Fairy Tale Magic - Mulan

Costume and photography: Richelle Hernandez


In 1998, when Mulan was first released, Richelle Hernandez was 11, the same age her daughter is now. She and her daughter recently watched Mulan together, and the original film conjured memories from Richelle’s childhood in the Philippines.

Richelle remembers the Filipina singer/actress Lea Salonga, the singing voice of the original film, and she fondly recalls singing along to the song Reflection continually as a young child. Mulan is now also Richelle’s daughter's favorite film character, primarily because she challenged societal norms in the name of family and honor. 


The storyline of Mulan is based on the Chinese legend of warrior woman, Hua Mulan, who fought for the emperor’s army, disguised as a man. Mulan teaches us the importance of family bonds. Her love for her family was so deep that she was willing to risk everything to save her father’s life and to keep her family’s honor alive. 

Richelle carefully studied the film as part of her iterative design process. The film embodies a fierce and fighting spirit, providing Richelle a perfect opportunity to add flair, drama, and richness to the heroine’s costume. 

To construct the signature red robe, Richelle used LLK’s Ashland pattern. For the elongated sleeves, she combined Ashland's cap sleeve with Hudson's bishop sleeve (sans cuffs) creating a fluid silhouette. Richelle was intentional in her use of color, selecting a rich, scarlet, woven cotton and lengthening the dress below the knee. 


She fused a variety of elements into the intricate costuming. To replicate the eye catching collar from the live action film, she made a faux lapel from strips of fabric folded fabric and sewed them on top of the front bodice. Richelle also used iron-on gold glitter vinyl to add the dragon insignia and oriental swirls. 


Her detailing conjured impressiveness on an entirely new level. The detachable armor & belt was fashioned out of brown suede and faux leather trim and enclosed with buttons. The sword was made from foam board and painted with black and gold acrylic paint. 


All that needle threading and handcrafting results in an iconic costume that one could easily be described as thrilling.   

More Posts