Become a Wardrobe Supervisor: Step-by-Step Career Guide

In this step-by-step career guide, we'll explore the educational requirements and professional experiences that can help you obtain a job as a wardrobe supervisor. View article »

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  • 0:00 Wardrobe Supervisors
  • 0:37 Career Skills & Info
  • 1:14 Step 1: Degree Program
  • 2:10 Step 2: Internship
  • 2:34 Step 3: Entry-Level Work
  • 3:12 Step 4: Supervisory Work

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Video Transcript

Wardrobe Supervisors

Wardrobe supervisors oversee the production and maintenance of costumes and attire for live theater performances, film productions, operas, and television shows. They also work on fashion shows, applying their knowledge of fabric design and the latest style trends. Typically, wardrobe supervisors collaborate with directors and costume designers, overseeing wardrobe crews and obtaining, maintaining, and tracking clothing items. They are key players in the production process of a movie or television show because they dress the characters based on personality.

Career Skills & Info

Degree Level Associate's degree; bachelor's degree for advancement
Degree Field Fashion design or video arts and technology
Experience Internship or apprenticeship, 3-5 years as an assistant
Key Skills Apparel and pattern design, fashion design, fabric selection, and textile construction; computer proficient; and know how to research trends
Salary (2015) $52,870 per year (Average salary for costume attendants)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

In this next section, we'll take a look at some of the postsecondary programs that can help you prepare for a career as a wardrobe supervisor.

Step 1: Degree Program

There are a couple of associate's degree programs that can lead to a career as a wardrobe supervisor. For example, a two-year program in fashion design may cover topics in pattern and clothing design, drawing, fabric selection, and fashion art. Another option for aspiring wardrobe supervisors is a two-year program in video arts and technology. Through this program, students learn how wardrobe supervision fits into the overall production process.

Students looking for more extensive education can pursue a bachelor's degree program in a fashion design, fabric styling, or another related area. Course topics include fashion drawing and history, design concepts, draping, and flat pattern drafting. Students also learn about textile construction, advanced sewing techniques, and tailoring. Computer skills, which are critical in the preparation of wardrobe designs and presentations, are also taught in a bachelor's degree program.

Step 2: Internship

Internships and apprenticeships provide aspiring wardrobe supervisors with practical, hands-on experience. Some students have the option to pursue internships as part of their degree programs. They may also have access to seasonal positions with regional or summer theaters. Additionally, work-study programs specific to wardrobe design are sometimes offered through university theater or film departments.

Step 3: Entry-Level Work

Entry-level positions for wardrobe supervisors include wardrobe assistant or attendant. Duties include sewing, maintaining, repairing, and ironing costumes for performances. They also include measuring actors for their outfits, helping actors with quick changes, distributing costumes, and keeping wardrobe distribution records. Assistants and attendants may also be responsible for maintaining dressing and wig rooms and costume storage areas. Some assistants may perform historical research to learn about authentic costumes and accessories and use this knowledge to create clothing sketches and designs.

Step 4: Supervisory Work

After three to five years of experience as a wardrobe assistant or attendant, some professionals may qualify for supervisory positions. Following advancement or promotion, wardrobe supervisors may hire wardrobe crews, manage budgets, oversee wardrobe production, and ensure costumes are ready for fittings and performances.

Remember, wardrobe supervisors usually need an associate's or a bachelor's degree in fashion design or a related area and three to five years of experience in the field. As of May 2015, the average annual salary for costume attendants in general was $52,870.

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