Costume designers are fashion professionals responsible for researching, designing, sewing, and purchasing costumes worn by actors in films, television, theater, and other types of productions. Their wardrobe, which sometimes includes physical props, properly reflects the environment and characters’ personality, status, or age. If you want to create a resume for a costume designer job, look at our guide below, created by our certified experts.
Let’s start with three examples of the most common resume formats.
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Job duties of a Costume Designer
Costume designers are an essential part of any film, theater, or TV production, sometimes even nonfiction news programming. Their ability to help make the audience feel emotionally connected to the story through costumes is appreciated by their collaborators and viewers and tends to be well-paid. Most costume designers are close collaborators of any production’s most influential figures, including actors, cinematographers, production designers, and directors. The latter relationship is essential because actors’ attire must fit the director’s vision. And some actors have said that it’s not until they put on the right costume that they can fully embody their character.
Here are other memorable responsibilities of a costume designer:
Reading the script to evaluate each scene demands costumes and accessories depending on the era, setting, and character attributes.
Researching sartorial history to evaluate fabric, fittings, and wig needs.
Designing a full day-by-day, hour-by-hour schedule for every single costume, from the main characters down to extras.
Developing costume sketches until they are approved.
Preparing and managing a costume budget that can run from thousands to millions of dollars.
Collaborating with other costume stakeholders, including with production sketch artists, light coordinators, and stunt coordinators.
Studying how to customize materials through dyeing, painting, and sewing fabric.
Compiling visual references, including patterns, colors, and other materials.
Identifying costume challenges, such as quick changes between scenes.
Procuring and organizing all costume materials.
Fitting actors into costumes during rehearsals.
Developing cleaning and handling protocols.
Costume Designer Median Salary
According to salary analyst site PayScale, a costume designer’s average hourly wage in the U.S. is $14.86 per hour. However, this can vary between $9.60 to $33 per hour, depending on the candidate’s education, certification and skills.
Top Skills for Costume Designers
Many people in the entertainment industry say that costume designing is more demanding than fashion designing. Why? Because it requires a perfectionist approach that often has to match historical patterns, whereas, in fashion, there is a larger sense of freedom from tradition. Still, there are plenty of opportunities to have a creative career for either job if you have a robust skill set.
Check out the top skills costume designers need below:
- Anthropological research: This job is all about fidelity to history and the story at hand through research. For example, a Middle Earth jacket from “The Lord of the Rings” may seem similar to a historical medieval one, but it is not. It would be out of place in a story about the real Middle Ages. Ruth Carter, the “Black Panther” costume designer, noted in an interview that she created film costumes based on their authenticity and functionality anthropologically asking why and how characters would wear them.
- Construction knowledge: A good costume designer knows how to sew, period. This skill is how most people in this industry get started. Once they are in a managerial position, they work closely with sewing and altering professionals to interpret designs effectively. The sewing skills they need are in stitching, measuring, tailoring, and cutting fabrics. To improve your sewing skills, you can take design and construction courses at the Costume Design MFA Program offered by the California Institute of the Arts, the School of Drama Costume Design at Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, and the Costume Design & Technology Program from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, among many others.
- Digital drawing: Digital tools like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator Draw, C-Design Fashion, Wild Ginger Cameo and Fresco are key tools for costume designers to make quick sketches for digital distribution. To use these tools effectively, you can watch various videos available on the web or take a course online.
- Prompt decision-making: Designing for a film crew means constant adjustments. A piece of fabric may not hold up to an action scene, or the actor’s body shape may change from their initial fitting. In these scenarios, a costume designer’s ability to troubleshoot decisively can keep productions afloat. It could mean creating a new wardrobe based on available fabrics or knowing who to call to bring in replacements.
- Cutting-edge material knowledge: Knowing about new material trends and tech has always been necessary for this job. Before Lycra, spandex, and other two-way stretch fabrics were created in the early 1960s, designers used stretchy cotton that was expensive, broke down easily, and looked flimsy. The ability to know about and know how to use new materials, like nontoxic thermoplastic sheeting to create props like shields, and soybean protein fiber to make sweaters, boosts your job prospects.
Costume Designer Education and Certifications
A degreeA bachelor's degree or an associate degree in costume design helps obtain essential knowledge and skills to work in the industry, even if it is not a formal requirement. Universities such as the California Institute of the Arts, Washington University, Boston University, Florida State University, and others offer costume design vocational courses in critical skills such as 3D printing, patterning, and laser cutting.
CertificationsWe recommend candidates interested in this field earn certificates in a varied number of disciplines. This includes digital designing, sewing, and stitching, fashion and textile figure drawing, and, if you’re interested in the mass-market and management side of the costuming industry, in business or fashion merchandising.
Entry-level certificates focus on training students to design and make costumes for theater, film, television work.
Junior colleges and Universities offer courses on flat pattern techniques and draping processes while letting students learn in a hands-on, experiential manner. Mesa Community College provides a Certificate of Completion in Costume Design, as does the State University of New York, an eight-week Costume Design and Technician Certificate that takes students from fundamentals to advanced costuming techniques.
There are also good trade schools that offer great certificate options. The Savannah College of Art & Design is renowned for producing great costume designers. Simultaneously, lower-ranked schools like Canada College and CG Master Academy have quality training, including digital design. These schools also offer options like textile figure drawing and fashion merchandise certification programs.
As for member associations, The Association for Performing Arts & Entertainment Professionals offers certification, including the eSET Wardrobe Technician program and eSET Costuming. The Wardrobe Technician certification has a practical test that involves stitching, using dresser track notes to organize costumes, and knowing about safety procedures.
Costume Designer Resume-Writing Tips
To write a standout resume, the recruiter’s spotlight will always be on skills and experience. Below are some tips on how to write a resume for a costume designer.
- Include job-specific skills: To add more relevance to your resume, you should read the job description carefully, identify important skills and add the skills to your resume that match your experience. What are some of the leading soft skills for this job? Multitasking, leadership, time management, and quick problem-solving are some.
- Attach specific work samples: Some employers demand a sample design for particular projects. In such instances, candidates should carefully read the project details and requirements and then offer samples of the work that fits best.
- Optimize for SEO: To keep your resume at the top of the pile, it’s wise to add some keywords to your document. Nowadays, employers use software (applicant tracking systems) that weed out resumes that don’t include essential keywords designated by the employer. Keywords can be found in the job description.
How do you acquire the position of costume designer?
There is no hard and fast rule about the level of education you need to be a costume designer. But many institutions expect candidates to come from challenging undergraduate and graduate programs. A costume designer can also start by getting experience through internship programs and even by assisting senior designers.
Is being a costume designer an excellent job?
Costume designing can be a lucrative job and works best for creative people with excellent styling sense and teamwork skills. Costume designing is also one of the essential jobs in the entertainment industry, especially in media.