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Princess for a Day
One night of grace and charm in a life of toil and chore.

This is whenever a low- to middle-class girl gets to put on some fancy clothes and pretends to be a member of the upper class for a short time— maybe even a princess. Often it's to go to a royal ball, but it could be for different reasons.

It could be part of a Massive Multiplayer Scam, or because she's been telling a loved one or rival living somewhere else that she is part of the upper class. If it's the latter, expect the deception to be exposed, and An Aesop about honesty and being yourself. Other times, it's just that girl showing up and having a good time.

In many of these plots, one other person happens to know the true identity of this unfamiliar lady, but can't expose it without bringing down scandal upon himself.

Despite the title, this happens with guys as well.

Often involves She Cleans Up Nicely and Pimped-Out Dress. Also a key component of a Prince and Pauper plot.

A Sub-Trope of Penny Among Diamonds. Compare Mock Millionaire.


Examples:

Anime And Manga
  • Pokémon: Dawn in "Dawn of a Royal Day". She swaps places with Princess Salvia so the latter can participate in a Pokemon Contest. Salvia enjoys herself, Dawn doesn't. She gets a Togekiss out of the deal, though.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • The girls do this when they go to the princess finishing school for one episode of the first anime. Ami and Makoto pass more or less well. Rei, Minako and Usagi do NOT. Since the whole princess school gig was a trap from the enemy to capture Sailor Moon/Princess Serenity (which involved brainwashing an English noblewoman who lived in Japan so she'd become The Mole), this means the three rejected girls avert capture by the Monster of the Week and completely trash the plan.
    • In both the first anime and the manga, Sailor Moon investigates a party being held in honor of Princess D, since she's in possession of a very rare jewel that may be the Sivler Crystal. She uses her magic pen to morph into a princess, and has her fun until the enemy attacks. She also gets a dance and a kiss with Tuxedo Mask (although she doesn't seem to remember the latter, seeing as she was drunk and sleepy at the time)
    • Sorta happens in the S anime, when a rich old man who's a friend of Mamoru invites him and the Inner Senshi to a very posh party in his Big Fancy House. Haruka and Michiru also attend the ball since they're stated to play the piano and the violin there, respectively. Then Usagi is so nervous that she takes a chug of liquor thinking it's normal juice, and hilarity ensues.
  • Makoto from El-Hazard: The Magnificent World is forced to replace the kidnapped Princess Fatoria until such a time that she can be found and rescued. Makoto, a guy, isn't fond of this idea.
  • It's not a party, but at one point in Fruits Basket, Tohru is invited to take a vacation at a Sohma family-owned spa, as a Golden Week gift. Lampshaded when a blown-over Tohru says that she feels like a princess.
  • Both, Nozomi and Miyuki become Cinderella for an episode, respectively. However, the latter and her team actually transform into princesses since episode 23 onwards.
    • Inverted with Miyuki's teammate Reika. The most feminine of the five becomes the prince.

Comic Books
  • Faith in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, No Future For You.
  • In an early Batman story (almost certainly inspired by the Lady for a Day movie), Batman persuades all of Gotham City to play along with a charade to allow a small-town girl to convince her parents that she is a successful actress.

Fairy Tales

Film

Literature
  • In the Damon Runyon short story "Madame La Gimp" (the basis for the film Lady For A Day), a woman called "Apple Annie" has been telling her daughter in Spain that she is a New York socialite. When the daughter arrives with her fiancé, the son of a Spanish count, a mobster who considers her apples good luck helps Annie maintain the charade to avoid humiliating her daughter and ruining the engagement.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 novel Scourge the Heretic, the low-born, religious fanatic assassin Keira has to pretend to be an intellectual, free-thinking noblewoman in order to infiltrate a high-society Chaos cult. She pulls it off remarkably well.
  • Fanny Price of Mansfield Park, who has been The Unfavorite in her uncle's house her entire life, finally gets her coming-out ball (the second ball she's ever attended in her life) where she is treated with the respect and attention due a lady.
  • Meg in Little Women gets this treatment in the chapter "Vanity Fair", and attends a high class party held by a rich friend of hers... only to be humbled by ladies whispering behind her back about her and her family's poverty and Laurie calling her out on being shallow. That and those dancing slippers really hurt.
  • The Hawk And Fisher story, Vengeance for a Lonely Man, by Simon R. Green sees the main characters going undercover as minor nobility to catch a spy who's stolen extremely sensitive information. Interestingly a popular fan theory at the time had it that Hawk & Fisher were nobility - namely Prince Rupert & Princess Julia from the recently published Blue Moon Rising. The later Blue Moon Rising officialy confirmed this theory.
  • In Catherine, The Great Journey of The Royal Diaries she has nothing nice enough to wear to the royal court until the king lets her borrow a gown belonging to the king's sister. When she has to return it it reminds her of the story about the little ash girl who was beautiful until the stroke of midnight.
  • Vin does this several times in Mistborn, impersonating a noblewoman in order to gather information about what the nobles are planning and to try and pit different noble houses against each other.
  • There are a few times when Anne Shirley dresses up and goes on outings into town. One memorable occasion has her attend a charity event where she and a number of other people recite monologues. While she initially feels miserable, plain, and nervous amongst the famous people who are clearly much higher-class and wearing more expensive clothes than her, she impresses everyone with her monologue, is invited to meet and mingle with said higher-class guests, and later learns that a skilled painter had admired her hair.

