Department of Anthropology

The real professional: Designers and discourse in Hindi film costume

Wilkinson, Clare M 2016. The real professional: Designers and discourse in Hindi film costume. Studies in Costume and Performance, 1, 19-40.

Since the mid-twentieth century, successive generations of Hindi film costume designers and costume workers have asserted claims to an aesthetic and professional distinction. As each new cluster of designers comes on the scene, they draw a contrast between their practices and knowledge and those of past designers (or other costume department personnel) in ways that boost their own claims of being the first to do the job ‘professionally’. Such claims often tend to revolve around evolving (and often competing) notions of what makes a costume ‘real’. Based on in-depth interviews and ethnography among a cross-section of film costume producers from different eras, this article points out the ways in which discrepant discourses among designers and makers, and between designers of different generations, reveal important differences in how ‘real’ costume is understood. Paying attention to a wider range of voices within costume production also reveals the linkage of narrative, costume, and aesthetics in collaborative, albeit conflicted practice, as opposed to being the direct outcome of an intellectual and somewhat disembodied process of design.

Associated research project: Making movies: workers in the Bombay Film Industry