Disney Princess Dress (and other Costume) FAQ

by on September 17, 2014 7 Comments

Filed under: Adults, Halloween, In the Parks, kids, Magic Kingdom, Merchandise, runDisney, Trip Planning, Walt Disney World (FL)

t_logo_fbWith Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to take another look at the Disney Princess Dress situation. This is an update of my 2012 article on the state of the princess dress, with new photos, pricing, resources, and details on the all important FROZEN dress situation. So put on your tiara and polish your crystal plastic shoes, ’cause here we gooooo.

Do most girls wear princess dresses at Walt Disney World?

When you’re just walking around the park, you’ll see just a small percentage of girls ages about 3 to 8 wearing princess costumes, maybe 5%. However, there are some places at the parks where the percentage of girls in princess attire will be much higher. My non-scientific, personal observation is that something along the lines of 50-60% of the preschool and elementary age girls at the princess-themed character meals will be wearing princess dresses. Note that this also means that 40-50% of the girls there will NOT be wearing gowns. Very few girls older than age 8 or 9 will be wearing princess dresses at meals, or anywhere else.

Something on the order of 80% of the girls getting makeovers at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (BBB) will be sporting some form of princess attire. Similarly, something on the order of 80-90% of the children attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party will be wearing costumes. These might be princess gowns, but could just as easily be something else entirely.

When my own three daughters were younger (they’re teens now), they did lots of princess dress-up at home, but never chose to wear gowns while at Walt Disney World, not even at the princess meals or the BBB. That was their choice. They never felt uncomfortable that other girls were wearing dresses at character meals while they were not. You should use your judgment about your own child’s personality about whether you think she would feel left out or sad if other girls are dressed in gowns while she is not.

Disney Parks Princess Dresses, fall 2014.  Merida, Sofia the First, Rapunzel.

Disney Parks Princess Dresses, fall 2014. Merida, Sofia the First, Rapunzel.

 

If my daughter wants to wear a princess dress at the parks, do I have to buy the dress at Walt Disney World?

No!

There is absolutely no requirement that princess dresses worn at Disney World must be purchased at Disney World. You can buy Disney-branded costumes at DisneyStore.com, from brick-and-mortor Disney Stores, from online costume vendors such as buycostumes.com, from general online vendors such as Amazon.com, or from big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. You can also buy or make costumes from Disney patterned fabric (try Etsy.com for some great options).

You could also buy or make a non-Disney princess costume for your daughter to wear at the parks. All of these options are equally acceptable. Really, I mean it.

Where can I buy princess dresses at Walt Disney World?

Practically everywhere. Nearly every gift shop in the parks and resorts has at least a few princess dresses on display. You’ll find the largest selection at Mouse Gear at Epcot, the World of Disney at Downtown Disney, and The Emporium and Castle Couture at the Magic Kingdom. They are also sold as part of several makeover packages at both WDW BBB locations.

Disney Parks Princess Dresses, fall 2014. Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine.

Disney Parks Princess Dresses, fall 2014. Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine.

 

Are the dresses the same at Walt Disney World and Disneyland?

Yes. There has been a real push toward the standardization of merchandise at the Disney theme parks. Generally, you will find the same dresses at Disney World and Disneyland.

Also, the dresses sold throughout the parks and resorts are the same ones offered through the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique locations. If your daughter is getting a BBB makeover package which includes a costume, it will be one of the styles that’s readily available.

You’ll even find the exact same dresses on the Disney Cruise Line ships.

Which princess dresses are available at the parks?

The exact mix of princess dresses changes from time to time. As of autumn 2014, the following princess costumes were available in stores throughout Walt Disney World:

  • Snow White
  • Cinderella
  • Belle
  • Rapunzel
  • Sleeping Beauty (Aurora)
  • Ariel (two different costumes available, seafoam human gown and sequined mermaid two-piece pants suit)
  • Tiana
  • Jasmine (a two-piece pants suit, not a gown)
  • Tinker Bell
  • Merida (from Brave)
  • Minnie Mouse (usually red, but sometimes there are pink versions, or possibly orange at Halloween)
  • Sofia the First

Additionally, you can sometimes (but not always) find Mulan costumes available at the China pavilion at Epcot.

