Stockholm university

Research project The Fabrication of Performance: Processes and Politics of Costume-Making in the 18th-Century

International postdoc in Theatre Studies by Petra Dotlačilová, PhD at the Department of Culture and Aesthetics of Stockholm University, in collaboration with Centre de musique baroque Versailles. The three-year project is supported by The Swedish Research Council. In this research project power and ideology in the 18th century theatre costumes is examined.

Project description

In the 18th century, theatre was an important tool for promoting both political and personal agendas, and it can be seen as a barometer of socio-political changes. While theatrical costumes have traditionally been seen as a mere decoration or, at best, as a dramaturgical tool, this project will promote them also as the fabric through which power and ideology were expressed. In order to do this, the investigation of their materiality as well as of their relation to people in necessary.

This research project focuses particularly on costume between 1748 and 1792 in Paris and Stockholm, which differed in their social, cultural and political development, and yet were connected. A complex network of people contributed to the costume-making: managers, playwrights, designers, suppliers, tailors, performers and other artists, but also royals, courtiers etc. Studying their involvement in the process and its embodiment in the clothing can therefore uncover individual agendas as well as larger power structures within the theatre.

In order to do this, the investigation of costumes' materiality as well as of their relation to people in necessary. The analysis builds on the approach of material culture studies, ascribing objects a particular role in human social expressions, connecting it to the theories of self-fashioning and fashioning the body politic from the perspective of costume studies.

As a tool to facilitate this research, a digital database will be created that will gather and interlink sources about the period’s costume from ten French and Swedish archives, enable finding similarities and differences among material and people. Since the technical infrastructure is crucial for this project, it will be conducted in collaboration with Centre de musique baroque Versailles, which has experience with and will provide the digital tools needed.

Project members

Project managers

Petra Dotlacilová


Department of Culture and Aesthetics
Petra Dotlacilová

More about this project

Conference in Paris 1 – 4 July, 2023

Visual Dramaturgies (1500–1800) Scenography, Costumes and Movement on Early Modern Stages
Centre de musique baroque de Versailles & Sorbonne Université (Théâtre Molière Sorbonne)

Call for papers