Welcome to FrockTalk, the web’s only costume-based movie review site. The goal of Frocktalk is to shed light on the magnificent artistry of costume design in motion pictures. Reviews on this site are written by working costume designers in the entertainment industry – people who know, better than anyone, what it takes to make it all happen. The focus of FrockTalk is not to comment on the big flashy costume dramas, but to call attention to the seemingly ordinary costume design work in film that silently and persuasively moves the audience toward understanding the characters. Costume design for motion pictures is an art form that deserves more recognition than it usually gets. Fancy, pretty costumes do not always equal effective, appropriate costumes. The art of the costume is in letting the audience know who the character is, before the actor even has a chance to open his mouth. Read on, and enjoy. ** CAUTION: ALL REVIEWS CONTAIN SPOILERS! **

Dear Kristin – Costumes vs. Wardrobe, Part II

Jack Sparrow reenactor.

Jack Sparrow reenactor.

Dear Kristin,


I just read the “costumes vs. wardrobe” post. And with a lot of interest, too. I used to post a lot on Indiana Jones sites, and I got in many arguments about this very subject. To me that (the Indiana Jones costume) is always a costume. It is as iconic and recognizable as wearing the Spiderman costume while shopping in the supermarket (which I have not done, by the way).


Kristin, people walk around in public wearing the complete Indiana Jones costume and the say that it is part of their wardrobe! Can I use both of the words in the same sentence? It doesn’t seem right. LOL.


I have all the gear, but I bought it because I got it from the original manufacturers and it had meaning to me in other ways. I only wear it all together on Halloween. Hence, for me, a costume.


I felt that the difference was that they were seeking out very specific aspects of a costume worn by a fictional character, and wearing the entire ensemble (including whip and gun belt sometimes!) in public. Then they say it is a part of them and their style. I think that due to its costume origins, it is still a costume.


The shirt, shoes, pants and jacket are pretty innocuous on their own. Even though the beat-up leather jacket is highly associated with Indiana Jones, few in the general public would be able to pick it out of a line-up. Throw a fedora on and the look becomes unmistakable, regardless of the jacket.  But when you wear a brown fedora by itself, you ALWAYS here the “Hey, Indy!” comments – even more since the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull came out.


So, what’s the difference between costume and wardrobe, if people wear the costume in their everyday life?




Rick Theriault





Dear Rick,


OK, when you are talking about fans and reenactors, it’s a totally different thing.  Some people, in their real lives, wear costumes every day, like the Peter Pan guy. http://pixyland.org/peterpan/


As you can see, this guy has taken it to a new level.  The Peter Pan costumes are part of his wardrobe.  Wardrobe, meaning: collection of clothing in a person’s closet from which they choose their daily outfits.


The problem is, when people start to wear costumes like this in their daily lives – whether it’s Peter Pan, or Jack Sparrow, or Indy Jones or whatever – they are (to a degree) sublimating their own individual identity.  If someone dresses as Indiana Jones every day, to the exclusion of all other clothing, they are effectively making an effort to live as Indy Jones; they are forsaking themselves and their own individuality. 


Personal clothing is an outward expression of an inward condition. Wearing costumes every day serves to erase the inward condition and replace it with a fantasy. 


If, however, you are required to wear a costume as part of your work (as in, a ride operator at Disneyland) it is still a costume, though in that context, it becomes more of a uniform, as it is not necessarily a matter of personal choice.  This is why, perhaps, all employees of Disneyland are referred to as “cast members”, whether they operate a ride, sell turkey legs, or pose for pictures, dressed as Minnie Mouse.


I hope this helps to answer your question.  In the context of fans/reenactors, costume means COSTUME (whether it’s Indiana Jones, Amidala, a civil war soldier, or Jack Sparrow).  Wardrobe means: collection of clothing used for daily dress.  If the person starts wearing costumes exclusively in their daily dress, those costumes become wardrobe.


If your cat starts dressing as Jack Sparrow on a daily basis, however, take him to the vet immediately.




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