Princesses & Pirates: Dressing Up in the Parks

by Adrienne Krock, staff writer
Advertisement

Many children enjoy dressing up as their favorite princesses, space rangers, cowboys, pirates, and more when they visit the Disney theme parks, no matter what time of year. This week we asked our Parenting Panel: How do you manage children dressing in costumes at the parks?

Elizabeth, who posts on our MousePad message board as eabaldwin, has been a Disneyland Annual Passholder since 2010. She and her husband have two daughters, Katie (4) and Josie (2). Elizabeth writes:

While we don't have matching shirts or outfits, my husband and I almost always wear Mickey/Minnie/Princess/Disney shirts when we go to Disneyland. It is a fun way for us to get into the spirit of being in the parks. We often make the trip to Disneyland with at least one princess, and sometimes two. It is a fun way for them to get into being in the parks as well.

Our 4-year-old daughter would prefer to wear a sparkly, Disney princess dress every day of the year. For the most part, we let her choose her outfits (weather and occasion permitting) and often her choice is a princess dress. Her favorite place to wear princess dresses is to Disneyland. She loves to meet the princess whose dress she is wearing. We have many photos of her wearing her Rapunzel dress while meeting Rapunzel, wearing her Belle dress meeting Belle, etc. The princesses are so gracious and gush over their matching outfits. Our 2-year-old prefers to wear Mickey shirts, although she does request a Minnie dress or princess dress occasionally. Usually her Mickey shirt is paired with a tutu, which is her choice as well.

We bring a change of clothes along with us when we go. They always have the option to change out of their dress (they haven't yet!), and I like to have a spare outfit just in case. I always bring pants and a sweatshirt or long-sleeved shirt to wear under, or over, a dress for when the weather gets cooler. And, the pants and shirts must match or coordinate with the dress! Because their dresses are so "well-loved" and have been washed so many times, they are not very itchy. My girls have no issues with wearing them all day. Personally, I find it easier for them to just wear them than to deal with taking it off and on throughout the day.

Our children are very good about wearing their sneakers, or Keen sandals usually, with their dresses. We do have a few pairs of plastic princess shoes and they know how uncomfortable they are. That is one area where we do not budge, with footwear, because there is way too much walking to do at Disneyland!

For us, bringing a couple of little princesses is just another way to add to our magical experience when we go to Disneyland. They enjoy dressing like a princess and we enjoy watching them be a princess for the day!

Chris, also known as GusMan, is always planning his next family trip to the Walt Disney World Resort and loves to help others plan their trips, as well sharing his experiences. Chris writes:

Usually when I think of how my family dresses on a Disney vacation it simply includes figuring out how many of the basics I need for the trips duration. At the same time, there was a time where it was a bit more complicated. With certain plans came specific outfits for my daughter. In some cases, it was to match her favorite character at dinner. For others, it might have been for a party in the parks. Even I, at one time, would have been caught in a costume—but that is for a different article.

While my daughter has not dressed in a costume at the parks in many years, there are no shortages of younger guests dressed in some of the most detailed costumes. These outfits (and I say outfits because I have seen some very dressed up young pirates out there) transform the wearers into their favorite characters and you know that they were not inexpensive to acquire either. But one has to ask—are these outfits even that comfortable to wear in the parks? In August? In 95-plus-degree heat? With humidity levels that are off the chart? And before you think that these are judgmental statements—these are actually sincere questions as I have no idea. I can only guess since the outfits now seem to be much more complex and detailed than the ones offered a decade ago. Even then, the idea should give parents something to think about costume choices.

For our family, costumes were used strategically. We planned our day around the wardrobe. Considering some of the factors that come into play such as weather, rides, time away from the resort, we were mindful about letting my daughter get into character while still maintaining a good comfort level throughout the day. One year this meant that we carried our costumes to the parks and changed right before a party. We kept everything in a locker till later that evening.

At the same time, the costumes we chose were comfortable for the time of year that we visited. My daughter's Minnie dress would have been super warm during the day, but it was perfect for the evening when it got a bit cooler during that specific trip. We also made sure that the shoes we wore looked the part but were comfortable enough to walk around the parks for several hours. We tested this at home beforehand just to be sure. In fact, we tested all our costumes out before we left on our trip to make sure that we were not going to regret the wardrobe change later.

