Let’s Talk About the Importance of Costumes in Plays

The theater since its origins has been concerned with the viewer’s aesthetic perception of the staging of the stories that are represented on stage. The theatrical genres were conceived to provoke different reactions in the audience.

In ancient Greece, for example, comedy stimulated the viewer’s intellectuality and tragedy, causing fear and compassion, producing emotional responses in the audience, all linked to the individual unconscious and generating a purifying effect.

Under these postulates, the common man is “disguised”, to hide or transform his unique person in order to avoid being recognized. Instead, the actor “dresses” to represent a character, to facilitate the fictional pact linking the actor-audience binomial. Basically, this is the difference between costumes and theatrical attire.

Sometimes it happens that at the end of a play, the audience leaves the theater with a certain feeling of discomfort for what they have seen on stage. It’s possible that the performance was natural and impeccable, that the speeches were fluid and interesting, but a small detail ruins the whole viewer’s experience: The visual part of the performance.

Not paying attention of the color palette in the cast attire or the historical period in which the play is supposed to take place, and the socio-cultural context of the characters and other details of this type can ruin a magnificent acting job.

For this reason, the novel theater directors (or some of them that already are experienced but still fails on this regard), actors and even school teachers, may find in this post some useful information, ideas, and suggestions to improve their game on the theatrical costumes of their plays.

You Can’t Make a Silk Purse Out of a Sow’s Ear

While it is true that a good costume will not turn mediocre actors into good ones, at least it will give them physical presence as a character in the performed play. That is the essence of the theatrical work: Making the fiction convincing.

For this reason, it’s necessary to dress the actor in a suit appropriate to the character of the character he is representing. The public needs to understand at a first glance who is each character – especially if it is a classic well-known play- and in spite of those who advocate the neutrality of the costumes (generally due to production costs), the intelligent move is to dress each actor in a way that makes him recognizable as a character.

Although realistically, few rental houses for costumes are actually equipped with quality clothes and historically reliable suits, some make outfits of quality and usually what is found are reproductions without any kind of historical research. It might seem an irrelevant detail, but a true connoisseur will notice the difference.

The theatrical costumes are different from our daily clothes because of their function. Protect from inclement weather or fashion, aren’t functions of theatrical attire, in this case, the function of the garments is aesthetic and has great expressive and psychological value by highlighting the physical and moral qualities of the character.

In addition, on the stage the dress plays another plastic role, as it is to create the illusion of proportions, for example, the vertical lines stylize and suggest height, the horizontal lines, amplitude.

Black clothes can slim and stylize the silhouette, light colors, widen it. Light tones suggest youth, dark ones – maturity. The texture of the fabric also plays an important role, textiles such as velvet indicate opulence and a second-rate fabric will transmit poverty or modesty.

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