Theatre Arts Project Topics

The Importance and Functions of Costumes as an Inevitable Tool in the Promotion and Development of Theatrical Performances

The Importance and Functions of Costumes as an Inevitable Tool in the Promotion and Development of Theatrical Performances

The Importance and Functions of Costumes as an Inevitable Tool in the Promotion and Development of Theatrical Performances

Chapter One

Objectives of the Study

The primary objective of the study is to establish a more interpretative depth to the value of costumes in stage productions has seen in the performance of The Gods Are Not To Blame. The secondary objective of the study is geared towards interrogating the possible dangers that could be encountered by costume designers in designing for theatrical performances in the nearest future. Finally, it also intends to broaden our knowledge on the aesthetics of costumes and the costumiers need for critical and creative handling.



Historical Development of Costume

           The art of costuming is said to have drawn it origin from the origin of man, when he made use of animal skins and leaves to cover his body for protection. Thus, as a result of man’s sensitivity he took control over his immediate            environment. In the process of taking control, he realized that he needed           assistance to be able to take total control of his environment. This gave rise to a belief in a supreme being; man now idolizes images and worships these images as gods for assistance. And, this became a ritual process which man celebrated. In this celebration man displayed costumes made of skins, leaves, masks and body paintings.

Since the creation of man up till date, costumes has been influenced by   varying degrees of civilization of different people, their moral laws, aesthetics and the economic structure of an area concerned.

It is important in this chapter to study the historical background of       costume, as it enables us relate to the present.

The Encyclopedia of World Art (272) states that; Based on the body’s primary need for material protection, dress differs according to external conditions, the native of the country, it’s climate and seasons. Ideas of modesty or             attraction also influence the development of dress

As the intellectual and social structure of man’s civilization evolved, his dress is seen to be the result of the function of the individuals as a member of a group to which they belongs, be it religious, magical or ritual requirements.

The historical and cultural background of man also determines the nature of costume that exists in different theatrical era and regions.

According to Edward (63), He defines culture as; That complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, art, moral laws, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of a society.

According to world theatre history, theatre is believed to have originated from the Ancient Greek Theatre, thus, the origin of theatre costume.

Their ritualistic style of theatre in the worship of ‘Dionysus, the Greek god of fertility’ permits the use of mask, as they give each character a unique look and they varies depending on the dramatic form. i.e. comedy, tragedy,     melodrama and farce.

The use of masks in the Ancient Greek Theatre was necessitated by the following reasons.

  1. Each actor played a number of roles
  2. All actors were male, playing both male and female roles.
  3. Indicates the characters age, sex, station and customary mood.

The masks made of linen, cork or wood and were skillfully carved and painted. The mood of costume for the theatre, slightly different from their daily wears. Secondly, comic characters were grotesquely padded. The padding in their    costume reflected class difference, depicting the upper class characters wearing long chiton and cloaks. Each costume was determined by the role it best fit. While the lower class characters wore short tunics.




Synopsis of the Play

The researcher intends to look at the arrangement of the story and actions in the play from the directorial perspective. The play begins with a prologue, which details what the play was all about, as it narrates the play from the beginning    (the prophecy at Odewale’s birth) to the middle of the play (how he was crowned king by the people of Kutuje) down till the end of the play (how he ended-up    fulfilling his destiny).




It is pertinent at this junction to state that costume cannot be remove from theatrical performance. This is because of the important roles it plays for a    successfully performance to be achieve.

Costume as one of the basic tool use by actors on stage remains the most personal element to the actors as it is difficult to separate costume from the    actors and theatrical performances that large. According to Oscar Brockett,   costumes provide understanding and identification of the locale, the period in which the performance is set; has some belongs to a particular time in history. In the past the trend of dressing was not as obscene as it looks today. Fashion which is costume has taken a different trend.

Communicating through the art of costuming is not dogmatic as in the past. Today the fashion world is a large one, therefore, competition rises high among designers (costumier).

Costumes as a non-verbal form of communication in the theatre can be complicated to achieve because apparels has got to do with aesthetics; aesthetics is appreciating the beauty and the ugliness of an art work.

Researching into the elements of costume has been the problem of the costumiers of this present era, as their laxity in carrying out proper research   before embarking on designing for a particular performance which falls back at the final outcome of the performance.

