers the local tastes, where many families add their warm touch to historical homes.
As someone who constantly covets change, I always appreciate a strong neutral tone. It provides a backdrop to the colorful transitions of life. And who doesn’t struggle to find a decent beige that isn’t too yellow under flourescent lights?
My Take: This local paint brand stays in touch with the needs of the Lynchburg market.
Out of the Green
Each year, the selected colors are both predictive and prolific. Trendsetters, as always, tells us what to want before we know we want it. My favorites, Ultra Violet and Violet Verbena, take me somewhere – Ultra Violet gallops forward and Violet Verbena swishes backwards. My least liked tones, Caliente and Oceanside, fall flat. They don’t spark a discussion, inspire nostalgia or push the limits of design.
As a whole, these selected tones reflect a push away from last year’s bright and blaring colors. So, I’d like to see what you think.
Which colors are you bringing with you into 2018?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
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Currently, I feel invigorated and relieved. You see, I just cleansed my closet again. This time, I examined everything, including closet staples. As someone who lives on a budget and has a small clothing allowance, I appreciate the cost of clothing. However, I just took the time again to rebuild my wardrobe into something that I can love.
Do you hate everything in your closet?
Below are some reasons why you hate everything in your closet and some tips to fix it.
1. There’s too much inside. You can’t find the items that you like because they keep falling behind stuff that you never want to wear.
Fix it: Try pulling out half of your wardrobe and setting it aside. After a few weeks, you’ll be able to find a mix of what you really wear.
2. You’re missing undergarments. If you don’t have the right bras, slips, or tights to wear with your wardrobe then, you’re probably in a pickle.
Fix it: Make sure you have those basic underpinnings ready. Check each item to make sure you own the right supporting garments.
3. You’re wearing someone else’s clothes. I’m not talking about an existential crisis where you’ve been single-white-femaled into the wronge wardrobe. I mean that your closet contains too many gifted, borrowed, and handed-down items.
Fix it: Start evaluating clothing gifts in light of your true preferences and kindly decline anything that doesn’t work.
4. You are missing shoes. Sure your closet may seem full of footwear but, do you have the right ones? I find that if I don’t replace my basic footwear (ie. nude heels, black dress shoe, or neutral boot), I end up with so many outfits that won’t work. Also, the impulse to buy cute but impractical shoes may have filled your shoe rack with all the wrong trends.
Fix it: Take suggestions from bloggers who have a capsule wardrobe. They give practical suggestions for limiting shoes to a few important basics.
5. Nothing is tailored. Hems dragging on the ground and bunched up sleeves makes clothing look cheap.
Fix it: Although sewing seems to have skipped a generation, that doesn’t mean your clothes can’t fit. While you’re practicing alteration skills, be sure to take your special clothes to a tailor. Even a frugal wardrobe can benefit from some thoughtful pleats.
6. You changed your hair. Whether it’s the cut or color, you may find that your hair has evolved while your wardrobe hasn’t.
Fix it: Search images of your haircut and consider what your new style may be. Make sure you’re balancing that new ‘do with your old clothes.
7. Your wardrobe staples are old. That basic black T is pilled and your jeans don’t fit in the waist. Your favorite socks have holes and that sweater is worn around the arms.
Fix it: Whatever your style, there are probably a few items that you consistently wear for comfort. Maybe it’s a white, v-neck t-shirt that you know looks great with every skirt in your closet. If those integral staples are pilled, frayed, or stained, they should be thoughtfully replaced.
8. You don’t like your belt. Once, I realized that I didn’t have a single belt in my closet that served multiple purposes. I had a few clearance rack finds and some trendy, cheap statement pieces. However, when I wanted to actually just wear pants, I found myself skipping over every belt to go without.
Fix it: Every person needs a perfect belt. It should fit the size you are right now. It should hold up your pants and contribute to good lines in your outfit. It should not take away from your look by sagging or bunching. It’s nearly as hard as finding the perfect pair of jeans but, it’s worth it.
9. It’s a fashion trend graveyard. In the past, you just bought whatever you liked at the time. There was no deliberation and most of it can be linked back to your favorite TV character at the time.
