Angela Bonser has lovingly created about 24 handmade, bespoke Disney costumes for her daughter Haylie. Many are remarkably close to the originals, come with accessories and are so stunning they need to be seen to be believed. The pair are regulars at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park in California (they visit two to four times a month – and sometimes more!) and Haylie often goes in full regalia – including acting out the part of her chosen character. Angela tells suitcases&strollers why visiting Disneyland with kids in costume is just so much fun.

What was the first Disney costume you made for Haylie?

The first costume I made for Haylie was Snow White which I created in 2009 after our first trip to Disneyland. I was inspired when I saw so many little girls running around wearing princess dresses and thought that looked like so much fun! I knew Haylie would have a blast dressing up and playing princess.

How long does it take to make each costume?  

The amount of time varies greatly. A couple I have made within a few hours, but many of them take days, or even weeks, when you consider all the planning time and searching for materials online or in fabric stores. Since most of the costumes did not have patterns, it can also take me many hours just figuring out the best way to put the costumes together. Even the costumes that did have patterns took awhile to alter to fit my daughter perfectly.

Wow, you make exact replicas?

Some of them are close to being exact replicas but some of them have I taken liberties in changing somewhat to accommodate either weather, comfort or lack of finding materials.

Why do you make the costumes? Why not just buy them?

I love making them. It is fun and I love creating something one of a kind for my daughter. I love the luxurious satins, silks, brocades, velvets. They are more challenging to sew with, but that is part of the fun. In every day life I wouldn't have an opportunity to use these materials. If I could not sew, I probably would have purchased the Disney costumes, just because dress-up is fun.

Which is Haylie's favourite costume?

Haylie and I both have the same favorite costume and that is Mary Poppins. The reaction to that costume by park guests and Disneyland cast members is always huge and oh so positive! Haylie always plays the roles of the characters she is representing to the best of her ability, and she always loved the story of Mary Poppins and her practically perfect personality the best.

Mary Poppins and Haylie have had such incredible adventures together at Disneyland. The most memorable experience was when Haylie, dressed as mini-Mary Poppins, and Mary Poppins and Bert rode on the carousel together. Haylie got to ride Mary Poppins’ own carousel horse, Jingles, who is famous at Disneyland.

What do the Disney characters say when they see Haylie in full costume?

The characters LOVE seeing Haylie dressed like themselves or like their princess or character friends. They love how Haylie acts the part of a real princess. I always tried to make the accessories as close to what the characters have as well, like a real shell necklace for Ariel, carrying a little toy frying pan when she was Rapunzel, bringing along a huge red apple as Snow White's evil queen.

Honestly, we just felt so much love from all the characters. I wish there was a way to express to them how much joy they brought to my daughter and entire family. Seriously, the amount of fun we had was so amazing!  

[For another perspective on why Disneyland is such a hit with kids, see the interview with another suitcases&strollers mum here.]

What does sending Haylie to Disneyland in full Disney costume and character bring to her experience of the park that she wouldn't get if she was just in normal clothes?

Watching my little Jedi knight, whom I named Obi 2 Kenobi, running around having an epic battle with two storm troopers was one of the most fun and exciting moments ever! When Haylie was chosen to direct the Disneyland band while dressed as Ariel, it was so exciting too.

I guess for me one of the most funny or unusual memories was the time we had just visited Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder. Flynn and Haylie, dressed like Rapunzel, set off on an adventure to find Maximus the horse. What makes this story so unusual was the fact that Flynn did not get mobbed. The two of them walked around the carousel looking for Maximus and I don't think anyone thought he was a character. I think the movie Tangled hadn't been released yet. That was probably the one and only true time that Haylie completely had a character to herself! Usually, characters are mobbed the second they are spotted.

Interestingly enough, during the time that we were frequenting Disneyland, Haylie would sometimes go, not in costume, and she would tell all her Disneyland friends that she was incognito. They treated her just as special, and I think they really loved seeing her as a "real kid" too. We just did things a bit differently on those days. Sometimes wearing the big princess dresses with hoop skirts, made it impossible to do things we did on "incognito" days.

What is the next Disney costume you’ll be working on?

I would love to make Elsa and Anna from Frozen, Tiana (both her green and blue dresses), Briar Rose from Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan and Wendy. 

To read about the Disney Princess gowns designed by Roberto Cavalli, Versace and other high fashion houses, see the suitcases&strollers story here

To read more about some of the other Disney Parks, see the suitcases&strollers stories Walt Disney World Florida Insider and Disneyland Paris

If your kids are fans of Barbie, see the suitcases&strollers story The Ultimate Barbie Experiences

To read Angela Bonser's blog and see more pictures of her amazing sewing skills, click here

Images: Angela Bonser