“Performing Selfhood: The Costumed Body as a Site of Mediation Between Life, Art and the Theatre in the English Renaissance

Posted on October 15, 2012


“It was used as a public means of self-advertisement for the powerful members of English society and since remained the main source for the study of the costume of the period.”

“It demanded skill, agility and self-control, usually expected of actors, so as not to display the strain it caused the body, but rather to imbue it with grace.”

“The still portraits which continue to gaze at us today in galleries and museums are a silent testimony to a vital and vigorous culture, in which the body acted in the social arena, always aware of the eyes of an audience attentively watching.”

The idea of fashion does not only show what people were wearing at certain points throughout history but also what was happening around them. It is interesting to see how clothing on a person can tell so much not only about them but why they are wearing it. For example, war, religious purposes, a movement, a cause, etc.  It is a key element we use everyday that identifies people. Such as, policemen and doctors. Not only do they have a very specific uniform but also very specific design. Dress evolves overtime as well as fit, color, and pattern. Determining a certain time period can be found through dress.

A lot of details about history could be shown in paintings and mainly through dress. Not only what the people liked to wear and what was in fashion but also what was around them. New textiles, fibers, embellishments, shoes. Background was also of great importance. The specific items that were chosen to surround them in the paintings. Why were they so significant did the items change? Would they surround themselves with only things that they wanted to be shown? Some of these ideas can be easily answered when looking at portraits all throughout this era. However, it is still important to think of these very basic question rather than only accepting what is on the surface or in your face.

The paintings were done in a very unrealistic style however; they should still be looked at as real people. They didn’t depict the traditional activities or dress in the day-to-day life however, where still symbolic. The style should be looked at more as a culture a time in history when unrealistic ways of dress is what was portrayed at being the most realistic and the best way of showing off you.


Posted in: ART 302