Ethics of homeless representation in costume design | Intellect Skip to content
Ethical Dramaturgies
  • ISSN: 1757-1979
  • E-ISSN: 1757-1987


, set in 1993 New York City, depicts the end of the world from the perspective of a twenty-something Puerto Rican white collar woman who loses her guardian angel. In approaching the costume design for this play I encountered a deeply concerning question: how can I design costumes for homeless characters without appropriating the physical appearance of people who experience homelessness in real life? Homeless characters are represented in many iconic plays in English language theatre, from to , and costume designers are frequently asked to address the ethics of representation with their design choices. In this short article I share my process in sourcing primary reference images for homeless characters without appropriating the exclusionary violence of the people who are considered ‘out of place’ in today’s New York City. I considered the ethics of different approaches to sourcing primary research that I have used in the past but ultimately chose to give up ‘authenticity’ for ethics. For the design I used reference images sourced from Japanese label N. Hoolywood’s , a fashion design that directly appropriates people who experience homelessness. My choice to frame homelessness through the lens of fashion served our production of only because of its design concept but leaves open the question of how to ethically design costumes for homeless characters in other plays.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): costume design; ethics; fashion; homelessness; José Rivera; Marisol
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