Part of Ariel’s World: How to Be The Little Mermaid

Cosplaying the Little Mermaid seems like it could be as challenging as fulfilling Ariel’s dream of having legs, because you may need the opposite… fins! Creating a fabulous Ariel cosplay presents a great number of challenges, but a successful Little Mermaid cosplay can be achieved in many different ways. Ariel places second in the Disney Princess race for “most costumes worn in one film” with seven totally unique outfits.  Only one of those seven involves attaching a giant fish tail to your body, so don’t sweat it – you can still be Ariel if you don’t want to bind your legs together and spend the whole day tripping over yourself.

This incredible Ariel cosplay was taken from Lunnaya Nadejda’ Deviant Art.


The terrific thing about cosplaying Ariel is that once you’ve got the hair right, you’re half way there. That’s not to say that cosplaying Ariel is a walk in the park, but people see red headed women and already associate them with The Little Mermaid. The collective unconscious has already done half your work for you! So let’s start there….


The Hair

Ariel’s hair is arguably the most important factor in a Little Mermaid cosplay. The only redheaded Disney Princess (and no, the upcoming protagonist from Pixar’s Brave doesn’t count), Ariel’s hair is iconic and an inseparable part of her identity. To little redheads everywhere, Ariel is their princess. Get the hair right and you’ve done half the work. Your costume will be recognized.

There are two ways to accomplish this.

1: Get a rad wig.

2: Be a red head.

Make it big. Ariel’s hair is huge and flouncy even when she’s on land. She’s got huge bangs that could obscure one of her eyes if they didn’t defy gravity a little bit. Wig or natural hair, make try to get your hair big and flouncy.

Part it at the side. Ariel’s hair had a dramatic side-part that contributes to her intense bangs. In the movie, the part of her hair begins somewhere above the corner of her eye.


If you’re a natural redhead and don’t want to wear a wig, there are a few things you can do to really push that Ariel look over the top.

Accessorize. Lots of Ariel cosplays incorporate sea shell accessories to pin her hair to the side.

Get a big, dumb flower that looks like it came from under the sea and stick it in there. Ariel does in fact wear a sea flower in her hair for a good portion of the movie.

Wearing her black, white, and blue outfit? Make a giant blue bow to match!

You’re a princess, wear a crown! Ariel’s crown is seen during the wedding scene. It’s a simple, solid golden tiara, paired with a veil (but it would work fine without the veil).


The Eyes

Ariel has huge, expressive, blue eyes, courtesy of animator Glen Keane who has given similar gorgeously expressive eyes to characters like The Beast and Rapunzel. You may not have Ariel’s eyes, but you can still make your eyes pop with the right eyeliner or fake eyelashes.

I can’t say for sure if anyone has or hasn’t tried this with an Ariel cosplay yet, but using some of the elements from this Bad Romance makeup tutorial could go a long way towards a perfect Ariel eye makeup job.

Finally, don’t pose for photos with your eyes closed or down. Look up at things, keep your eyes wide!


While we’re on makeup, don’t be afraid to let your lipstick pop. In the movie, Ariel’s lips are as red as her hair.


The clothes created this useful chart of Ariel’s costumes.

When it comes to Ariel, you have loads of outfits to choose from. First of all, there’s her apparent daily garb, a purple shell bra and nothing but her fins.


Then you’ve got outfit #2, the dress Ariel makes from discarded sails or some sort of tarp found at the beach, tied together with rope.


Costume #3 is the poofy, pink gown that the palace women dress Ariel in for dinner with Eric and Grimsby.

By Nikita Cosplay


Next we have #4, the black corseted blue and white “peasant” dress that Ariel wears during her tour of the kingdom and “Kiss the Girl”.  This is probably the most popular choice for Ariel cosplay because of the easy options it presents (it’s only three pieces and one of them is a corset) and because it’s so damn cute!

Cosplayer Cez Jackson.


