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How Can I Become a Costume Designer?

Research what it takes to become a costume designer. Learn about education requirements, job duties, study programs and salary stats to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Costume Designer?

Costume designers conceptualize outfits for television, film or theater. They may need to research styles from various time periods or cultures, as well as work closely with the director to ensure that the desired visual effects are achieved. Costume designers are often on a strict budget and must select appropriate materials and accessories. These professionals may sketch their designs and then begin creating the clothing by hand or overseeing other costume workers as they create it. Costume designers may also be required to customize their pieces to fit specific actors. Read the following table for more information about possible majors and special skills needed to work in the field.

Degree Required Associate's degree at minimum; bachelor's degree is typical; master's degree programs available
Education Field of Study Costume design
Fashion design
Key Skills Garment production, communication skills, creativity
Job Growth for Related Occupations (2018-2028) 1% (for all fashion designers)*
Average Salary (2018) $87,610 (for all fashion designers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Duties as a Costume Designer?

You'll be a member of a team of professionals who work in high-profile media, such as television, film or theatrical productions. Your primary goal involves dressing actors in authentic clothing that will bring the writer's story, message or intent to life. This process can include all phases of the costume design process, from conceptualization, pattern design and fabrication to staging with appropriate accessories. As a costume designer, you'll interface with producers and directors and keep within the production's budget for costumes.

What Will I Study?

As an undergraduate and graduate student, you can focus on costume design. You'll find associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs with costume design either as the concentration or a specialization within fashion design. Certificate programs in the subject can hone your drawing and tailoring skills and prepare you to produce a rendering based on a given concept, but entry-level positions generally demand at least a 2-year degree, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).

At the associate's degree level, you'll study pattern design, fashion history and stage makeup, among other topics. Bachelor's degree programs also begin with a basic regime that becomes more concentrated in the third and fourth year, via advanced classes in textiles, design and production. Internships can be available at this stage in your training. A master's level curriculum can further refine and enhance the specialized methods you've acquired. After completing a degree program in costume design, you can seek work within this niche of the entertainment industry.

Will I Need Special Skills?

Working in costume design, you will find that your communication skills are paramount to establishing and maintaining effective work production. Proficiency in gathering and integrating research as you prepare your garment designs can help you achieve accurate reproduction results. You'll additionally benefit from having sewing and pattern-making skills. Your capabilities with measurement and mathematical computation are also necessary, along with sketching and drawing abilities to demonstrate your preliminary vision.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a few related positions that require a bachelor's degree, including art director, graphic designer and industrial designer. Art directors may work with a costume designer as they develop the visual style for a production, but they may also be involved in design projects for magazines, newspapers and more. Graphic designers create the images found in advertisements, magazines, reports and other types of media used to inform or acquire consumers. Industrial designers create the plans for a variety of products, such as toys or cars.