New exhibit at The Henry Ford aims to enchant with iconic Disney costumes

It’s a question any Disney fan could debate: Does the costume make the character? Or does the character make the costume?

If the enchanting new Disney exhibit at The Henry Ford is any indication, the answer is unquestionably both. Costumes bring characters to life, Walt Disney Company archivists say, though the stories themselves guide designers. Cinderella wouldn’t be Cinderella without her ballgown and Maleficent wouldn’t be Maleficent without her horn-shaped headgear.

Both costumes are part of “Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume,” which opens Saturday inside The Henry Ford’s Museum of American Innovation is sure to delight Disney fans along with anyone else who appreciates intricate, thoughtful design.

The exhibit, which is making its Midwest debut and runs until January, shows just how much incredible detail goes into the costumes of some of Disney’s most beloved (and reviled) characters, including Jack Sparrow from “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Mary Poppins and Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.”

Captain Hector Barbossa (center) worn by actor Geoffrey Rush, 2003, from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is one of many costumes on display at the “Heroes & Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume Presented by the Walt Disney Archives” at the Henry Ford in Dearborn on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

“Everybody knows about Disney animation — they know we make live-action films — but it’s the craft behind the films that is so important,” said Becky Cline, director of the Walt Disney Archives, which is in California. It’s about paying homage “to the skill and artistry of these designers.”

The exhibit features more than 70 costumes featured in 32 films and TV shows from the 1960s through the 2010s, including 2015’s “Cinderella,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and the television show, “Once Upon a Time.”

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