This research focuses on ballet costume as a spatial object evolving alongside changing concepts of space and body, particularly that of the ballerina, and on how it contributes to the development of ballet as an art form. By looking at the evolution of the tutu and the pointe shoe, which have become iconic identifications with the discipline of ballet itself, I will use the ballet Carbon Life (2012) designed by the fashion designer Gareth Pugh and choreographed by Wayne McGregor as my case study. Costume as the subject of enquiry of this research is the hand-made artefact carefully constructed for a specific body in a specific time and space. The space in question refers to two elements in particular: the costume pattern, a flat space that only has the two dimensions of the paper is drawn on; and the costume as a made-object, a folded, curved, twisted space that has three dimensions. I will examine the spatial relations within and between those two spaces, where the idea of movement is embedded within it. I will be mainly drawing from new materialism and from applied theories of topology to architecture and to art. The role of agency in the creative process of costume construction is discussed in relation not only to people but also to materials and things, where things are not inert matter awaiting for the craftsman to impose form upon them, instead they are active entities which interact with the maker. Topology is here used as a theoretical tool that recognises the role of the body as the defining element, the instigator of form changing through the act of moving. This research aims to develop a spatial theory of costume as a method of exploring ballet costume from my unique perspective of the costume supervisor.
Supervisors: Donatella Barbieri and Ian King