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Costume in Action

Afghan Hound – Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, 2011; Costume Designer: Lise Klitten; Photo © Anders Sune Berg

Afghan Hound – Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, 2011; Costume Designer: Lise Klitten; Photo © Anders Sune Berg
Bowie’s costume, 1973, by Kansai Yamamoto. Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita, thanks to the Bowie archive and the V&A.
Ni Una Mas by Nerina Cocchi, 2012. Costume by Giulia Pecorari, photo by Andrea Messana

Costume in Action

Conceived and curated by Donatella Barbieri

Associate Curator, Sofia Pantouvaki and with the collaboration of Matteo Augello

Costume in Action brought the most up-to-date thinking about costume to the unique gathering of designers, students and scholars assembled at World Stage Design 2013.

“Costume is ‘in action’ in the ability to ‘transform’ and give ‘extra powers’ to the wearer, in revealing the knowledge its workers embody through their expert practice, and also as it finally takes centre stage and creates its own discourse, which is material and technological as much as it is cultural and social.”

The designers for screen included in the programme were Deborah Nadoolman Landis, curator of the V&A Hollywood Costume Exhibition, author of seminal publications on costume and influential costume designer and Sammy Sheldon Differ, costume designer for films ranging from Kick-Ass to The Kinky Boot Factory.

Yves Barre, designer for The League of Gentlemen, spoke on comedy and costume.

Invited costume designers who presented their work for the stage included John Bright, whose extraordinary theatre, opera and film costumes emerge from Cosprop which he founded; Sabine Snijders, the Dutch designer with a unique post-modern perspective and Simona Rybáková, the Czech curator of the Extreme Costume Exhibition in Prague Quadrennial 2011.

Ilaria Martello spoke about the role of costume in the making of opera from the perspective of the Royal Opera House. Creative practitioners who shared their expertise included Vin Burnham whose work ranges from Batman to Lady Gaga and Robert Allsopp whose extraordinary creatures grace both the stage and the screen.

Designers and scholars from all over the world explored notions around the material costume, culture and society in a series of symposia. The relationship between costume and digital technology was discussed by experimental costume designer Giulia Pecorari, scenographer Roma Patel and film and TV costume designer Chrisi Karvonides.

The agency of costume in society and culture was examined in a number of presentations: Ramon Ivars focused on popular dance and costume in Spain; Fausto Viana  discussed ritual, costume and mise-en-scène; Emma Thatcher presented her field-work on a specific German carnival; Rosane Muniz analysed the relationship between carnival and dramatic culture in Brazil; Melissa Trimingham explored therapeutic uses of costume in a series of contexts involving autistic children; Sofia Pantouvaki presented costume as a means for engaging young people and the local community in performance.

lea-anderson-2The Revisiting Historical Costume workshop brought participants to the Bath Fashion Museum, with presentations by eminent designers offering different approaches to historical representations of character.

The absence of the body of the performer in collected, displayed and virtually presented costume is an opportunity for technological advances for Keith Lodwick, V&A curator, the chance to create specialised on-line resources for Anastasia Miari and for Donatella Barbieri it is an archive of ideas.

Costume workshops included Making Gesture out of Costume with choreographer/director Lea Anderson; Costume Upcycling with Simona RybákováTakis and Lise Klitten; Costume Project(ion) with Xristina Penna.

Workshops led by practitioners whose expertise has pushed the boundaries of historical costume included Claire Christie who specifically focused on bias cut, and Graham Cottenden who looked at deconstructing tailoring.

You can view the full past programme here.

Image: Lea Anderson, photographer Margaret Williams