Definition of costume in US English:



  • 1A set of clothes in a style typical of a particular country or historical period.

    ‘authentic Elizabethan costumes’
    ‘children in national costume singing folk music’
    • ‘Elegant hostesses and male servers are clad in their national costumes as they welcome you.’
    • ‘Set in the 15th century court of the Duke of Mantua, the opera offers the cast and crew an opportunity to go the full hog with the lavish costumes of the period.’
    • ‘There was a large group of people, all dressed in what looked like sixteenth-century, aristocratic period costumes and wigs.’
    • ‘Many joined shopkeepers in wearing period costumes, including authentic make up and seamed stockings.’
    • ‘The fashions will range from period costumes to the latest silk saris while music will range from bhangra to jazz.’
    • ‘Children dressed in national costumes or their best clothes, waved flags and followed the marching bands through the streets of Oslo.’
    • ‘His family remembers him ‘drawing all the time’, copying historical costumes from books, as well as sketching original designs.’
    • ‘While high-rise buildings reflect the updated Modernism common to contemporary architects, house designs are stuck in historical costumes.’
    • ‘It showcases photography and costumes from the period.’
    • ‘Together with the colourful fifties style costumes - all beehive hairdos and swirly skirts - it perfectly evokes the mood of that era.’
    • ‘Acting troupes stage Old West gunfights every hour or two, and the stores sell period costumes and posters of Doc Holliday.’
    • ‘To give a feel for what it was like at the time, there will also be a display in the library of historical data and costumes of the period.’
    • ‘The Jidai Festival features a parade of men, women and children wearing costumes in styles that date back more than a thousand years.’
    • ‘He pillaged national costumes - ao-dais from Vietnam, for example - and re-interpreted them.’
    • ‘Queen Victoria's black mourning gown fetched £3,000 yesterday at an auction of the largest private collection of period costumes in Britain.’
    • ‘Items she was selling included antique furniture, books, jewellery, boxed puppets, period costumes, exotic plants and electrical goods.’
    • ‘In Mexico City, we saw people dressed in pre-Hispanic style costumes with elaborate headdresses dancing around offerings to the gods.’
    • ‘As we enter the Great Nicholas Hall, the opulent room is filled with thousands of aristocrats dancing the mazurka in gorgeous period costumes.’
    • ‘The third type of attire is the national costume.’
    • ‘One of the great values of an art such as this is the light it sheds upon the average taste of the period, such as costumes and architectural details.’
    outfit, ensemble, suit
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A set of clothes worn by an actor or other performer for a particular role or by someone attending a masquerade.
      ‘a nun's costume’
      • ‘At my daughter's middle school, only costumes depicting historical figures or characters from literature were acceptable.’
      • ‘The vivid memory of pundits chanting and amateur actors dressed in bright costumes performing on the open-air stage has stayed with me.’
      • ‘Filming for each episode took place in a different time period meaning costumes, props, building and even hairstyles were constantly being changed.’
      • ‘There is very little spectacle, beyond the sumptuous costumes, but the actors approach the verse with such attack and panache that a palpable energy is generated.’
      • ‘Several actors in costume assume the roles of different characters.’
      • ‘Throw some actors into some costumes, put them on sets, pick some scenes for them to act out and watch them go.’
      • ‘The most sensational news was that the conductor will wear a series of costumes, harmonizing in style with those of the characters in the opera.’
      • ‘The cast of eight changed roles and costumes constantly and the stage sets added to the visual spectacle.’
      • ‘Mind you, recent history is just a new version of the old: new stage, new actors, new costumes, new masks, same old story.’
      • ‘They are constantly depicted as staging scenes, donning costumes, and playing roles as the means of carrying out their schemes.’
      • ‘Who of us does not have many identities, roles, costumes, professions, positions and masks?’
      • ‘It is all about style - the costumes, interiors, and decor make quite a statement.’
      • ‘The event is being produced on a lavish scale with a mammoth three-tier stage, professionally erected sets, light and sound effects and detailed period costumes.’
      • ‘Apparent attention to historical detail in costumes and props can never overcome an inadequate script, lax direction, and indifferent acting.’
      • ‘They also had help from good designers, whose costumes brought the period and the characters to life.’
      • ‘It was more akin to ritual performance than film narrative, with the actors, costumes, lines, sets, and special effects chosen and designed to create a sense of a divine world rather than a human one.’
      • ‘Incredibly vibrant makeup, period costumes, lighting and set design offer the type of viewing pleasures we are not accustomed to in an era when the musical is all but dead in the cinema.’
      • ‘The disguises actually allow the power of the performer inside the ape costumes to break through, unlike the rigid masks from the original movies.’
      • ‘His lovely period costumes, mainly in shades of beige, gave the production the look of an old sepia photograph.’
      • ‘Dancers assemble a wardrobe of costumes to suit different performance needs.’
      garment, outfit, robe, uniform, attire, dress, garb, clothes, clothing, garments
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2British dated A set of clothes, especially a woman's ensemble, for a particular occasion or purpose; an outfit.
      • ‘The costumes range from ethnic outfits to more abstract modernist affairs that bring to mind Picasso's involvement with the Ballet Russe.’
      • ‘I can't possibly describe the elaborate nature of every woman's costume or outfit.’
      • ‘It also employs iconographic patterns of costume, architecture and landscapes to create a rendition of its political dialectic.’
      • ‘You can show them a picture of a costume or outfit in a magazine and within the day they'll recreate it for you.’
      • ‘The staff have made about 150 costumes for the occasion.’


