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A Cartoon Mouse Becomes a Fashion Icon

Who wore it first: Coco or Minnie?

by Catherine Chapman
22 September 2015, 1:30pm

Georgia May Jagger and Minnie Mouse at the opening of Minnie: Style Icon at Blacks Club during London Fashion Week. Photo credit: Doug Peters/PA.

You loved her from the age of six, waiting for her appearance alongside Mickey in Saturday afternoon cartoons. As a teenager, when style became as important as breathing, her bows, long eyelashes, and splashes of polka dots passed in and out of your wardrobe. And today, no matter what age, you can find the character globally known as Minnie Mouse in print, digital and an immeasurable amount of mediums everywhere. Fashion is no exception.

“We wanted to say how she’s influenced fashion over the decades,” says Justine Finch, UK Business Franchise Director at Disney. “From the 20s, when she was first drawn, it’s quite a history.”

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Minnie’s appearance in Traffic Troubles, 1931. Photo credit: Disney.

In an exhibit showcasing the Disney character’s ascertainable look, Minnie: Style Icon does just that. Giving a nod to the trendsetting cartoon and her influence on fashion designers, photographers and supermodels—be it Madonna in mouse ears or Ellen von Unwerth photographing polka dots—a collection of images, prints and rare animations were on display during London Fashion Week (LFW). A muse reinterpreted on and off the runway, Minnie’s original and of the moment sense of dress was also charted.

Madonna in her hotel room at the opening of the ‘Who’s That Girl’ World Tour in Japan, Tokyo, 1987. Photo credit: Herb Ritts.

“It started off very simple. Very plain,” explains Finch, mentioning the difficulties in animating polka dots in 1928, when Minnie first arrived on the scene. “She had her pillbox hat and little patchwork bottom as well.”

With tapered heel and pointed toe, Minnie was first introduced as a flapper, said to be modelled after actress Colleen Moore. In the same decade, Coco Chanel’s influence on flapper fashion design gave inspiration to Minnie’s polka dots. After WWII, Minnie replaced her pillbox hat with a large bow to reflect the prevalent rationing of fabric of the period.

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Check out that pillbox hat! Photo credit: Disney.

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A poster from Bath Day, 1946. Photo credit: Disney.  

Finch explains further, “Walt Disney developed her as a character and was influenced by the style and fashion of the time. He tried to look at the era, the generation, giving a nod to what was going on.”

Being on-trend is key in sustaining a look that’s admired, and with a Facebook page of over 5 million likes, Minnie’s ownership of fashion throughout distinct style periods may have something to do with her popularity. Maintaining her classic look—whether it’s the ears or color pallet—within these fashion movements makes her unique, timeless and a way for others to express themselves.

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Actress Sienna Guillory showing how Minnie influences her at the opening of Minnie: Style Icon at Blacks Club during London Fashion Week. Photo credit: Doug Peters/PA.

“She’s fun, she’s stylist, she’s quirky, she’s charismatic she’s got a real personality and people can relate to it,” says Finch. “Life is quite serious, but Minnie just makes you smile. People love dressing up. Even in fashion, it’s about dressing up. And there’s no better dress up than Minnie.”

But Minnie isn’t the only cartoon in town. Characters like Jessica Rabbit, Betty Boop and Sailor Moon have had their own individual styles represented in popular culture or reinterpreted in the looks of others, even today. Yet, if style is about self-expression, perhaps Minnie Mouse’s transcends her iconic colleagues, using aesthetic and emotional features that are more relatable and attainable to all.

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#minniestyleuk looked for fashion bloggers’ interpretation of Minnie today. This is Chiara Nasti from Italy with her ‘Golden Minnie’. Photo credit: Raffaele Marone.

In collaboration with the British Fashion Council (BFC) and Georgia May Jagger, Mini: Style Icon ran through September 18th to September 20th at the Blacks Club as part of London Fashion Week’s official schedule. Follow #MinnieStyleUK to find more.

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style
disney
LFW
Minnie Mouse
MinnieStyleUK