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Costumer: Job Description and Training Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a costumer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

Costumers work in the entertainment industry and are responsible for the wardrobes of actors appearing in performances for theater, television, and film. Costumers design outfits, choose fabrics, and accessorize the costumes while sticking to a budget. These professionals need to have at least a bachelor's degree in fashion or theater design, and related master's programs are available.

Essential Information

Costumers are fashion designers who specialize in creating the clothing for movies, theater performances and television. Most have bachelor's degree in fashion design, but some costume designers hold degrees in designing for the theater. Students may be allowed to learn through internships and with school productions. In addition to having well-developed design and sewing skills, a costumer must understand the role that costuming can play in a production.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in fashion design; undergraduate and graduate degrees in theater design also available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% for fashion designers
Mean Salary (2015)* $73,180 for fashion designers

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Job Description

Costume designers sketch the clothing actors wear in a movie, play or television program. Designers are responsible for the selection of fabrics and accessories, oversee the production of costumes and maintain the production's budget for the clothing. Costumers research history and the fashions of past periods to develop authentic sketches for productions set during historical times.

Designers play a role in the development of characters by creating costumes that determine the social status, age and occupation. Costumers meet with directors and set and lighting designers to review the script and develop ideas for each character's costume. Designers develop a costume plot that details the characters' appearance in the production and the clothing they will wear. The costume plot helps the production team identify the obstacles and challenges of the program, such as the need for rapid costume changes between scenes.

Training Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), fashion designers usually have a bachelor's degree in fashion design. A fashion design degree includes coursework in textiles, color, sketching, sewing, fashion history and creating patterns. Fashion design students also complete courses in computer-aided design to help with the design process. During the degree program, students develop a portfolio of their best work to show prospective employers. Fashion design programs may require the completion of art and design courses before entry, according to the BLS.

Degree programs are also available in theater design with a specialization in costuming. An undergraduate degree in theater may qualify a graduate for entry into a master's degree program. Costume design degree programs expose students to coursework in lighting, theatrical makeup and set design and their relationship to costumes. A graduate degree program may also include an internship and a final project to complete the requirements.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2015, fashion designers earned an average salary of $73,180 per year. A 3% increase in job openings for fashion designers was expected between 2014 and 2024, per the BLS.

Costumers work with directors and closely study a script to determine what kind of costume would properly represent each character in the production. Factors they need to consider for live performances include how quickly two costumes can be changed between a scene and how stage lighting can complement a costume. Relevant coursework to help prepare for this career includes topics in computer-aided design software, sewing, textiles, and makeup.


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