Performing Identities through Dress
Pravina Shukla
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 04/06/2015
ISBN: 978-0-253-01581-5
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What does it mean to people around the world to put on costumes to celebrate their heritage, reenact historic events, assume a role on stage, or participate in Halloween or Carnival? Self-consciously set apart from everyday dress, costume marks the divide between ordinary and extraordinary settings and enables the wearer to project a different self or special identity. Pravina Shukla offers richly detailed case studies from the United States, Brazil, and Sweden to show how individuals use costumes for social communication and to express facets of their personalities.

Author Bio

Pravina Shukla is Associate Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University Bloomington. She is author of The Grace of Four Moons: Dress, Adornment, and the Art of the Body in Modern India (IUP, 2007), winner of the Costume Society of America's Millia Davenport prize and the Coomaraswamy Prize, Association for Asian Studies. She is editor (with Ray Cashman and Tom Mould) of The Individual and Tradition: Folkloristic Perspectives (IUP, 2011).


“Self-consciously set apart from everyday dress, what does it mean to people around the world to put on costumes to celebrate their heritage, reenact historic events, assume a role on stage, or participate in Halloween or Carnival?”

“In this era of new media technologies used in the service of identity construction, it is fascinating to note the extent to which people employ costume—extraordinary and purposefully creative dress—to explore different, perhaps deeper, expressions of themselves. Pravina Shukla draws on rich ethnographic material from research in the United States, Sweden, and Brazil to capture the words, actions, and appearances of individuals who are passionate and extremely articulate about the costumes they make, wear, and observe.”
 — Carol Hendrickson, Marlboro College

“Shukla’s penetrating analysis of costume adds a much-needed dimension to the study of dress. She draws from the deep well of her own field research on three continents to present a convincing argument about costume as elective identity, with color illustrations as a special bonus.”
 — Joanne B. Eicher, Editor-in-Chief, Encyclopedia of World Dress and Costume

“Scholars have discussed the meaning of the term 'costume,' but few have analyzed why people spend so much time and effort to pretend to be someone else or to present an alternate version of themselves through dress. . . . Shukla offers a fresh perspective on dress and makes a valuable contribution to scholarship.”
 — Linda Welters, editor of The Fashion Reader

“In drawing together these diverse studies and revealing the structural parallels between the behaviours underlying them, she has contributed to the study and interpretation of dress and costume, her ethnographic methodology throughout facilitating an emphasis on shared humanity.”
 — The Costume Society

“This collection of case studies is well worth a read for anyone interested in the physical, psychological, communal, and transformative power of costume.”
 — Worn Through

“Although her book is based on scholarly research, Shukla's engaging writing style and rich illustrations make for a highly accessible and enduring work. . . . Highly recommended.”
 — Choice

“Costume: Performing Identities through Dress is revelatory. . . . Shukla shares research across three continents . . . and within several contexts to show how what we wear defines us on personal and community levels. . . . Costume is a wide-ranging book bringing attention to clothing as part of festivals and folk heritage events, pop culture conventions and dramatic performances.”
 — Nuvo

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Table of Contents

1. Dressing-Up: Special Clothing for Extraordinary Contexts
2. Festive Spirit: Carnival Costume in Brazil
3. Heritage: Folk Costume in Sweden
4. Play: The Society for Creative Anachronism
5. Reenactment: Reliving the American Civil War
6. Living History: Colonial Williamsburg
7. Art: Costume and Collaboration on the Theatre Stage
8. Artistic Communication: Costume as Elective Identity