Fix it: While it’s OK to change your taste, or even follow trends, every closet needs a core that makes sense. Look over everything and find something that unites your look. For me, it was realizing that I wanted to feel appropriate and comfortable in every situation. So, I picked one basic silhouette that flattered my curvy figure. Every clothing purchase is weighed against that silhouette. Now that I have some consistency in the shape I prefer wear, I can utilize trends as they catch my eye.
10. You’re stockpiling for another life. Maybe you’re clinging to clothes in the wrong size (large or small). Perhaps you are a stay-at-home mom with a rack full of only 6″ stilettos. Maybe you work in a business setting and only own one complete suit.
Fix it: Consider how you actually spend your days. Are you outside frequently? Do you work out? Do you watch children? Do you work in an office? Are you in school? Make sure you have clothing that fits your regular activities. Then, consider whether you need front-of-closet access to items from a former situation or a dream, future job. Pack up or dispose of anything that doesn’t fit with your normal routine.
Save for Later
Do you ever hate everything in your closet? How do you fix it?
Amid reports of Kirsten Dunst’s next project, directing The Bell Jar, the story has regained relevance. Most of The Bell Jar by Silvia Plath examines with the question of socially acceptable identity and the pressures on a mid-century American woman, echoing current gender role tensions. The main character, Esther Greenwood, begins The Bell Jar by explaining, “I was supposed to be having the time of my life,” contrasting her own feelings with societal expectations. These pressures are revealed early in Esther’s story, climaxing in her breakdown.
Esther was supposed to be notable. She won an internship with a New York magazine at the beginning of the story. Although she was included in a feature, the end of the experience was anti-climactic. Upon completion, Esther mourns that her experience in New York didn’t turn into something more.
Esther was supposed to be stylish. She was surrounded by beautiful women with a passion for fashion. Esther appeared to be a careful consumer but, the pressure of keeping up her appearance fatigues her after a while.
This can be seen at the very beginning, “I was supposed to be the envy of thousands of other college girls just like me all over America who wanted nothing more than to be tripping about in those same size seven patent leather shoes I’d bought in Bloomingdale’s one lunch hour with a black patent leather belt and black patent leather pocketbook to match.”
Esther was supposed to be happy. Upper middle-class and presented with great opportunities, Esther experiences guilt for feeling empty. Her mania builds from a desire to correct discontentment. Her peers and parents condemn her as both unbalanced and ungrateful.
The end of the story is unsettling, as her fate is still being determined. She is “analyzed” and may possibly be sent out in the world, supposedly cured. However, if one applies Plath’s real-life conclusion as an epilogue of Esther’s story, the ending takes on a tone of hopelessness. The institution boxed her into a role, “recovered”.
Do you ever get stuck focusing on what you’re “supposed” to be?
Upon reading this often-referenced, near-memoir, I endeavored to seek out universal meaning of The Bell Jar beyond the teen angst punchline. This is not a story about a weak woman, a torn person, or a thinly-veiled autobiography of an addled author. It’s a screech in the darkness, a song with no words. Plath picks at the question, “Why does society get to decide who young women are supposed to become?”
Appearance Is Reality
Chronicling a period in Esther’s life, starting with an internship at a women’s magazine, moving through an agitated summer where she unsuccessfully attempts to draft a novel, and ending with a phase of outdated psychiatric treatments, the book takes on serious subject matter with the flippancy of modern journalism.
The descriptive colors, tastes and scents of the story, leave me with the same impression as watching Gidget or something with Frankie Avalon singing exposition. The only difference is that this story is frustrated by the Technicolor emptiness behind the drama. Basically, it makes the reader sit there and think, “Even killing yourself really doesn’t stir things up.” She’s tired of being watched, judged. She’s not tired of failing expectations so much as tired of people putting expectations on her. All of these components create the metaphorical titular terrarium, under which she feels trapped, “in sour air” of paranoia.
Women Must Procreate When They’re Young
After years of being scolded by hypocritical pastors, listening to health advice from unhealthy doctors, and tolerating unsolicited opinions from dysfunctional adults, I have developed an interest in stories that focus on shared delusions.
