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This lady from Minsk is wearing the national costume of Belarus

The word costume is used to describe a set of clothes that someone is wearing in order to say something about their personality. Some costumes are special to particular countries or areas. These are called “National Costumes”. They are worn because people are proud of their country. Actors in a theatre wear costumes because they are pretending to be a particular person in a play or ballet. Costumes can be worn for carnivals or parties. These are often called “Fancy Dress”.

National costume

National costume or regional costume is worn to show that the people come from a particular country or area. Many years ago, national costume was worn every day by many groups of people. Today there are not many areas where national costume is worn daily. Usually people dress up in national costume for special celebrations or for national dancing.

Some well known examples of national costume are the kilt which is worn by people in Scotland, and the kimono worn in Japan.

Theatrical costume

Costume used in yakshagana-a theatre art from India.

When actors perform in the theatre they always wear a costume. These are the special clothes they wear in order to pretend they are a particular character in the story which they act out. They might be pretending to be any kind of person: a beggar, king, a businessman, an ancient god etc. Some theatrical costumes are very “stylized”. That means they exaggerate some aspects of the character. Examples are Harlequin and Pantaloon in the Commedia dell'arte.

Carnivals and festivals

These people are dressed in costumes which are like the clothes worn in the Renaissance, about 500 years ago. They are taking part in the 2006 Bristol Renaissance Faire.

Costumes are worn at festivals such as Mardi Gras and Halloween. They are used for fancy dress parties. People who dress up in fancy dress may be pretending to be a character from a fairy tale or a movie. They may be ghosts, or vampires, or perhaps an Easter Bunny for Easter, or an Uncle Sam costume worn on the Independence day.

Children enjoy wearing costumes and pretending to be particular people or animals.

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