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The true story behind Belle’s iconic yellow dress in Beauty & The Beast

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Kayleigh Dray
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Emma Watson teamed up with Dan Stevens’ daughter to create the ultimate Disney princess gown.

Emma Watson has spoken extensively about her costume designs for Belle in Beauty and the Beast. The actor was keen to ensure that her character’s wardrobe was fit for an “active princess”, and encouraged the fashion team working on the film to steer clear of corsetry, heels, and billowing skirts.

And now her co-star Dan Stevens, who plays the Beast, has confirmed that Watson found a helping hand in his young daughter, Willow.

Speaking on ITV’s This Morning, Stevens said: “She was five when we made this film – it was just magic all the way through - to bring [her] on set.”

The 34-year-old went on to recall the moment that he and his wife, Susie Hariet, invited Watson to their house for dinner one night – and it wasn’t long before the real-life Disney princess found herself in conversation with young Willow.

Dan Stevens on ITV's This Morning

Dan Stevens on ITV's This Morning

“Emma Watson came over to our house for dinner,” the former Downton Abbey star explained, “and we were talking about the design of the [iconic yellow] dress. Willow overheard the conversation and came back 30 minutes later, pen and paper [in hand], with five different dress designs.

“She sat down with Emma, talked her through these dress designs, [and] they picked one.”

Stevens went on to clarify that Watson hadn’t just been humouring his daughter; in fact, she took Willow’s opinions very seriously, and made sure to talk them over with the costume department.

“A few weeks later, Willow comes on set to see the ballroom scene,” smiled Stevens. “Emma is in the dress and Willow just looked at me and went, ‘yep, that’s the one!’”

Dan Stevens and Emma Watson

Dan Stevens and Emma Watson

Of course, the final dress design was drawn up by Academy Award-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran, and she said it was easily the trickiest costume because the world loved Belle’s yellow frock in the original. As a result, the design process was lengthy and it involved numerous discussions about its look, colour and the material used.

“The dress was always going to be yellow in our film as an homage to the animation,” Durran told Glamour. “What we tried to do was re-interpret it and flesh it out a bit by adding more texture and making it feel like a real living costume.” In the end, the dress was created from multiple layers of feather-light satin organza dyed yellow (180 feet in total), which was cut broadly in a circular shape and required 3,000 feet of thread.

The top two layers were printed with gold leaf filigree in a pattern matching the ballroom’s Rococo floor and accentuated with 2,160 Swarovski crystals.

The dress took over 12,000 hours to make and multiple copies were needed. Interestingly, the team decided not to include a corset or cage because they wanted Emma to be able to move because this Belle is way more active than the Belle from the animated film.

Watson previously told Entertainment Weekly that she relished the challenge of incorporating Belle’s updated feminist attitude into her wardrobe.

She said: “I really embraced working on the dress, making sure that it was utterly whimsical, and magical.

“The scene that I wear that dress in, and I have that dance in, it really tells the story of Beast and Belle falling in love. You know, we don’t have a huge amount of time in the story to tell that story.”

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Watson added: “The dance, for me, is really where the audience starts to see it happening and starts knowing that it is happening. This is total, blissful escapism. You are transported to another world. 

“The dress, and the dancing, and the candlelight, and the music – it was really fun to work on every aspect of that.”

Images: Rex Features

This article was originally published in March 2017.