Here’s Elsa again, from Disney blockbuster Frozen! A number of people requested my take on Elsa’s “Let it Go” ice costume, the one she creates during her big number, and even though it took me a while to do it, here it is.
This one was pretty tricky. So, my original pic locates Elsa in the late 1830s. So, what on earth could she wear that would suit her more liberated fantasy ice queen persona, one that would make sense with her personality, suit the time period, AND work with the general design established in the movie?
I thought and thought about it, and I decided a theatrical Victorian take on historical Nordic costume would work. In the 1830s-1840s, in Scandinavia, romanticism and nationalism converged to create an intense interest in ancient Norse myth and legend (the brothers Grimm emerged earlier from a similar milieu a few decades before); Swedish artist Nils Blommer was one of the more influential artists to emerge from the region. His paintings of Idunn and Freya are especially famous, and I based Elsa’s costume on them. What’s more empowering than a goddess? Also, it distances her from the Christian culture of the city she grew up in, and allows her to embrace and express her ‘witch-like’ abilities. She’s not wearing a corset, but not all Victorian actresses wore corsets when wearing ancient costumes (like Julia Marlowe from this 1887 performance of Ingomar). Historical fantasies of ancient times, whether they were Greek, Roman, Celtic or Nordic, were extremely common during the 19th century, and I think in large part because they provided such a welcome contrast to the mannered constraint of the period.
The Nordic knotwork on her cloak is based on the Urnes style of the 11th and 12th centuries. The peculiar transparent overgown of the movie has been replaced by a cloak of silk gauze, and her tunic is sleeveless, since the cold doesn’t bother her anyway. I am pretty sure she is not wearing heels, since that would not really go with the whole Norse goddess look. Sing it, Elsa!
You guys follow Joanne Renaud, right? If you don’t… Go do. Go do now.
I discovered her work a couple months into my own historical princess series, but she started hers long before me. Her level of thoughtfulness and accuracy definitely puts my older pieces to shame- she stuck to her guns when I would often chicken out and take stylistic license.
Whenever people ask me for “permission” to do their own takes on historical princesses, I always gesture at Joanne’s work- not only am I not some unspoken gatekeeper to this idea, I wasn’t even the first person to do it! It’s such a fun challenge, it really is, and I think her work proves that individual artists can have dramatically different takes on the same prompt. There’s room for all of us. :)