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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.

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 (2018-2028) 1% (for all fashion designers)*
Mean Annual Salary (2018) $87,610 (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 (www.bls.gov). 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 that 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?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), fashion designers were reported to have earned a median annual salary of $72,720 as of May 2018. The top-paying industries were miscellaneous manufacturing, specialized designer services, and cut and sew apparel manufacturing. These industries earned $95,560 - $106,920. Alabama was the highest-paying state with an average annual salary of $98,380. The second-highest-paid state was New York with an average salary of $95,830.

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.