Costume in Early Finnish Film (1920-1931)

Elena Trencheva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In the 1920s, at a time of strong national upheaval for the Finnish nation, which
was recovering from a severe civil war and ages of foreign domination, Finnish
silent cinema (1921–31) had a great commercial success domestically. Finnish
films were working for the reconstruction of the Finnish national identity by
looking backward to an idealized past of pre-war times and featuring traditional
Finnish values associated with human’s close relationship with the country land.
A preferred film genre was the rural melodrama, in which the bucolic culture and way of life were opposed to the urban life. The represented character traits and practices observed in rural Finland became valued characteristics of national identity reflecting the national culture. Those characteristics were conveyed through a specific way of costuming on-screen. This article is a first endeavour to examine the diversity of costume in the early years of the Finnish national cinema development. It presents costume in Early Finnish film (1921–31) as a narrative tool for representing national identity and outlines the inherent features and recurrent practices of costuming. The study argues that investigating cinematic costume in early periods of a national film history (given that Finland declared its independence in 1917) cannot be separated from the era’s aesthetics, assumptions and theoretical discourse, or from its social, political and cultural specifics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-60
JournalStudies in Costume and Performance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • costume
  • early Finnish film
  • representation
  • national identity
  • historical realism
  • Finnishness

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