Grown-ups are playing dress-up in a fashion trend called “Disneybounding,” which allows fans to display devotion without donning a Cinderella gown or a Buzz Lightyear spacesuit.
The styles shoot for subtle, yet colorful, salutes to Disney characters. A Disneybounder might wear a yellow skirt, blue top, red bow and apple pin as a quiet shout-out to Snow White or go all-green with a feathered fedora to represent Peter Pan.
“We actually did that on our honeymoon. We’re Disney fanatics,” said Elyssa Kivus, who went with the red-polka-dot motif of Minnie Mouse while her husband, John, went the more low-key Mickey Mouse route of red shorts, black shirt and yellow shoes.
“I have Disneybounded Merida, Minnie Mouse, Buzz Lightyear. … I have two different Ariel ones,” said Kivus, 27.
“I really like meeting the character when you’re Disneybounding as that character,” she said. “Most of them pick up on it, and you get a little more interaction, which is nice.”
Until recently, Disney World had a policy that had banned adults from wearing full-blown character costumes in its theme parks. That policy, which was revised in October, now emphasizes actions over apparel.
Disney’s official list of prohibited activities includes “engaging with other guests or impeding the operation while posing as or portraying any character in costume.”
Disney World stores sell merchandise that could be considered Disneybound materials, particularly at fashion-forward outlets such as the Tren-D store at Downtown Disney.
For a visit to the Magic Kingdom last year, Michael Rubino of Kissimmee, Fla., improvised and modernized a look for Sleeping Beauty’s beau.
“I did kind of a Prince Phillip-but-dapper one, with a vest and my cardigan tied around my neck for the cape,” said Rubino, 26. “It was earlier on before everyone was doing it so much. Everyone thought it was really cool and wanted to take pictures and stuff.”
Recently he used a striped shirt to resemble “Pan” baddie Smee during a theme-park scavenger hunt where players resembled Disney villains. His partner went for a Captain Hook look, he said.
Kivus and Rubino both said a Tumblr site was early inspiration and the birthplace of Disneybounding activity. It was created by Leslie Kay three years ago, but she didn’t start it as a fashion statement. The site originally was to “channel our excitement” for a trip to Disney World, Kay said.
They weren’t all tied up in clothing. They were literally bound for Disney.
“I started creating these outfits that were based off of Disney characters, but what a Disney character might wear if they were a living person, like your average teenager or 20-year-old,” said Kay, 26.
“I didn’t know it was going to become a trend, but it very quickly became a thing in the Disney world,” she said.
Her site now has suggested clothing options for dozens of Disney characters, including princesses, dwarfs, Remy (pink tennis shoes for toes), R2-D2, Dumbo and “Frozen” royals Anna and Elsa.
Although Kay doesn’t consider herself the fashion police, she said a “sweet spot” for Disneybounding falls somewhere between a character T-shirt and an elaborate costume.
“My rule is ‘Would I wear this to the mall?’ or ‘Would I wear this out to drinks with a friend?’ If I wouldn’t do that, it becomes more of a costume or a cosplay thing,” Kay said.
The company has embraced Kay, including her at a social-media superstar gathering alongside Grumpy Cat, quoting her in articles for the Disney Parks Blog and hiring her to work runDisney events.
Marshal Knight, a 19-year-old Disney World annual-pass holder from Tampa, mostly sees Disneybounders in groups of teenagers or college students at the theme parks, he said. His first attempt was Cruella De Vil.
“It was very ’40s-inspired. … Like she just jumped out of a Dick Tracy movie,” he said. His ensemble included a black ascot, metal belt and red button-down shirt.
“I held like a fake white fur vest everywhere,” Knight said. “I thought I was going to wear it, but then I’m like … wait, it’s September in Florida. So I just held it all day.”