Princess Brides, Everywhere?

The whole idea of a "fairy tale wedding" may have lost its luster after the demise of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's marriage. Still, Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) isn't deterred. Earlier this year, the media company devised a line of wedding gowns designed by Kirstie Kelly, based on its "Disney Princess" franchise.

No, the Cinderella gown doesn't come with glass slippers. In fact, the dresses look like typical wedding dresses (complete with typical "mid-tier" prices, ranging from $1,100 to $3,500).

But Disney won't stop there; oh, no. It also plans Princess-branded housewares and sleepwear. Disney's had great success with Disney Princess merchandise for little girls; according to Newsweek, the Princess brand is already a $4 billion business.

The House of Mouse has its eyes on more than just brides. Several days ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that Disney is also including the motif on infant goods like cribs and diaper-changing mats. Perhaps that's all part of its long-term strategy -- little girls who dream of Disney Princess weddings may grow up to demand Disney Princess weddings one day.

I got burned poking fun at this sort of thing in 2004, when Mattel (NYSE: MAT  ) first announced a line of Barbie-inspired clothing for grown women. Although I had a hard time believing there was a market for childhood-inspired accoutrements, that article ranked among my top generators of soul-wilting hate mail. Obviously, some women really adored the idea.

"Barbie Luxe" hasn't died on the vine, either. In 2005, the high-priced line had a launch party during L.A. Fashion Week at the Fred Segal Flair boutique; this month's BrandWeek covered the addition of a new designer, for the "Barbie by Patricia Field" collection of clothing and accessories, available in two separate lines for Macy's (NYSE: M  ) East and Hot Topic (Nasdaq: HOTT  ) , of all places.

Women have come a long way, even since I was a teenager; our opportunities now in society are pretty amazing by comparison. Given all that progress, news like this makes me wonder when things took a sharp turn toward Crazyville. Could you imagine Marvel (NYSE: MVL  ) licensing a line of Spider-Man or Hulk-inspired formalwear for men? I won't be holding my breath.

Sure, some women aspire to beautiful, wealthy princesshood. But these icons aren't always healthy, what with the accompanying unrealistic body image, the need to be rescued, and of course, the tiaras. Fairy-tale weddings may be big business, as Disney definitely knows, but I have to wonder whether Americans' appetite for fantasy isn't getting out of hand. Perhaps some people simply need to grow up.

Meanwhile, back at the castle...

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