[with object]
  • Dress (someone) in a particular set of clothes.

    ‘the dolls are elaborately costumed in fancy nineteenth-century dresses’
    • ‘The characters look modern, with their hairdos and glasses, but are costumed in fairy-tale outfits.’
    • ‘Characters are always costumed in harmony with their surroundings.’
    • ‘For the past several years, she has been costuming Shakespeare in the Park.’
    • ‘He was costumed in an unfortunately fitting pair of chinos and a pink button-down short sleeve shirt.’
    • ‘Many feature elaborately costumed models posing in carefully orchestrated, dramatically lit tableaux.’
    • ‘The dancers are costumed in extravagant gowns that they never remove: the show conveys a hint of the risqué but not more.’
    • ‘This goes double if I've costumed Lady Macbeth with a black leather miniskirt.’
    • ‘At times, the various choruses were costumed in one large swath of cloth.’
    • ‘He accentuates this difference by costuming the lovers as a pre-Raphaelite hero and heroine in contrast to the male and female witches in modern grey business suits.’
    • ‘Imagination is the theater of fiction, where words are costumed in meaning, and characters walk.’
    • ‘With just a few strokes of a loaded brush, he can indicate an elaborately costumed figure or the sinuous gestures of a tropical vine.’
    • ‘On one side of the page were a pair of ancient black and white group photos featuring costumed heroes from the 1940's.’
    • ‘Dramatically, he threw open the boxes to reveal two beautifully costumed dancers.’
    • ‘More than 100 costumed staff work at the fort, recreating the daily life of its former inhabitants.’
    • ‘There was only the feeling that, in the desire to be appropriate and respectful of history, the children had been costumed in it.’
    • ‘She did a great job costuming a film that has to wander between truth and magic over and over without ever calling attention to itself.’
    • ‘Ladies in costume played accordions on a little stage while other costumed folks danced.’
    • ‘Francis and the friars are costumed in simple gray habits (the chorus is dressed similarly).’
    • ‘During this time, thousands of glittering costumed celebrants revel and dance through the streets in a festive mood.’
    • ‘I could go on and on about costuming choices; the little helper elves wearing skulls on their faces were bizarre in the extreme.’
    equip, kit out, fit out, fit up, rig out, supply, issue, furnish with, provide, provision, stock, arm
    View synonyms


Early 18th century: from French, from Italian costume ‘custom, fashion, habit’, from Latin consuetudo (see custom).