Taylor, Madeline (2020) Building Costumes, Building Language in the Costume Workshop. In Pantouvaki, Sofia & McNeil, Peter (Eds.) Performance Costume: New Perspectives and Methods. Bloomsbury Academic, London, pp. 263-276. Building Costumes, Building Language in the Costume Workshop | QUT ePrints
Costume creation is consistently positioned as inherently collaborative (Malloy 2014: 4; Barbieri 2017: 192; Osmond 2017: 96). Costume’s various iterative stages during realization, through the cycles of sourcing or pattern, toile and final costume make the collaborative partnership between costume technicians and costume designers materially perceptible. But despite the medium’s reliance on collaboration and its visibility in the creative process there is little explicit discussion of how the collaborative transformation of the costume design from a 2D image to 3D object occurs. When discussed, collaboration is usually described in generalities like trust or good communication, attributes that do not facilitate an understanding of this predominantly tacit practice. This chapter aims to improve the complex creative process of costume realization by providing terminology and a conceptual framework that explicates its collaborative practice. It conceptualizes the collaboration between costume technicians and designers as an aesthetic language-building exercise in which dialogic idea-interchange creates and communicates a convergent understanding of the design’s aesthetic parameters and desired outcomes. It further argues that there are several communication methods and collaborative mechanisms used repeatedly in this process. The two collaborative mechanisms theorized here and their impact on interpersonal dynamics, draw upon my own history as a costume technician, ethnographic observation of costume workrooms and fruitful discussions with other performance makers. In employing this multi-vocal perspective it enacts the collaborative manifesto called for by Aoife Monks (2014). Incorporating the voice of technicians into academic costume discourse is invaluable for the growth of the discipline and this chapter aims to improve connections between costume practitioners and costume theorists.