…Of Princesses

“The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is dedicated to every True Princess who ever dreamed her sneakers were glass slippers and to girls who believe it’s better to twirl than walk, sing than talk and that everything goes better with sparkles. For now, she wants her own Fairy Godmother, a little sprinkling of Fairy Dust, and the glamorous attention every Real Disney Princess deserves. You supply the dream and we’ll supply the style and magic to help you make your fairy-tale dreams come true.”

What Disney conveniently forgets to note here is that you not only supply the dream, but you also hand over your credit card at the same time.

Discussion centered on the Disney Princess phenomenon and its grasp on young girls around the world has dramatically increased recently, as epitomized by Peggy Orenstein’s New York Times article, “What’s Wrong with Cinderella?” This discourse generally focuses on the impact that the Princess paradigm might play in these girls’ futures as well as the possible reasons why the Princess brand sells in the first place. It has done nothing, however, to quell the power of “Princess” products, nor has it done anything to make Disney think harder about the terms and conditions it places within its “Princess” repertoire. (We can see examples of this in the mission statement above, taken directly from the brochure for the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique located in the new “Princess” room in the ‘World of Disney’ store at Downtown Disney, Orlando).

“Princess” means much more than royalty in Disney’s “Pirate and Princess” marketing campaign. It connotes simplified gender stereotypes and norms that in reality are much more complex and less rigid. This post aims not to recap other people’s arguments about the impact of the Disney Princesses, but to add to the discussion by analyzing one specific aspect of Disney’s “Princess” products — the full “Princess Experience” Disney offers to families and their young daughters while they are on vacation in Orlando.

In other words, when a little “Princess” comes to visit Cinderella’s Castle, she expects to live a more impossible fantasy than she can at home. By offering girls services such as the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party, Disney involves girls in the creation of their own Princess dreams—for a steep price, of course.

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party are extreme Princess experiences for girls ages 3 and up, designed to physically transform a young girl into a Princess and immerse her in a full-out Princess fantasy world.

At the Bibbidi Bobbibi Boutique, Disney takes dress-up to a new level, giving each girl her own station in the salon and her very own “Fairy Godmother-in-training” whose job is to pamper her with every accessory and service a Princess could possibly want. Parents can choose from three packages at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: the “Coach Package” which includes a hair style and shimmering make-up (for $35), the “Crown Package” which includes hair style, shimmering make-up and nails (for $45), or the ultimate “Castle Package” which includes the Crown Package plus a Princess photo shoot and a complete Disney Princess costume of her choice with accessories (starting at $175). After her makeover, each girl is given a pink sash that says “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique” — so everyone who sees her knows that she’s an official Disney Princess.

My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party is designed for girls who may have already been physically transformed into Princesses, either with an experience such as the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or simply by putting on “their favorite Princess attire,” but who are still seeking a Princess experience where they can receive even more “royal treatment” while at Walt Disney World. For the mere price of $225, one parent and one child (usually a mother and daughter pair) can have a tea party with Sleeping Beauty’s Princess Aurora in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. The child attending will also receive “a special 18″ My Disney Girl doll dressed in a matching Princess Aurora gown plus accessories” as well as “take home [her] own ribbon tiara, silver Princess link bracelet, fresh rose, special princess scrapbook set and a “Best Friend” certificate.” If more than just one adult and one child would like to attend this experience, each additional adult is $75 and each additional child is $150.

I definitely don’t mention these services in order to advertise for them, but I also don’t mean to degrade them either. I seek here just to point out the extreme extravagance of it all, and to highlight just how crazy families can get when helping to fulfill their daughters’ (Disney-inspired) Princess dreams.

This is also exactly why Disney keeps highlighting the “Dream” and “wishing” aspect of all of the Princess, as well as the Pirate and Princess, marketing. If they keep creating the “Princess dream” through their products and advertising they can also keep finding ways for people to fulfill that dream…and they are able to make a hefty profit doing so. These Princess experiences are just plain expensive, and it’s mostly middle-class families on vacation who shell out hundreds and hundreds of dollars to get their three-year-old a costume, a hairstyle, and some shimmering makeup.

With all of this hard-earned money spent on Princess-style pampering, it’s obvious that the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and services like it are not just fulfilling the Princess dreams of the young child, but are also fulfilling some fantasy for the parents who pay for it. Parents not only greatly appreciate the “royal treatment” their daughters receive, but are also willing to go to great lengths to document these special and expensive experiences, taking hundreds of photographs, videotaping the whole thing, and even editing their photos together with Disney music and posting it on Youtube, thus sharing the extravagance of the situation with anyone who is willing to watch.

