Looking up and beyond the bustling crowd, you catch the scent of fresh churros. Up ahead, an archway beckons, and a plaque on it promises “a world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy” on the other side.

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Jolly music is playing, and as you peek down Main Street, you see Mickey Mouse and his friends happily greeting Disney enthusiasts. The sun is shining. Today will be a day full of magical moments, character greetings, splashes on the best mountain around, and parades that can’t be beat.

You ready your camera to snap the first of many photos, but a fellow guest catches your eye. You pause.

They’re exuding elements of a particular Disney character…but they’re not the character. They’re dressed up…but not in a true costume. What is that? Who is that? Where is their typical theme park attire?

My friend, you’ve just spied your very first Disneybounder!

What is Disneybounding?

Disneybounding is a subtle way for a Disney lover to give a fashionable nod to a particular character with pieces pulled from their closets or regular stores. It’s not quite cosplaying, but a cousin of it. When someone cosplays, they’re often looking to become an exact copy of a character; when someone Disneybounds, they’re looking to give the impression of the character.

polka dot pals ❤✨ {link in bio to shop} #rockthedots

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Gavin Doyle, a Disneyland annual passholder and founder of the travel resource Mickey Visit, loves the intrigue of spotting Disneybounders at the park.

“The best part of the process is that every time someone ‘bounds as their favorite character, they are creating a walking puzzle for those around them,” says Doyle. “Were those yellow shoes and red shorts [a] coincidence? Or was the person wearing them ‘bounding as Mickey Mouse? What about that striped blue and white shirt and red beanie? Coincidence, or Mr. Smee from Peter Pan?”

No matter your age, size, or gender, Disneybounding allows you to embrace the magic of Disney, encompass a character, and immerse yourself in the Happiest Place On Earth with a unique twist.

Why not just wear a real costume?

Well, there’s a very direct answer to that: Outside of special circumstances, park guests aged 14 and over are not allowed to wear costumes. You can’t go tricking park-goers into thinking you’re the real Gaston, but you can wear an outfit inspired by him.

itsthesmallthingsafterall/Tumblr (via DisneyBound)

Plus, Disneybounding keeps the spirit alive for fans who want to plan, prepare, and execute not only a magical experience, but a magical presentation for their Disney trip. And if you’ve ever worn a full character costume, I’m sure you can agree that clothes found in your closet are ten times more comfortable.

How did Disneybounding become popular?

Leslie Kay, who runs the the Disneybounding blog DisneyBound, came up with the idea somewhat by happenstance.

“I’ve always had a passion for the imaginary, magical and slightly bizarre – so I enjoy getting lost in the world of Disney,” Kay wrote on her blog. And from that passion, a whole new world was born.

Leslie Kay/DisneyBound

Back in 2011, as Kay prepared for her first Disney trip since childhood, she started blogging about her excitement—the excitement of being literally Disney bound. As part of her travel prep, she thought it would be fun to play around with modern-day twists on Disney characters’ outfits. Before long, thousands were waiting for her next fashion-forward collection.

Kay’s blog now has ongoing Disneybound outfit features. She’s continually inventing new combinations for icons like Mickey and the princesses, and just last month, she compiled a series dedicated to Disney’s newest film, Coco.

Nowadays, you’re sure to see a Disneybounder or two when you go to the park—and you might even recognize them for more than their outfits. Recently, actor John Stamos and his fiancée, actress and Disney fanatic Caitlin McHugh, have donned Disneybounding getups to the park.

#heynow

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So, besides John Stamos and Caitlin McHugh, who are these Disneybounders?

Before you think you have to go Disney crazy to Disneybound, let me assure you, Disneybounders are 100 percent normal people. They’re moms who enjoy coordinating their family’s outfits; they’re college kids excited to relive their childhood dreams; they’re professionals, grandmas, first-time Disney visitors and annual pass holders. Even cast members Disneybound on their days off!

Brianamatopoeia/Tumblr (via DisneyBound)

Jonathan Cotton recently returned from a group trip to Disneyland, and his group plotted an epic Disneybound.