In modern American culture, there are still people that consider me selfish and wrong to delay procreating. It’s the big picture that bothers me… the fact that people think they may assert control over another person’s decisions. Esther sums this up in her meeting with her first, entirely inept doctor, ““What did I think was wrong? That made it sound as if nothing was really wrong, I only thought it was wrong.”
Dysfunction is Limited to One
One of the themes in Girl, Interrupted by Susana Kaysen, questions whether institutionalized individuals are the only dysfunctional component of a family. In that memoir, it becomes clear that Kaysen’s mother, may have even more of a personality disorder. However, Kaysen’s mother has the social power, allowing her to force the main character into therapy. Kayson proposes that dysfunction groups of people, but the “weakest”, compliant individual who enters treatment.
Similarly, I have often found, when confronted with a group of dysfunctional people, one who does not accept the lie will be seen as a threat. This is revealed in phrases like, “You haven’t been around long enough…” or, “All of us agreed…” with the false reality supported by stories about situations. Often, these tales started with some truth, or at least the perception of it. But, the extrapolations extend beyond the actual applications. People divulge and withhold information based on their own agendas. Those who refuse to admit it, are terrifying to the dysfunctional group.
The cycle repeats as people with their own massive problems will attempt to control others in an effort to keep their made-up world from crumbling. This ranges from small-scale social bullying to nefarious political agendas. Sometimes, the sheer presence of someone who raises an eyebrow at a mutual, agreed upon lie– made up in an effort to manipulate outcomes– puts the untruthful party on the attack.
And then more lies follow–lies about the eye-brow-raiser– who “obviously doesn’t understand, never could, and should be put in place” before they disrupt the false order of a micro-universe. And although one can assure them, “I have no interest in your drama,” they will seek to discredit and destroy, lest we see the mold on the gingerbread house.
This is why women revolted in the last century. That’s why we will never dismiss Plath or her work.
Are you excited about the upcoming film?
As a child, I spent my summers at the family beach rental — getting up early to watch the sunrise and falling asleep at night on a couch in the screened porch. Everything was a little damp and too warm — perfection. At that beach house, I made a lifetime supply of bad watercolor art. I sketched and read back issues of national geographic. I talked to strangers. I acted precocious and peculiar. If there is a place where my soul was formed, it was sitting on the end of a bulkhead, endlessly trying to capture the toxic waves of the Jersey shore in green and gold glory.
Atlantic City Feeling
“I’m going to be a diving girl!” proclaimed Sonora at the outset of Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken. Released in 1991, this film rolls along with the nineties nostalgia by reminding us of our romanticized Great Depression fixation as we head into our own roaring twenty-twenties. As much as I am prone to mock the melodrama, I still replay the “jumping on the horse” scene each time I need motivation. Because I can often relate to the metaphorical, “Look ma, there’s a girl climbing the tower.”
The ambition, the angst, and windblown bob continue to capture my imagination. Currently, the shift dress silhouettes and boardwalk beachwood inspire my aesthetic.
A Seaside Place
At the aforementioned getaway, I would often paint at an aluminum table on the porch — which I begged my family to keep in storage. The ornate legs were difficult to sand and refinish, which I kept in their original glossy white. The green top always capture’s people’s imaginations. For some, it reminds them of a similar piece in their own home. Others have never seen a similar vintage piece. This table fits with my overall home vibe: a simple, seaside place.
The beachy inspiration may be hard to detect if you assume themed seashell and beach umbrella style. My look does not hearken a tourist motel room scream toward theme. It’s a feeling inspired by the rush of grass on the dunes and the quiet, bleached tones of a wabi-sabi vacation home.
I’ve always yearned for a simple space, with useful, trusted, practical belongings, that provides a sanctuary for my art. With each apartment, this table sets the style – simple, useful, and trusted.
Note: Wardrobe Remix is a series of posts inspired by creative ways to get more out of your wardrobe during a seasonal change. To view similar posts, check the “Wardrobe Remix” tag.
If you regularly follow my posts, then you know that I advocate mindful consumption. Whether that means shopping local, building a capsule wardrobe or reusing bits and bobbles, individuals should buy considerately. This Wardrobe Remix series brings those notions to life for different seasons. I like to see how people, real people that I know, get the most out of the clothing in their closets.
