Princess Jasmine from the Disney movie Aladdin is entering a whole new world of fashion. After twenty-four years of baring their stomachs in harem pants and skimpy tops, the women who play Jasmine at Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California are getting a much more modest look: a shirt with long sleeves and a skirt over the harem pants (Aladdin is also upgrading from his “street rat” outfit to his Prince Ali outfit). Disney princesses Mulan and Pocahontas have also recently donned new outfits, but Jasmine’s change is the most drastic by far.
There has been some grumbling about the supposedly “feminist-approved” outfit change. Is this modest outfit “defeating the patriarchy”? Or is it more empowering for a woman to be unashamed of flaunting her body to the world? Did Disney make this change to please religious fundamentalists and feminists? Will Jasmine be wearing a burka next? (Probably not, since the stories about Aladdin from The Arabian Nights took place before the 9th century and burkas and hijabs weren’t very common until the 10th century.)
Rather than dissecting the reasons behind the outfit change of a Disney princess, perhaps we should be celebrating it as a sign that modesty is making a comeback. Admittedly, it is a little sad that Jasmine won’t be in the outfit I saw her wear the hundreds of times I watched Aladdin when I was a kid, but we shouldn’t forget that little girls look up to her and the other Disney princesses. There are too many scantily-clad Kardashians and Sports Illustrated swimsuit models as it is, so it’s probably a good thing that a Disney princess can show that modesty can be beautiful.
This also isn’t the first time Disney has made a conscious shift towards modesty and healthy body image (and none of their decisions had anything to do with religion); Princess Leia’s famous slave costume merchandise was discontinued last year, and the upcoming Disney movie, Moana, will feature a princess with a much more realistic body type (although some of us haven’t forgotten about Nani and Lilo from Lilo and Stitch).
When it unveiled the princess in Moana, Disney was praised for creating a healthier-looking young woman for its animated movie; now the company is being criticized for changing a princess’s outfit to be more modest. In today’s politically correct times, you can’t win for trying. Everyone should just be happy that Disney is putting more clothing on their princesses rather than less (though it will be interesting to see if they give Ariel from The Little Mermaid a shirt instead of a bikini, too). Any company that takes a stand for modesty in today’s anything-goes environment deserves praise.
But the Jasmine kerfuffle is not just about modesty; it’s yet another example of how even the most straightforward or mundane decisions (such as how to costume your princess, or what to wear to celebrate Halloween) quickly become an excuse for a full-blown battle over what is and is not politically correct. As Jasmine herself might have said, it’s a whole new world.