Ecstatic Spaces by
Tara Keens Douglas

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Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

Trinidadian architect Tara Keens Douglas presented a series of carnival costumes made from folded paper and twisted rope as part of her masters thesis.

Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

The Ecstatic Spaces collection is based on the process of transformation that masqueraders experience at a carnival.

Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

The four costumes are described as four operations: appropriation, exaggeration, submersion and sublimation.

Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

Keens Douglas says the costumes are "ephemeral architecture", adding: "They temporally distort the true nature of the body."

Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

Last year she completed her Master of Architecture thesis at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

Other fashion collections we've recently featured on Dezeen include dresses inspired by a Japanese novel and garments made from translucent lambskin.

Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

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Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

Here's some more information from the designer:


The work represented here is derived from the Waterloo Master of Architecture thesis ‘Ecstatic Spaces’ by Tara Keens-Douglas. Originally from Trinidad, Tara Keens-Douglas received her Master’s degree from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada in 2011. Her design work was selected for joint exhibition at the Cambridge Galleries in Ontario, Canada.

Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

Her thesis work studies the relationship of Trinidad’s carnival festival to personal architecture and the spaces they create and occupy. It challenges architectural representation through costume design that embodies the transformative experiences of the masquerader. The costumes are referred to as four operations of appropriation, exaggeration, submersion and sublimation. They are all tools of communication, a medium between body and space. Each transforms the body during carnival, through its disguise and extension. Together they produce an out of body experience.

Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

Trinidad’s Carnival was introduced by the French and adapted by Trinidad’s diverse population. Trinidadian’s reinvent and revitalize new forms within carnival: it is uniquely theirs. The participants revel in a festival that is not only excessive, but also temporal, occurring outside of ordinary life. In the festival, everything is upside down and inside out. This inversion is expressed in laughter.

Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

The people of Trinidad communicate in the playful and sensuous nature of the carnival costume. They mock the seriousness of the political world, rejecting state and class. A medium for humor, the costumes stand in for the bodies we do not have; ambivalently, they both degrade and regenerate. Costumed, Carnival embraces laughter and the grotesque, and gives the community identity.

Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

The chaos of parade, music, and dance fuses the body with the costume, transforming the individual, freeing him from inhibitions. The fusion of body and Carnival costume tells the untold story of the masquerader. The architecture of costume serves its wearers. Its significance lies in its affirmation of identity, while accommodating an emotional and sensuous experience.

Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

New techniques, shifts in the local economy, and changing concepts of culture, have in turn, redeveloped the Carnival costume. New designs – departures – stand out. Carnival pushes this very idea. Over the years, costumes challenge the officials and the onlookers. They are daring, controversial, and crude. It is the contemporary female costume in Carnival that most challenges convention now. It is why I chose the female form as my muse for my costume designs, using the ornament of costume to amplify the grotesque. I began with the costume titled ‘appropriation’, a dragon costume for the contemporary female Carnival. It mimics the aggressive nature of the dragon costume and merges it with the highly sexualized female body in carnival. I used abstract forms that evoked the dragon.

Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

Working with my hands, I mold and manipulate, pushing, pulling, creasing, and tearing to reach the desired volume. I compose based on a repetition of units. Three of these units make up a three-dimensional ‘spiked’ form. I approach its design with a sense of blind faith. Piece by piece, I assemble the modular ‘spike’ around the female form. I imagine what the series of spikes could represent, a twist in the dragon’s tail, the ridge on his back.

Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

I variously scaled ‘spikes’ to draw attention to areas of the body used to communicate, whether as threat device or sexual lure. The completed costume is an appropriation of the dragon, made to suit the carnival female and their changing culture. Both the costume and the process of making it were transformative.

Ecstatic Spaces by Tara Keens Douglas

The four costume designs are grotesque, making extreme exaggerations and unfathomable representations of the body, violating the idealized, classical body. The costumes are an ephemeral architecture – fragile and mobile. They temporally distort the true nature of the body, transforming the wearer, perhaps disclosing new natures. They make a new “facade”, or emphasize one already in play. They are, in a way, architecture of the persona.

  • Almy

    Really impressive work. But, as the title of the article says very well, this is fashion/design and not architecture. Unless we consider architecture as equal to fashion and design. Hopefully not.

  • Carmen

    Incredibly beautiful and inspiring! Keens Douglas' comment: "the costumes are 'ephemeral architecture', adding: 'They temporally distort the true nature of the body.'” just sums it up. Wonderful.

  • Jason

    “Architecture” can mean: a general term to describe buildings and other physical structures.

    Fantastic work. Wearable sculpture.