Tag Archives: costumes

Bleeding on a costume is good luck for the actor

Interview and Context

CS: It’s just a saying. And I think its partially because there’s nothing you can do about it, and it’s a way of sort of justifying and making yourself feeling better that one: you may have hurt yourself, and two: that you may have, like, made a stain on a costume that you may or may not be able to remove as well as you would like?
Interviewer: So as far as you know its less of a superstition and more of a justification
CS: Ya. Hahaha.
Interviewer: When’s the first time you heard that?
CS: Probably the first time that I , probably when I was in college and… I don’t think, I don’t think I ever heard that outside of theater. I think I heard of it mostly, you know, like— it’s something I thought about, like, I’m sure I must have poked myself and may have bled on a garment when I was learning to sew like in home ec, as a teenager, but I don’t think that I heard of it more that, at a costume shop, that it’s good luck for the actor, y’know.
Interviewer: Good luck for the actor, bad luck for you.
CS: Right? Ya.
Interviewer: Any idea how long it’s been around? I know you said you he
HS: I have a feeling that this one is, a long time. I just have that feeling.
CS: Because people have been probably bleeding on costumes since costumes have been made.

Analysis

The first time the informant told me this proverb was when another worker poked themself with a needle while mending a costume. I later asked the informant to repeat the saying and their explanation for the sake of recording it.
This is an example of a proverb. I found it interesting that it is said so sarcastically, rather than earnestly. However, in other versions*, it is not necessarily sarcastic or bitter. Seeing that it isn’t a saying unique to making theater costumes—or unique to a bitter saying—the attitude with which a participant in this folklore says the proverb changes the intention of the proverb. The attitude also indicates that the saying is useful despite differing levels of belief in superstitions: the reciter may believe whole-heartedly that their drop of blood (it must be accidental) will give the actor a better performance. Or the reciter may not believe the proverb, but say it anyway, as participating in the tradition or just in case it is true.

*http://folklore.usc.edu/good-luck-to-bleed-on-designs-in-fashion-industry/

Christmas Costumes

Context: Subject of interview is a middle-aged man and father of three. The family in question celebrates Christmas. 

Text:

“Every year, on Christmas eve, my daughter and I go out and find costumes so that the family can participate in a night of celebration. It could be Christmas related, it could be funny, but it needs to be festive. It’s always a surprise at some point during christmas dinner we will sneak out and put the costumes on and surprise the family” 

Analysis:

The following is an example of folklore based in a familial tradition, one that can be passed down from generation to generation. Additionally, the tradition is tied directly with a holiday, a common trait for familial pieces of folklore. This tradition in particular is one that seems to make sense for the subject’s situation and their relationship to Christmas. Context was given that the subject celebrates Christmas, but not in the religious sense. This seems like a very fun and celebratory alternative to partaking in the religious side of the holiday.  

Appropriate Apparel for Ballroom Dance Competitions

“When we go to competitions, everybody dresses different ways. There’s this expectation that all the girls are going to be in dresses, and boys are going to be in suit jackets and/or, like, pants and other things (He gestures toward his torso, then his legs, as he names the items of clothing). This is a trend that we’re not happy about because people should be able to wear what they want when doing things, but ballroom is such a stereotyped endeavor that you tend to conform to these norms, and it is expected that you conform to particular gender norms. One of the gender norms that we have to go for is that the men all have their hair slicked back (He makes a hand motion above his head, miming slicking back his hair). There is, like, one hairstyle for men. If you have very nice hair that you already know how to style, like a part, and it’s a little bit high on top anyway, then you can leave it exactly how it is. Otherwise, you gel your hair directly backwards. I have seen some people recently try to do a part, but I’m not wild about that. It should be as directly back as you go, and this is stuff that I got from the University of Minnesota ballroom dance team as well. Everybody’s got the same hair. Some teams take this a step further, and all the men are wearing the exact same outfit. The BYU team, the Bringham team, all of their leads look exactly the same. They are cookie cutter copies of each other. They are all wearing the same black tie, black best, white shirt, black pants, black shoes, same haircut, same everything. They’re very uniform, and it’s terrifying because when they dance the same, it looks very scary. While the boys are expected to be cookie-cutter versions of themselves, the girls, from my perspective, are expected to wear different things to be flashy and show off. The standard is for the boys to look as boring as possible and the girls to look as exciting as possible: a dress that flows (he stretched out the work, gets louder, and starts making big gestures with his hands), and does a thing (he flutters his hand, mimicking the way skirts twirl when dancers turn), that is colored. It’s nice when boys’ outfits can match their ladies’ dresses, but it is usually done by maybe a matching a shirt. It’s becoming more common these days, often by matching a tie or sometimes socks, but never the pants. Never does the whole outfit really compliment her. It goes with the idea in the ballroom world that it’s more about showing off your partner as a lead than about doing the things yourself. That isn’t always true when you become a professional dancer, but mostly it’s about ‘Look at my partner! Isn’t she great? Isn’t she sexy?’”