Pocahantas costumes are usually available at the Animal Kingdom and at the Castle Couture shop in the Magic Kingdom. They are rarely found at Epcot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Disney Parks Princess Dresses, fall 2014. Ariel human, Ariel mermaid, Tiana.

Disney Parks Princess Dresses, fall 2014. Ariel human, Ariel mermaid, Tiana.

 

But what about Anna & Elsa? We MUST have Anna & Elsa costumes!!!!!!!! (plus a few dozen more exclamation points)

Take a deep breath and count to ten.

Disney has had a world of trouble keeping Frozen merchandise in the stores. Throughout 2014, there have been shortages and rationing of all types of Frozen merchandise, particularly costumes. Things are starting to loosen up, with Frozen tees and plush Olafs becoming more available, but Anna & Elsa costumes are still in limited supply at Walt Disney World. As of early September 2104, the only place at Walt Disney World to find true Anna & Elsa costumes is at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. They have been sold almost exclusively at the Wandering Oaken pop-up store at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with sizing and stock varying dependent on recent shipments. Generally Anna has been easier to find than Elsa. It’s unclear whether/how this will change if the Frozen Fun festivities at DHS end as scheduled in late September. Stay tuned.

If you’re at WDW and can’t get to DHS, you can fake it with a Frozen tee and a Frozen-colored tutu which is now sold in dozens of WDW locations.

That’s not going to work for my Frozen fiend. Can I buy an Elsa dress at a Disney Store?

Not as of the first week of September 2014. A search of DisneyStore.com and a recent visit to the flagship Disney Store in Times Square, NY turned up no Anna or Elsa costumes.

Cast members at the Disney Store Times Square told me that they’re expecting a more regular supply of Anna & Elsa costumes at the end of September, but whether that actually happens is anyone’s guess. I did see a few Olaf costumes on display. During a September visit, there were four on the rack when I entered the store. When I left about 20 minutes later, they were all gone. If you see one, grab it fast.

But worry not, there are other alternatives.

Disney Parks Princess Dresses, fall 2014. Pocahantas, Belle, Tinker Bell

Disney Parks Princess Dresses, fall 2014. Pocahantas, Belle, Tinker Bell

 

Alternatives? What alternatives?

My snail mail and email boxes are filling up with offers from Halloween costume vendors. Many are selling variations of Anna & Elsa gowns, even if they’re not officially calling them that. Some are flimsy “disposable” costumes, while others are well-made (and expensive) and should last for many wearings.

Check out these sites to get an idea of what’s out there. There are dozens of other online options as well.

Additionally, you’ll want to check sites like eBay.com and Etsy.com, which currently have numerous Frozen princess costume offerings.

What costume sizes are available at the parks?

Not every store will have every costume in every size, but generally the princess costumes are available at Walt Disney World from size Youth XXS to Youth XL.

What does that mean?

Here are the sizing details:
XXS (2/3) fits H 33-39 in (84-99 cm), W 26-32 lbs (12-15 kg)
XS (4/5) fits H 39-45 in (99-114 cm), W 32-41 lbs (15-19 kg)
S (6/6X) fits H 45-47 in (114-119 cm), W 41-46 lbs (19-21 kg)
M (7/8) fits H 47-53 in (119-135 cm), W 46-68 lbs (21-31 kg)
L (10-12) fits H 53-59 in (135-150 cm), W 68-87 lbs (31-39 kg)
XL (14/16) fits H 59-64 in (150-163 cm), W 87-115 lbs (39-59 kg)

Sleeping Beauty Gowns, fall 2014. Disney Store (left), Disney Parks (right)

Sleeping Beauty Gowns, fall 2014. Disney Store (left), Disney Parks (right)

 

Are there baby costumes?

A few of the costumes, usually Minnie Mouse, come in infant sizes, but these can be challenging to find. If you want a baby princess costume, you’ll probably need to look outside the parks.

Are the costumes sold in the parks true to size?

In my personal experience, they tend to run a little small. If your child is on the rounder side, the dresses may be tight.

If we’re buying a dress in the parks, can we try the dress on before we buy it?