While our costumes have not seen the light of day in years, we still tend to plan out our wardrobe to make our trip a bit more special. As an example, we take changes of clothes with us if we know we are not going to be back at our resort before we have dinner at a nicer place like the California Grill. We know it's not necessary to "dress up" at Disney restaurants, but to us, it's something different. Besides, there is nothing like a clean shirt when sitting down to a nice meal.

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!

Comments

  1. By amyuilani

    So often I have seen parents purchase these expensive princess dresses for their daughters, and then freak out every time a child has the nerve to be a child. Kids like to play, and they will get messy. Parents know this and purchase costumes anyway, and then they expect that kids will somehow turn into statues as to not ruin their own clothing. These costumes are expensive and they will get messy. That's life. Think of it this way: kids grow so fast, and they will grow out of that costume so soon. Before you realize it, they will be wearing things that are far worse, and you will long for the days your kids were still in costumes, playing like the princesses they became when they wore those costumes. Isn't $65 a small price to pay for the memories of your child being happy?

  2. By candles71

    Our costume days, in the park, are behind us currently. We still wear Disney shirts to the parks (and in daily life.). Things I knew about my kids led to choices made ahead of time. Our middle daughter, has always been more fashion over comfort, while our youngest (and the oldest) daughter has sensory issues with clothing. It actually surprised me on our first trip when the middle one (then 7) wanted her Princess dress off before the youngest (4 1/2) did. But, knowing it would come off at some point, and that the Princess dresses are itchy, they had shorts and a tanktop on under the dress, so it was a quick moment of whipping it off and rolling it up to stick it in the backpack.
    It all adds to the fun. We have pictures of our middle daughter doing Jedi training in her Aurora dress, and the girls would get tickled when the Jungle Cruise CMs would call them princess.The girls also have worn pirate costumes. I have made Alice dresses and Ariel costumes as well.

  3. By ehrawn

    Attachment 8112
    DW made Darth Vader and Elsa shirts for our two: much easier to deal with than a full costume in the July Anaheim heat.

  4. By eabaldwin

    Quote Originally Posted by amyuilani View Post
    So often I have seen parents purchase these expensive princess dresses for their daughters, and then freak out every time a child has the nerve to be a child. Kids like to play, and they will get messy. Parents know this and purchase costumes anyway, and then they expect that kids will somehow turn into statues as to not ruin their own clothing. These costumes are expensive and they will get messy. That's life. Think of it this way: kids grow so fast, and they will grow out of that costume so soon. Before you realize it, they will be wearing things that are far worse, and you will long for the days your kids were still in costumes, playing like the princesses they became when they wore those costumes. Isn't $65 a small price to pay for the memories of your child being happy?

    I completely agree with you. I was guilty of this, initially. We started out with a little Rapunzel dress for our older daughter when she was about 18 months old for Halloween. I kept hiding it in the back of her closet and she kept pulling it out to wear it. My husband was the one who said, "It's just a dress. Let her wear it!" Seriously, what do we have to gain by saving it in her closet when she could be wearing it and enjoying it? We have found that the Disney dresses/costumes are made pretty well and they last a lot longer than I thought they would. I wash them all on the gentle cycle and hang them up to dry. They are "well-loved," and some, like her Cinderella dress, look awful. But she loves to wear them, so we let her. My favorite is the amount of glitter that falls off the first few times they wear them. They leave a trail all over the house and wherever they walk! Also, with sales (at the Disney Store right before and after Halloween when they clear out the current year's design of dress to get ready for the new ones), and with an AP discount, we have rarely paid full price for a dress.

    candles, I am actually sad thinking about the day when they don't want to wear princess dresses or a costume to the parks!

    ehrawn, I love that Elsa shirt! What a great idea!

  5. By candles71

    I am pretty sure N would, if they would let her through the gate. She looks 15 now. I know the rule is 9, but they seem to allow for slightly older kids, as long as they look like kids. I think she was 12 the last time she wore a costume to DL. Now, she still can get into her Tinkerbell costume, she just doesn't close the snaps on the body suit.

  6. By 3Princesses1Prince

    My youngest DD will still wear her princess dress to the parks, though we didn't take them on our most recent trips, mostly because we are stroller free and they tend to ditch the dresses after awhile for comfort. We've done the Disney park dresses, Disney store dresses, and Disney store princess "dress" nightgown. The park ones last the longest (hold up well to wear and tear) and the nightgowns are the most comfortable. I recently commented that our next WDW trip won't include a suitcase dedicated to poofy dresses. Makes me a bit sad.

  7. Discuss this article on MousePad.