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How to Become a Costume Designer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a costume designer. Find information about the education requirements and real-life experiences that can help you start a career in costume design.

Costume Designers

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, costume designers may work under tight deadlines.

Career Information

Degree Level No formal education required, but bachelor's degree and certificate could be helpful
Degree Name Costume or fashion design
Experience Internship and portfolio
Key Skills Artistic, creativity, detail-oriented
Salary (May 2015) $63,670 (median salary for all fashion designers)
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 3% increase

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

Step 1: Earn a 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. Aspiring designers 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 costume design individuals may need to complete a costume design internship in 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: Develop a Portfolio

Projects completed in a bachelor's degree program and an 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, which can be sent out to production companies and other prospective employers, is an invaluable asset that promotes the work of a costume designer and will assist in the pursuit of gainful employment.


Remember, if you're interested in becoming a costume designer completion of a bachelor's degree or certificate program can help you build a portfolio, while costume design internships can provide you with some real-life experience. Once employed, you may earn a median annual salary of $63,670.

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