Some, but certainly not all, gift shops at Walt Disney World have fitting rooms. Those that do include World of Disney at Downtown Disney, Mouse Gear at Epcot, and Castle Couture at the Magic Kingdom. If the shop has a fitting room, you’re certainly welcome to try it on there before you buy. If you’re in a shop that doesn’t have a fitting room, you can slip the dress on over a light tee or tank top to get a feel for sizing.

My daughter is an unusual size. What are my options?

As noted above, there is no requirement that your princess dress must be purchased on site. If you absolutely want your daughter to wear a princess dress at WDW, but think she might be challenging to fit, I encourage you to purchase your dress in advance from another source. Go to the Disney Store at your local mall and try on dresses in many sizes. Or perhaps consider having a dress made specifically for her. If you don’t have a favorite local seamstress, Etsy.com has many vendors who can craft a custom costume. A quick search there for “custom princess dress” brings up dozens of options with prices starting at about $30.

Minnie dresses, fall 2014. Disney Parks classic (left), Disney Parks Halloween (center), Disney Store (right)

Minnie dresses, fall 2014. Disney Parks classic (left), Disney Parks Halloween (center), Disney Store (right)

 

What is the fabric like on the official Disney Parks dresses?

It’s pretty nice. In my opinion the fabrics are generally quite soft and sturdy. You don’t touch them and go “Ick!” the way you might with some off-brand “plastic” Halloween costumes. While my three daughters did not wear these dresses in the parks, we did purchase several over the years. They stood up to dozens of at-home “tea parties” and dress-up play dates. I even ran them through the washing machine a number of times with no major damage (hang to dry). You should be able to get substantial dress up use out of them after your Disney vacation.

As for specifics, the fabric and trim vary by princess. The inner tag of the Sleeping Beauty dress currently sold at WDW reads: “Body 96% Polyester, 4% Spandex; Collar 89% Polyester, 11% Metallic; Sleeves 100% Polyester; Lower portion overlay outer 100% Nylon; Lower portion overlay inner 89% Polyester, 11% Metallic; Shell 100% Nylon; Interlining 100% Polyester; Lining 100% Polyester.” I really have no idea at all what any of that means, but I thought I’d share. To me, the Tiana and Merida dresses feel the nicest, but that’s just my personal preference.

Is the fabric quality different than the Disney Store costume fabric?

Yes. In my opinion, the fabrics and embellishments on the Disney parks dresses are of slightly higher quality than those on the Disney Store dresses. This may or may not make a difference to you. If you know your daughter will only be wearing the dress for one character meal, then a less expensive dress of slightly lower quality may be perfectly sufficient.

Both the Disney parks and Disney Store dresses are more substantial and better made than the dresses found at other vendors such as Target or buycostumes.com. But again, if you’re only going to use the dress once, a “throw away” dress may be just what you need.

Typical Disney Parks princess accessories

Typical Disney Parks princess accessories

 

Are the dresses comfortable?

The perception of comfort really lies with the individual child. The Disney parks dresses are of high quality. The seams are generally finished, so there’s not too much extraneous wear against the skin. However, depending on the costume, there may be lace, sequins or other possibly itch-inducing embellishments next to the skin. If your child is sensitive, you’ll likely want her to wear a tank or cami underneath the gown. If the Disney Parks or Disney Store dresses are not sufficiently comfortable for your daughter, consider a custom costume or try buying from an higher end vendor like Chasing Fireflies.

Another thing to consider is that these are primarily long dresses, with many layers of fabric. Depending on when you choose to visit Walt Disney World, the temperatures can easily be well into the 90s with 100% humidity. Your daughter might think her dress is perfectly comfy if she wears it to the parks in January, while the exact same dress would be perceived as stifling in July.

Also, long skirts can make getting in and out of ride vehicles challenging for even the most coordinated child. Given this, I strongly suggest bringing a change of clothing for any child heading into the parks in costume. This may be one of the circumstances where renting a locker at the park makes sense.

And now the big question … How much do these dresses cost?

In the parks, the princess dresses are currently priced at a uniform $64.95, plus tax, each (prices are obviously subject to change, but have remained constant for several years). The price is the same regardless of size or princess. The typical exception to this is Tinker Bell. The Tink costumes are a few dollars less expensive, but if you want wings (And really, can you be Tinker Bell without wings?), then there is an additional fee to buy these separately.

