Costuming across borders : a cultural costuming database
Globalization has increasingly connected societies around the world. This connection has sparked a renaissance within theatre and encouraged designers to take a closer look at representation of cultural dress onstage. Where in the past costume designers and audiences relied on stereotypes to portray a specific culture, we now look for accurate historical information to inform our choices on color, silhouette, fabric selections, and construction techniques. As cultural consciousness grows, there is an ever-increasing need for peer-reviewed research that is easily accessible and reliable. To answer this need, I wanted to explore the methods traditionally used to research cultural costume pieces and how we could improve accessibility and reliability for costumers and the general public. I started by researching what sources existed for cultural costuming research as I took on investigations of the Jalisco ribbon dress from ballet folklórico of Mexico and the South Korean hanbok from the late Joseon Dynasty. I found that what information does exist is scattered across various libraries and web platforms, is often unverified, or is distant from our topic, which may have never been researched. Consequently, many costumers turn to unreliable sources of information. These issues within the research process led me to explore the usefulness of a cultural costume online database which would host peer-reviewed literature, images, interviews, and how-to instructional videos on cultural costumes. I interviewed professionals who identify with the cultural pieces represented and extensively examined the existing literature. I finished my exploration by using my newly acquired knowledge to make a how-to informational video that introduced the construction methods and historical significance of the Jalisco costume. I constructed a version of both costumes myself and documented the experience. The culmination of my thesis exploration was the creation of the web database itself. I tested the effectiveness of the website in two stages. First with cognitive interviews conducted by a costume designer, a costume technician, and a web developer, then with a survey conducted through the website. This data was used circularly to improve the webpage and establish it as an ever-growing source of reliable cultural costume information for theatre professionals.