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Become a Professional Costume Maker: Career Guide

Learn how to become a professional costume maker. Research the education, career, and experience requirements for starting a career in professional costume making. View article »

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  • 0:02 Professional Costume Maker
  • 1:03 Career Requirements
  • 1:31 Step 1: Earn an…
  • 2:33 Step 2: Find an Internship
  • 3:24 Step 3: Build a…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Professional Costume Maker?

Professional costume makers work in the film, television and performing arts industries. They create costumes for actors who perform on stage or screen. In addition to being proficient in sewing, professional costume makers might need to research certain time periods to ensure that clothes are authentic and fit within the setting. Productions often have a budget that costume makers must adhere to while picking out fabrics and selecting attire. Production deadlines can cause stress, and some professional costume makers must travel.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups costume makers under the umbrella of fashion designers, and while there are no specific educational requirements to work in the field, graduating with a bachelor's degree is beneficial. To be hired, individuals typically need to have experience in the field and a portfolio of their work to show potential employers.

Career Requirements

Degree Level None; bachelor's degree preferred
Degree Fields Fashion or costume design
Experience Internships; professional portfolio
Key Skills Sewing skills; creative, resourceful, and detail-oriented; proficiency with computer-aided design (CAD) programs
Salary $63,670 (2015 median salary for fashion designers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Payscale.com

The BLS reported the median annual salary for fashion designers was $63,670 in 2015. While no degree is required, employers may prefer that you have a bachelor's degree in fashion or costume design to be a costume maker. You'll likely need a portfolio and may need to complete an internship to gain experience.

You'll also need sewing skills and to be creative, resourceful, detail-oriented, and proficient with computer-aided design (CAD) programs.

Let's go over the steps you should take to become a professional costume maker.

Step 1: Earn an Associates or Bachelor's Degree

Though a degree is not always required to pursue a career in costume making, completing a degree program teaches you the skills you need, and is looked upon favorably by many employers. You may consider an associates or bachelor's degree program in either costume design or fashion design, with a concentration in costume design.

A costume design program allows you to fully immerse yourself in the world of theater, providing hands-on experience and formal instruction in creating costumes for theatrical productions. These programs give you the opportunity to view the entire costume-making process. By getting involved in student productions, you can accumulate samples for your portfolio. You may be required to showcase a portfolio of work at the end of their program.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in summer stock. Participating in summer stock will not only provide extra stage production experience, it is also a good way to develop contacts within the industry. Summer stock offers you the chance to work with and learn from professionals.

Step 2: Find an Internship

Once you have gained some experience through school, you can gain real-world experience through an internship. Some programs require an internship as part of the curriculum. If an internship is not required, you can apply for one at playhouses in your area. You can volunteer as a dresser, someone who assists actors with costume changes, or take on sewing projects in the wardrobe department. These are valuable ways to gain experience and make connections in the industry.

Success Tip:

  • Network with industry professionals. Whether you want to design costumes for movies, television or theater, the key to landing a dream job lies in networking. Attending seminars and volunteering for as many productions as possible are ways to network within the industry. Another way to network is to look into finding a job as a costume designer's assistant and shadow him or her.

Step 3: Build a Portfolio for Career Advancement

Creating a portfolio proves crucial to landing a job as a professional costume maker. You should take photos of all the costumes you've worked on, whether it was at school or during an internship. Your portfolio of costuming work is the best way to show potential employers your talent and expertise.

To become a costume maker, you need to consider earning a degree in fashion or costume design, gain work experience, and put together a portfolio.


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