Today we’re going to be analyzing the costumes of one of my favorite movies EVER- Brave! I always loved this movie because of the story, the characters, the music, the lovely medieval Scottish setting, and of course, the costumes.
I’m not very familiar with traditional Scottish dress in real life, but I am quite familiar with general medieval European fashion, particularly from the late 1400s. I think Brave is supposed to be set earlier than that, like the 1000s or 1100s, based on the architecture…. but this is a costume post, not an architecture post (even though I wrote a research paper about medieval architecture once… quite fascinating).
Before we begin, here are some pictures that represent early medieval fashion pretty well. It’s simple and loose- it can tend to be rather boring, if you ask me. But it does have some interesting features sometimes.
So let’s get started with the most iconic costume from the movie- Merida’s “adventure dress,” as I think of it:
There are several things I like about this dress. First of all, it’s a dress- not a tunic and trousers or something dumb like that. You CAN have adventures in a dress. Second of all, the dress is all around pretty simple, as medieval attire is supposed to be. I like the shape of the skirt- a basic A-line, pretty accurate for the period. Another thing I really like is that you can clearly see that she’s wearing at least two dresses- the blue outer dress and the cream colored under dress. The only thing that’s not very accurate to early medieval fashion is the sleeves. That design with the gaps and puffs and laces. Which looks great on the costume, but that feature didn’t come around until the Lucas Cranach gowns of the Renaissance.
I love Cranach gowns, by the way- and I don’t mind the sleeves on Merida’s dress at all- I’m just pointing out that they’re historically inspired by the Renaissance, not medieval times, when Brave is clearly supposed to be medieval.
Anyway, the accuracy of the dress is pretty decent, and it fits very well with what the movie is trying to do! Moving on to her “royal dress” as I think of it. This is one of my favorites from the movie.
I know Merida hates this dress, but I love it! The turquoise and gold is a really lovely color combination, and the trim on the skirt and neckline edges is very pretty. As far as the accuracy goes, I would say it’s pretty accurate- especially with the hair covering. The tight bodice and sleeves are fairly common from the period, for someone of the noble class. As for the girdle- the belt- I can’t really say whether or not it’s accurate. They definitely used belts back then, but I’m not sure about the one long piece hanging from the center.
Next, the dress that I was considering doing a cosplay of- Queen Elinor’s green dress.
I LOVE the color and the long sleeves. Around the 1200s or so, people would sometimes have very long sleeves like this, so long that they would touch the ground, sometimes. They became more popular as the 1400s rolled around. Again, I’m not really sure if the girdle is very accurate or not- but the rest of the dress definitely is, especially because it appears to be at least two dresses. Darker green and lighter green. As for her super-long braids, that really was a thing back then! I posted a picture above of a statue from the 1200s wearing a tight dress and really long braids. Long hair was a symbol of royalty, and short hair was a symbol of peasantry. I noticed that the servants in Brave have short, uneven, choppy hair- and I was super impressed with that! Now, people probably didn’t have their hair as long as Queen Elinor’s. But they might use false hair to make it appear longer, and the two plaits was a popular style of that time.
Overall, the Brave costumes are pretty simple, but I have always liked them because they fit very well with the movie’s atmosphere, and they’re a lot more accurate to history than other Disney dresses, and they are very elegant in their own way.