Critical Costume

Rachel Hann, Sidsel Bech

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review


Costume is critical. It is critical to making performance, critical to spectatorship, critically overlooked within scholarship, notable when in crisis, and a means of critically interrogating the body. It is therefore critical that we discuss costume. Yet, it is equally imperative for costume to find appropriate methods and frameworks to support new forms of practice. A critical discourse of costume aims to promote new questions and scholarship on the intersections between body, design and performance. This is the concern of critical costume. Investigations formulated under the banner of critical costume aim to debate the purpose, usages and implications of costuming as a social, artistic and craft-based phenomenon. Costume and the study of dress in performance remains a nascent area of academic enquiry. In the absence of a significant canon of literature or established methods for costume enquiry, researchers working within this field are applying pre-existing methods and theoretical frameworks, as well as pioneering new approaches, in order to debate the critical and practical distinctions between body, design and performance. Performance designer Dorita Hannah echoes this line of thought as she argues that 'it is high time we do speak of how design elements not only actively extend the performing body, but also perform without and in spite of the human body' (Hannah and Mehzoud 2011: 103). Critical costume is a response to this call for action, for new scholarship, for new practices and for a renewed appraisal of performing bodies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-8
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


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