Costumed performers from the 2006 Bristol Renaissance Faire.
Yarkand ladies' summer fashions. 1870s

The term costume can refer to wardrobe and dress in general, or to the distinctive style of dress of a particular people, class, or period. Costume may also refer to the artistic arrangement of accessories in a picture, statue, poem, or play, appropriate to the time, place, or other circumstances represented or described, or to a particular style of clothing worn to portray the wearer as a character or type of character other than their regular persona at a social event such as a masquerade, a fancy dress party or in an artistic theatrical performance.


Major categories

Theatrical costume

Costume used in yakshagana-a theater art from India.

One of the more prominent places people see costumes is in theatre, film and on television. In combination with other aspects, theatrical costumes can help actors portray characters' age, gender role, profession, social class, personality, ethnicity, and even information about the historical period/era, geographic location and time of day, as well as the season or weather of the theatrical performance. Often, stylized theatrical costumes can exaggerate some aspect of a character; for example Harlequin and Pantaloon in the Commedia dell'arte.

National costume

National costume or regional costume expresses local (or exiled) identity and emphasises a culture's unique attributes. It is often a source of national pride. Examples of such are a Scotsman in a kilt or a Japanese person in a kimono.

Holidays and festivals

A traditional, European-style Santa suit

The wearing of costumes has become an important part of such holidays and festivals as Mardi Gras and Halloween (see Halloween costume for more information), and (to a lesser extent) people may also wear costumes in conjunction with other holidays, such as Christmas and Easter. Mardi Gras costumes usually take the form of jesters and other fantasy characters, while Halloween costumes traditionally take the form of supernatural creatures such as ghosts, vampires, pop culture icons and angels. Christmas and Easter costumes typically portray mythical characters such as Santa Claus (by donning a santa suit and beard) or the Easter Bunny by putting on an animal costume. Costumes may serve to portray various other characters during secular holidays, such as an Uncle Sam costume worn on the Independence day for example.

In Judaism, a common practice is to dress up on Purim. The Jews celebrate the change of their destiny. They were delivered from being the victims of an evil decree against them and were instead allowed by the King to destroy their enemies. A quote from the Book of Esther, which says: "On the contrary" (hebrew: ונהפוך הוא ) is the reason that wearing a costume has become so popular among the Jews on this holiday.


Costumes also serve as an avenue for children to explore and roleplay. Children can dress up in various forms; for example characters from history or fiction like pirates, princesses or cowboys, common jobs like nurses or police officers, or animals such as those seen in zoos or farms.

Children's Costumes Photo Gallery


Another very popular situation where costumes are employed are for sporting events, where people dressed as their team's representative mascot help the club or team rally round their team's cause. Animal costumes which are visually very similar to mascot costumes are also popular among the members of the furry fandom where they are referred to as fursuits.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • costume — [ kɔstym ] n. m. • 1747; autre sens 1662; it. costume « coutume » 1 ♦ Vêtement habituel particulier à un pays, une époque, une condition. ⇒ accoutrement, vx équipage, habillement, habit, vêtement. Costumes nationaux. Costume régional porté à l… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • costumé — costume [ kɔstym ] n. m. • 1747; autre sens 1662; it. costume « coutume » 1 ♦ Vêtement habituel particulier à un pays, une époque, une condition. ⇒ accoutrement, vx équipage, habillement, habit, vêtement. Costumes nationaux. Costume régional… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Costume — Cos tume (k?s t?m or k?s t?m ), n. [F. costume, It. costume custom, dress, fr. L. consuetumen (not found), for consuetudo custom. See {Custom}, and cf. {Consuetude}.] 1. Dress in general; esp., the distinctive style of dress of a people, class,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • costumé — costumé, ée (ko stu mé, mée) part. passé. Costumé à la façon antique.    Bal costumé, bal où les danseurs, danseuses et assistants, ou la plupart, portent des travestissements qui reproduisent plus ou moins fidèlement des costumes de pays, de… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • costume — s.m. [lat. volgare costumen ]. 1. a. [modo consueto di agire, di pensare, di comportarsi di una persona: non è mio c. mentire ; persona di strani c. ] ▶◀ abitudine, consuetudine, maniera, pratica, regola, stile. b. [atteggiamento etico: mal c. ;… …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • costume — [käs′to͞om΄, käs′tyo͞om΄] n. [18th c. art term < Fr < It < L consuetudo,CUSTOM] 1. a) the style of dress, including accessories, typical of a certain country, period, profession, etc. b) a set of clothes in such a style, as worn in a… …   English World dictionary

  • costume — ► NOUN 1) a set of clothes in a style typical of a particular country or historical period. 2) a set of clothes worn by an actor or performer for a role. 3) Brit. dated a woman s matching jacket and skirt. ► VERB ▪ dress in a costume. ORIGIN… …   English terms dictionary

  • costume — index clothe Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • costume — s. m. 1. Prática habitual, modo de proceder. = HÁBITO 2.  [Direito] Perguntas que devem fazer se a todas as testemunhas sobre o parentesco, amizade ou ódio que possam ter a alguma das partes. 3. Trajo; moda. • costumes s. m. pl. 4. Procedimento,… …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • costume — [n] set of clothes apparel, attire, clothing, dress, duds*, ensemble, fashion, garb, getup*, guise, livery, mode, outfit, rig*, robes*, style, suit, uniform, wardrobe; concept 451 …   New thesaurus

  • Costume — Un costume traditionnel norvégien Le costume (ou la tenue) est un ensemble de vêtements et d accessoires assortis et fait pour être portés ensemble. Il peut être composé librement ou être imposé, comme dans le cas des vêtements professionnels. Le …   Wikipédia en Français

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