Costume designer

Costume Designer

The costume designer creates the actor’s costumes for film and TV. It’s their job to design the look of the characters that appear on the screen.

During prep, they work with all of the visual departments, including the director, to create the film’s costumes. When filming, they work with a team to get all actors and supporting artists ready on time. It’s a mixed job role both creative and technical, that requires a strong skill base. 

On this page, you can find a complete costume designer job description. We’ll also discuss the job role skills, education, pay, and work route options.

What is a Costume Designer?

The costume designer creates and hires costumes for a film. They work with a lot of the crew to decide the look of the film. Including the director, production designer, and hair and makeup. It’s an important film crew role that requires a lot of creative skills. 

Every filming day, the costume designer works with a team to get all actors ready for filming. They also need to take care of the clothes with repair and cleaning. Depending on the film’s genre, they will have a big say in the world building process, e.g. sci-fi, fantasy. 

What Does a Costume Designer Do?

The costume designer is the head of the wardrobe department. In this department, they lead a team of supervisors, tailors, designers, and assistants. Overall, the size of the team depends on the film’s budget. Their main task is to create the actor’s costumes following the director’s vision. For the director, costumes are one of the many tools they can use to tell a story.

The choice of costume conveys the character’s personality and emotional journey. Plus, the outfits you use say a lot about a character, not to mention the use of color theory.

For example, many films use color to determine a character’s intentions (the good guy might wear white and the bad guy black).     

Costume Designer Job Description

Movie costume designers begin their work in early pre-production. Firstly, they will read the script, make notes and complete a script breakdown. After that, they will meet with the director, production designer, and director of photography. How the film looks on screen is, by all means, a collaborative team effort. 

If the film takes place in a specific period, there will be a lot of research. They will create sketches, mood boards, and rough designs to show the director. The costume designer in film hires and manages their team. Lastly, there will be costume fittings and test shots before filming. 

Pre-production Duties

First, the costume designer will read the screenplay and make a complete script breakdown. Then they will sketch and design costume ideas. Throughout pre-production, they will attend many meetings with the director and creative crew members. Finally, the costume designer will make all the costumes with a team and make sure they fit the actors.

  • Create a script breakdown
  • Research and create costume ideas
  • Attend meetings with all departments
  • Design, make, and hire all costumes
  • Make sure outfits fit all actors

Production Duties

Once production starts, the costume designer is always on set. Their team helps to dress, clean and mend the costumes throughout the day. The costume designer will also keep track of the department budget. Lastly, the costume designer will return all hired costumes in good condition.

  • Stays on set to watch over costumes
  • Manages the costume department
  • Mends, cleans, and repairs costumes if needed 
  • Makes sure to return any hired costume

Education and Skills

The costume designer is the head of the costume department. You don’t need a degree to work in this department, but you will need a range of textile skills. There are lots of courses and workshops available that can teach you fashion design, illustration, and filmmaking.

Many people start their careers as costume assistants. On large sets, there are huge teams of assistants helping to dress, clean and mend clothes for production. A beginner might help to dress supporting artists, iron clothes, and repair outfits. 

You will need various skills to succeed in this role. This role requires you to know how to use a sewing machine and work with textiles. In addition, like with all positions, they must learn to network and make contacts in the industry.

  • Full filmmaking knowledge
  • Research and drawing skills 
  • Sewing, mending, styling 
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Organization and planning

Costume Designer Career Route

The costume designer can work in film, TV, and theatre. The typical career path is to start at the bottom of the ladder and work up to high job roles. To begin with, the entry-level job roles in the costume department are runner and costume assistant. In addition, you can also find an apprenticeship or trainee placement.

You might need work experience before you find a paid position. Many filmmakers begin their careers by working on student and low-budget films. By doing this you will build up your skill base and gain beginner industry contacts.

Additionally, you must build a portfolio to show off your skills. You can do this by creating your designs with software like Adobe Illustrator or hand drawn sketches. However, these days people use an online website to show off their work.

Costume Designer Salary

The day rate of all film industry crew members depends on the project type and budget. So, you will get less pay for a low-budget indie film than for a high-end TV project. If you look at our crew rates, you can see how the rates change depending on budget and job role. Of course, your pay will also take into account your personal experience. 

The costume designer is a head of department role and you will get paid more on union projects. The costume designer’s guild recommends a starting day rate of $437. So, for the average 6-day work week, you will make at least $2,662. However, you can still ask for more based on the job and your experience.

Finding Work

At the start of your career, you can find entry-level jobs on film job sites. The entry-level job roles for a costume designer are costume assistant or runner. You might also find work placements as a costume trainee or shadowing a costume assistant.

Another route is to start working on low-budget film sets within the role. That way, you can learn the job role through hands on practice and work up to higher budgets. Even so, you must learn all elements of the job role, sewing, designing, and researching. 

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Entertainment CareersScreenSkills Jobs
Entertainment Careers advertises jobs in the film and TV industry across the US. It specializes in work for production companies in the Los Angeles region. Their website makes it easy to narrow down your search by job type, experience level, media sector, and location.ScreenSkills is a charity that provides industry news, training, and resources for the UK film industry. As well as, having regular training opportunities they also now have a jobs board for professional production positions.

Wrapping Up

To round up, the costume designer is a hands on, creative job role. To do well in this role you will need to learn a variety of skills, including fashion design and sewing. Because of the learning curve, many people start their careers as assistants to costume designers.

This career is a great match for people interested in fashion, history, design, and storytelling. We hope this guide has helped you learn more about this job role. Keep in mind, like all head of departments, it will take time to get into this job role. But once you have the skills, you will find you are indispensable to the film industry.

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