The following activities are for parents, students or theatre-lovers to initiate and share with others, or do individually.
Read the “The Secret Life of Costumes Backstage: The Dresser’s Point of View”
Write a paragraph or a monologue from the point of view of a costume.
You could start when the Dresser takes you off the rack and places you in the dressing room before the start of a show. How do you feel? What do you hear going on around you? How do you feel by the end of the show? Did you get hurt in the quick change? Use your imagination to bring your story to life!
Go to the Gallery!
For costuming research and inspiration go to the gallery! Paintings and sculptures are wonderful sources of information about period clothing and details of life at that time. Look for the works by figurative painters from different historical periods. Sculpture galleries, exhibiting classical Greek and Roman figures provide a good sense of dress and hairstyles.
Recommendations from European painters (among many others):
- 14 Century: Giotto, Pietro Lorenzetti
- 15th Century: Jan Van Eyck, Roger Van Der Weyden
- 16th Century: A. Durer, L. Cranach, Titian, Clouet, Antonio Moro, A. Bronzino, Holbein, Nicholas Hilliard
- 17th Century: Van Dyck, Rubens, Cornelis de Vos, John Tradescant, Velazquez
- 18th Century: Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun, Gainsborough, Hogarth, Reynolds, Goya, Ghislandi
- 19th Century: Ingres, Rouget, L. David, F.Massot, Tissot, Renoir, Monet, Degas, Corot, Fantin-Latour, John Singer Sargent
- Early 20th century: Vuillard, Picasso, Vionnet
Off to the Library!
Go to the Library to look for books about costume and fashion. The study of clothing can provide a solid entry into learning about different periods of history. A look at what was worn (and eaten) at Versailles in the latter half of the 18th Century can provide insight into why the lower classes in France were so discontented.
Get into Historical Fiction
Readers of historical fiction may already be familiar with words that refer to period clothing: petticoat, farthingale, doublet, ruff, fichu... But chances are you may still not have a clear idea of what these words refer to. By linking novels to paintings of the period you’re reading about can enrich your imagination, and possibly spark further research.
Make Your Own Silhouette
How does your personal style fit in to the history of costume? Find out by having your full-length “portrait” taken against a neutral background. Create your own silhouette digitally by using a photo editing software. Select only your outline and fill in all photo details by and removing all colour from your picture. You could also trace your likeness by hand and fill in the outline with black marker. It’s important that you wear articles of clothing that have their own distinctive shape, so add a hoodie or jacket. Think about skirt or pant length, whether you wear your collar up or down, your hairstyle, backpack, etc. Compare your shape to that of a person from another period, and draw your own conclusions about how society and tastes have changed.
Make Your Own Costume
You may fall in love with a particular historical period or character and want to try your hand at recreating your version of that what was being worn at that time. Check out the The Secret Life of Costumes article entitled Creative Low-Cost Costuming Ideas
for tips. Make your next costumed event, or theatrical production, something to talk about.
Search the Web
Are you interested in more resources on costumes and costuming? The Internet contains a wealth of information. Use your favourite search engine and the following search terms to uncover more websites to explore:
- costume design
- Canadian costume design
- historical costumes
- historical clothing
- costume museums
- theatrical costume resources
- theatre design
- making costumes
- folk costumes