Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

The princess diaries – Dressed to thrill and other fairy fables

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Saturday, June 9, 2007 by

Tanja Cilia

Tanja Cilia frets at the way in which women are being manipulated to believe that beauty and fashion can guarantee happiness

Brides may think Disney's new Cinderella gown is dreamy, but perhaps your wedding limousine should drop you off before midnight.

Brides may think Disney‘s new Cinderella gown is dreamy, but perhaps your wedding limousine should drop you off before midnight.

Disney Unveils Disney Princess Wedding Gowns. It is a headline calculated to turn heads. And that is exactly what it did. The advertising was aimed squarely at those brides who have always dreamed of being a Disney princess, whether Aurora, Ariel, Mulan, Belle, Snow White, Pocahontas or Maddy… with nothing better to do than while away the time until Prince Charming comes along.Kirstie Kelly’s gowns will no doubt rake in more profits for the Princess products range, which last year made the corporation at least $3.4 billion. With prices ranging from $1,500 to $3,000, the gowns are apparently aimed at brides marrying relatively late on life, who would be paying for their own weddings.I took this last statement with a hefty pinch of Mediterranean sea salt. The chances are that those who purchase these gowns will be the same ones that use the Fairy Tale Wedding Programme at Disney Resorts… and younger brides who have trouble differentiating between frivolity, fashion, fact and fantasy.

Just as the bride was lulled to sleep as a little girl dreaming of the man who would sweep her off her feet, she will now be duped into fantasising that The Dress equates Happy Ever After.

This is nothing but shades of the Maltese folklore story about Gahan and his suit, despite the Disney marketing hype about how “the designs attempt to channel the personality of each princess in terms suitable for a real-life, modern woman.”

Are we raising a generation of airheads? If the wedding day – whether or not you are wearing a Princess gown – is “the happiest day of your life” then, it must be downhill all the way for the rest of your days as a married woman.

Something has gone seriously wrong. Even clothes for young girls veer more and more towards the gear worn by lap dancers. Some parents delight in seeing their daughters “all dressed up like young ladies” – forgetting that there was a time when this indicated a modicum of discretion, honesty, and, why not, taste.

This is the equivalent of the Barbie phenomenon of my youth. Some of us never wanted to own one of the incarnations of the impossibly over-talented, over-rated playthings. We never wanted to be perfect, then or now.

Perhaps the most worrying thing is that “perfect” is being defined by those with products and services to market – using fear of rejection as the ultimate motivator. It is continuously drummed into women’s heads that they must not “get fat” – not because obesity is unhealthy, or even because they will not find fashionable clothes to wear – but because “nobody will want them”. And then we wonder why so many of the younger generation have eating disorders.

What are these trends doing to body image and the self-esteem that goes with it? And size-ism is just another unacceptable facet of face-ism.

Women, it seems, want lips, eyes and cheekbones like those of Angelina Jolie – a Bratz Doll personified. If we look like her, the reasoning goes, maybe we can net the equivalent of Brad Pitt.

A further disquieting trend is the yen for Brazilian waxing. We read of celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Naomi Campbell having gone for it… well, aren’t these “good” role models (at least when they are not being bad)?

Of course Brazilian waxing is hygienic and practical – but it may also indicate a sinister, subliminal wish to return to prepubescent times, when menstruation, men problems, family care and wrinkle were still just a speck on the horizon.

This is why size-zero waif models are so popular: They look like gawky school kids as they sashay along the catwalks.

Is there a backlash taking hold? Are the marketing gurus picking up hints that we want to feel “good” about our bodies? The recent advertising campaign by Unilever for Dove soap was all about real women with physical imperfections (scars from operations, birth defects, unfit bodies and so on). They were pictured saying they were “comfortable” about showing themselves naked, hiding strategic areas of their bodies. But was this nudity really necessary? Isn’t it an unethical way to persuade us to purchase these products?

We must think about who stands to gain if we have commercialised fantasies of holding on to beauty – or at least good looks – forever.

The sooner we understand that poise, serenity, dignity and equanimity have nothing to do with complacency, the sooner we will learn not to be swayed by false promises.

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Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

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