“You can Disneybound by yourself,” he says, “but it’s so much more fun in a group because it really stands out. We did a Neverland theme that included Peter Pan, Wendy, Hook, Smee, and Tinkerbell. All day long, we had people coming up and complementing our outfits.”

via Jonathan Cotton

See how simple it is? A few comfortable solids layered in just the right combination, an accessory or two, and boom, not only are you Disney-bound, but you’re a Disney star as you stroll through the park. And you get priceless photos to boot!

On a subsequent day, Cotton and his crew opted for a mix and match of characters: Shadow Man, Ursula the Sea Witch, Cruella Deville, Smee, and Gaston. Some are pictured below. What a hit!

via Jonathan Cotton

Now, that’s a cute little Ursula, but grown ups can ‘bound as their favorite villain, too. In fact, one Disney park performer recalls a time when she was working as a popular Disney protagonist and got to interact with a Disneybounder-version of their enemy—one of her most memorable and favorite interactions as a performer.

“It really brings people together and gives you something to talk about and take pictures of,” she shares with us. In fact, that Disney performer has actually seen ‘bounding lead to love!

“I know a guy who was dressed up as Party and Pongo from 101 Dalmatians with his friend, and they ran into a girl dressed up as Cruella, so they took a picture together—and now they’re dating!” she shares.

Nothing like a peaceful jaunt around Disney to put you on the path to true love! I can hear the wedding bells now!

Now, it’s your turn!

With Disneybounding on your mind, it’s obviously time to start shopping your own closet and planning a Disney adventure!

“I would remind people that there are no rules,” says Shannon Laskey, a frequent Disney-goers and author of the Going To Guides books. “You can be as subtle or as obvious as you like and just have fun with it. That’s what Disneybounding is all about—having fun and being creative.”

Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Become Cinderella with a bright blue tunic, clear jelly sandals, and a black choker necklace. Don’t forget to style your hair in a bun.
  • For Pluto, wear a yellow dress (or yellow shirt/pants combo), and accent the yellow with a green belt or necklace. A pair of dog bone earrings would add a nice touch as well.
  • Embrace Moana’s tropical vibe with a coral tank, cream shorts or skirt, and sandals. A chunky, bold necklace and bracelet will complete the look.
  • Run through the park as Flynn Rider with tan pants, a vest, boots, and a leather satchel to hide Rapunzel’s crown…or snacks.
  • Be your own best friend as Aladdin’s Genie! Wear a blue shirt, blue pants, and add a red belt and a gold watch.
  • Give Woody from Toy Story a go with jeans, a Western button-up, vest, and a cow print bandana.

Individual outfits can be a huge hit, but group ones can really take things to the next level. Our resident Disney performer has bounded with friends as Winnie the Pooh characters by simply wearing their signature color. Individually you wouldn’t notice that they were bounding, but together, they complete the picture.

“We see a lot of girls Disneybounding as the princesses,” she adds. “… they each wear sun dresses that are the appropriate colors for, say, Cinderella, Aurora, Belle, or Snow White. They’ll tend to style their hair similar—a bun for Cindy, long curls for Aurora, half up for Belle, or a red bow in their hair for Snow. I feel like that’s the most common Disney bound, because it’s the easiest.”

Cotton says that cruising through “#disneybound” on Instagram, or a simple search on Pinterest, will procure a sea of ideas. (Many ideas come from Leslie Kay herself, who Laskey refers to as “the mother of Disneybounding.)

Laskey has attempted a Maleficent Disneybound herself, but is in absolute awe of when a guest forgoes a character nod and opts to personalize a Disney…thing.

“Some of my favorite Disneybounds I’ve seen are when people dress like things in the parks. For example, Kim from @Sothisislovedesigns and her friends dressed as the Mad Tea Party teacups, and Carly @DoleWhipDame dressed as my favorite restaurant in Disneyland, Plaza Inn. Those blew me away!”

Talk about creativity! With Disneybounding, the sky is truly the limit!

For your next Disney vacation, don’t just pack a suitcase full of comfortable, theme park attire. Instead, make plans to Disneybound! What character do you want to craft an outfit for the most?