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.
The term "costume" has two different connotations. One is the sense used here as a kind of imaginative make believe outfit. The word costume is also used to describe clothing or fashion in general. We are less sure about usage in other countries. Q French reader tells us that costume as a childs play garment is " habit ". Costume as a theatrical attire is " costume ". A boys or mans suit is also called a " costume ". An outfit is called an " ensemble ". A uniform is a " uniforme ".
Costume is a cultural visual of the people. It provides the vital clue to their customs, tastes, aesthetic temper-in other words, their way of living. The community decides as the what to wear and how to wear. It also decides about the distinctions to be made on the basis of sex and age, class and castes, religion and region, occasion and occupation. There is community sanction too on what part of the body to be covered, or what to be left bare, how to conceal and how to reveal. Costume is truly a kind of a dressing-table mirror of the time and the people. Mans thinking changes, so do the styles and dress. He imitates the old as well as adjusts to the new needs, tastes and circumstances. Foreign conquests, exotic ideas and new influences also bring in changes.
National costume or regional costume can express local (or exiled) identity and emphasise uniqueness. The wearing of costumes has become an important part of Mardi Gras and Halloween celebrations, and (to a lesser extent) people may also wear costumes in conjunction with other holiday celebrations, such as Christmas and Easter. Mardi Gras costumes are usually jesters and other fantasy characters, while Halloween costumes traditionally take the form of supernatural creatures such as ghosts, vampires, and angels. Christmas and Easter costumes typically portray mythical holiday characters, such as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, and costumes may serve to portray various other character themes during secular holidays, such as an Uncle Sam costume worn on the Independence day for example.
India has been known to have wonderful dresses and costumes. Though the majority of Indian women wear traditional costumes, the men in India can be found in more conventional western clothing. Tailored clothing is very common in India as womens blouses have to be made-to-fit. Clothing for both men and women has evolved and is keeping designers busy.
Costume like architecture, is one of the most visible signs of a civilization. What a person wears is often indicative of his to her personal and social identity, marital status, occupation and sometimes-even religion. The study of costume of India is a particularly difficult subject. Any such inquiry must take into account an area the size of a continent, which spans 16 ecological zones. It also encompasses a multitude of different peoples, their rich past, extending back at least 5,000 years, and the merging moving apart and meeting again of the many influences that have shaped their culture. The study of Indias royal costumes and textiles mirrors the countrys complex history and tradition. In the Indian context, the most difficult aspect of an historical study is the near absence of any surviving costume material from any period earlier than the 18th century.
The flavor of Indian costume is sensed through movement, drape and detail. The Indian woman, for example, is never still. Every movement allows her attire to be viewed afresh. She constantly re-arranges its drape over the head, the shoulders and around the ankles. The lifting of the head permits not only a glimpse of her kohled eyes and jeweled hair, but also the detail of the weave of the embroidery, color and pattern, of the fabric. The smallest detail, such as the fine edging of her dupatta or ghaghra, conceived of and revealed in a most enticing manner.
No less important is the association of the color of apparel with custom and ritual. Even today, many women in India continue to wear a specific color for each day of the week. Apart from the codes prescribed for religious observances, the change of seasons and rites of passage are also marked by a change in the choice of color. In Rajasthan, for instance, princesses and peasants alike celebrate the advent of Basant (spring) by wearing yellow.