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Theatre costume

Theatre costume

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Brocade, gold thread, artificial fur, artificial silk, zip fastener

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Trustees of the Ram Gopal Estate

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Ram Gopal was one of the most important dancers of the 20th century and certainly one of the most exotic theatre performers. He was a major figure in the revival of Indian dance and his spectacular theatrical presentations introduced it to audiences both in Asia and the West. He was proud of the authenticity of his music, costuming and style, shrewdly tailored his presentations to Western audiences, using modern theatrical techniques and spectacular presentation.
This costume is made in a Chinese yellow brocade woven with a floral design, which might seem stylistically odd for an Indian dance costume, but on stage the aim is not always to make an authentic reproduction, but to create an effect. It is not possible to identify the dance in which Gopal wore this costume, but he certainly wore it off stage, as a house robe

Physical description

Full-length house robe, with full length loose sleeves and stand-up collar, of Chinese yellow brocade, woven with a multi-coloured flower and foliage design edged in gold thread interspersed with gold thread Chinese motifs. The sleeves and hem are edged with artificial fur. The robe is lined with bright turquoise artificial silk and fastens down the front with a zip.

Materials and Techniques

Brocade, gold thread, artificial fur, artificial silk, zip fastener


Length: 148 cm Collar to hem, Width: 52 cm Across shoulders, Weight: 2 kg

Object history note

According to the donor, Ram Gopal wore this robe both on and off stage, although no character has been identified. He enjoyed bright colours in his clothing.

Historical context note

Ram Gopal (1917-2003) and Uday Shankar, were the most important Indian dancers of the 20th century. Gopal built on Shankar's pioneering revival of Indian dance and its introduction to audiences both in Asia and the West, taking it one stage further. He remained faithful to the pure discipline, technique and ethos of Indian classical. but he also started to open out a deeper appreciation of Indian classical dance traditions, shrewdly tailored to Western audiences, using modern theatrical techniques and spectacular presentation. He widened audiences experiences by including music and other folk and classical styles alongside his own pieces. Each item was preceded by an explanation, enabling audiences to understand and appreciate what was, at that time, a very esoteric art form.
For three decades he was a major world star, with a glamour and charisma equal to any other major dance star of the period. He not only raised public awareness of the richness of Indian dance but worked with dancers trained in other dance forms, like Alicia Markova, thus setting a precedent in Britain for the current thriving and creative South Asian dance scene, which mixes classical Indian dance with other contemporary and classical dance styles to create something uniquely itself.
Each of Gopal's costumes was hand made and tailored to his own design. He spent huge sums on his costumes, which could be insured for as much as £25,000. Some were made of cloth of gold, woven and tailored in India; when it became worn, it was sent back to India, melted down and rewoven.

Descriptive line

Robe worn by Ram Gopal.


Brocade; Gold thread; Fur fabric; Synthetic silk; Metal


Machine stitching


Theatre and Performance Collection

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