What is costuming? When first hearing the word, one’s thoughts tend to lean towards costumes: colorful arrays of frivolous or wild clothing, usually worn during some sort of theatre production or special event. Why is this though? Because from the dawn of time people have used costumes to aid in the telling of their stories, myths, and legends. Costumes were used to better a person's understanding of these tales being told to them, making it easier for a person to remember the story, and thus making the story easier to be retold again and again. This is how the basis of theatre was formed, and from those stories all those thousands of years ago theatre has evolved into the source of entertainment we all know and love today. Costuming too has evolved along with theatre, and today there is not a show or film on earth that does not involve some flashy spectacle of clothing somewhere within it. Unlike theatre however, costuming has stuck to its roots throughout the ages, these roots being its general purpose, to help the audience understand the story being told. That is why, to me the use of costuming in theatre production is an invaluable piece in any type of play, musical, movie, or drama that is to be performed or shown to an audience.
A Brief History
The theatre productions we are all so familiar with actually got their start in 550 B.C., in Ancient Greece. In Athens, during the Festival of Dionysia live performances involving dancing and reenactments of popular myths were performed to pay respect to the God of Wine, Ecstasy, and Ritual Madness, Dionysus. These festivities usually lasted about a week, after which the best performers would be named and given some sort of prize. As well as the festivities went, the Festival of Dionysia was quickly spread across the rest of Greece to promote a cultural identity. During it’s first run as a national festival a playwright named Thespis took the prize, writing the first Greek tragedy. Because of that, “to this day, all theater-performers are referred to as ‘Thespians’.” (Theatre History Resources, N.D.). After Thespis’s great success tragedies became very common in Greek theatre, and with these tragedies dramatical masks were created. “These masks large and held exaggerated expressions, as to be seen by everyone watching the play. In addition, the masks amplified the actors’ voices, making it easier to hear.” (The History of Theatre: Costuming, 2009)
It was not until the Romans invaded that actual costumes received some sort of greater significance on stage. The Romans enjoyed watching livelier things on stage, such as comedies or dramatic battles full of bloodshed and carnage. They were a very violent people, and once they began to conquer Greece, they changed the Grecian culture to reflect that. Theatre dramas became bloody, with live sacrifices and killings, though usually the people on stage were convicted criminals, and thus being killed during the show was their punishment....