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Relay Column: Intention in Costume, or the Beloved Profession (Haruna Aikawa)

Haruna Aikawa
Haruna Aikawa

Born in 1994 in Minamichita town, Aichi prefecture. She works as a costume designer for various opera companies including the young opera company Novanta Quattro.

I received a baton from Yasuhiro Ito, whom I have been working with behind the scenes of opera for a while, and I am going to write an article. I am Haruna Aikawa.
As a costume designer, I mainly create costumes for opera stages.
In this article, I would like to discuss the theme of 'the effect of costumes in opera (and theatre)'.
Before I begin, considering that this series is themed on 'Fashion & IT', I want to briefly explain the difference between fashion and costumes, according to my understanding.
While fashion is a manifestation of one's self, expressing how we want to be seen by others, a costume only carries the intention of what we want to show to others.
However, that doesn’t imply that fashion and costumes are different things. A costume designer expresses their own opinion by imagining what the character would wear and how to show that to the audience. In this sense, it would be better to say that the costume designer imagines the character's ego and thinks about fashion.
With this in mind, I believe that costumes on stage, in opera (or on stage in general), have two effects. One of them is to visually support the audience's understanding of the stage.
Photo by Akinori Gomi
Photo by Akinori Gomi
In other words, it works as a symbol for the audience to identify the characters when you see that a particular character is wearing their particular costume.
Of course, not only to identify, but you can also express more detailed details such as status, occupation, and character's personality through costume.
Sometimes the design can exaggerate the personality.
For instance, the character 'Count,' often appearing in opera pieces, is usually dressed in a flashy jacket, while 'peasants' are made to appear in a dirty shirt and pants. It's true that appearance reflects a person.
Conversely, if there is no need to identify the characters, changing the costume for each character can potentially cause noise for the audience. The role of the costume is to provide details to help the audience enjoy the stage more without giving them unnecessary information.
The other effect is to help inflate the image of the role. Due to the change in the actor's behavior and small actions depending on the costume, a costume that matches the character image that the director wants to express is needed.
Photo by Akinori Gomi
Photo by Akinori Gomi
Therefore, I value communication with the director. I propose costume policies through hearings where they receive requests from the director for what they want to see, and brush up the design. It's not just about being fashionable and having good taste.
While the director's opinion is important, it is also important to believe in your own sensibility and expand your inspiration. Therefore, I try to observe the rehearsal place as much as possible.
Meeting the actors in person and knowing the atmosphere they create can give me new ideas that can change the material or silhouette of the costume I originally thought of by 180 degrees. That's why I am faithful to the desire of wanting a particular person to wear a particular costume. This can be said to be the expression of a costume designer's ego.
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