In addition to being there as a medium for recording the memories of it, though, some parents, and especially mothers, will also join in on the Princess experience themselves. Adults can go to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique just like little girls, and it is not uncommon for a mother to get a Princess makeover along with her daughter (see “Walt Disney Princess Makeover” video below). This common experience for mother and daughter makes the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party much more than simply dressing up like or meeting a Disney Princess. It is transformed into a mother-daughter (or caregiver-daughter) bonding experience the instant it becomes more about the relationship and commonality of the experience than about the actual products and services being provided. It is this bonding experience, where parents get to experience something extra special with their little girls, then, that Disney is selling to parents in these services, and it is an important reason why Disney can charge the prices that they do.

Whereas the little girl might think it is actually the dress, the tiara, and the pink sash that are important in going to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, parents who are paying for the makeover and photo shoot are actually paying to see their daughter transformed into a fantasy Princess right in front of their eyes. Parents are able to see their daughter grow up, complete with makeup, nails, and a pseudo-wedding dress, but they are still indulged in seeing her as totally innocent at the same time.

Whereas when their daughter actually grows up parents may, and probably will, miss out on many of her important and life-changing experiences, the Bibbidi Bobbidi allows parents to see the whole thing in less than two hours and not miss an instant. This also gives a motivation for parents’ apparent fascination with making sure they record this entire experience. After all, why pay so much to watch your daughter in her Princess moment if you can’t keep a record of it for years to come? (In addition to the videos below, also notice the ‘Dad’ in the background of the second Princess Tea Party photo who’s videotaping the whole thing.)

“Viola’s Princessification Part 1”

“Viola’s Princessification Part 2”

“Viola’s Princessification Part 3”

When moms choose to be made over with their young daughters, they are also proving that they are young at heart and innocent just like their daughters. They are not only keeping their little girl innocent by making her into an imaginary Princess, but they are also there to show that they are able to believe, or at least pay to pretend to believe, that they can be a Princess too.

Whatever the motive for parents to either record their daughter’s makeover and/or participate in it themselves, Disney has created a paradigm where a full family vacation is no longer complete without some sort of Princess experience for mom and daughter. They are able to charge exorbitant amounts for families to achieve these fantasies because they are marketed and presented as just that – fantasies, which can only be lived out in a Disney fantasy world.

The Disney Princess concept is not only intimately connected with the creation of the perceptions these little girls have about gender norms, stereotypes, and expectations, then (as many of the other discourses on the subject have proposed), but services such as the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party are also evidence of how consumerism has shaped these little girls’ childhoods. Not only does the Bibbidi Bobbidi create the ideal of a “True Princess” who wants to “twirl” in “glass slippers” rather than “walk” in plain “sneakers,” but the Disney Princess paradigm inspires her to aim for the crystal slipper instead of the glass one and the updo haistyle with a tiara instead of the simple cut-and-wash, and to just ignore the price tag as she swipes her credit card and walks away.


27 Responses

  1. This is a fascinating post. Your reading of the parent’s desires for a visit to the Boutique was especially interesting: parents’ own fantasies are fulfilled by seeing “their daughter transformed into a fantasy Princess right in front of their eyes” as it enables them to “see their daughter grow up, complete with makeup, nails, and a pseudo-wedding dress, but they are still indulged in seeing her as totally innocent at the same time.” Further, mothers can indulge themselves in a little bit of Princess fantasy. It wouldn’t have occured to me that parents recieve pleasure in this beyond meeting their girl’s desires, but I think you’re right on.

    Also, I think you’re right to locate the whole princess phenomenon within the middle class. You do a great job of remaining uncritical of these vacationers– or at least creating a more subtle critique of middle class senses of parenting and consumption through the whole project. A few weeks into this blog, I’m still hung up on the frivolity that makes Disney efforts like this so profitable.

    That’s why I’m glad you’re doing this project– you make it clear, on the one hand, that people shouldn’t be judged if their ways of making meaning and raising children are tied to consumption, marketing, and advertising. On the other hand, you explore what that means for parenting and kids with a powerful voice.

    The marriage of child development and capitalism is a strange one, but I think that you’ve found a great way into exploring the issue. So, nothing useful to say, just some words of encouragement.

  2. I think this is going a little too deep. I believe it is possible to just enjoy the thoughts and feeling of being a princess.