Disney Store princess dresses, fall 2014. Tinker Bell, Snow White, Cinderella.

Disney Store princess dresses, fall 2014. Tinker Bell, Snow White, Cinderella.

 

Is that the real cost total cost? Are there any other expenses I should know about?

The $65 dresses are displayed with a multitude of add-on accessories including wigs, gloves, shoes, tiaras, handbags, jewelry, wands, capes, and more. Some items are princess-specific, while others are just sort of generally sparkly. Prices for these items range from about $10-$25, depending on the item. Many of these accoutrements are displayed at a six-year-old’s eye level. Good luck with buying just a dress. If you’re trying to budget and will be buying everything in the parks during your vacation, I’d plan about $100 for each child who will be getting her princess on.

Any tips for saving money?

The princess costumes at Target, Walmart, or some online vendors are going to be cheaper than costumes sold in the parks. If you’re looking to economize, bring your own from home. The same thing is true for the princess accessories. You can find a tiara for two or three dollars at any party supply store. It might not have an illustration of the proper princess on it, but you will likely save several dollars over a tiara purchased at the Magic Kingdom.

If you’re determined to buy from Disney, the princess costumes sold at Disney Stores and DisneyStore.com tend to have a base price of about $20 less than the in-park costumes. Additionally, there are sometimes discount coupons available for DisneyStore.com. DisneyStore.com almost always has a free shipping code if you’re purchasing more than $75 of merchandise. Google “Disney Store Coupon Code” for current options.

While discount coupons are rare in the parks, be sure to ask about other discounts whenever you buy merchandise at Walt Disney World. Disney Visa card holders, WDW Annual Pass holders, Disney Vacation Club members, AAA members, and D23 members may find that they can save a few dollars. ALWAYS ask at the register.

Remember that you can get the “princess effect” without springing for a full gown. Wearing a tiara and holding a wand will give your daughter the air of royalty, without having to buy a pesky dress. If you can wait until later, try shopping at after-Halloween sales at party stores and other retailers. I’ve often seen significant markdowns.

Disney Store princess dresses, fall 2014. Jasmine, Belle, Rapunzel.

Disney Store princess dresses, fall 2014. Jasmine, Belle, Rapunzel.

 

My princess is extra royal. Are there options to get her something better than what’s sold in the parks?

Only the best for you, eh? The parks costumes are of uniform quality, but Disney Store does have higher end versions of some princesses. For example, there is a Deluxe Belle costume on DisneyStore.com. Disney Store also sometimes has partnerships with respected clothing designers, usually related to a film release. During summer 2014, Disney Store partnered with Stella McCartney to produce some extraordinary Malificent-themed costumes for kids. The Aurora dress from this collection was stunning.

The Chasing Fireflies brand costumes for all the princesses (many Disney licensed) are of superior quality. And again, there are Etsy sellers who hand make truly extraordinary costumes using luxe fabrics and fittings. Just some that are lovely include: poor Briar Rose, Snow White, Tinker Bell, and Cinderella.

Be aware that you’ll likely need a fairly long lead time if you’re having a dress custom crafted.

I’d like to get my daughter a Disney parks princess dress, but I want to have it in advance of my trip. Is there any way to get these other than going to the parks?

Yes. Disney can mail parks merchandise to your home. Note that this is not the same as ordering Disney Store merchandise to be sent to your home.

Target Disney fairy dresses, fall 2014.

Target Disney fairy dresses, fall 2014.

 

Are the dresses the same throughout Walt Disney World?

Generally yes.

The vast majority of dresses for each princess are identical at every shop, in all the parks, resorts, and Downtown Disney. There’s no need to run from shop to shop searching for something different.

My daughter likes to dress up, but is not into the princesses. Are there any options for her?

Nearly all the costumes for girls sold at Walt Disney World are princess gowns. As an alternative, there are a few items of pirate costuming that are available near the exit to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at the Magic Kingdom and at the Pirate’s League boutique. I’ve also seen a Doc McStuffins jacket and examination set sold at Disney Stores and sometimes in the parks. And you may see some elements of a Jesse (Toy Story’s cowgirl) costume, but you shouldn’t count on this being readily available.

