6. Fashion and performance: Screen costume

Mis en scene
Narrative Realism
Spectacle and Excess
The Gaze
Audience Identification
Discursive Strategy
Colour Theory

What is the difference between fashion and costume? As Booth Moore points out, ‘both deal in fantasy – and reality’ (Moore, 2012: 151). While fashion operates more in the real world, it is often the real world that catwalk collections, and sometimes we as individuals, strive to escape from. ‘Costume designers, on the other hand, strive for reality to sell a fantasy’ (Moore, 2012: 154).
While fashion as an academic subject has only recently been taken seriously, there has at least been a tendency for serious writers to debate dress. As Cook points out, costume design has been marginalised by film theorists (1996: 41) an issue that Pamela Church Gibson ascribes to the assumptions of male writers that fashion is both feminine and frivolous.
But the relationship between film and fashion is far from frivolous or exclusively feminine. Indeed, it is a relationship, not just between designers and actors, but between directors and actors, actors and characters, characters and audiences. As Street points out, film costume ‘frequently operates as a ‘system’ governed by complex influences that relate to notions of realism, performance, gender, status and power’ (Street, 2001: 2). But it’s reciprocal relationship with the audience means that the boundaries between costume and fashion are not as simple as being able to designate them to separate languages and systems, at least not entirely.
In this session, we examine the various ‘functions’ of film costume as well as statements that costume sometimes makes, independent and in excess of film requirements.






Sarah Street. The Talented Mr Ripley: Costuming Identity

Designing for Duality: Costume, Clark Kent and Superman  Josceline Fenton

Booth Moore. Unfinishing Costume Design

The Armored Knight: Batman, Costume and Cinema  Julie Lobalzo Wright

Piers D. Britton “Oh, I Dig Your Fab Gear!”: Costume, Fashion and the Doctor – A Brief History



Bruzzi, Stella. ‘Film and Fashion’ In the A–Z of Fashion. Berg Fashion Library, 2005.

Bruzzi, Stella. Undressing Cinema: Clothing and Identity in the Movies. London and New York: Routledge, 1997.

Gaines, Jane. ‘Costume and Narrative: How Dress Tells the Woman’s Story’ In Fabrications: Costume and the Female Body, 180-211. London and New York: Routledge, 1990.

Gaines, Jane, and Charlotte Herzog, eds. Fabrications: Costume and the Female Body. London and New York: Routledge, 1990.

Head, Edith and Jane Kesner Ardmore. The Dress Doctor. Boston and Toronto: Little Brown and Company, 1959.

Hollander, Anne. Seeing Through Clothes. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Maeder, Edward, ed. Hollywood and History: Costume Design in Film. Los Angeles: Thames and Hudson, Inc., 1987..

Wollen, Peter. “Strike a Pose.” Sight and Sound 5, no. 3 (March 1995): 10-15


Bordwell, D. (1989). Making Meaning: Inference and Rhetoric in the Interpretation of Cinema. Cambridge, Harvard UP. Buchanan, I. (2002). “Schizoanalysis and Hitchcock: Deleuze and The Birds ” Strategies: Journal of Theory, Culture & Politics 15(1).

Conrad, Peter. The Hitchcock Murders. London: Faber 2000 Paglia, Camille. The Birds. London: BFI 1998

Deleyto, Celestino. Focalization in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Miscelanea, vol. 15 (1994): 155–91

Gilbert, Sandra, and Susan Gubar. “The Madwoman in the Attic.” Literary

Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Micheal Ryan. Malden, MA:

Blackwell Publishing, 2004. 812-825

Horwitz, Margaret M. The Birds: A Mother’s Love. A Hitchcock Reader. eds: Marshall Deutelbaum, Leland A. Poague. Wiley-Blackwell 2009

Humbert, David. “Desire and Monstrosity in the Disaster Film.” Contagion:

Journal of Violence, Mimesis and Culture 17. (1994): 87-103

McCombe, J. P. (2005). “Oh, I See. . . .: The Birds and the Culmination of Hitchcock’s Hyper-Romantic Vision.” Cinema Journal(3).

Modleski, Tania. “Hitchcock, Feminism, and the Patriarchial Unconsciousness.”Issues in Feminist Film Criticism. Ed. Patricia Erens. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1990. 58-74

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Feminism and Film Theory. Ed. Constance Penley. New York : Psychology Press, 1988. 57-68

Propp, V.I.A. Morphology of the Folk Tale. Texas: University of Texas Press. 1969

Sandis, C. (2009). “Hitchcock’s Conscious Use of Freud’s Unconscious.” Europe’s Journal of Psychology(3).

Simmons, Jonathan. The Pervert’s Guide to The Birds: Of Hitchcock, Žižek, the Maternal Superego, and Critical Confusion. Bright Lights. April 1, 2010 <http://brightlightsfilm.com/the-perverts-guide-to-the-birds-of-hitchcock-zizek-the-maternal-superego-and-critical-confusion-of-hitchcock/#.VNZsaf7kfYg> Accessed January 2015 (Simmons, 2010)

Smith, Samantha. Angels, Monsters, and Gazing in The Birds. Wide Angle, Samford University. 2013

Wierzbicki, James. Shrieks, Flutters, and Vocal Curtains: Electronic Sound/Electronic Music in Hitchcock’s The Birds. From Music and the Moving Image Vol. 1, Issue 2. 2008 <http://mmi.press.uiuc.edu/1.2/wierzbicki.html> Accessed Jamuary 2015

Wood, R. (2002). Hitchcock’s films revisited, Columbia UP.

Žižek, S. (1992). Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture, The MIT Press.


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