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Costume Studies

The Costume Studies program is unique in North America, and offers a four-year BA with Honours in Theatre (Costume Studies). The program has a strong historical focus on both theatre and museum work, and stresses applied skills, along with research and academic skills. The applied skills are taught using a conservatory approach, while the research and academic components are imparted through a more traditional university pathway. In this way, students achieve a well-rounded education, equally able to turn their hand to creating costumes from any historical period and for both genders, and to the kinds of problem solving which have come to be expected of graduates with a broad liberal arts education.

What is the Costume Studies program like?

Read a detailed description of what you'll learn


In the applied skills segments of the classes, students obtain a firm foundation in textile history, textile fabrications and embellishment, designer’s language, tailoring, aesthetics of historical and modern dress, pattern designing of garments from 1680 to the present, costume as sculpture, costume technology, and costume in performance. Not only do students learn to create clothing from any period in history using bespoke, one-of-a-kind couturier methods, but through the academic component within each class they also learn why and how clothing contributes to the formation of personal, community and cultural identities, for example. In addition, students gain a strong proficiency in costume history from antiquity to the present, exploring why people clothed themselves as they did, and paying particular attention to the social and cultural influences at play, along with class and gender differentiation. As part of Costume Studies, students now also take two classes at NSCAD University, which contribute positively to the diversity and strength of our program.

In addition to projects and assignments within individual classes, students have an opportunity to hone their applied and academic skills in costuming by working on costumes for the Fountain School's stage productions and in the creation of a major historical research project which is presented to the public at the end of the academic year. It is within these two components of the program – one grounded in the magic of theatre, one steeped in the sensuality of history – that the individual elements of the program are realized and appreciated. It is here that students are able to gauge public reaction to their work, which is a valuable part of their education experience.

Students come to Costume Studies from all across Canada and the USA. The program is selective in its choice of students who quickly form a special bond and make friends for life. Because of the closely-knit Costume Studies community, those moving away from home for their first year of university need never fear being lonely. Moreover, Costume Studies alumni have a far-reaching network throughout North America, and share a camaraderie not experienced by those in large university programs.

The Costume Studies studios have recently moved to the Coburg Professional Centre, 6389 Coburg Road, on the corner of Coburg and Oxford Streets. Several classes are taught in other buildings on the campus. Dalhousie has a beautiful campus, with its grassy, leafy quad surrounded by the original stone buildings constructed for the university in the early nineteenth century. The Fountain School of Performing Arts and the Dalhousie Art Gallery are housed in Dalhousie’s Arts Centre which is home to the public-performance Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, and to the 190-seat Sir James Dunn Theatre and the more intimate David MacMurray Studio.

The Honours BA in Theatre (Costume Studies) was offered for the first time in 2005, but has its foundations firmly rooted in the Costume Studies Program which was begun at Dalhousie in 1976. Thus, it is a mature program which, in addition to equipping students to find employment in theatres, film, television, and living history museums, among others, also enables them to pursue postgraduate education upon completion of the BA.


Structure of the programs

BA in Theatre with Honours (Costume Studies)

This description is based on the Academic Calendar, which is the official source for degree requirements and should be consulted for fuller details. If you began your degree before the current year, your requirements are based on those of the calendar of your first year, which may differ. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact our Academic Advisor.

The following lists only the required classes for the Costume Studies BA program. Students must also complete enough elective classes to fulfill Dalhousie's requirements for a BA Honours degree. Honours students must maintain at least a B+ average in all of their advanced Theatre classes.

Year 1
• PERF 1000.03 (Introduction to Performance Studies)
• PERF 1002.03 (Writing About Stage and Screen)
• THEA 1450X/Y.06 (Introduction to Costume Studies)
• TEXL 3320 (Fabrics Laboratory, taught at NSCAD); limited space but can be taken in later years
• TEXL 2100 (Introduction to Resist Dyeing, taught at NSCAD); limited space but can be taken in later years
Year 2
• THEA 2011.03 (Ancient and Medieval Theatre)
• THEA 2012.03 (Early Modern Theatre)
• THEA 2400X/Y.06 (Cave to Cafe: Costume and Identity from Antiquity to 1700)
• THEA 2406X/Y.06 (The Aesthetics of Contemporary Dress)
• THEA 2412.03 (Language of Design)
• THEA 2451X/Y.03 (Costume in Performance I)
Year 3
• THEA 3401X/Y.06 (Dress and Identity: King’s Court to Mass Culture, 1700-Present)
• THEA 3451X/Y.06 (Costume in Performance II)
• THEA 3454.03 (Body-Shaping Through Historical Tailoring II)
• THEA 3455.03 Body-Shaping Through Historical Tailoring I)
Year 4
• THEA 3501.03 (Modern Theatre 1: Realism and  Response)
• THEA 3502.03 (Modern Theatre 2: High Modernism)
• THEA 4406X/Y.06 (The Aesthetics of Historical Dress)
• THEA 4450.03 (Costume Technology)
• THEA 4452.03 (The Sculpture of Dress)

Students in Costume Studies complete the Honours Qualifying Project by successfully completing a 20-page research paper on an aspect of theatrical costume or historical dress, with a related applied skills project.

Students should contact the undergraduate advisor for information on registering for required classes that take place at NSCAD University.

Diploma in Costume Studies

The Diploma in Costume Studies is a 2-year version of the BA. It is intended for students who already have at least 2 years of university level education and some experience in working with costume.

This description is based on the Academic Calendar, which is the official source for degree requirements and should be consulted for fuller details. If you began your degree before the current year, your requirements are based on those of the calendar of your first year, which may differ. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact our Academic Advisor.

This description lists all classes required for the Diploma; no other classes will need to be taken.

Year 1

  • PERF 1000 (Introduction to Performance Studies)
  • PERF 1002 (Writing About Stage and Screen
    • THEA 1450X/Y.06 (Introduction to Costume Studies)
    • TEXL 3320 (Fabrics Laboratory, taught at NSCAD); limited space but can be taken in later years. 
    • TEXL 2100 (Introduction to Resist Dyeing, taught at NSCAD); limited space but can be taken in later years.
    • THEA 2400X/Y.06 (Cave to Cafe: Costume and Identity from Antiquity to 1700)
    • THEA 2406X/Y.06 (The Aesthetics of Contemporary Dress)
    • THEA 2412.03 (Language of Design)
    • THEA 2451X/Y.03 (Costume in Performance I)
    Year 2
    • THEA 3401X/Y.06 (Dress and Identity: King’s Court to Mass Culture, 1700-Present)
    • THEA 3451X/Y.06 (Costume in Performance II)
    • THEA 3454.03 (Body-Shaping Through Historical Tailoring II)
    • THEA 3455.03 Body-Shaping Through Historical Tailoring I)
    • THEA 4406X/Y.06 (The Aesthetics of Historical Dress)
    • THEA 4450.03 (Costume Technology)
    • THEA 4452.03 (The Sculpture of Dress)

Students should contact the undergraduate advisor in the Department of Theatre for information on registering for required classes that take place at NSCAD University.