Kitty Lord’s Symmetricals’: Embodying Desire

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


This paper will highlight the significant insights surviving costumes offer into the embodied experience of performers.
Focussing on a series of costumes worn by music hall variety artist Kitty Lord (1881-1972) – in particular a pair of pale pink padded tights (‘Symmetricals’) – it will consider how these garments enabled her to achieve the silhouette deemed desirable, and desired by, her audiences: Thereby ‘embodying’ their fantasies.
Through close engagement with her costumes – examining materials; construction and evidence of alteration, wear and damage - it will also demonstrate the information such objects preserve regarding the bod(ies) of the performers who once wore them.
As it will discuss, costumes played an integral role in the visual culture of productions both on and off the stage: illustrating the ‘archaeological’ knowledge and artistic skill of the designer; reaffirming the ‘professional persona’ – and status - of the performer; providing inspiration for fashionable dress, and circulating amongst audiences beyond the theatre in sketches, photographs and paintings.
Through its close analysis of Lord’s costuming practices, this paper will illustrate the wider significance of stage costumes – arguing that they are powerful garments which embody, both physically and visually, the values and preoccupations of the society for which they were created.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2021
EventEmbodied Spectatorship and Performance in Theatre and Visual Culture, 1780-1914 - Online
Duration: 14 Dec 202016 Dec 2020


ConferenceEmbodied Spectatorship and Performance in Theatre and Visual Culture, 1780-1914


  • Costume
  • Theatre
  • Music Hall
  • Kitty Lord
  • Performance
  • Material Culture


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