Duties and responsibilities
A costume designer is responsible for designing costumes for a film, stage production or television show. They create the outfits/costumes for characters, ensuring that they balance the scene with texture and color. The typical duties and a costume designer include:
- Studying the script of the production, film or show to understand the character and gather information on costume requirements
- Discussing ideas with the director, and production, make-up, lighting and set designers
- Conducting research into suitable costume styles and fabrics
- Sketching costume designs and showing them to the director or producer
- Creating costumes and ensuring they fit with the productions design concept and budget
- Giving specific instructions to costume makers, wardrobe supervisors and assistant
Generally speaking, most costume designers will have a bachelors degree in fashion design or merchandising that is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. They will then go on to gather experience in the costume design industry and will create a portfolio in this.
Skills and relevant work experience
Costume designers need to be creative and enjoy costume design and acting. They will need a strong portfolio that demonstrates their skills in this area. As well as this, costume designers will need skills such as:
- Teamwork skills, as costume designers need to work with actors, costume makers and the director so much have the ability to work well with others
- Artistic ability, as costume designers must be able to draw freehand in order to sketch their vision for every costume
- Communication skills, as costume designers will need to communicate instructions on how their costume is made with costume makers
- Ability to work well under pressure, as costume designers will need to work in a stressful environment and will need to meet tight deadlines
- Attention to detail, as costume designers will need to spot even the smallest of things (e.g., colour or texture) to ensure that the costume fits well with the production
Costume designers are likely to work long hours. Often, they will have a lot to do in a short space of time. They will have tight deadlines to work to and an unpredictable timeline as things won’t always go according to plan (e.g., actor or producer might not like costume, fabric may be out of stock).
According to salary.com, the median annual wage of a costume designer in the United States is $39,481. The lowest 10% earned less than $33,561 and the highest 10% earned over $46,329 per year.
Costume designers will start off with little control or autonomy. However, as they gather more experience they will have more responsibility and control over decisions. They can progress to work on bigger productions, with more famous actors! They may also become freelance/set up their own business, and then contract their services out to productions.