SYMPOSIUM: Costume Sustainability

14 September 2023

costumes hanging


Artists and performers have a unique responsibility to use their creative talents not only to entertain but also inspire positive change in society. Sustainable fashion has gained significant momentum in recent years, and it is time for the performing arts to embrace this movement.

You can tell a lot about a character from their costume, and they help evoke emotions and bring characters to life. However, the creation of costumes comes at a cost to the environment and the people who make them. Due to the extraction of raw materials in the manufacturing process, traditional production methods contribute to the pollution, waste and depletion of natural resources.

Fast fashion is an issue. Workers work for a long time, trying to provide for their families. They sent remittances home to try and give them the best opportunities possible. However, this comes at a risk. Additionally to the poor conditions, workers do not get paid enough.

But imagine a future where we can combine our passion for the performing arts with a commitment to sustainable practices. A future where costumes are not only visually stunning but also environmentally friendly, ethically sourced, and durable. Such a future is within our grasp, and it is our duty to embrace it. We must prioritize the use of eco-friendly materials in costume design. Traditional fabrics, such as polyester and nylon, are derived from non-renewable resources and release harmful pollutants during production. Instead, we can explore alternatives like organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, or recycled materials. These options reduce our carbon footprint, conserve water, and minimize waste.


However, there is an ethical battle. It is hard to manage this situation, there is not much income made in this industry anymore. There will be sacrifices made as to where money is invested. Actors still need to be paid, and making costumes in a sustainable, ethical way costs a lot more.

Yet, we must reconsider our approach to costume construction. Fast fashion mentality has led to a culture of disposable clothing, with costumes discarded after just a few performances. We can create costumes that are built to last. This means using quality craftsmanship and durable stitching. In doing so, we reduce the demand for new costumes, minimize waste, and save valuable resources.

Moreover, we need to embrace upcycling. Instead of discarding costumes, we can repurpose them for future productions. This also adds a unique touch to performances, as repurposed costumes bring with them the stories and history of previous shows.

Aaliyah, NLCS Student

This article was taken from the latest edition of Spotlight which you can read here.


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