As a woman in the western world, I am constantly bombarded by my culture's views of beauty and how they should be represented.
As a costumer in the western world, I constantly have to explain to actors and actresses their characters are a different kind of unique beauty.
In most mainstream magazines one sees in the check out counter in any store, there is always a headline about "Secrets to Beauty" or "How to Get Beautiful (fill in the blank)". People are constantly told and shown what society thinks is beautiful. Theatre often tells another tale. Many plays demonstrate non mainstream forms of beauty, or what society likes to call inner beauty.
The term inner beauty sometimes gets a bad wrap because many believe it implies the one being spoken of is "ugly". I disagree. There are many people who demonstrate nontraditional forms of beauty including this inner beauty who I would consider beautiful. They may not be a size 2 and have flowing brown locks which some in our society strangely hold as the hallmarks of beauty, but these people are beautiful.
It is always difficult when an actor/actress visits for their first fitting and is confused by what they see. We try to look our best on a daily basis and when what is looking back at you in the mirror is far from what is our best, we become disappointed. I have often been asked by some performers why they have been made so ugly. I have also had to remind some performers that the "glamour makeup and false eyelashes should be kept at home. We're doing Fiddler on the Roof, not Follies." I'm not pleased with them, but I understand they want to look their best on stage, and society deems that specific look will make them their most beautiful.
As a costumer, it falls to us to break the current "beauty culture" and replace it with many different examples. A buffet of beauty if you will. We see society's most recent version of beauty and say "we see your [internet trend here] and raise it a Georgian wig, bustle, pannier, mini skirt, dreadlocks, etc." All these things are beautiful.
Hopefully through our confirmation and explanation of the characters' unique beauty each actor and actress can bring that beauty to life. Clothing and design can look beautiful on their own, but there is no life in them until an actor climbs in and walks around. We do not dictate how the actors portray their characters, but we can help them to face the western ideals of beauty and come through to confidently breathe life into their roles.
Costuming and fashion do tend to run together. Fashion has often been blamed as contributing to our obsession with a specific trend of "beauty". It is no one industry's sole fault, but as customers we need to understand the current trends as well as the historic. We find beauty in a distressed garment, white hair, scarred face, perfectly tailored suit, or simple black pumps.
"Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."