Transmedia Costume as ‘Sustainable’ Costume? Blending Physical and Virtual Bodily Materialities

  • Sofia Pantouvaki Aalto University


Combining tangible and digital means in costume design by merging live digital content with traditional costume materials opens new possibilities to create evolving performance dramaturgies and ‘unusual’ bodies. This article focuses on recent and ongoing explorations from the field of costume design for live and mediated performance that employ a combination of physical and virtual tools to design multi-layered characters and costumes. The study analyses experimental works that address questions of virtuality and materiality through the costumed body. Such works explore in practice ways in which the physical meets the virtual, and how art, body-oriented design, and performance-making merge and juxtapose with digital means through the medium of costume. The combination of analogue materials, digital technology and moving bodies can provide characters and costumes that can change and reshape over time, while also blending physical and virtual bodies. On a theoretical level, the article addresses the many dimensions and multiple ‘physicalities’ and ‘materialities’ that such costumes offer to the representation of human and non-/super-/post-human bodies and characters. The analysis suggests that the transmedia dimension embedded in the incorporation of physical and tangible materials with digital elements expands the materiality of the performing body and character and their interrelation through the(ir) costume. This creates a transmateriality resulting from the combination of materials, media and skin, that ‘traverses material substrates’ as expressed by Whitelaw (2012). The article aims to stimulate discussion on how digital tools may evoke new visions for costume design, and to propose that transmedia costume may carry a sustainability potential.