I had decided upon Cinderella. Cinderella retellings are usually illustrated with 18th century influences (in regards to clothing). But it is not the only era in which the story is presented.
16th century influence:
16th and 17th century influence?
17th century influence:
Victorian influence for Cinderella's dress, but the men seem to be 16th century.
Disney's design of Cinderella's dress is very (in my opinion) Victorian bustle meets 17th century.
I wanted to deviate from what people except to see when it comes to a Cinderella costume, so I went to the 19th century. I think Cinderella's story mixes quite well with Regency fashion and ideals, especially romanticism. But there are very few illustrations that have Cinderella in Regency inspired clothing.
Hillary Knight's Cinderella is a bit later than the time period I wanted to highlight (1810s ish), especially the Godmother's sleeves, but still closer than most of the other pictures I found.
This book is exactly the time period I wanted, but I am not a huge fan of the illustrations. They didn't have the right feel.
Why the Regency? I think Cinderella's character is a mix between Marienne Dashwood (from Sense and Sensibility) and Fanny Price (from Mansfield Park). Marienne has such romantic sensibilities, as does Cinderella, and the way Fanny is treated by her relatives echoes Cinderella's relationship with her step mother and sisters.
But, like Steampunk, I did not want to base my design purely on the Regency Era. Steampunk takes the Victorian Era and the idea that steam is used to power all industry and melts it into a fictional clothing style. I still needed that element that would make the design slightly "steam-y". I needed something to tie in the fantasy world of Cinderella. A world where a mother's spirit who lives in a tree can make your ball dress and give you transportation.
In earlier, non Disney versions of the story Cinderella's mother's grave is beneath a tree. The tree is a source of comfort for poor Cinderella. In these versions of the story it is her mother who makes her a ball gown, and not a Fairy Godmother. I wanted to incorporate the tree, her mother's spirit, and Cinderella's tears into my design concept.