The original concept stemmed from my refusal to do “shopping hauls.” Buying many pieces at the same time doesn’t create savings in the long run. Instead, those dolla-dolla bills are hanging in your closet. Last fall, during the Wardrobe Remix series, I talked about making room for change by cleaning out my closet. This emotional process moved my outfits to a supporting role for my life. This summer, I’m pushing the boundaries of each remaining clothing item even further — by challenging myself to wear my things to new places.
At The Past Minute
Since my husband has been out of town all summer for training, I’ve maintained regular dates with myself. Yes, that breakup plot-line in every girl-comedy — I am doing that. I started occasionally going out on dates with myself because my husband and I work opposite shifts. During some seasons of life, I have friends to take along to the things I enjoy. Other times, art, books, music, and hiking don’t interest my social circle.
The hardest thing about taking yourself out on a date is the lack pressure to meet a timeline. Fridays in particular are my weakness. I can easily slump home after work and spend the entire evening sitting on the couch. It’s not a peaceful, Pinterest post with a cardigan, novel and cup of tea. It’s an unsettled slouch, where I replay the victories and losses of the work week over and over in my head. Breaking away from Friday work to a Friday night out provides the appropriate mental transition. So, Friday is for chambray. I can layer the trans-formal fabric with linen pants or a skirt to look great for a meeting and chill for an evening at a gallery.
Friday is for Chambray- Danielle, Verderamade
The basic look pairs easily with my eclectic collection of found, made, vintage, and borrowed jewelry. So, I’m going places, by myself. No excuses — no going home to change.
A Blonde Date
I’m a natural bronde – that dark and dirty blonde that always leaves Carrie Bradshaw roots. When I was 21, I dyed my hair a dark chocolate brown because I kind of hated my work and wanted to see something else in the mirror each morning. Then, I started a decades-long dyeing addiction. Much to the enjoyment of my hairdresser, I’m up for any color, and any cut, anytime. This time, she took me back to my roots and that make-under was somehow scarier than a transformative tone.
“I’m so tired of being me. Me beautiful. Me ugly. Blonde. Brunette. A million f*cking fashion makeovers that only leave me trapped being me. Who I was before the accident is just a story now. Everything before now, before now, before now, is just a story I carry around. I guess that would apply to anybody in the world. What I need is a new story about who I am. What I need to do is f*ck up so bad I can’t save myself.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
To see my true colors again remains a wonder. After years of getting high off the novelty of switching tones, I thought this shade would underwhelm me. Instead, it’s bringing back #allthefeels. When I first ran away from being blonde, I relished the fact that people (read: men) took me more seriously. Part of me was always afraid to go back to that ingénue persona.
Surprisingly, I actually see how far I’ve come when I look in the mirror now. My younger self might find herself both shocked and pleased at how I’ve spent the last decade. That ghost of hair-color past and I agree, it’s not the hair that makes the woman.
On the Road Again
With a summer separated from my love, I was eager to make a weekend trip to visit him. As I packed, I thought about how everything in my wardrobe goes with everything now. So, packing means putting together an appropriate number of pieces for the duration of days — no mixing, matching or thinking required.
And I went places. I drove through several states, blaring oldies radio to keep me awake. My linen pants and chambray shirt helped me slide from a desk to a steering wheel. During my visit, the chambray sundress and blue button-down (above) carried me from an early church service, to an art gallery, to eating an Italian hoagie in a hotel room bed.
This summer, my style is about where I’m going — believe me, I’m going.
If you’re interested in guest blogging for a future remix series, please contact me directly.
Note: Wardrobe Remix is a series of posts inspired by creative ways to get more out of your wardrobe during a seasonal change. To view similar posts, check the “Wardrobe Remix” tag.
Creative work at a nuclear facility. A professional manner in an industrial atmosphere. A feminine flavor while safety codes are always the priority. Calm classy responses to crude, reactive conflicts.
These are some of the oxymorons that I encounter as head of communication for a nuclear power facility.
My outfits matter. They make me approachable to the 600 people whom I interact, while subtly insisting that I’m not afraid of standing my ground.
