Costume in Performance


Materiality, Culture, and the Body

Donatella Barbieri

Bloomsbury: published 29-06-2017

Paperback, 264 pages, 195 colour illustrations

SKU: 9780857855107 Category:


This beautifully illustrated book conveys the centrality of costume to live performance. Finding associations between contemporary practices and historical manifestations, costume is explored in six thematic chapters, examining the transformative ritual of costuming; choruses as reflective of society; the grotesque, transgressive costume; the female sublime as emancipation; costume as sculptural art in motion; and the here-and-now as history.

Viewing the material costume as a crucial aspect in the preparation, presentation and reception of live performance, the book brings together costumed performances through history. These range from ancient Greece to modern experimental productions, from medieval theatre to modernist dance, from the ‘fashion plays’ to contemporary Shakespeare, marking developments in both culture and performance.

Revealing the relationship between dress, the body and human existence, and acknowledging a global as well as an Anglo and Eurocentric perspective, this book shows costume’s ability to cross both geographical and disciplinary borders. Through it, we come to question the extent to which the material costume actually co-authors the performance itself, speaking of embodied histories, states of being and never-before imagined futures, which come to life in the temporary space of the performance.

Donatella Barbieri is Senior Research Fellow in Design for Performance at London College of Fashion, UK, and, previously, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, UK.

Table of Contents

1 The First Costume: Ritual and Reinvention
2 Costuming Choruses: Spectacle and the Social Landscape on Stage
3 The Grotesque Costume: The Comical and Conflicted ‘Other’ Body
4 The Flight off the Pedestal
5 Agency and Empathy: Artists Touch the Body
6 A Different Performativity: Society, Culture and History on Stage
Selected Bibliography

“This is essential reading for anyone interested in performance and costumes, providing an exciting and accessible scholarly exploration of the uses and significance of costumes from prehistoric ritual to contemporary theater. It is valuable for its international range of productions and detailed descriptions of significant costumes, including dance, circus performance, street theater and traditional stage.” –  Patricia Lennox, New York University, USA,

Additional information

Weight 0.75 kg