Say Yes to the Dress: Transformations and Ballgowns

Caroline Lau

Into the Woods 2014, Cinderella at the palace.

No one can be ball, festival or party ready until he or she has been bedazzled from head to toe in fabulous garments and accessories. Transformation is a common fairytale meme, and in stories like Donkeyskin and Cinderella, we see transformation with the help of a one-of-a-kind ball gown or dress. This idea of transforming a regular girl into a wondrous princess through a makeover and a gown seeps into the real world. Women dream of putting on the perfect dress, walking into the party and finding a prince. Looking at “Donkeyskin” by Charles Perrault, Cinderella in the 2014 Into the Woods and movie and stars attending the Oscars, there is a trend of “the dress making the woman” and not always “the woman making the dress.”

Donkeyskin fan art

One of the biggest factors in “Donkeyskin” is the fashion… duh. The three dresses: one the color of the sky, one the color of the moon and one the color of the sun are memorable pieces of the story. It’s only when the prince sees Donkeyskin in her beautiful dress that he recognizes her and knows she is the princess he saw previously. If she hadn’t had her dresses with her, would the prince have taken notice of her? Would he have fallen in love with her without her transformation into a shining princess? The emphasis placed on the dresses in terms of color and quality create a longing for that perfect garment to transform one into the someone that gets a happily ever after.

One fairytale mashup and retelling, Into the Woods utilizes this idea of transformation through a fabulous dress. In this specific scene, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella is transformed into a festival ready princess. She goes from wearing her practical work clothes into donning a stunning golden dress fit for royalty. Before this transformation, courtesy of the witch, she was just a common girl not necessarily ready to go to the palace.

Gwenyth Paltrow, 1999 Oscars

The idea of incredible gowns and dressing up for the “event of the year” has transcended into popular culture, as audiences look for that woman whose dress allows her to stand out of the crowd. Today, we wait for the Oscars to see what the talented women of the screen are wearing and how they’ve transformed. Events like the Oscars present celebrities who become royalty for the night, carefully watched and admired by viewers.

Dresses, transformations and eventual happily ever afters may be intertwined in fairytales, but popular culture has absolutely adopted that magical sentiment.