´Costume Thinking’ as a Strategy for Critical Thinking
This paper discusses costume design as critical thinking extending beyond the stage and screen. Costume design involves a process of thinking about human character and representation using garment(s) as its main, but not sole, means. Designing costume is often thought as ‘in service’ to performance-making, as either a direct response to the director’s vision or to a creative team’s interpretation of a text or theme. Yet, contemporary thinking in costume practice expands beyond storytelling and embraces substantial characteristics of life within diverse social frames. It involves understanding and accepting others’ personalities, practising empathy and observation, improving interpersonal and intercultural communication. Such an approach is not only relevant to performance and fiction, but can be applied to everyday situations as a way to think actively about the human element, its appearance and expression. Thus, this presentation invites to think not simply about costume, but with and through costume, by proposing costume as a lens for developing a critical theoretical discourse that derives from its practice. To do so, it introduces the term ‘costume thinking’ (first presented at Critical Costume 2015) as a means to articulate the ways in which costume becomes a tool for analysis, negotiation, communication, experimentation and expression of ideas and behaviours. ‘Costume thinking’ is therefore proposed as a strategy not only to design for the human body, but to understand human presence through critical thinking beyond the context of performance. The term ‘costume thinking’ will be offered at the conference for debate and refinement with the peers.
Dr. Sofia Pantouvaki is a scenographer (PhD) and Professor of Costume Design at Aalto University, Finland. Her background includes over 80 designs for theatre, film, opera and dance productions in Europe, as well as numerous curatorial and exhibition design projects. Co-author, History of Dress – The Western World and Greece (2010); editor, Yannis Metsis – Athens Experimental Ballet (2011); co-editor, Presence and Absence: The Performing Body (2014), Dress and Politics (2015) and Tribes – A Walking Exhibition (2017). She is a founding Editor of the academic journalStudies in Costume and Performance; Vice-Head for Research, OISTAT/Costume Sub-commission; Chair, Critical Costume and Co-Convener, IFTR Scenography WG. She was Costume Design Curator for World Stage Design 2013; Associate Curator, Costume in Action (WSD 2013); Co-Curator of the Finnish Student exhibit winner of the Gold Medal at PQ15 and a Jury member for PQ19. Sofia founded Costume in Focus, the first research group on performance costume currently based at Aalto University, and led a 4-year research project on Costume Methodologies funded by the Academy of Finland (2014-2018). She lectures, supervises PhDs and publishes internationally.
Don Giovanni Giocoso (2014), Theatre Academy Helsinki, costume collaboration. Left to right: director Jacob Höglund, costume designer Sofia Pantouvaki, makeup designer Tuija Luukkainen, performer Amanda Nyman; photo by Sanni Siira.