Disneybounding: A Fashion Forward Community

Like most 90s kids I grew up on Disney. My family had a large collection of Disney VHS’ that were always rewound and ready to go. My childhood consisted of dressing up in homemade costumes and outfits inspired by characters from my favourite films. Somedays I would dress up as a ‘purple Tinkerbell’, other days I would wrap myself in a cape and encourage people to call me, Little Red Riding Hood. This is childhood hobby of mine had been forgotten, until I came across Disneybounding.

What is Disneybounding?

Disneybounding is a subtle and inexpensive way for an adult to show their love and devotion to Disney. Similar to my dress up days, Disneybounding is about finding casual clothes that resemble a particular Disney character. In a video for Yahoo’s Facebook series Obsessed, Disney fan and avid Disneybounder, Sarah Sterling describes Disneybounding as “a fashion trend, where Disney fans create outfits inspired by Disney characters.”

                                   Image via Loni Catherine on Instagram

Unlike Cosplay, in which fans spend on average $500 on detailed and precise costumes, Disneybounding focuses on everyday fashion. This enables Disney fans to dress ‘in the Disney spirit on a daily basis’. Sarah Sterling emphasises that the intent of Disneybounding isn’t to embody or look like a specific character but to come across inspired.

                                              Images via Sarah Sterling on Instagram

Sterling, who has been Disneybounding since 2015, explains that it is a way to make her regular visits to Disneyland Parks exciting without getting into trouble. Disneybounding is a creative way of bypassing the strict entry restrictions of Disneyland Water and Theme Parks. Guests over the age of 14 years are not permitted to enter the parks dressed in full Disney costumes.

Leslie Kay’s Disneybounding Community

The term Disneybounding was coined by Disney enthusiast, Leslie Kay. In 2011, Kay created the blog, Disneybounding in which she shared collages of Disney inspired outfits.

Images via DisneyBound

Over the past seven years, Kay has been at the forefront of this trend with her growing social media presence. She continues to provide inspiration to her 31,000 followers on Instagram by posting her day-to-day Disneybounding. She also features other fans’ outfits on her blog.

As of 2018, Kay has created a community of creative and devoted Disney fans. Social media platforms Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit and YouTube have provided spaces for these Disney fans worldwide to communicate. Within the Disneybounding hashtags and platforms, fans utilise these spaces to share outfits and inspirations.

Image via Kelly Stilwell

Offline, the Disneybounding community has become a way for adult Disney fans to connect. Meetups are held often at Disney Parks. These meetups usually coincide with other Disneyland events such as Dapper Day, in which attendees are encouraged to dress in 1950’s vintage fashion. The purpose of these meetups is to bring this community together to ‘spend time with others that share a passion for the hobby’ in a place that is important to them.  

Braun-LaTour et al. propose that childhood memories shape the way in which consumers think and feel about particular brands. This idea gives insight into why some adults feel a connection with Disney and enjoy participating in Disneybounding.

As a childhood Disney fan, dressing up allowed me to imagine myself as a particular character within a fantasy world. Disneybounding encourages adults to not only reconnect with their childhood but to become part of a community of creative Disney fans.

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