Costume designer

Costume designers are responsible for the overall look of the clothes and costumes in theatre, film or television productions.

Average salary (a year)

£13,000 Starter

to

£35,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

40 to 42 variable

You could work

evenings / weekends attending events or appointments

How to become a Costume designer

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • working towards this role

University

Most costume designers have a higher national diploma, degree or postgraduate qualification in a relevant subject like:

  • costume design
  • fashion
  • theatre design
  • performing arts (production)

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels for a higher national diploma
  • 2 to 3 A levels for a degree

More information

College

You could also get practical garment production skills like pattern cutting, hand and machine sewing and dressmaking by completing a qualification. These include:

  • Level 1 Certificate in Fashion and Textiles
  • Level 2 Certificate in Fashion in subjects like pattern cutting or sewing machine skills
  • Level 2/3 Certificate in Theatre Support - Costume and Wardrobe

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 or fewer GCSEs at grades 3 to 1 (D to G) for a level 1 course
  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) for a level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for a level 3 course

More information

Work

It's more common to start your career as a costume assistant or wardrobe trainee. This will allow you to get experience, knowledge and contacts in the industry before moving into a costume designer role.

Paid or unpaid work experience in the theatre, film or costume industry is highly valued by employers. 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

Volunteering and experience

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.

More information

Career tips

Costume designers also usually have a lot of experience in the theatre, film or costume industry. 

You could get into costume designing by working for a company who provides costumes for stage and screen. Some of the larger companies, like Angels, offer work experience and internship opportunities.

Professional and industry bodies

You may find it useful to join organisations like The Society of British Theatre Designers and The Costume Society, for professional recognition, training opportunities and to make industry contacts.

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a costume designer from:

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • the ability to work well with others
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • the ability to come up with new ways of doing things
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • knowledge of the fine arts
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • design skills and knowledge
  • Being able to use a computer terminal or hand-held device may be beneficial for this job.

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your day-to-day duties may include:

  • studying the script
  • discussing ideas with the director, and production, make-up, lighting and set designers
  • researching suitable costume styles and fabrics
  • sketching costume designs
  • creating costumes to fit the production's design concept and budget
  • giving instructions to costume makers, wardrobe supervisors and assistants

On smaller productions, you may also carry out some of the practical tasks, like:

  • managing the wardrobe budget
  • buying or hiring outfits
  • fitting, altering and adapting costumes
  • cleaning, ironing and mending
  • making sure wardrobe items are available at the right time
  • keeping the look of the costumes the same between shoots or scenes

Working environment

You could work at a film studio, in a theatre, at a tv studio, on a film set or from home.

Career path and progression

You’ll specialise in either theatre or in film and TV, but you could work in both areas once you’re established.

Training opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

We can't find any apprenticeship vacancies in England for a Costume designer right now.

The Find an apprenticeship service can help you with your search, send alerts when new apprenticeships become available and has advice on how to apply.

Courses In England

Fashion Design (Contemporary Costume) - BA Hons Degree

  • Provider: BLACKPOOL AND THE FYLDE COLLEGE
  • Start date: 10 September 2019
  • Location: Blackpool

Fashion and Costume Foundation Degree

  • Provider: LEICESTER COLLEGE
  • Start date: 26 September 2019
  • Location: Leicester

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