Sewing Pain: Using Costume To Bring The Clinical Body Forward


scenography, costume, body, performance, theatre

How to Cite

Malva, F. (2019). Sewing Pain: Using Costume To Bring The Clinical Body Forward. PARtake: The Journal of Performance As Research, 2(2).


This article looks at how memory of pain and physical change provoked by surgery can be translated into costume design (understood as an extension of the performer’s body in action). My main question is in what way the construction of a performer’s secondary skin—bringing her wounds outward and forward through the sculpting of fabric into form, texture and color—can mediate between performer and spectator and shape her extended body. By making the performer’s embodied knowledge visible through costume, costume is used to enlarge her capacity for expression.

Gesture and movement are central to a costume designer’s creative process. In the case of Anticorpos we were working also with actress Isabel Craveiro’s personal memories of body change. It was crucial that the design incorporated the performer’s verbal and sensual account of the multiple surgeries she had been subjected to over the course of 4 years. As she made these visible through action, I used them to inform the costume design which in turn allowed her to choose what to show and when. Fabric would at times constrain her body into a new shape, at other times expand her gestures.