You could also opt to have your daughter’s face painted like a pirate, cat, or any of several dozen other choices. Face painting stations are located in all four theme parks. Prices vary, but generally range from about $10 to $20.

Target Disney princess dresses, fall 2014. Belle, Snow White, Sofia the First.

Target Disney princess dresses, fall 2014. Belle, Snow White, Sofia the First.

 

Is there a princess dress equivalent for boys?

In the parks, the emphasis is very much on costuming for girls. There are pirate costumes at the locations I just mentioned. I have sometimes seen Peter Pan, Buzz Lightyear, and Woody costumes sold in the parks, but these may not be available at all times and can be much harder to locate. (Generally the selection in the parks picks up around Halloween.) You may also find some Star Wars costume elements at Disney’s Hollywood Studios near the Star Tours attraction.

You’ll have MUCH better luck with boy costumes at Disney Stores where you’ll see Star Wars, Marvel, Cars, Toy Story, and Peter Pan related costumes in good supply.

If your little man wants to be Prince Charming or any of this chivalrous equivalents, you’ll have to look at online costume vendors.

In general, if you have a boy and would like him to wear a costume of anything other than a pirate, then you should plan to bring that costume from home rather than expecting to purchase it at Walt Disney World.

Can adults wear princess costumes at the parks?

No, sorry. There’s no specific age cut-off, but once a child stops looking like a child and starts looking like a teen, then they may no longer wear costumes at Walt Disney World other than during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

Disney Store boy costume options, fall 2014.

Disney Store boy costume options, fall 2014.

 

Bummer! I really wanted to dress up.

Adults are welcome to wear certain elements of princess costuming, but not the full regal attire. I have several adult friends that regularly wear tiaras to the park, carry boas with them, or sport a tutu over their shorts for special occasions, but wearing a full dress as a grown-up is off limits.

Is that the official word?

Yep. The WDW website includes the following language – “Attire that is not appropriate for the theme parks (and which may result in refusal of admittance) includes but is not limited to:

  • Adult costumes or clothing that can be viewed as representative of an actual Disney character
  • Masks (unless you are dressing up for a particular event)
  • Clothing with objectionable material, including obscene language or graphics
  • Excessively torn clothing
  • Clothing which, by nature, exposes excessive portions of the skin that may be viewed as inappropriate for a family environment
  • Objectionable tattoos

A Guest is allowed into the parks if her or his hair (or make-up, if applicable) has been made to resemble a Disney Princess or character (for example, after a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique makeover) provided the Guest is not also wearing a costume or clothed to look like the character.”

Who decides if I look too much like an actual Disney character?

The final call about whether a costume is acceptable in the parks is always up to the cast members on site. Their word is law.

If you want to push the envelope, try wearing as much of the costume as you can, but altering one or two major elements. For example, this summer I was at Epcot and ran into a group of older teen girls who were all dressed in princess gowns to celebrate a birthday. While the dresses did scream “princess costume” they were knee length rather than floor length, and the girls’ hair was not princess coiffed, so they were let into the park. Your mileage may vary.

Disney Store boy costume options, fall 2014.

Disney Store boy costume options, fall 2014.

 

Can I wear a costume during my runDisney race?

Absolutely!

I’ve done half a dozen runDisney races myself and never worn a costume, but have seen MANY runners (men and women, but mostly women) decked out in themed costumes while pounding the pavement. From what I’ve seen, the most common races for costumes are the princess half marathons and the Tower of Terror 10-miler, but you’ll certainly find costumed runners at every distance at every time of the year.

The runDisney Expos prior to the races typically host vendors which sell running skirts, themed tees, themed headbands, and other running costume accoutrements. You can also shop online at sporting goods vendors or custom vendors like Etsy to execute your own take on running with character.

Some examples of popular vendors for running costume elements include Raw Threads, Sparkle Athletic, and RunningSkirts, but many folks combine elements from multiple sources to get just the right look.

I don’t want to wear a costume, but I do want to dress in the spirit of a Disney character while I’m in the parks. Can I do that?

