From Costume Choice to Critical Review

When you write a critical review, it is the reader – and what you think they should expect to get from your review – that you should keep foremost in mind. After all, your review is not written purely for yourself, else there is no point in submitting it to someone else.


A critical review has four important elements. These do not necessarily appear in the order that they appear below.


1 All reviews should clearly describe the costume objects / designers / plot and mis-en-scene so that the reader is quickly familiarised in what it is you are reviewing. A photograph, or screen shot from moving image, will help to show what it is you are reviewing. A well-chosen visual will also help the reader in relation to the next two elements e.g. a screen shot from a film will have a descriptive function and, more importantly, connect with the way you are situating and analysing the object. The main objective here is to orientate the reader before moving on to the main elements below.


2 It is important that you situate the object via relevant contexts. This might include the original historical setting; how it fits into the costume designer’s oeuvre; how it sits in relation to other similar texts; its conceptual context. This is not an exhaustive list and there are many contexts relevant to specific object choices. By researching these you are broadening your vocabulary for being able to speak informatively about your choice.


3 Your analysis of the object can include the various contexts that you find it e.g. seeing a film on television is a different experience to seeing it at a multiplex cinema. Your critique of the object may include considering it in terms of affect and effect (affect relates to your emotional, bodily or intellectual response to the work while effect relates to how efficient the object is at producing intended results.) This element is the most fundamental element of any review since an informed evaluation of the object is anticipated by the reader. You should consider how polemical your reader will want you to be, or indeed how neutral. Being too rhetorical may make it hard for the reader to see beyond your bias and suggest just you are not well-informed; on the other hand, not passing any judgement may seem timid or bland. While it is up to you to decide the tone and style of delivery, a good review is one that seeks to find balance between the author’s voice and anticipating opposite views. Finally, the reader will likely be less interested in your view than the way you arrived at it.


4 Since this is academic work, it must be referenced, using Harvard formatting for the in-text references and bibliography. Information about the referencing your university uses can be located here: <> 

All illustrations should also be cited giving the title of the work, artist or production details, source, date of original e.g. Peter Capaldi screen test, BBC archives reproduced in Doctor Who magazine, August 2013