Breaking the mold, making new shape : exploring a material-led approach to costume design

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Miller, Kathryn Anna-Elizabeth

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Spectacular and sculptural garments are frequently produced in the worlds of high fashion and wearable art, but not as frequently in the discipline of costume design. Why does this seem to be? Is there a way to redress this? When one studies the creations and methods of those designers who produce spectacular sculptural garments, one variable of paramount importance emerges: material. The material used to make a garment has profound influence over the final design because its intrinsic behaviors can produce strikingly unique results. By exploring and implementing uncommon materials in their practice, a costume designer can expand the reach of their design capabilities. During the course of this master’s thesis, I developed a basis for a material-led costume design methodology. I experimented with several uncommon materials by manipulating them on a dress form and took notes about their behaviors and best application. I then used this knowledge to lead a design-creation process that produced a fantastical costume for a musical performance. By adopting a material-led approach, a costume designer can marry unique, beautiful aesthetics with narrative purpose.


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