Background Information and Context:

The traditional dress and gender roles that the informant shares here are based on his attendance at collegiate dancesport competitions as well as some observations of professional dancesport, which collegiate dancesport mimics in many ways. What he described is how almost all members of the SC Ballroom and Latin Dance Team dress at competitions. The informant has been a competitive ballroom dancer in the collegiate circuit for about six years and has taken on a sort of mentor role on the SC Ballroom and Latin Dance Team, frequently giving new members advice on what judges expect of them at competitions. He began talking about the gendered differences in dancesport apparel when prompted to talk about competition costumes, which look unlike what most people would see in regular fashion.

Collector’s Notes:

Gender norms exist in every culture and aspect of society, but the strange world of dancesport (competitive ballroom dancing) often seems backwards, and not just because the dances in which we compete are very old. Even though it is appropriate for women to wear pants in everyday settings in America, even in more formal situations like business meetings or award shows, the sight of a woman in pants on a competitive dancefloor would be strange, even unwanted. The gendered nature of dancesport seems to be ingrained in the concept of a male lead and a female follow, mirroring (somewhat declining) societal expectations of male authority and female subservience. I found it interesting that this inequality is approached a slightly different way by informant, who seems to regret the absence of clothing choices for males and the nature of attention-grabbing turns and tricks, which mostly place the female at the center of attention. Still, the nature of this attention is questionable, as one could argue that it is not beneficial that the roles require the “sexy” partner to be shown off by her male partner.

Nurses in Suits on Halloween

My mother and informant, KK, meets up with her friends from high school about once a month.  They call themselves “club.”  I was home when KK hosted “club” and listened to her and her friends, several of whom are nurses, swap stories about their shifts when working in a hospital.

On Halloween my informant, KK and her friend, both nurses, dressed up in suits when working the night shift at the hospital in the early 1990s.  Arthur Anderson Consulting had recently come into the hospital and “told the nurses how they should do their job.” From KK’s tone of voice it was clear that she and her friend thought it absurd that a consulting group could come in and tell the staff how to do their job when they had no medical education.

The patients that KK and her friend visited found their costumes amusing.  The administration and staff of the hospital did not really react because it was not too busy at night.

So it seems as if my informant and her friend were using Halloween as an excuse to mock the consultants and hospital administration for hiring Arthur Anderson.  This is typical with Halloween celebrations.  At Halloween, it is appropriate to act differently than one would in normal life.  KK and her friend became what they are not.  In doing so, they poked fun at the Arthur Anderson employees who, ironically, became someone they are not when they consulted a hospital without medical know-how.

 

Pust

Pust is a pagan holiday that is celebrated in Slovenia in the beginning of every February. Designed to scare away the winter cold, this festival is mounted to celebrate the coming of Spring. Young men are the main arbiters of some of the festival’s central traditions, as they don terrifying masks and large suits made of animal furs. Most of the masks represent different characters that recur in Slovenian folklore which are generally localized to particular regions, the principle character being called the “kurent.” [the informant could not offer any more examples of such characters and what they represent.] These costumes are paired with belts from which hang many cowbells, and the young men enter the center of the village in a procession of aggressive dancing and grunting. The idea behind this is to scare away the dark, evil spirits of Winter, in the hopes that Spring will bring good tidings and a prosperous year of harvest. Pust usually takes place in the rural villages of northern Slovenia, the Gorenjska region especially.

More modern exhibitions of this festival in different parts of Slovenia allow all children to participate and go door to door begging for candy and money, much like at Halloween in other parts of the world.

Born and raised in former Yugoslavia, what is now known as Slovenia, the informant was continuously exposed to folk traditions that originated and permeated this region. The festival is a kind of protective ritual to ensure a short winter. It is riddle with celebratory symbols of dominance and fertility. For example, the suits are made from the pelts of animals these young men had killed, demonstrating their capability of providing for the well-being of the village.