Requirements for Costume and Dress

Costume. Designers for theater, cinema, and dance carefully plan the array of costumes to represent and highlight various roles to be played; principal characters are set apart and highlighted by costume from the rest of the cast or dance troupe. Some costumes designed for single-time use also involve countless hours of fastidious design and construction for adults in high-visibility and prestige Halloween or Mardi Gras events. For example, members of organized groups such as the various Krewes (masking and parading clubs) celebrating a New Orleans Mardi Gras or the San Antonio debutantes selected to be the duchess or princesses in their special ball engage in advance planning and execute intricate costume designs. In contrast, some Halloween costumes for adults or children may be quickly, even carelessly, made and worn for a short evening of venturing out for "trick or treat" candy or a casual masquerade party.

Costumes for the theater, dance, Halloween, and Mardi Gras have special requirements in fit, color, and effect. Garments must allow the performer's body to

19th Century Circus Clowns
Man wearing African elephant mask. With some more extreme costumes, such as this one made mostly from palm fronds, much of the body is covered from view. © Carolyn Ngozi Eicher. Reproduced by permission.

move easily and be well made. For example, costumes of professional actors and dancers often receive hard wear. Constant use or vigorous movement for dancers, circus clowns, and acrobats can put a strain on garments, thus requiring sturdy fabrics and specific construction considerations like seam reinforcement. When many viewers see costumes from afar, colors or other aspects of design may be exaggerated for effect. Some colors, therefore, may be more bold or brilliant than choices for everyday dress. Others may be drab. Such choices depend on the interpretation of the costume designer in planning the garb for each performer's individual role and for the interaction among the performers.

Dress. In contrast to costume, dress establishes individual identity within a cultural context, emphasizing common social characteristics: age and gender, marital status, and occupation. Much information about identity is communicated through sensory cues provided by dress without the observer asking questions. Most individuals, especially in urban settings, have a variety of identities that are connected to dress, such as occupation, leisure-time activities (sports), and religious affiliation.

Costume, dress, and the body. Costumes and dress can reveal or conceal the body. Costumes or dress reveals the body by allowing bare skin to be displayed; for example, shoulders, arms, legs, and feet in the case of the classic ballerina tutu or a swimsuit. In such examples as an ice-skater's bodysuit or dancer's leotard, the costume may cover but closely conform to and reveal the body shape. Sometimes aspects of a costume are exaggerated for ridicule and irony, as in the giant shoes seen on circus clowns or the padded bosoms of drag queens. In variations of Carnival and Mardi Gras costume, the body, including the head and face, is completely covered and the body is not easily discernible. Among the Kalabari people in the Niger delta of Nigeria one masquerade costume representing an elephant is made of massive palm fronds that eclipse the dancer's body. A small, carved sculpture of an elephant nestles among them, barely visible.

See also Fashion. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Eicher, Joanne B. "Classification of Dress and Costume for African Dance." In The Spirit's Dance in Africa. Edited by E. Dagan. Montreal. Galerie Amrad African Art Publication, 1997.

--, and Mary E. Roach-Higgins. "Describing Dress: A System of Classifying and Defining." In Dress and Gender: Making and Meaning in Cultural Context. Edited by Ruth Barnes and Joanne B. Eicher. Oxford and Washington, D.C: Berg Publishers, 1992-1993. Laver, James. Costume in the Theatre. London: George G. Har-rap and Company, Ltd., 1964.

Joanne B. Eicher

COAT A very important item in any cold climate, a coat is an outerwear garment with sleeves and a center-front closure, and as such incorporates many variations of style and shape including the chesterfield, crombie, British warm, and loden. The garment is designed specifically to be worn outdoors to protect the wearer from the damp, cold, wind, and dust and is most commonly worn over the rest of the clothes, so is generally slightly longer and wider than normal pieces of the wardrobe. However, although designed with protection in mind, not all coats are waterproof. Coats that are used to provide the wearer with extra warmth may be cut from cashmere, tweed, or fur. Coats worn as protection from the rain or snow, such as the classic raincoat or cape, will be made from lighter materials like gabardine or cotton, since they might be used in warm or cold weather.

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