Celebrating Cultural Identity in Disney's Encanto
The Madrigals are an extraordinary family who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia in a charmed place called the Encanto. The magic of the Encanto has blessed every child in the family with a unique gift - every child except Mirabel. However, she soon may be the Madrigals last hope when she discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is now in danger.
In celebration of Disney's Encanto, costume maker Philip Odango collaborates with Colombian-born American cosplayer. performer and non-profit leader Angelica Michelle to bring Mirabel Madrigal to life.
Photos by With An H Media
"Encanto is important to me because representation matters!" says Angelica Michelle. "The themes of Encanto are incredibly poignant and related to my life experiences."
"As a person of color adopted from Colombia into a white family and white environment, it was easy to grow up with identity issues. Encanto’s themes of belonging, family, and the lesson that “you are more than your gifts” is one that I needed to hear."
Speaking on the film's themes of forced displacement and rebuilding, Angelica explains, "Encanto also highlights the generational traumas that many families of color have integrated into the fabric of their culture, through no fault of their own." For the photoshoot, Angelica brought her authentic dolls from Colombia nearly 30 years old, from when she was adopted.
Philip sought advice and support of Disney Encanto's Lead Costume Designer Neysa Bové and insight from Assistant Production Manager Lorelay Bové during his costume production process. For Philip, this cosplay collaboration extends beyond just making and wearing the costume; it is an expression of cultural identity and wanted to get authentic elements correct.
"Before Abuela left to the Encanto it was supposed to be 1890’s-1900’s," says Neysa Bové, "and when she goes into the Encanto, they are left “stuck in time,” but really it’s 1950s. They had no access to outside culture other than what Abuela and other townspeople brought- hence her costume feeling more Victorian."
"But no electricity or cars to make it timeless," says Lorelay. "Mirabel did it all by hand- that’s why it’s super wonky," adds Neysa.
Costume construction notes:
Making something look "simple" is not always easy. I could have just created iron-on transfers or made dye-sublimated fabric with pre-printed designs, but since Mirabel handmade her clothes using what's around the Casita, I wanted to honor that. There are over 200 individual appliqués on the skirt alone, made of felt and yarn, which were handstitched or glued with fabric glue. The process took over 100 hours, not including the time to research and color match, and making sure nothing flew off during fantasy princess spins. My references included art provided by Neysa Bové, toys, trailer, illustrations and Disney Parks face character, and each of those had something a little different in their designs and also lighting conditions.
I designed the 3" waistband as a separate piece from the skirt since the skirt can actually fit a US dress size 2 to 24. The skirt top hem is 2" ruched on 1" elastic which I kept long unfinished ends so they can be cinched in and tied and tucked away and then covered by the waistband. Perfect if you have princess parties and diverse sizes of Mirabel performers. You can keep an assortment of waistband extensions.
The skirt is 16ft all the way around when laid flat, basically a 3ft x 16ft mural canvas of appliqués. Because I wanted more control over how the skirt drapes and folds, I chose to go with box skirt silhouette, and added two additional triangle panels to give it that faux circle skirt effect when it lifts during dance turns
Blouse neckline and sleeves are hand-scalloped then I satin-stitched 'imperfect' felted trim all around
I recreated the blouse butterflies and sleeve designs into vector format and created vinyl transfer iron on pieces using my Cricut Joy
Mirabel's round glasses are made from floral wire and Worbla thermoplastic
Earrings are made from blue felt pom poms
Shoes are thrifted espadrilles with added embroidered fabric
All fabrics, felt, yarn, trims and lace are available from JOANN Fabric and Craft Stores
Positive Reception from the Disney Community
The finished cosplay is warmly received by Colombians and has been shared by Neysa and members of Disney's animation teams, and by the voice actress of Mirabel, Stephanie Beatriz, and Directors of Encanto, Jared Bush and Byron Howard