It all started with a blog. While people have been dressing in Disney fashion since at least the 90s, it was Canadian Disney connoisseur Leslie Kay’s DisneyBound blog that pioneered a worldwide style phenomenon that continues to thrive even a decade after its inception.
Indeed, Kay actually published her first book “DisneyBound: Dress Disney and Make It Fashion” just last year! The book is a comprehensive guide that recounts the origin and growth of this creative marvel that brings together imagination, passion, and just a dash of that ever-so-stylish pixie dust: Disney-bounding!
Put most simply, Disney-bounding involves designing “street-wearable” fashions that allude to a Disney character or experience. Unlike wearing a full costume, Disney-bounds often referred to simply as Bounds, are outfits you can wear in your everyday life. They provide a subtle splash of Disney magic to your outfit without being overtly “costume-y” and can be crafted using items you already have or can easily access at your local mall or thrift store.
While Disney-bounding can be a fanciful vehicle for play and creativity, it can also involve found confidence and embracing one’s individuality through a magical Disney lens. What I find most intriguing is Kay’s nuanced consideration of how Disney-bounding enables people to draw strength from their most beloved stories, enact positive self-care, and inspire those around them.
As someone who is naturally quite shy, I find bounding a great way to start conversations and spark a dormant confidence that sometimes just needs a little nudge to truly shine. Some standout memories include bounding as Snow White to a dear friend’s outdoor wedding, as Captain America’s Bucky Barnes at my thesis defense, and as Minnie Mouse when I was offered the opportunity to become a Vacation Coordinator at David’s Vacation Club Rentals. Albeit nerve-wracking, these were all incredibly important events in my life and bounding as these characters helped me find the strength and self-assurance I knew resided within me all along.
I would love to share my Disney-bounding experiences with you and explain how the activity works in a little more detail. So, let’s step into our cowboy boots (hopefully sans snake), reach for the sky, and learn how to create our very own Disney-bounds for our next enchanting visit to The Most Magical Place on Earth!
Now, my background is primarily in cosplay, or “costume play,” which is the practice of re-creating fictional characters’ existing costumes down to their finest detail. While there is certainly room for creativity, such as choosing certain fabrics or a very specific shade of auburn for a wig, the goal is to be immediately recognizable as the character that you are cosplaying. It is incredibly fulfilling to don a costume you have meticulously crafted, but it can be an exhaustive process that often results in an outfit you can effectively only wear for that particular character at very specific events such as fan or comic conventions.
Disney-bounders, on the other hand, do not seek to directly recreate a character’s costume but rather aim to evoke the essence of the character through specific clothing and accessory choices. Bounders also tend to recycle their materials and re-purpose them to suit various Disney characters, not just one. I have been Disney-bounding for a few years now and find that it allows for much more freedom in terms of an outfit’s overall look and wear-ability. Unlike cosplay, it is an activity suitable for a variety of settings, such as at the office, when hanging out with friends, and even at those special occasions where you might appreciate that little nudge. One of the most popular places to Bound, however, is at the Disney Parks.
As Disney does not allow for guests over the age of fourteen to wear costumes in the Parks outside of special events like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Disney-bounding gives adults a chance to join in the fun all year long. The guest-organized event Dapper Day, which originated at the Disneyland Resort but has been embraced by park-goers worldwide, is a fantastic example of individuals dressing as popular characters with a sophisticated, vintage-twist. These outfits are not precise recreations but rather creative re-imaginings of beloved stories that guests wear during their magical meanderings through Main Street U.S.A. and beyond.
While some Bounds are a perfect excuse to dress to the nines, such as wearing a sparkly powder blue Cinderella-style dress complete with petticoat and sparkling shoes to a work holiday party (which I totally haven’t done or anything), Disney-bounding does not need to be formal.
I strongly agree with Kay’s assertion that Bounds should be fun, confidence-boosting, and comfortable; this is particularly important to think about when bounding in the Parks.
Now that you are absolutely hyped about Disney-bounding, I’m sure you have a few questions running through your mind, such as: “Just how exactly do I Disney-bound? Where do I start? Will this be expensive? But I’m not even fashionable; what if I do it wrong?!” These are some of the exact same questions that I had when I started bounding. Most importantly, please know that each and every Bound is as unique as the person who crafts it; there is no “one right way” to Disney-bound.
Kay has outlined some great foundational tips in her book, and I have created a few Bounds with items sourced solely from my closet to help illustrate them. Remember, the following 5 tips are merely suggestions; it is your unique perspective and creativity that will truly bring your next (or very first!) Disney-bound to life:
Step 1: Choosing a Character
Sometimes a Bounder will choose a character they admire or feel represents them in some way and look for suitable attire. Other times, they might decide which character looks they could create from the clothing they already have available. For example, if you’re able to find a black t-shirt, red pants, and yellow shoes hidden away in your closet, you just might be inspired to Bound as everyone’s favorite mouse, Mickey!
Something fun to think about is that you can re-use those same items for other characters. The yellow shoes would come in handy for Donald Duck, and those red jeans would be a great base for Mushu, Pinocchio, or even Iron Man.
I used the same yellow skirt when creating my Bounds of Snow White and Belle. By pairing the skirt with different pieces and accessories, I was easily able to use it for both characters. One thing is for certain: once you begin Disney-bounding, you will never look at clothing the same way again.
