actor costumes

Things to Consider When Costuming a Character

December 15, 2016 by StageScreen - No Comments

Costuming is one of the key ingredients to any successful show. Without great costumes, it will be difficult for the audience to engage in the performance, as they may have trouble understanding which actors are playing which roles. A proper set of costumes doesn’t have to be fancy of even expensive, but you do need to think about a few key important questions while making your decisions. To make sure you are moving in the right direction with the costumes for your next performance, ask yourself the questions listed below.

What is the Status of the Character?

One of the first points to consider is where in the social order a given character is supposed to fit. For instance, is the character from a wealthy family, or are they representing the poor in society? Naturally, poor characters should be represented with worn, tattered clothing, while the wealthy will only be seen wearing the finest of everything. Properly representing the social status of each character through the quality of their clothing is one way to present the story clearly to the audience.

What is the Gender of the Character?

This point is relatively obvious, but it needs to be stated nonetheless. Any costume decision needs to be based at least in part on the gender of the character in question. That is not to say that women always need to be wearing stereotypically female clothing, as the exact outfit chosen will depend on many factors related to the character overall. However, gender still plays an important role, specifically when considered within the context of the time period of the show.

Are You Being Historically Accurate?

If the timing within the context of history is an important part of your performance, you will want to be as accurate as possible with regard to the costumes. Outfitting the performers in clothes that were not developed until centuries after the period of the show will confuse the audience and it will take away from the overall performance. Through some basic research it will be relatively easy to educate yourself on the commonly worn clothes of just about any era.

Is the Costume Adapting with the Character?

In most plays and performances, the characters – especially the main character – will transform over the course of the show. So, with that in mind, it may make sense to have their costumes evolve along with the changes that have occurred in their personality and position in life. It will be hard for the audience to connect with the development in each character if the characters are wearing exactly the same thing from start to finish.

Costuming has always been one of the most important parts of any live performance, and that isn’t changing anytime soon. If you are hoping to put on the best possible show for your audience, be sure to spend plenty of time thinking through the answers to the questions listed above.