These Oxfords are the classic, foundational piece to my work wardrobe. They meet the industry safety requirements while adding a classic touch to any outfit combo. Oxfords dress up casual slacks or dark jeans and add a sturdy element to dresses. They can blend in or make a statement, and match leather clutches, watches, or jackets. I wear them with black, brown, beige, and gray.
During colder weather, I wear them with dark, patterned wool socks, pleated slacks, and neutral sweaters.
As the weather warms, I change out the knee socks for no-shows and sweaters for similar colors of short sleeve shirts to tuck into high wasted, relaxed fitting pants.
In a career where I often walk a line between extremes, these oxfords can go almost anywhere.
To read more by Joy, click here.
Note: Wardrobe Remix is a series of posts inspired by creative ways to get more out of your wardrobe during a seasonal change. To view similar posts, check the “Wardrobe Remix” tag.
For the first time in two years, I am at a job again where I can wear my own clothes! I won’t lie and say that hearing this in my initial interview didn’t make me want the job even more. Sure, it’s still retail, but at least I’m not in a crazy costume anymore (Oh, the Disney life).
Here is the catch: the only colors we are allowed to wear are black, white, navy, grey, and tan, with no patterns. ALL THE NEUTRALS. If you were to step into my wardrobe, you would find random pieces of clothing in those colors, but also find that they are hidden behind my pale pinks, patterned shirts, and an unnecessary amount of graphic tees.
However, after a few days on the job and observing what my co-workers were accessorizing their bland work clothes with, the outfits themselves turned out to not be so bland after all! With a touch of jewelry and a cute, yet comfortable, shoe, adapting to the neutral tone lifestyle has been a breeze! So, here are my three tips to turn a bland outfit into a fab outfit.
Tip #1: Let a necklace make the statement when the dress can’t
Statement necklaces have become my greatest ally with this new job. My only exception is that the necklace (or scarf) has to come from the store I work in. But, for the rest of you, don’t be afraid to add a bold necklace to your look! Whether it’s a longer chain necklace, a cute choker, or one with lots of jewels, wearing a necklace adds more personality to what once was a simple black dress! Here, I am wearing two different necklaces I can wear to work.
Tip #2: Play up your makeup, but keep it professional
My last two jobs led me to believe that it was almost a waste to wear a full face of makeup to work. I was either sweating at an outdoor kiosk or working away in the shipping department. Now that I am in a store that encourages us to look more presentable, so I’ve found playing with my makeup look each day keeps my whole outfit more exciting! Sometimes I will choose to add a wing to my eyeliner or add a soft eyeshadow to my everyday makeup routine. Here’s the main thing to remember: you are still going to work, so keep the look professional. Save the bright colored shadows for a day off, and opt for a more natural look.
Tip #3: Experiment with shoes
This tip has been a more recent experiment for me, but I am loving it! Changing up your shoes each day keeps things interesting, and also makes your feet happy. I personally like to switch out between sandals and flats, but I have seen others add in wedges to their shoe collection. Like the necklace can make a statement at the top of your outfit, your neck can take a day off and let your shoes do the talking.
So the next time you put on your work attire and feel bland, try these three tips and you’ll leave home feeling and looking fabulous!
Danielle Ashley is a Broadway news editor, avid tweeter, and fan of all things Disney. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and check out her blog Danielle Ashley.
“Feminism is all about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom. It’s about liberation. It’s about equality. And I really don’t know what my tits have to do with it,” responded Emma Watson in an interview about her Vanity Fair cover.
In a not-surprising but, still-disappointing reaction, the internet pinned an H for hypocrite on Watson during her promotion of the live action Beauty and the Beast remake when she posed in a revealing, high-fashion top. Her feminist path, and the re-inventive path of the film, presented a juxtaposition that feminists, literati, film critics, and conservatives all struggled to compartmentalize from social context. This post explores the dynamics and discussion that have followed this fairytale remake.
Disney Princesses in 2017
To see if Disney Princesses can work in our world, I gave them all modern careers. Details on each at the bottom of the post.
