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Indra’s Daughter and the modernist body: Costume and the fashioned body as scenography in A Dream Play (1915–18).

Journal article
Authors Viveka Kjellmer
Published in Studies in Costume & Performance
Volume 4
Issue 2
Pages 179-191
ISSN 20524013
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Cultural Sciences
Pages 179-191
Language en
Keywords costume, fashion sketch, scenography, modernist body, Knut Ström, A Dream Play
Subject categories Performing Art Studies, Art History, Design, Performing Arts, Arts


In this article I analyse Swedish scenographer Knut Ström’s costume and set design sketches, made in Germany in 1915–18, for his production of August Strindberg’s A Dream Play. I focus on the costume sketches for the main character, Indra’s daughter, and discuss how the act of costuming is more than just dressing up a body onstage; it also produces the body and makes it meaningful in relation to the scenographic whole. The modernist female body could, among other aspects, be understood as a body with agency, a clothed body in motion where clothing, staging and patterns of movement all helped create a new, slim silhouette. This view of the female fashioned body, I argue, leaves an imprint on Knut Ström’s visual thinking in the sketch material where Indra’s Daughter emerges in corsetless, straight dresses. Ström’s staging of Indra’s daughter as a modernist woman not only anchors her in the process of social change; it also underlines the ‘othering’ qualities of costume and serves to distinguish her as an outsider in the play. As pointed out by Barbieri, costume can communicate with the spectators both metaphorically and viscerally. In the case of Indra’s Daughter, Ström could be said to use the modernist costuming of Indra’s Daughter metaphorically to set her apart from the other actors in more traditional costumes, and physically, with colours and shapes of her costumes that visibly stand out from the scenographic landscape. Ström’s creative work with the sketches for A Dream Play shows how he understood the power of the costumed body as a vital part of the scenographic whole.

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