Costume dates back to the ancient world and is an essential component of the performing arts and design discipline, including in live performance (theatre, dance, opera, musical theatre, circus) and in mediated storytelling (film, television, animation and digital media). While costume is generally designed for performance, thereby separating it from dress or fashion, all have a symbiotic and intertwined relationship within cultures of modernism and post-modernism.
From 2014–2018, UTS Professor Peter McNeil became the Chief Investigator of the Costume Methodologies, a research project led by Dr Sofia Pantouvaki at Aalto University and funded by the Academy of Finland Distinguished Professor scheme. Aalto University is home to a leading European design program with a focus on humanistic and human-centred methodologies.
McNeil was selected by Aalto due to the innovative and inter-disciplinary nature of his design history scholarship. This includes his international leadership in the relatively new field of Fashion Studies, which examines the dressed body in multi-faceted perspectives. McNeil’s publication track record (200 items), experience in grant management (previous HERA EU 1 million euro scheme) and strong record as a PhD supervisor in Australia and Sweden (20+ completions; finalist, UTS Research Awards) contributed to the application’s success.
The Distinguished Professor award is normally bestowed on world-leading bench scientists or sociologists, and occasionally humanities researchers. McNeil was the first design research recipient and his award resulted in extensive research collaboration and mobility between Australia and Finland. UTS Fashion staff Alyssa Choat, Dr Emily Brayshaw and UTS Honorary Industry Fellow Dr Alexandra Murray-Leslie participated in the project in Finland. Finnish visitors to Australia included Maarit Kalmakuri and Prof S Pantouvaki.
McNeil was simultaneously commissioned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to work on the largest exhibition of men’s fashion ever assembled. Called Reigning Men, the exhibition travelled to St Louis and Sydney. McNeil also completed his role within a Leverhulme Trust Network Grant, Luxury and the Manipulation of Desire: Historical Perspectives for Contemporary Debates, led by Giorgio Riello, Professor of Global History and a former Director of the Institute of Advanced Study at University of Warwick. Cultural history at Warwick includes leading experts in the fields of global and material culture and cultures of innovation, areas that are reshaping design history and design studies. McNeil has co-authored three works with Giorgio Riello, including Luxury: A Rich History – Oxford University Press, 2016 (in Polish, 2017).
- From Macaronis to Mohawks – The Conversation
- Fashion Writing and Criticism – Bloomsbury Press
- Fashion Journalism – History, Theory and Practice – Bloomsbury Press
- Doffing a Tricorne: Pretty Gentlemen: Macaroni Men and the Eighteenth-Century Fashion World – Yale University Press
- Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear 1715-2015 – Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion
‘Costume for Performance’, an edited book with (with S. Pantouvaki), is currently in press with Bloomsbury. UTS research in fields ranging from the ‘macaroni masquerade’ to fashion and new media forms continues.