While still on land, Ariel wears #5, a pink nightgown, which I just think is too adorable.


After the final battle with Ursula, King Triton gives Ariel legs and because he’s her dad, he dresses her in #6, a magical purple gown apparently made from sea foam, instead of leaving her on land naked like Ursula did.


Finally, moments after Ariel wears the sea foam dress, we see her in #7, a white wedding gown with a simple gold tiara and white veil.


Official Disney Ariel Dresses

Ariel obviously presented a unique marketing difficulty for Disney. How do you merchandise a character who has fins for half the film? Over the past twenty years they’ve come up with a few solutions. In Fantasmic, the nighttime water show at the Disney Parks, they’ve dressed Ariel as a mermaid and had her perform while seated on a rock. For a while, Ariel could be seen this way at a special meet and greet location designed just for her. Recently, though, Ariel appears in the parks in a minty blue-green gown with a matching sea flower in her hair. The cut of the dress is similar, but not identical to Ariel’s wedding dress.


Personally, I think the dress is a terrible choice. Every single other Disney character at the parks wears her own clothes from the movie. Ariel could easily wear her pink dress from the film and look completely adorable. I do approve of them not dressing her in her wedding dress and not sending another, “all you want is to get married” message to little girls. But, hey, to each her own. Some gals really like the outfit Disney costuming has created for Ariel. So if you dig this look, and I will admit, it’s obvious with the red wig who she is, cosplay away.


Hipster Ariel

A popular meme emerged in 2011: Hipster Ariel. She wears trademark hipster glasses and an agitated expression screencapped from an early scene with Skuttle.

Read more about Hipster Ariel.


Following this meme, a popular hipster Disney Princesses fan art by Deviant Artist Viria13 began to circulate, and that was it… hipster Ariel cosplay exploded (along with other Disney Princesses, though their respective popularity varies).

Original Disney Princess Hipster fan art


The great thing about hipster Ariel, though, is that the hair and the glasses get you most of the way there. I’ve come across loads of completely unique, obviously hipster Ariel cosplays. Hipster Ariel is also a great way to repurpose an Ariel wig for day 2 of a con.

Cosplayer Cez Jackson.




Good props or accessories can really pull a cosplay together, especially if you’re doing something like Hipster Ariel. Here are some options…

Dinglehopper – Ariel finds a fork, Skuttle terms it a dinglehopper. She uses it to brush her hair. It’s great. Get a fork, use it.

Satchel – When Ariel is looting, erm, hoarding, erm… collecting shit she found under the sea? … she carries a brownish red to, in some light, orange satchel which, through the magic of animation, seems to vary in size from a purse to a smaller tote bag. It’s kind of convenient to do a cosplay that incorporates something for you to put your wallet and keys in, right?

Gimsby’s Pipe – At dinner with Eric and Grimsby, Ariel snatches another familiar item, a snarfblat, Skuttle’s fabulous term for a pipe, and attempts to play music with it. This is a particularly good prop if you’re wearing the pink dress. If you’re particularly crafty (I’m not) you might modify a pipe to have seaweed dripping from the bowl.


Putting the Play into your Ariel Cosplay

I’ve seen a lot of Ariel cosplays, a lot of Disney cosplays, and a lot of princess cosplays. The biggest thing that separates the great Ariel cosplayers from the good ones is the COSPLAY. Ariel is not graceful Princess Aurora. She is not curious Alice. She is ARIEL! She’s filled with curiosity and wonder. Don’t pose for photos like you would at your prom. Grab the camera out of the photographer’s hand and try to figure out what that baby does!

And for goodness sake, use your body! Be expressive! Ariel is silent for a huge chunk of the film, but she talks with her whole body. Ariel’s shoulders are very expressive, and she uses her hands to communicate. If you’re wearing the sail dress you can mess play around with having a hard time walking. Ariel also loves to dance – it’s one of the major reasons she wanted legs, so DANCE!


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