Yep. There’s a subculture out there called “Disney Bounding.” I don’t 100% get it myself, but the general idea is that you use a Disney character for your fashion inspiration. You wear regular clothes that you’d find in a regular store, but they’re chosen with the style or color palette of a character in mind. For example, if you were Disney Bounding Cinderella, you might wear a pale blue sundress, silver kitten heels, and necklace with a pumpkin charm on it.

There a plenty of blogs on Tumblr where they’re gaga for this stuff.

I don’t want to be a dress-up costume princess. I want to be a REAL princess. Any ideas?

Um, I think Prince Harry might still be single-ish.

If that doesn’t work out, there are some for realz Disney princessy clothes out there. Check out the Disney Royal Ball Quinceanera collection which features Disney character inspired ball gowns suitable for proms, quinceaneras, and other formal occasions. There is also a collection of Disney wedding gowns. If that doesn’t make you feel like bluebirds are going to fly through your window and load your dishwasher, I don’t know what will.

So my royal subjects, is there anything else you’d like to know about the princess dress situation at Walt Disney World? Have you purchased a dress for your daughter at the parks or elsewhere? What was your experience like? Did you elect not to buy a dress for your little girl? Was this an issue or a non-event? Let us know in the comments below.

UPDATE 10/1/14: DisneyStore.com has added a Frozen mini store to its website. As of today, there are standard and deluxe versions of both Anna & Elsa costumes available in a range of sizes. Get ’em while they’re hot.

Posted on September 17, 2014

7 Responses to “Disney Princess Dress (and other Costume) FAQ”

  • In the spring, I was able to buy my son a Prince costume consisting of a cape, a crown, a shield and a sword from the shop by Gaston’s Tavern. I know the shop in the UK in Epcot sells the same items. It’s great for a Prince Charming/Knight-in-shining armor!

  • As someone who has a 19-month-old who is in love with “Go!” and “Mimmie”, I can give some costume reports for that age.

    It has been my experience that if your child isn’t under 12 months or 2T and up, there are very, very few official Disney offerings for clothing of any kind, let alone costumes. This can be very frustrating when your child is suddenly in love with the characters and you can’t find anything in their size range. I wanted to get her something at Wandering Oaken’s in September and they had no Frozen shirts small enough. The Disney Store hasn’t had any Frozen merchandise other than the odd Olaf shirt since I started looking at the beginning of the summer. It can be amusing to listen to the other parents looking around saying “I don’t understand. Do they not want to make money?”. What I find interesting is that Zulily has a wealth of Frozen merch on their site every few weeks. I don’t know what Disney’s deal is, here.

    Anyway. Ebay seems to have a ton of great Frozen costumes in a number of different sizes, both Anna and Elsa, for reasonable prices. Etsy also has some adorable costumes in toddler sizes, but the pricing varies widely along with the quality. Overall, if you have a 1-2 year old, you’re probably better off looking at non-Disney options for clothes. Old Navy, for example, currently has adorable licensed Disney character shirts, including Sophia.

  • We’ve had good luck with my little girl wearing the Disney princess nightgowns in the parks – they’re usually made of more kid-friendly materials (no scratchy lace or puffy skirts) and they allow for more freedom of movement. Plus, the long ones (Rapunzel and Belle for example) are modest and cool enough even for the Summer. Like this one – http://www.disneystore.com/rapunzel-nightgown-for-girls/mp/1355927/1000305/#longDesc. Then you can put shorts underneath and bring along a t-shirt for easy changing back and forth. They also roll up nicely for easy packing in a suitcase or backpack.

  • Thank you, Erin. Your posts always feature exhaustive research, excellent photos and they are an enjoyable read. We’re long-past the princess stage at our house, but I agree it was worth the price for the magic and memories to have our little princesses enjoy their moments.

  • Our local jcpenney had Anna and Elsa costumes just a few weeks ago. I also checked online and they had some as well. They run a little big. Best of luck helping your little girls this Halloween!

  • I was just in the parks last week with my family. Regarding Anna and Elsa merchandise and costumes we saw them in spades at sir mickeys in the magic kingdom…this is the exit point for the Anna and Elsa meet and greet at princess fairy tale hall.