The yellow dress worn by Belle in the ballroom scene of the original, animated Beauty and the Beast has become a genuinely iconic garment in the 25 years since the film’s release. So, it is no surprise that actress Emma Watson worked closely with costume designer Jacqueline Durran to create the new version of the gown which the actress wears in Disney’s live-action remake of the fairy tale (out March 17) for the sequence in which her character and Dan Stevens’ Beast fall deeper and deeper in love.
“I really embraced working on the dress, making sure that it was utterly whimsical, and magical,” says Watson. “The scene that I wear that dress in, and I have that dance in, it really tells the story of Beast and Belle falling in love. You know, we don’t have a huge amount of time in the story to tell that story. The dance, for me, is really where the audience starts to see it happening and starts knowing that it is happening. This is total, blissful escapism. You are transported to another world. The dress, and the dancing, and the candlelight, and the music — it was really fun to work on every aspect of that. Jacqueline Durran is just such a wonderful person and costume designer. I think she did such a amazing job.”
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Below, Durran herself talks about exactly how she created Belle’s dress.
Yellow Silk Road
Durran experimented with an array of colors and materials before finding the perfect match. “We camera-tested a lot of yellows,” she says. “It was just trying to work out the tone.” For the material, Durran landed on satin organza. “It’s still made of silk,” she says, “but it has a satin finish, so it’s less transparent than other organza.”
The voluminous shape below the waist was created in a way that gave Watson freedom of movement. “There is a cage under some parts of it,” Durran says. “But mainly it’s layers of organza that just give it a lift, for it to have lightness.”
“She has really beautiful hand-painted shoes with golden flowers,” says Durran of Watson’s custom footwear. “They are heeled, 18th-century shoes, but they are something that Belle can run in and that she can go off and save her father in.”
“Feathers were an inspiration for Emma,” Durran says. “In her hair she has an ornament which is made up of feathers, and in the bodice there’s layers of net laid on each other to be like feathers.”
“For Emma, it was important that the dress was light and that it had a lot of movement,” Durran says. “In Emma’s reinterpretation, Belle is an active princess. She did not want a dress that was corseted or that would impede her in any way.”
Rococo ‘N’ Roll
“The gold of the dress is De Garderobe’s gift to Belle,” Durran says. “The gold flies down from the rococo ceiling as if by magic, to be the final layer.” In real life, gold leaf and glitter were printed on the dress to echo the ballroom floor.