Live-Action TV
  • Firefly's episode "Shindig":
    • Kaylee was an example of "just that girl showing up and having a good time"; she enjoyed herself tremendously except for one run-in with the Alpha Bitch (who got put in her place anyway). She wore a fancy dress but never pretended to be someone beside herself and this made her the most popular young woman there. All the young men (and a fair number of the not-so-young men) at the party were fascinated by a pretty woman who knew more about engines than they did.
    • Mal was partly a Prince for a Day. At first, he was at the event only becuase he was interested in getting their job done and he needed to make a contact there, but then when he saw Inara, he decided to join in and have some fun, dancing with her.
  • A 1950s TV game show was Queen for a Day.
  • To an extent, Liz in the 30 Rock episode "Black Tie". She got her fancy dress for the evening from the wardrobe department of the Show Within a Show.
  • Occurred in Gilmore Girls when Emily wanted to show off her perfect dranddaughter Rory.
    • Emily wanted Rory to attend a debutante ball. This was sort of a sore point for Lorelai, who didn't want Rory to have the same silver spoon upbringing that she did.
    • In Rory's freshman year at college, her grandmother wanted to make her into a princess to introduce Rory to Emily's friends' sons. She even wore a tiara for the occasion. She was hugely embarrassed when she realized that she's the only woman among bunch of men.
  • In Merlin, Gwen impersonated Morgana in one season 2 ep, after she and Morgana were captured by bandits. Morgana escaped and the henchman taking Gwen back begged her to impersonate Morgana in fear that the leader, Hengist, would kill him if he didn't bring back Morgana.
  • In an episode of Full House, the Tanners vacation in Disneyland and, while visiting an attraction based around the genie's lamp from Aladdin, Michelle winds up winning the position of the amusement park's "Princess of the Day" and is rewarded three wishes— all while simultaneously domineering her sisters around and eventually learning her lesson about it.

Theatre
  • Pygmalion / My Fair Lady
  • In Die Fledermaus, the lady's maid Adele puts on a fancy dress to attend the Prince's ball. When "Marquis Renard" (Eisenstein in disguise) calls her a lady's maid, the ensemble laughs at the suggestion and she replies with a song asserting her obvious high breeding.

Tabletop Games
  • 2nd edition Dungeons & Dragons had the spell Kiss of Sharess which could have this effect.

Video Games
  • In Infinite Space, in order to get somebody from the LMC who is willing to hear about Lugovalos threat, Nia disguises herself as a representative from Lanco Warship Manufacturing (using the dress that Yuri bought for her) to attend the conference at Zefiro. And a few hours later into the game, we learn that she WAS a princess...

Western Animation

Real Life
  • Ladies' Day at the Ascot race meeting. To an extent. Guests were reminded in 2009 that they were required to wear underwear.

Pimped-Out DressPrincess TropesPrincess Phase
Power MakeoverThe MakeoverPygmalion Plot
Persona Non GrataParty at My IndexScary Surprise Party
Prince and PauperPlotsProtect This House
CinderellaImageSource/Live-Action FilmsCitizen Kane
Please Shoot the MessengerFairy Tale TropesThe Promise
Priceless PaperweightNarrative DevicesPromoted to Scapegoat

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