Watson has bloomed into an enigma, defying stereotypes in the best way, yet struggling to garner widespread approval. First, she shot to stardom with her screen-stealing portrayal of the precocious Hermione. Then, she quietly pursued a college degree with nary a scandal. From there, Watson has gracefully stepped into a role as feminist spokesperson, beginning with her presentation to the United Nations several years ago.
Yet, Watson seems plagued by an inability to present with the typical starlet catastrophes. Instead, she focused on creative projects with nary a crash or burnout in sight. This un-called-for diligence and humanity, probably resulting from decent parenting, makes her a troll-able target. Thus, the Beauty and the Beast film, and subsequently Watson, became subject to critique.
To some, she presents a conundrum. She’s progressive and liberal. Yet, partnered with Disney project that hearkens back to anti-progressive tropes that this remake has tried to reinterpret for a modern audience. Throughout promotion, critics have questions what Watson is doing in the film. Watson herself has reviewed the role of the fairytales in our modern culture. The public, in general, seemed generally underwhelmed by both the film and its surrounding controversy. In fact, some bloggers seemed perplexed at the homophobic hype. So, I found myself asking, “Why did all Belle break loose?”
Although each incarnation of this “tale as old as time” attempts to ground the narrative within the current cultural climate, Belle’s journey is problematic for modern viewers. In the original story, a widower merchant raises his six children in a life of luxury. The most beloved daughter, Belle is both the most kind and the most beautiful. These recurring traits present in most European princess stories and typically dominate both the themes and story arcs.
Later, unfortunate circumstances send the merchant home from a business trip with no money, and the family’s lifestyle lessens with time. However, when the merchant finds that his fortune may be recovered, all of his children, except Belle, make lavish requests. Belle requests a single, perfect rose. This request is symbolic for her own purity and beauty.
However, the merchant’s journey is fruitless. He returns home during a storm, seeking shelter in a palace. The home of the titular Beast, the merchant finds inside both coldness and wealth. Disguised, the beast offers, shelter, comfort, and gifts. However, the merchant oversteps and steals the most perfect rose he can find in the Beast’s garden.
This results in a confrontation, wherein, the merchant opts to trade one of his daughters as a wife for the beast in return for the mistake.
When the merchant relays his plight to his children, Belle volunteers to pay her father’s debt and moves into captivity with the beast. From there, the story follows the general relationship arc seen in the modern versions. The Beast starts with aggressive, crass tactics to win over Belle. Then, they eventually form a bond that leads to a deeper relationship.
The original synopsis contains several elements common to princess stories that have questionably returned in the Disney retellings. First, beauty, kindness, submissiveness, and youth are all paramount traits in a fairytale woman. In fact, I have only read one fairytale (The Twelve Dancing Princesses) where the leading man has intentionally chosen the eldest as his mate. Second, daughters are used as tools to barter debts, restore a family’s name, or raise in social class. This is why the stories must often start with a tragic backstory to create the initial conflict. Third, princesses function as ambassadors of comfort, wonder, and beauty. In difficult situations, they make homes, attract magic or magical creatures, grow gardens, and raise attractive offspring. Therefore, the stories often end with a “happily ever after,” signaling that turbulence has been transformed to peace through love, marriage, and homemaking.
The Problem with Princesses
“Everything’s a story – You are a story – I am a story.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess
Capitalizing on our nostalgia, Disney (and other clever studios) are going to continue making fairytale films, live-action or otherwise. And critics will continue to voice skepticism. Yes, the stories have stood the test of time because they communicate universal truths about the human condition. Yes, the plots and many of the themes are oddly rooted in the conventions of the feudal system. No, we don’t need to crap on everything you loved from your childhood. No, we don’t need to just accept something because of tradition.
You see, the problem with fairytales is a problem with princesses as an archetype without modern analog. Currently, our political princesses have not lived fairytale lives. Some are generationally royal, and a few are social-climbers. They fill a political role and function like businesswomen and politicians. The required traits of a modern princess don’t align with the beauty, virginity, and submissiveness valued in the old tales.
Additionally, those traits also don’t lead to success, or even necessarily contentment, in the modern world. Yet, the stories we tell children, and the stories we cling to as young people, shape our view of the world, ourselves, and the future. Wishing for a fairytale ending? Now, that’s wishing for disaster.
