Costume Designer Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a costume designer. Learn about the key responsibilities, potential salary, employment growth and education requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Fashion Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Costume Designer?

Costume designers, or fashion designers, create or acquire wearable concepts and clothing to match particular time periods, purposes and locations for various productions. They may work on theatre, movie or television productions. Costume designers often work closely with the director and art director to achieve the desired looks and styles. They may need to select materials and accessories to create pieces, while working within the production's budget. Costume designers may create pieces by hand or oversee other assistants as they make the costumes. The following table provides an overview of the education, job outlook and average salary in this field.

Degree Required Associate's or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Costume design, fashion design, patternmaking, fabrication
Key Responsibilities Research, create, fabricate or locate costumes appropriate to the needs of productions
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3% (for all fashion designers)*
Mean Annual Salary (2015) $73,180 (for all fashion designers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education and Training Do I Need?

Your minimum qualification for a position in costume design is an associate's degree, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( This 2-year program builds a core foundation in liberal studies along with an introduction to the basics of costume design, pattern-making and the fabrication of garments. Over a 4-year period, a bachelor's degree includes liberal arts components with an extended curriculum in costume design, technology and production. During the course of these studies, you'll prepare and maintain a portfolio of work. Internships and hands-on experiences can be part of your training.

What Tasks Will I Perform?

As a costume designer, you'll research the production's genre and prepare sketches which portray clothing for its period or purpose. These garments can then be fabricated, purchased or acquired on loan from collections. You'll manage your designs based on an operating budget. Collaborating with producers, directors, actors and other specialized staff will be part of your daily routine.

What Jobs Can I Apply For?

Employment is available with theater companies or the television and motion picture industries. You can choose from in-house positions, such as pattern illustrator, fashion or costume design coordinator as well as manager of the design department. Other options include finding freelance contracts where you'll work on a particular job for specified terms and conditions. Starting your own business is another path you can follow.

How Much Can I Expect to Earn?

In accordance with the minimum 2016-2017 wage scale of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Costume Designers Guild, Local 892, as a member in the costume designer classification for theatrical productions, you can expect to be paid $949.08 per day or at the weekly rate of $2,789.73. This union is based in the Los Angeles area; wages may differ in locales that don't have as much entertainment-industry work available.

If you're affiliated with the television medium, you might earn $627.07 each day with $2,622.91 by the week, per the union wage scale. As an assistant costume designer in these industries, your daily remuneration is $470.46, and a week yields $2,158.81. The pay scale is specific to this local chapter, but it can serve as your guide. You'll be eligible for membership based on work experience and letters of recommendation.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Some other related designing jobs that require at least a bachelor's degree include art directors, graphic designers and industrial designers. Art directors may work on performing arts productions or for various publications. They design and maintain a particular visual style throughout the production or publication. Graphic designers create the visual images and concepts meant to attract or inform consumers. Their work may be found in magazines, advertisements, brochures and retail packaging. Industrial designers look to improve the functionality, cost and other factors of products we use every day. They may design such items as new appliances, toys and cars.

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