As a costume designer, you would be responsible for the overall look of the clothes and costumes in theatre, film or television productions. As well as researching and designing costumes, you would often lead a team of people in the costume department. If you have knowledge of fashion and costume history, and want a creative job in film, TV or theatre, this could be ideal for you.
You will need to have excellent design skills, be organised and work to a budget. You’ll also need the ability to work under pressure to meet deadlines.
- study the script
- discuss ideas with the production designer, director, and make-up, set and lighting designers
- create costume ideas to fit the production’s design concept and budget
- research suitable costume styles, fabrics and designs
- sketch costume designs
- give instructions to costume makers, who would turn your sketches into real garments.
- creativity, imagination and problem solving ability
- excellent design skills
- good communication and 'people skills'
- leadership ability
- organisational skills
- budget awareness
- a good eye for detail
- the ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines
- good research skills, with a knowledge of costume history and modern fashion
- a flexible and adaptable attitude
- knowledge of the production process, including technical aspects such as lighting and sound.
Average salary (2013):
United Kingdom: Qualified costume designers could earn around £18,000 a year. With experience this can rise to £28,000 or more.
Qualifications and training required:
There are no set qualifications for entry into this job. Employers will expect you to have a high level of design skill and creative vision, as well as practical sewing skills. Most costume designers have an HND, degree or postgraduate qualification in costume design, fashion, theatre design or performing arts (production). They also have a lot of experience in the theatre, film or costume industry.
Rather than enter directly as a costume designer, it is more common to start your career as a costume assistant or wardrobe trainee. This will allow you to gain experience, knowledge and contacts in the industry before moving into a costume designer role.
Whatever your qualifications, you should find practical work experience and build a good portfolio or 'showreel' DVD of your design work to show to potential employers. Volunteering is a great way to get some practical experience and build up your skills. It’s also a good way to meet people and build up your network of contacts. You contacts may help you find paid work later on. You could get relevant experience through:
- student theatre and film productions
- amateur theatre
- working as a costume ‘daily’ or temporary helper on TV or film sets
- casual wardrobe work in theatres
- working for a theatrical costume hire company.
You could also gain practical garment production skills like pattern cutting, hand and machine sewing and dressmaking by completing a qualification. These include:
- Level 1 Certificate/Diploma in Fashion and Textiles
- Level 2 Award/Certificate in Fashion – in subjects like pattern cutting or sewing machine skills
- Level 2 Award in Fashion - Character Costume
- Level 2/3 Certificate in Theatre Support - Costume and Wardrobe.
You could also get into costume designing by working for a costumier who provides costumes for stage and screen. Some of the larger companies, like Angels, offer work experience and internship opportunities.