Behind the Seams: An Ethnographic Study of the Performative Nature of Theatrical Costumes
Winner of the 2013 Stock Writing Prize for Social Sciences
Actors are said to bring a play to life, but what about the garments that they wear? Like set production, light design, and direction, the role of the costume plays an important part in informing and enchanting the audience. However, this is not all that they do. This paper acts as an in-depth examination of the culture of costume creation and destruction at Gettysburg College, researching their roles as garments, as well as how the garments themselves "act" around others. Imbued with their own set of responsibilities, the costumes are expected to behave certain ways, perform specific functions, and put on a show of their own. Through 20 hours of ethnographic research, this paper seeks to show that the costumes are not just as single component of the theatrical experience, but instead an integral performer in the social construction of the story itself.