Costumes in Hindi cinema are traditionally cared for on set by workers known as dressmen. Dressmen have always employed informal methods and techniques in their work, and they now find their skills, knowledge, as well as their privilege of maleness in a male-dominated industry being eroded as Hindi filmmaking is transforming itself aesthetically and organizationally in response to global forces. Interviews with dressmen with careers spanning nearly fifty years form the basis of a description of dressmen's discourses and practices. Dressman practices, in particular, are revealed to contribute in important ways to the appearance and meaning of costume in film. De-skilling of the dressman's job coincides with new organizational structures and the entry of assistant directors, many of them female, who claim superior knowledge of filmmaking techniques and of the fashion world that informs film costume. Studying film workers like dressmen informs our understanding of urban skilled workers in the Indian context, and provides a corrective to the exclusively semiotic approach to costume analysis that has prevailed to date.


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pp. 581-609
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