Archetypes of Costume: Meaning and Types

Like any other field, the same principles of archetyping apply to fashion. It manifests as a mashup of personality quirks, passions, and ideas. By examining these three factors, one may identify their archetype’s predictable values, design cues, and event textile choices. Due to the fact that this idea enables looking beyond the materiality of clothing and offers perception into cultural narratives. The archetype is a symbol for typical facets of human nature and serves as the foundation for broader cultural themes.

Meaning of Archetypes of Costume

A crucial aspect of life is the question of archetypal costume. Primary concepts such as the past, traditional values, legacy, and identity are concealed cultural elements hidden beneath the costume. An archetype costume is also not uniform. Similarly, the meaning of an archetype costume is unquestionably multifaceted. Such garments are viewed as unique traditions by some. The third characteristic of an archetype costume is its ability to convey itself through symbolic language while also disguising itself as an object of daily, everyday reality. A costume is considered archetypal if it conjures up links with the past, traditional values, heritage, and self that are linked to cultural heritage.

When a costume is removed from its natural setting and placed in a new context with other pictures, some of the meaning that the costume originally had remains. Instead, it has been improved with fresh material. The search for meanings is still ongoing, though. It is iconic in and of itself for a costume to vanish from daily life. In performance art, the archetypal image of the costumes is inverted, uprooted from reality, and enhanced at the same time.

Types of Archetype Costumes

Major types of archetype costumes are -

Draped costume

Draped costumes, such as the Tahitian pareo, Greek himation, and Egyptian schenti, are made by wrapping skin or material lengths around the torso. Clothing has been classified as “fitted” or “draped” throughout history. A “draped” garment, like a toga, doesn’t require sewing, whereas a “fitted” garment would be put together and worn close to the body. The toga is a piece of clothing that drapes and wraps around the body. In the realm of fashion today, the draping technique can be used to pattern both fitted and draped clothing. A clothing design is turned into a three-dimensional form by drapery. The Mesopotamians and Ancient Egyptians are credited with developing the art of drapery around 3500 BCE. The development of draped silhouettes like the chiton, peplos, chlamys, and himation led to the development of Greek fashion.

Slip-on Costume

With a hole for the head, a slip-on costume is fashioned from a single piece of skin or cloth. The Roman paenula and the mediaeval huque are two instances of this. The South American poncho, too. Women typically wear a slip under a dress or skirt. A complete slip falls from the shoulders, typically by way of thin straps, and stretches from the breast to the trendy skirt length. The waist is cinched by a half-slip. Half slips are sometimes referred to as petticoats. Women over forty may recall a more recent trend for camisoles with appliqued lace at the neckline or colourful, knit tank tops that served the same function. Most women are familiar with slips, which are thigh- to full-length undergarments used beneath translucent gowns. In the 1930s, a number of designers started selling slip dresses, especially after the flapper movement loosened stringent laws about wearing constricting corsets. The slip dress at the time often had a fitted breast and a dress with a lengthy skirt that closely resembled the undergarment of the time.

Closed-stitch Costume

A closed-stitch costume has armholes where the sleeves can be connected and is worn around the body. From this group emerged the Greek chiton, the Roman tunic, and the mediaeval chemise. The shoulders and neckline are often finished first when creating a closed-stitch costume. Both tunics with the shoulder on a fold and those with the shoulder seam closed fall under the category of “closed stitch.” In order to accommodate the sleeves, the centre of the garment was typically left open and woven in one piece. Closed-stitch costumes can feature short or long sleeves, or no sleeves at all. Some costumes with closed seams were woven from a single piece of fabric; the sleeves were added subsequently. In Rome, sleeveless costumes may appear to have short sleeves due to the enormous width of the garment. Greek closed-stitch costumes, however, had a large hole for the sleeves. Greek plays from ancient times always

Open-stitch Attire

Typically, an open-stitch costume is worn over layers of inner clothes. The European overcoat and the Asian caftan are two examples of this. Open-stitch costumes are designed to be worn open over your first layer of clothing for a slouchy, relaxed look. They are cut longer and looser. Sometimes, they have a belt or wrap that resembles a bathrobe and can be used to tighten the garment closed. In contrast to a slip-on costume, which you pull over your head, an open-stitched costume is shrugged over the shoulders and fastened up the front with buttons, zippers, snaps, or even worn open without any fasteners at all. Another fantastic feature of open-stitch attire is its classic appearance, which is always in style.

Sheath Costume

The general shape that a costume generates when it is worn on your body is known as a costume silhouette; in other words, it is the dress’s outline rather than all of its intricate features. The sheath costume is a silhouette meant to draw attention to your curves. Different silhouettes aim to emphasise or flatter different body shapes or parts. A sheath costume is a form-fitting, straight-cut garment that is frequently nipped at the waist without a waist seam. Sheath costumes are form-fitting from your bodice through your hips to your hem, just like the sheath of a sword. Sheath costumes frequently have slits to allow for movement because the style is so form-fitting. Ancient Egyptian art features ladies and gods dressed in form-fitting lengths of fabric, which is where the sheath costume got its start. Sheath costumes are now available in a wide range of varied cuts and lengths. Sheath costumes typically have sleeveless tops, but they can also have long, half, short, or cap sleeves.


In the modern world, clothing can be found in an overwhelming variety of permutations and combinations, from inners to outerwear, uppers to lowers, coordinates to co-wear ensembles. Throughout history, numerous regions of the world have evolved costumes with unique shapes, forms, colours, and textiles used in a variety of combinations. Some costumes played a crucial role in everyday life, while others were created to specifically serve the practical needs of large-scale conflicts that followed one another in size. The blending of one clothing genre’s characteristics with another only happened over time. As a result, the archetypal attire of various cultures from various historical periods may be seen. The relevance and meaning of each archetype vary. They merely differ in a few characteristics, so it is also possible to say that they are somehow comparable.

Updated on: 16-Dec-2022


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