Step 2: Colour-blocking
Kay aptly describes color-blocking as a great way to create a “stylized foundation” for your character with a specific combination of differing colors. A simple color-blocking case is Winnie the Pooh. When you look at Pooh, you can see that his colors are red on the top and yellow on the bottom. A Bound could be as simple as putting together yellow bottoms, such as shorts or a skirt, and a red top.
When putting together my Minnie Bound, I started by looking at her main colors: black, red (usually with polka-dots), and yellow. While I did not have a pair of yellow shoes on hand, I attached a Disney pin of Minnie’s yellow shoes to the collar of my shirt. You’ll read more about my favorite part of Disney-bounding, accessorizing, in Step 4.
Step 3: Silhouettes
When looking at a character, you’ll sometimes notice that their outfits have a very specific silhouette, which refers to the shape and overall construction of the costume. While not necessary, including similar shapes in your Bounds can be a nice reference to the original character. In creating a Bound for reformed femme-fatale Megara from Hercules, for example, you might choose a lightweight skater dress with a drop-waist to hint at her Grecian gown while making sure you’re still comfortable when you board for your afternoon mission at Space Mountain.
In order to achieve that “5 Minutes to Midnight Poofy Ballgown Effect,” I added a petticoat under my Cinderella dress to give it extra volume. You can sometimes find petticoats (also known as crinoline) in vintage or thrift stores, but you can also create your own with a few materials (mostly tulle and ribbon) using one of the many “no-sew” tutorials available online.
Step 4: Accessorizing
Accessorizing is a key element to any Bound. Characters often have very specific features or props that you want to include but aren’t always practical for Park life. When Bounding as Merida, for example, you may be tempted to “let your hair flow in the wind as you ride through the glen firing arrows into the sunset.” As excitingly authentic as that sounds, a prop bow and arrow are not appropriate accessories as no weapons of any kind are permitted in the Disney Parks. Instead, one could purchase or make an arrow necklace to wear as a nod to Merida’s amazing archery skills.
Accessories are also great when it comes to the trickier elements of a Bound, such as animal ears, horns, or other key items. Hair accessories, or even how one styles their hair, can be a simple but effective way to convey an idea. Judy Hopps’ long rabbit ears, for example, are often signified by pulling one’s hair into pigtails.
Practicality is always something to consider when Bounding in the Parks, and bags are excellent items you can use to evoke a character’s vibe. My Ariel Bound, for example, includes a net-like bag as well as a pin of Ariel’s tiara, which is accented with pearls and a seashell. As for Captain America, wearing a backpack displaying his signature shield is an excellent way to carry all of the treasures you discover on your Park travels and leave your hands free for a Mickey Bar or two (or three, or four; there’s no judgment here!).
Step 5: Overall Vibe
Ultimately, your Bound will be a compilation of your understanding of a character, your personality, and your personal style. It could also be interesting to think about the era of the characters or film that you have chosen. For example, bounding as Wall-e and Eve might evoke more modern pieces, whereas characters who reside in earlier days like Peter Pan’s Edwardian London or even the medieval period such as Arthur Pendragon from The Sword in the Stone could potentially lead you down a whimsically vintage or knightly path of inspiration.
Agent Peggy Carter is by far my favorite Marvel heroine, and I love embodying her powerful, feminine 1940s aesthetic in my Bounds. Finding true vintage pieces such as my Stratton compact or screen-accurate items like the Stetson is a nice touch, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t cosplay. I love Bounding as Peggy because it lessens the pressure of creating a “perfect” outfit and lets me play with Peggy’s look while truly making it my own.
While these are certainly helpful stepping stones, please remember that it is your individual vision of the character that is most important, as well as ensuring that your Bound is comfortable and makes you feel good when wearing it. Moreover, some exploration and a little D.I.Y. ensures that Bounding does not have to break the bank. You will be amazed by what you can find at the dollar store, or even with the treasures you already have hidden away in your closet!
Once you have a couple of Bounds under your Sheriff Woody belt buckle, you might think about taking things to the next level. For instance, you could craft a Bound around an entire movie rather than a particular character, as I have with my Star Wars-inspired Bound. You could perhaps Bound from your favorite park attraction, whether that be as a particular element (like Redd the Pirate from The Pirates of the Caribbean, for example) or create an outfit that encapsulates the overall ride experience.
Maybe you will be inspired to Bound as a swirl of Pineapple Dole Whip! The possibilities are truly as endless as your imagination.
You could even theme your Bounds depending on what DVC Resort you’re staying at during your next trip. Perhaps you’ll find yourself racing towards a Jolly Holiday as Mary Poppins during your stay at the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, or navigate your way among the stars to the Polynesian Villas as Moana.
Flipping your figurative fins along Beach Club Villas’ Stormalong Bay sounds like the perfect backdrop for your next Ariel Bound, and both Copper Creek and Boulder Ridge are excellent places to Bound as the Goof Troop – although, maybe without Bigfoot tagging along.
So, I encourage you to take a look at your gadgets and gizmos, whozits and whatzits, and the twenty thingamabobs tucked away in your closet; you never know what will begin your brainstorm, spark your imagination, and kindle your next Disney-bounding adventure!