Being plus size and a huge Disney, Harry Potter, Anime, J-rock, and Marvel fangirl is really not easy. For one thing, when it comes to shopping for geek/nerdy tees, and cosplay apparel it is rare to find pieces in sizes larger than an XL for women. Then there is the expectation that one should only choose characters that are of your same race. As I mentioned before in an earlier post, cosplaying is often seen as something that should only be done by those that “can truly emulate a character as depicted in comics, film and video games.” This obviously leaves people of color as well as plus size women like myself out or at risk of getting highly criticized by the geek community.
For this reason, when it came time to order my Little Petal convertible dress, I had originally chose the Korra dress because I figured that that was a character I could get away with cosplaying, but when I started communicating with designer, Danielle Ward I changed my mind. As a body positive designer and business owner, she doesn’t believe in things like size limiting who you can dress up as, rather you should think of who you see yourself as. For me that made the decision easy – Esmeralda from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Esmeralda is Romani, however with the introduction of her dark brown complexion and thick black wavy curly hair that resembled mine, I saw a lot of myself in her. I grew up not with little to no representation in mainstream media be it American or Latino so when I watched this particular Disney movie I became slightly obsessed. So much so that I begged my mother to let me get my ears pierced so I could wear hoop earrings like here, but I she got me the Esmeralda Barbie doll instead, which I still own to this day. (I would later ask for a Djali plushie but sadly I never got one since apparently the Disney store doesn’t carry that character.)
It wasn’t just her appearance that fascinated me as a child but her personality and character arc as well. What sets Esmeralda apart is the fact that, unlike the other Disney female protagonists, she wasn’t royal and she had a snarky, resourceful and confident personality. She was unapologetic – a working woman oppressed by French society due to her racial background with a passion for social justice. She cared for the welfare of her people to the point that, when given the chance inside Notre Dame, she makes a humble and selfless prayer to God for them even though she trapped in her own powerless situation. Esmeralda was also held in high regard by her community as none of them give her up when the antagonist Frollo practically burns all of Paris to find her. It is even implied that she does hold some sort of political power within the Court of Miracles as she is able to stop an execution with one word and order her people to immediately pack to escape Frollo’s wrath. Honestly I can go on and on about Esmeralda’s awesome for days – she truly is my favorite Disney heroine.
Esmeralda’s style is pretty easy to replicate – peasant blouse, blue corset with thin gold stripes, a purple skirt and of course, gold accents in the form of bangles, hoop earrings and coin trim on the scarf tied at her hip. Yet it is just so much easier to have it all be in one piece and it is so comfortable too. Once my dress was completed, Danielle was kind enough to cut a piece of pink cloth for me to tie on my head so I only added bangles that I borrowed from my mother’s costume jewelry box and gold sandals. (In the film Esmeralda is barefoot, yet gold sandals just seems like the kind of thing she would add to her wardrobe given the amount of gold accents she already wears.)
It took me two years to save up for this dress (I was actually homeless when I placed my order during NYCC 2014) yet it was so worth it. After all it is a one of a kind, handmade, quality piece custom made to my measurements. The best part about this dress is the fact that it can also be worn incognito for everyday occasions. I mean in the film Clopin refers to Esmeralda as “the Finest girl in France” and who wouldn’t want that title even for an evening out? I’ve been playing with this dress by tucking in the overskirt and tying my dress in different ways. The Little Petal website does include tutorials for how to tie the dress, however creating new styles are obviously encouraged and I will be sharing mine very soon.
Is there any particular character from books, film or other forms of media that has meant something to you? What are you wearing this Halloween?