Elsa wears pants in the 'Frozen' musical — here's why that's important for little girls (and boys)

Women can be powerful in a pair of pants, and that message is being sent loud and clear to the millions of women — and, more important, girls — who will see Frozen on Broadway.

Ahead of the musical’s official opening on Broadway Thursday night, the stars and composers spoke to Good Morning America. “This is about empowered women; this is about a princess in pants,” songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez said. “This is about finding your power. This is about nuanced, three-dimensional women dealing with leadership, love, and their own relationships.”

Fans of the movie won’t be disappointed by Elsa’s costume change. Caissie Levy, who plays Elsa in the Broadway production, told Women’s Wear Daily that she still has that epic ice dress moment while singing “Let It Go.”

But the Broadway production has added 14 new songs, and “Let It Go” isn’t the only power ballad anymore with a catchy tune and inspiring message. During the second act, Elsa belts out “Monster,” during which she struggles with the idea of what her powers have turned her into, ultimately realizing that she can “save the world.” This is amazing for multiple reasons: because, yeah, girls can save the world, even presumably “delicate” princesses; and Elsa does all of this wearing a pair of light blue pants, boots, and a cape, sending a message that you can be a powerful, pretty princess in pants.

Elsa wearing pants. (Photo: Disney Theatrical Productions)

“It’s a song where she’s on the run and she’s being hunted, and the idea conceptually is that she’s in the middle of the night, on the run, maybe woke up to the guards being in her home and had to get out and flee,” Levy explained to WWD. While she initially wore a shorter, lighter version of the “Let It Go” dress during previews, Levy says that because the moment is about Elsa “kicking ass,” the barefoot, nightgown-y version of the “Let It Go” dress didn’t feel quite right.

“We wanted something more powerful and more practical. And that’s where this idea of pants came in. … [Michael Grandage, the director] said, ‘I’m starting to feel like that sort of negligee drape-y sweet-looking dress isn’t the way I want to go in.’ And I told him, ‘It sounds like you want a more Joan of Arc type thing, and he was like, ‘Exactly! You’re a warrior, you’re empowered, you’re on the run.’”

The costume switch-up breaks a construct of decades — centuries even — that princesses are all glamour and no grit. “It’s really time to shake up those gender stereotypes. I love to see people challenging these norms in high-profile ways,” child and adolescent psychologist Barbara Greenberg tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It gives kids permission to try on all sorts of styles and not to be constricted by the old gender stereotypes. And not to feel like they’re doing something wrong if they do want to wear something that isn’t the ‘norm’ for their gender.”

This is an important message for boys and girls, but little girls who look up to Elsa will benefit from this especially. “Girls get the idea that to be important, pretty, special, and relevant, they have to be fancy and frilly,” Greenberg notes. “And I think the idea of a princess being important and not wearing a dress shows that a dress isn’t the only thing for a girl that translates to success, respect, excitement, power, status. It shows them that you can be pretty, special, or important in pants; you can have a good life in pants.”

Sure, Princess Jasmine wore pants, but she also wore a belly shirt.

And while she stood her ground in the end, she was more of the damsel in distress type. So, not only has Frozen painted a more powerful picture of a princess, but now they’re saying that princesses can be strong and tough, and do it in whatever they want to wear. It’s not as if Elsa is wearing pants during a time of weakness — she’s wearing them for a song in which she finds her purpose.

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