A costume designer wanted to be more than a provider of clothing for performers

A recent dissertation sheds light on the different stages in the career of Liisi Tandefelt and changes that have taken place in the profession.

Photo by Julia Weckman

Stage costumes play an important part in the overall aesthetics of a theatre performance. Joanna Weckman's dissertation Kun jonkun asian tekee, se pitää tehdä täydellisesti– Liisi Tandefelt pukusuunnittelijana 1958–1992 ('When you do something, do it to perfection' – Liisi Tandefelt as a costume designer 1958–1992) examines the practices, values and ideals in the work of costume designers through the career of actor and costume designer Liisi Tandefelt and her stories

Through Tandefelt, theatre appears as both a hierarchical workplace and a professional field that maintains authority relationships. From her point of view, a costume designer aims at a piece of art of a high artistic level that has been implemented in cooperation with the team working on the entire piece of work.

Through the publicity she has attracted, Tandefelt has raised awareness of the ideals and values related to costume design. Through her, costume design appears as a profession that creates conflicting emotions and has undergone strong periods of change, both positive and negative.

 

Dual vision expanded professional capacity

The change that emerged in the aesthetics of stage costume design in Finland in the 1960s was part of a transformation that took place internationally. The profession of costume designers slowly began to grow and become organised.

Tandefelt created an original style of her own, emphasising a focus on actor and material as well as craftsmanship. She also highlighted visual thinking that questioned earlier conventions. Along with the her dual vision of both an actress and a costume designer, Tandefelt expanded the professional capacity. She did not settle with the role of the costume designer as a mere provider of clothing for performers but also used role analysis to find interpretative solutions. Consequently, there were conflicts with actors and wardrobe supervisors as the profession of costume designers had not become established yet and, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, the position of a costume designer was somewhere between the artistic and implementing staff.

In the 1980s, new winds were blowing again in the aesthetics of costume design. Experiments with materials and treatment of material inspired many costume designers. People showed more interested in the profession and the field gradually became established.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, Tandefelt has concentrated on acting. Her most recent major work was the elderly Aliide Truu in the Film Puhdistus ('Purge'), for which she was granted a Jussi award for the best supporting actress in 2013.

 

Defence of doctoral dissertation

Joanna Weckman will defend her doctoral dissertation 'Kun jonkun asian tekee, se pitää tehdä täydellisesti' – Liisi Tandefelt pukusuunnittelijana 1958–1992 at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture on Thursday, 3 December 2015 at 12.00 in the Sampo Hall, Hämeentie 135 C, Helsinki. Professor Hanna Suutela from the School of Communication, Media and Theatre at the University of Tampere will act as opponent.

Orders for the dissertation can be placed with the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture’s online bookshop https://shop.aalto.fi/, inquiries [email protected], tel. +358 50 313 7086.

 

Further information:

Joanna Weckman

[email protected]

tel. +358 50 323 7777

 

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