According to Bertolt Bretch, (274) He probes that; “The theatre is no longer the fantasy house,

it has become a think tank or a discussion    hall” Therefore, a costumier must have at the back of his or her mind that his not just creating for the purpose of aesthetics alone but rather for the intended meanings and interpretations regarding the play to be passed across to the      audience correctly. And this can only be achieve by understanding that the  elements of costumes in a performance must be meaningful in a way that it would awake the critical reasoning of the spectators; they should make      comments.

There was an attempt in the performance of “The Gods Are Not To Blame” to create the desired effect regarding the play, but it was not maintained all through the performance, as costumes were recycled by the actors thereby creating confusing meanings and precisions on the part of the spectators.

According to The Encyclopedia America, (58) “Costume theatrically is an apparel that is intends both to impress an audience and to help the performer to          impersonate a character

Thus, character should not be wrongly costumed as in the case of       Aderopo, Adetusa and Odewale and many more, there costume does not in any way conform with their status in the play as expected. Likewise, King Adetusa and Odewale, makes the audience to misconstrued their roles in the play; as both of them are seen using the same costume. Queen Ojuola’s hairdo and dress at some particular point was confused for that of a Benin queen. This attitude therefore plays down on the potency of costumes in the performance.

In a nutshell, this research study has been able to prove that the art of   costuming surfers neglect in theatrical performances, especially in the          educational theatres. This is clearly seen in the performance as discuss above.

Therefore, this call for change, as costumes cannot be totally separated from theatrical performances as they constitutes the primary and also the most      personal tool to the performers; they aids the actors performance and add to the beauty of the stage picture. The potency costumes hold in theatrical               performances must be addressed by theatre practitioners including costumiers, as they aid effective communication in the theatre.


In conclusion, costumes have been an inevitable visual element in the theatre from time immemorial, as it stands out distinctive among other visual elements such as light, sound, props, scenic design, etc. Thus, creating a strong visual aids that carries an in-depth story which creates lasting pictures in the mind of the audience. Therefore, it is pertinent to pay adequate attention to these strong visual aids.


It is important to make recommendations on possible ways to salvage the future of costumes in theatrical performances; as a result of the research study conducted on the aesthetics of costumes and it roles in the theatre;

Firstly, it is an established fact that there is little information on the study of costume and as such, theater practitioners especially costumiers are not grounded in the field. Therefore, this research study recommends that students as well as theatre practitioners be equipped with materials on the study; there is the need for constant updates, as the world develops globally on a daily base. The libraries in our institutions should have adequate and updated materials on costume as this will encourage students to embark on professionalizing in this field.

Secondly, costume should be taught as a core-course in educational    theatres. It must be made compulsory for students, in order to deepen their   knowledge on the aesthetics and concepts of costume and the designers need for critical and creative handling. Thereby, creating a room for practical               participation whereby students are taught the processes of handling costumes and how to build a costume. As costume students, it is expected that we know how to build costumes instead of lending, or buying of costumes for               performances. Professionals in the field of costume should be employed to help facilitate, educate, and guide the students on the handling of costumes,            especially in performance situations. Seminars, symposia, lectures and          conferences should be held on the study, this would aid the advancement of the practice of costume in the theatre. During post-mortem, costumes should be part of the discussion. I.e. questions and answers concerning the use of costumes in the just concluded performance should be discuss in order to improve on the     method of handling costume in subsequent productions. Costume designers must work with other technical crews: in order to create an in-depth                interpretative visual element on stage. At this point, the costumier puts his or her creative dexterities in place.

Finally, I believe that this few suggestions will go a long way to change the attitudes of costumiers, students, and theatre practitioners toward the study of costume, as this will improve, promotes and salvages the practices of        costume in our theaters, in the nearest future.


  • Anderson, C and Barbara, F. Costume Design. New York: Norton Press. 1984.
  • Brockett, O. The Theatre. Holt, Reinehart and Winston Inc.1973.
  • Edward, B. Meyerhold on Theatre. Eyre Methuen Ltd. 1978.
  • Graw, M.C. Encyclopedia of World Art. Vol.4. No.12.1970.
  • Grotowski, J. Towards a Poor Theatre. London: Oxford Press. 1967.
  • Hartnoll, A. The Oxford Companion to the Theatre. London: Oxford Press. 1970.
  • Rotimi, O. The Gods Are Not To Blame. Oxford University Press. 1971.
  • Sally, W. Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary of Current English. 6th edition. New York: Oxford University Press. 2000. The Encyclopedia America, Vol.1:1929.
  • Wilson, E and A.G. Theatre: The lively Art. (5th Edition). York: The Mc Graw-Hill Company. 1991.