The impact of costume on performance: a psychological perspective

4th Jul 2023

The impact of costume on performance: a psychological perspective

Everyone loves a great costume to enhance the look and feel of a chosen dance. However, have you ever wondered about how costumes influence performance? The elegance of, let's say, a ballerina, is visually enhanced when swathed in a full tutu as opposed to the functional aspects of being performed in leotard and tights. A great costume does add to the viewing audience’s experience, but have you ever thought about what it does from a psychological perspective to the performer? Here we will delve a little deeper into how costumes influence performance by exploring a number of dances and the impacts of their costumes.

Confidence boosting appeal

Imagine you have trained hard and mastered the steps of a particular dance. You are ready to perform to an audience, be it in a theatre setting, competition, or simply amongst friends. You step out in jeans and sneakers to perform flamenco. The moves do not feel right, the audience is confused. Flamenco is a classic example of a dance that simply must have the appropriate costume to fully execute the moves that include swirling ruffled skirts to emphasize the movements of the hands and upper torso. The confidence of the dancer is undoubtedly impacted if they do not have the appropriate tools to accentuate their moves. They will know that visually their dance is less appealing despite perhaps being a master of the art, diminishing confidence and the precision of the execution of the dance.

Sayings that ring true

Dress for success, the clothes maketh the man, dress for the job you want, not the job you have. These are just a few well-known sayings that all come to the same point. What you are wearing will determine how you are perceived by an audience in any setting, It also has a psychological effect on how you behave. How costumes influence performance falls under the same ideology. If you are dressed appropriately for whatever tasks you are undertaking, you will feel those tasks are a lot easier and will come more naturally to you. Imagine performing a tango in a ball gown, your legs are hidden, the sultry moves are not displayed, and you are left wondering what your audience is getting from the performance. Dress for success! Selecting a dance costume that enhances your performance to really demonstrate your skill, it will go a long way to ensuring you as a performer, can be as confident as possible and your audience receives the best possible show.

Popular dances are heavily influenced by their costumes

There are several dances that demonstrate how costumes influence performance. Imagine performing a Charleston without a fringe flapper dress, the dress is part of the spectacle! Or undertaking a Burlesque routine in street clothes. This dance is meant to be a cheeky dance of sensuality with an insinuation of nudity, it simply will not work if you do not have the appropriate costume. Just as the performers will not be able to convey the message of

the dance, the dancer will not be able to execute their moves to their fullest potential without the right costume.

The complete package

As with all entertainment, how costumes influence performance must be considered for a dance routine. The psychological impact on a dancer is tremendous when contemplating how their costume makes them feel. Dressing correctly, including hair and makeup to suit, will instantly put the dancer in character, they will be able to concentrate on executing their moves, knowing they are enhanced appropriately by their appearance. First impressions are extremely important, and the audience will also have an instant appreciation for the dancer who presents themselves as poised and looking the part.

Selecting the right costume

Above all, the costume must allow for the full movements of the dance without hindrance or restrictions on the body. Of course, the style and appearance of the costume are important but if you cannot execute your dance properly, your chosen costume will not hide from the audience a diminished performance. This is why you need to consider how costumes influence performance when determining what to wear. Extravagant gowns, sequins, flowing fabrics, and feathers, all add to the visual appeal, however, if you cannot execute your dance properly they can also become a backdrop to your struggle to perform.

Putting on a show

There is nothing more alluring than a performer who exhibits true confidence and skill. A dancer who has considered how their costumes influence performance will have the upper edge as they will enter the stage fully prepared and able to simply enjoy their performance without nagging thoughts of how their costume will impede them. Nerves are a normal reaction and unavoidable. However, psychologically a dancer will be more mentally prepared to perform if they know they are presented to the best standard, in attire that will enhance their moves, appearance, and overall performance.

The psychological impact of a costume on performance is far more profound than simply making the dancer feel confident. The right costume mentally prepares the performer to enter their character. Every dance tells a story and technicalities on moves aside, the dancers also need to be able to act the part. Cheeky winks and smiles, sultry gazing looks, big smiles, and excitement, are all part of the acting that accompanies dance moves to create a truly magnificent performance. So, select your costume wisely and enjoy the experience!

If you’d like any further insight on the right costumes for the right dance genre, feel free to drop us a line and we’ll be happy to answer all your questions.