How to Become a Costume Designer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a costume designer. Research the job description and education requirements, and find out how to start a career in costume design.

Should I Become a Costume Designer?

Costume designers design and fit costumes for actors in film, television, and stage productions. These costumes might need to represent a particular period in time or fit a certain personality or profession. Costume designers work closely with the director of a production and might need to create storyboards and samples for the director to review. They also must be aware of the budget, so they know what financial restrictions they're working with when choosing fabrics and accessories. Travel is often involved. Depending on the production schedule, these workers may work under tight deadlines.

Career Requirements

Degree Level No formal education required, but bachelor's degree and certificate could be helpful
Degree Name Costume design
Experience Internship and portfolio
Key Skills Creative thinking, detail-oriented, artistic
Salary (May 2014) $64,030 (Median salary for all fashion designers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Job postings from Monster.com (August 2012)

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree or Certificate

Even though there are no formal training requirements to become a costume designer, enrolling in a bachelor's degree program in costume design or a similar field can help students obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to work in the field. In addition to learning about the history of costumes and clothing construction, students are taught to analyze character traits to determine costuming choices. Those who already have a bachelor's degree in an area other than costume design can pursue a certificate program in the field. These short-term programs focus specifically on costume design and could be ideal for students who have a degree in fashion design or another aspect of theater.

Success Tip

  • Create costumes for school productions. While earning your degree, you might have an opportunity to create costumes for university- or student-produced plays. Some of these programs will have full-time costume designers on staff, and students will have an opportunity to assist them in creating costumes and doing fittings.

Step 2: Participate in an Internship

To find a job and make connections in the field, individuals may need to complete a costume design internship through a summer stock theater festival, regional theater or other venue. This is an opportunity for individuals to learn under the supervision of an experienced costume designer while working on one or more productions.

Step 3: Create a Portfolio

Projects completed in a bachelor's degree program and internship can be included in a portfolio. While some of these items may include photographs of costumes, you also can include costume drawings and sketches that you've made. A completed portfolio can be sent out to production companies and other prospective employers.

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