Dapper Days, DisneyBounding and More at the Parks – Or, Who Are These People and Why Are They Dressed Like That?

For those of you who have visited the U.S. Disney parks and resorts in the past few years, you may have noticed a real rise in guests wearing unusual clothing there.

And some of you may have wondered – what is that all about?

There are different reasons behind a lot of the matching t-shirts or period clothing or character clothing that you may have seen in the parks.

Families, friends, bridal parties, reunions and more have found it fun and helpful to wear matching t-shirts to the parks to make it easier to stand out, stick together, find each other, and help celebrate their special occasion.

Some larger tour groups and school groups have also started having their members wear matching clothes for similar reasons.

But now there are several days or weekends per year where you may find hundreds or even thousands of people dressing up in a particular way to visit the parks.

Three of the longest-established and largest of these groups would be celebrating Gay Days, Dapper Days and Bats Day.

  • Gay Days: Have you been at the parks and seen an extremely large number of the guest population wearing red shirts? Have you noticed an unusual amount of rainbow merchandise and food offerings for sale? Well, you may have arrived during Gay Days, where many of the LGBT community come together to celebrate. Disney has recently (though unofficially) catered to these weekends with the aforementioned merchandise and food availability. The next Gay Days at Disneyland Resort are scheduled for: October 2-4, 2015. The next Gay Days at Walt Disney World Resort are scheduled for: June 4-7, 2015.
  • Dapper Days: You feel like you’ve stepped back in time, but you’re not sure what time it is? You may be visiting the park during Dapper Days! There is no set time period one must wear for Dapper Days – so long as one is dressed up nicely! Its general origins were to celebrate a more genteel time when ladies wore dresses and heels and gentlemen wore button-down shirts and shined up shoes to go to Disneyland in the early days of its existence in the 1950’s and 60’s.  But this has expanded to embrace everything from a pin-up look (1940’s WWII style to rockabilly) to steampunk (Victorian sci-fi ala Jules Verne) to turn of the century clothing matching Main Street U.S.A. itself! Disney has released a collectible pin to (unofficially) commemorate Dapper Days for the past few years. The next Dapper Day at Disneyland Resort is scheduled for: September 18, 2015.  The next Dapper Day at Walt Disney World Resort is scheduled for: October 3, 2015.
  • Bats Day: You feel like you just walked into a club full of goths.  You may be visiting during Bats Day! A big hint would be a tremendous amount of people wearing black – with an emphasis on leather and lace and a large amount of long coats, corsets and parasols. Disney has also unofficially embraced Bats Day by releasing merchandise and food during these days particularly related to bats or goth fan favorites Haunted Mansion and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The next Bats Day at Disneyland Resort is scheduled for: Today! (May 31, 2015)

Other days to find folks wearing fun themed character clothes include Galliday (an unofficial Doctor Who day in the park where you will run into many iterations of the Doctor, his companions and foes) and Harry Potter Day (another unofficial event where Hogwarts students and professors and assorted other wizardly characters cavort amongst the throngs of Muggles). Neither of these franchises are owned by Disney, but there was enough crossover in fandom of people who enjoyed both that their paths happily commingled. I’m not sure about the future of Harry Potter Day at Disneyland though. Once the Harry Potter area opens at Universal Studios Hollywood – will a day at Disney still be deemed necessary?

There are even more days where you may find people dressing up in all kinds of other themes as well. Generally, if you stop and ask folks what they’re dressed up for, they’re happy to tell you about it! Otherwise, it’s just as easy to let them go about enjoying the park in their own way as you enjoy it in your comfy shorts and t-shirts!

The other major factor in wearing something different and special to the parks was the creation of the concept of DisneyBounding. Started by a blogger, the idea became an internet and park sensation that even Disney itself adopted and now celebrates and publicizes. DisneyBounding is a way to stay within the rules of appropriate park dress, while still being a creative way to express your love for Disney and its characters.

To DisneyBound is to take regular clothing and put it together in such a way (i.e. theming or use of colors) that it IMPLIES you are dressed as or paying homage to a particular Disney character. For example, a Disney bound for Mickey Mouse might be as simple as a black shirt, red shorts and a pair of yellow shoes. Whereas a Disney bound for Cinderella might include a simple light blue or white dress and some sparkly shoes, with your haired pulled up into a bun. Again, the point is to use actual clothes or accessories you own to suggest the character rather than wear a costume such as donning mouse ears or a character t-shirt. You can also theme up a bound with representative iconic pieces – like wearing a seashell necklace for Ariel, or a decorative rose pin for Belle, for example.

Some of the most common characters for bounding that I’ve seen include Belle and Gaston, Ariel and Eric, and Peter Pan and Tinker Bell. Snow White also seems to be quite popular due to the ease of putting together a costume with her basic primary color scheme. But I’ve seen groups of Alice in Wonderland characters, Lilo and Stitch, and of course Elsa and Anna and Olaf.

Bounding has even outgrown its… bounds… by having spawned all kinds of variants – including cross-gender bounding (when a male wears an outfit inspired by a female character or vice versa) and Dapper bounding (when you wear a period or upscale look to represent a Disney character). Or if you want to get really complicated, you can try what I did for my very first bound: a cross-gender Dapper bounding for a Dapper Day at the park! I was pleased with the results, but generally if I’m going to the parks, I just want to wear a Disney t-shirt and a pair of jeans!

I think a few factors have contributed to this recent burst of costuming in the parks:

  • Disney (until this year’s “Show Your Disney Side” promotion) has discouraged adults from wearing actual costumes in the parks so guests do not mistake other guests for actual official cast members/characters. And with all of the awesome princess and pirate makeovers available to the kids for the past several years, I think adults were jealous and wanted a chance to be part of the magic and playtime too!
  • The rise of the number of annual passholders visiting the parks so often they needed to make the experience of going to the parks different.
  • Social media encouraging the sharing of creative ideas and self-expression in clothing and costuming.
  • And as mentioned in my article on the tradition of swing dancing at Disneyland, the rise of period clothing being worn to the park to fit with that original era and activity.

Ultimately such “playing dress-up” adds to the fantasy-rich environment of a Disney park – reminding you that at the Disneyland or Walt Disney World Resorts you can express your individuality or solidarity or be anyone you want to be with just some imagination and creativity – and perhaps just a touch of pixie dust!

Have you attended any of the themed days at a Disney park? Or have you tried DisneyBounding?

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