Costume designer

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

Salary range: £13,000 to £35,000

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How to become a costume designer

You can get into this job through:

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

You can do a higher national diploma, degree or postgraduate qualification in:

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

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • between 1 and 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a higher national diploma or degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

More information

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College

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

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

Qualifications like these could be useful for getting work as a costume assistant. You could then do more training on the job to move into design work.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

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

More information

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Work

You could get into costume designing by working for a company who provides costumes for stage and screen.

Some of the larger ones offer work experience and internship opportunities.

Volunteering and experience

Experience in the theatre, film or costume industry is highly valued by employers and volunteering is a great way to improve your skills. It’s also a good way to meet people and build up your network of contacts.

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

More information

Professional and industry bodies

You can join 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:

You can also get more details about working in the creative industries from Discover Creative Careers.

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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
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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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.

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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.