    I say princesses rock, disney is awesome and all this is a person with too much time trying to draw correlations that don’t really exist. Until you become a mind reader you can’t say why we take our daughters to places like the BBB. All this talk about a bride and growing up before our eyes in two hours i think is a little far fetched. Let’s get honest. Girls are only little for a short time they will have the rest of their lives to worry about bills, jobs, careers, and school. Let them be little and enjoy this time it is fleeting, however they want to enjoy it. Whether it be princesses or soccer. Don’t judge and critcize no matter how balanced you think you are being. You don’t know who you are talking about

    This is as much propaganda wanting me to think your way about stereotypes and child development as the “princess propaganda”. I say a girl can be a princess and still have a strong voice, be confident, intelligent and graceful to others all at the same time. If you think that isn’t possible then that is small minded.


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  4. […] across the country to do this stuff, but I am fascinated by the entire enterprise. From the Princess Propaganda blog: “At the Bibbidi Bobbibi Boutique, Disney takes dress-up to a new level, giving each girl her […]

  5. I really think there is no harm in Disney Princess culture. Little girls have always wanted to be pretty, and having pretty role models who are kind and caring is surely a good thing? I must admit I prefer the more heroic activities of Mulan & Pocahontas. Hopefully this balances desire to look good in a satisfactory way..

  6. Hi’i’m katryna jensen I am 8 years old I need to know when you open and close

    From katryna jensen

  7. Loovee !
    It’s a beautiful

  8. esta super la habitacion wow !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!esta chida…………!!!!!!!!!

  9. Bravo! You have summed things up nicely. The whole Disney Princess thing makes me puke. It’s turning little girls into hyper-feminine spoiled snobs.

    It’s sad that the 2 mothers above don’t see the harm. Moms, what do you think is going to happen when your little spoiled Disney princess grows up and has to deal with a million other girls who are also selfish spoiled Disney princesses? How are they going to relate to each other? How are they even going to interact or relate to boys, since they’ve been kept in an idealized feminine world? And are they going to respect their elders? Doubtful! After all, if you’re a princess, you would probably think you are better than everyone else.

    It’s going to be interesting to see all the grown-up princesses enter the job market.

  10. I wish I was little again! That is beautiful!

  11. Oh, dear Lord! What is the world coming to when it’s no longer P.C. for a little girl to dress up and play princess? Oh no, how awful – little Sally needs to play neurosurgeon, instead. It’s simply in the genes for a little girl to want to be sparkly and twirl around in a fancy dress as part of childhood – nothing more, nothing less. And what’s wrong with Disney making money on it? The beauty of capitalism and a free society is that you get the choice to simply boycott those companies you don’t agree with. Just like television – if you don’t like it, turn the channel, or don’t want television. Way too much heaviness for a little dress up time!

  12. There is a little girls two doors down from us who is indulged in this princess stuff all the time. The mom and Dad are pathologically fascinated with her daughter. They recently did a Disney visit and got into some of this stuff. Just last night at a community get together she started going on about the whole experience. She had no clue that the other moms present were looking at her like she was out of her mind. In her world, everyone would want this princess experience. In her world, everyone should be able to afford it (it seems she enjoys a parental gravy train that the rest of us do not). And in her world, she appears to believe that we all think her daughter is the absolute princess of the universe. Truth is, we are all wondering if it is time to separate our children from the spoiled, manipulative little monster her indulgences are creating. There is a way to love your children that ruins them. Spoiled rotten exists. It’s like perfectly good milk that’s set out on the counter for days, getting more and more putrid!

  13. I think this whole ariticle is over the top. I am a stay at home mother of three wonderful little girls and we’re going to Disney this year and trying to pack in as much princess as we can. It’s not a trip that they can take every year and it’s not something they can experience everyday. There’s nothing wrong with a girl wanted to feel special and beautiful. My girls are in gymnastics and dance as well as swimming and soccer. I was a athelete from childhood thru college but there were plenty of occasions when I had my hair and nails done, put on a beautiful dress and allowed that part of womenhood shine. Girls should be allowed to experience all sides of being a women and not be criticized because of it. The best part of being female is being able to explore all of those amazing facets in life. I don’t belive in spending more then your budget will allow but I do belive that a parents job is to provide all that you can to give your children new and unique experiences.

  14. There is nothing wrong with little girls wanting to be Princesses. It is wrong for Disney to leech off of the parent’s pocketbook like they do. I grew up watching Disney and I did indulge in a few trinkets here and there. Maybe I’m just a freak but “the Dream” you mentioned meant more to me then just being a Princess, it meant following their example. I didn’t need Disney products. I learned to be strong and curious by watching Belle and Pocahontas. I learned how to be independent by watching Jasmine. They are and always will be my role models because I look at what they have given me and not what they are trying to sell. I do put some blame on the parents for letting their daughters indulge in such expensive fairytales though. Nothing good can come from spoiling a child like that. Besides, you don’t need money to have fun. Real mother daughter time can be spent braiding each other’s hair or having a tea party picnic in the yard or the park.

