Heaving Cleavages and Fantastic Frock Coats: Gender Fluidity, Celebrity and Tactile Transmediality in Contemporary Costume Cinema

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As contemporary cinema intersects with both celebrity (Church Gibson 2011) and convergence culture (Jenkins 2006a), it is vital that the academic analysis of screen costuming moves beyond the film text to consider the wider institutional processes and consumption practices connected to fashion and spectators. In examining the role of costume and fashion as a source of meaning and pleasure this article forms part of my wider research project, which includes a forthcoming monograph and adopts both textually centred and interdisciplinary cross-media methodological approaches. This methodological shift is reflected in this article - the examination of Shakespeare in Love (Madden 1998) adopts a predominantly textually centred approach focusing on the cinematic representation of Viola/Thomas (Gwyneth Paltrow), in which I argue that costume functions as both a spectacular intervention and a visual narrative of gender transformation and sexual fluidity. In then shifting to a cross-media approach, I will discuss both Gwyneth Paltrow and Keira Knightley in relation to issues of fashion, femininity and celebrity culture. As contemporary popular cinema shifts from character centred narratives to the formation of transmedia worlds existing over multiple media platforms, the text-spectator relationship is one grounded in a participatory convergence culture (Jenkins 2006a). In the final section of this article I argue that the meanings and pleasures of cinematic costume are increasingly characterised by what I term 'tactile transmediality'. Through moving my analysis beyond the film text to explore gaming, cosplay and fashion in relation to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (Verbinski 2003; 2006; 2007; Marshall 2011), I will argue that clothing creates a tactile platform in which the spatial distance between the text and the spectator can be bridged via adornment and touch and thus the processes of identity transformation and performativity can be played out in our everyday lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-38
Number of pages32
JournalFilm, Fashion & Consumption
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


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