Costume
There are four categories of costume:
Abstract
Stylised
Realistic
Symbolic
Abstract
Removed from the original idea so it is
no longer recognisable form the theme
 May purely enhance movement to make
the dancers look the same
 Giving them equal status
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Stylized
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A distinctive costume of a style or tradition
 Relates to a theme or style
 E.g. we recognise a tutu as being traditional
for ballet.
 Stylized can also mean that they are not fully
realistic but are recognisable. E.g. in ‘Penguin
Café’ the costumes are designed for human
bodies and look half human half animal
(specific character) - hybrid
Realistic
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Reinforce the dance idea or subject matter.
They support the action content and enhance the dance so we
have a clear picture of what is happening
C – character
H – historic period
A – activity
T – time of day/season
P – political theme
O - occupation
L - location
E - event
S – social status
Symbolic
These might reflect the personality of a
character or symbolise historical or
religious themes.
 E.g. reflective silvery fabric used in
‘Flesh and Blood’ by Lea Anderson can
be seen to symbolise chain mail from
the story Joan of Arc.
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When designing a costume the following practicalities
must be considered. How will the costume:
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Design allow free movement
Distort/obscure shape/movement
Comfort/weight/heat
Add to the flow of the movement
Extend the dancing line
Draw attention to a specific body part or movement
Exaggerate the space and or shapes of action, e.g. when
turning in a full skirt you get the effect of the fabric making a
circular shape in the air.
Add to the accompaniment by making sound, e.g. bells on
ankles
Is it gender specific
Costume Design
Description – always describe using the following
Colour,
Head
size,
dress and
texture,
mask
fabric,
size,
weight,
shape and
style
Make up, Footwear
accessorie
s and
decoration
Professional Dance Works

Swan Lake’ (1995)
by Mathew Bourne
‘Still life at the
Penguin Café’(19**)
by David Bintley
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‘Swansong’ (1987)
by Christopher
Bruce
Costume Designers
Sandy Powell designer for Cross Channel.
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Lea Anderson wanted to draw upon the
images of women in fashion magazines in the
1950’s and 1960’s, but wanted the men to be
distinctly different.
 The women wear costumes based from this
period as seen in these magazines.
 The men wear a variety of more modern
costumes such as lycra and Hawaiian shirts.
Exam questions
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The physical setting costume