  15. It is just sick that someone would write about parent’s letting their children be children. Dress up and pretend play only enhances brain development. I do not think anyone at disney is telling these little girls this what they should look forward to in life. The author does not seem to have any problem with grown women going to get manicures and wearing make-up on a daily basis, which is just a self-indulgent and unrealistic as the author wants us to think playing princess is. Furthermore, no one should begin throwing stones about how much money someone else spends unless they themselves are completely frugal and never splurge on anything themselves. We live in a free country and if a parent chooses to spend their hard earned dollars and disney, then they have every right to so. This author needs to get a life and quite wasting brain power on disney propoganda.

  16. I don’t see anything wrong with Disney capitalizing on parents who are willing to spend their hard earned money to turn there daughter into a royal princess. Look around your world you live in you will see that Disney is not the only one capitalizing on being a princess. The question is whether your dressed up in glitz and glitter or a pair of blue jeans do you feel like a princess do you feel special. It’s just another way of teaching kids to believe in themself and that they don’t have to be a real royal princess to be as special as Princess Di. It’s what’s inside of you that you bring out, it’s believing in yourself. If parents are willing to pay nearly $2000 when they are done with their whole Disney vacation by all means let them have the fantasy life for a week by all means they earned it with their hard earned money.:) For those who would like to experience it but don’t have the money should use alot of imagination and put it together for your own daughter right at home. Which is more fun because you the parent is giving quality time with your daughter which is the best gift you could give your daughter to help her to believe in herself.

  17. I played princess all the time with my sister and friends as a child. I had the costumes, dolls, play make up, tea parties and I went to Disney World quite a few times. My parents indulged us. I also played soccer (made state finals), softball and lacrosse as well as swam and rode horseback (in shows). My parents worked hard to give my siblings and I the best. Today I’m a very proud college educated Military wife who is with her Prince Charming and we will take the time and money to give our Princess the same experiences. If my husband, who serves this country, would like to take his daughter to BBB and give her a royal treatment to make her happy then he has every right to. You are making mountains out of molehills.

  18. Bravo! I just finished writing my thesis on popular culture (Disney) and urban public elementary schools. As a student teacher and a woman of color I was shocked to see my students of color dress up as white hannah montana and the white disney princesses (the black princesses was never a princess but a frog). So I wondered if teachers ever thought of the implications. So I interviewed teachers in Oakland Unified School Districts and turns out they contradict themselves. They claim they think popular culture is distracting and addicting or bad (undermining race, sexism and class) but at the same time they change standard based curricula (math and language arts) to reference students’ popular culture interest. Also even if teachers banned popular culture the public school still has popular culture as part of the hidden curriculum-think READ posters and GOT MILK posters featuring movie stars or those scholastic catalogs that sell Disney and Nickelodeon products.
    There is some great lessons created by teachers in UK, Australia, and Canada on this topic:
    1.Literacy moves on: Popular culture, new technologies and critical literacy in the elementary classroom.
    2.Potent fictions: Children’s’ literacy and the challenge of popular culture
    3. Writing superheroes: Contemporary childhood, popular culture, and classroom literacy.

  19. I understand the problem with princess culture. I live in an affluent area where people with a sense of entitlement drive on the sidewalk to pass traffic so they can get to the hair salon on time. I just don’t think Disney has much to do with this problem. They are serving the market that desires the royal treatment, but Disney princesses don’t fit the stereotype of the suburban, middle class “princess.” Disney princesses are gracious, hardworking, and kind to everyone around them. The newer princesses have a little more backbone and need less rescuing, but they are never portrayed as being snotty, demanding, or selfish.

  20. Hey, great post, very well written. You should blog more about this. I’ll definitely be subscribing.


  21. I decided I deserved a gift. Going through a very rough time at my job, feeling low. So, I decide, what the heck…I deserve it! Well, its gorgeous. Everyone that sees it can’t take their eyes off of it. Very reasonably priced as well!

  22. I agree with pretty much everything you stated, I just have to say that as a makeup artist who has considered going for a job at the boutique, I think the prices they’re offering are reasonable. The higher the prices on a makeover go, the more you get. You also have to keep in mind that as a business they have to get money back on the hair products, the makeup, the costuming, and hopefully most of that money goes to the photographers and makeup artists.
    I’m not defending the ideas or principles behind it all, but it seems to me it’s a get what you pay for deal, and I mean that in a positive way.

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