The Stories We Need
As a child, I absorbed both the Disney tales and the historical versions. I relished the fantasy and found myself identifying with aspects of the characters. I wanted to be like them, beautiful, kind, loveable, and valued. I wanted to achieve a place in the world, like those heroines build by the end of each book.
But as I matured, those were not the stories I needed. By kindergarten, I needed to identify with the (petite) Luke Skywalker’s battle against the odds. In middle school, I appreciated the pluck of Amelia Earhart, even with her controversial (excluded from history books) relationships. In high school, I journeyed with Samwise Gamgee as he exhibited the courage of servant leadership. In college, I listened as Marya Hornbacher of Wasted told me I was allowed to take up space in the world. I watched as Betty Suarez of Ugly Betty, Camile Saroyan of Bones, and Echo of Dollhouse navigated male-dominated social structures. Each day, I found myself referencing Moses’ path to leadership or Gladys Aylward’s lifetime of sacrifice.
Later, when I found myself choosing a partner for life, I didn’t reference a Disney story. I considered the toxicity of Riley, Angel, Xander, and Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I weighed the dynamic of Clementine and Joel in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I listened to Regina Spektor as she sang Us. I considered Sylvia Plath as she asserted, “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am.”
Defining my place in the world, so infrequently references the lessons from the Grim brother or Hans Christian Anderson. Instead, I need stories whose value, as humans, is not based in their loveliness or purity, but the actions they take to make the world a better place. As a Christian, I believe this means furthering the Gospel. In our society, I think we can benefit from a mutual care and respect for our fellow humans, even when they are imperfect or damaged.
All Girls are Princesses
I stand by Sarah in A Little Princess as she explains, “I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren’t pretty, or smart, or young. They’re still princesses.” In Sarah’s story, she begins boarding schools as the indulged child of a British officer. With time, she earns a reputation for being dreamy and charming. Later, her fortunes change as her father is reported dead, flipping her from the wealthiest student with the best room to the maid of the school living in the attic.
After the tragedy, the headmistress acts particularly cruel toward Sarah, from lingering jealousy and resentment. Even still, Sarah acts with dignity and treats others with respect. Although, at first, one would assume her princess persona was tied to her wealthy, the reader discovers her wonder and dignity are internalized values that she manifests through her actions in all circumstances. She explains, “Whatever comes cannot alter one thing. If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.”
Which leads to the conclusion: If all of us are princesses, then actually, none of us are princesses. We all have equal value and it is our daily actions, not our titles, mates, or appearances, that define us. This understanding allows us to fit fairytales back into their natural place. At their best, fairytales explore admirable character traits such as humility, courage, or optimism. However, at times, their original settings warp deeper messages.
My Princess Project
As I considered whether the classic princesses can be the stories that we need, I reimagined them for the year 2017. With their traits and backgrounds, what would each of these young women do in our world? Below are my suggestions.
During her time living with the little people, Snow White’s eyes were opened to the necessity of oversight and regulation in the energy industry. This led her to a career in health and safety inspecting, to ensure the well-being of workers.
Once she left the Sultan’s palace, Jasmine caught the travel bug. Immersing herself in the stories of the people that populate small towns, she finds herself documenting the world, one article at a time.
As an avid junk collector, Ariel took her hobby to the next level by joining forces with a global eCommerce antiquing platform. Her propensity for exploring the provenance of items has led her to become the chief photographer for the website.
After trials in trying to start a restaurant, Tiana connected with a progressive business incubator. She travels the country, meeting with aspiring entrepreneurs to prepare them for their business pitches.
Her disrupted life as an orphan, and deep connection with animals, led Cinderella to join forces with the local humane society. As the adoption coordinator, she reviews applications and homes animals to ensure appropriate placement.
After retiring from her successful military career, Mulan became engaged several female political candiates that advocate for women’s rights. Her experiences help shape their campaign messages to support working women, as a necessary cornerstone of modern society.
Her dysfunctional relationship with her family of origin exposed Belle to the need for safe havens and intervention. As a social worker, specializing in cases of human trafficking, Belle supports and advocates for the rights of her clients.
What do you think of my princess project? Sound off in the comments.