Costume Design Degree Programs

Costume design is not only for the theater; a costume design program opens doors to other design careers. This article discusses some important information about costume design programs and several career options for those who complete the program.

Overview of Costume Design Bachelor's Degrees

There are several bachelor's degree programs in costume design available across the U.S. These programs, usually offered through a school's theater department, offer a wide selection of classes on design history, theater arts and costume production. They also give students extensive hands-on experience in designing costumes and accessories as well as working on theater productions. Below you can find vital details about some of the costume design requirements, as well as what is required to get admitted to a program and career options for graduates.

Admissions Requirements for a Costume Design Program

Prospective students of a costume design program need to submit their high school diplomas or pass the GED. Schools may also request transcripts, letters of recommendation or design portfolios. To pursue a program in costume design, you may also be required to schedule an interview with the department and display selected pieces of your design work. Prospective students also need to turn over their scores from the ACT or SAT, depending on what the admissions department accepts.

Costume Design Program Coursework

A costume design program includes a variety of courses in drawing, costume production and theater history, which are taken alongside the general education course requirements. Other classes for costume design might include more advanced classes in art, design techniques and contemporary materials. Below is a information on some of the more common courses students could take:

Fashion & Costume History

These classes allow students to be exposed to the basic principles of fashion and gain an appreciation of this field as a distinct art form. Students can study fashion design, importance and construction throughout history, perhaps starting as far back as ancient civilization on through contemporary times. They can also learn how to identify proper fashions of an era and their use today in costuming.


Those students looking to work in costume design may need to prove themselves through courses in drawing. These classes typically focus on perspective drawing, figure drawing and concepts such as line, shape and proportion. Students are expected to use traditional and digital tools to create their work, and they will alongside other theater design students in art studios.

Costume Construction & Technology

Courses in costume construction and technology allow students to get plenty of hands-on experience using the latest equipment and tools. Students learn about different patterns and fabrics and how they may fold or drape on actors. They are also expected to put their sewing and cutting skills to work to construct costumes. Additional lessons allow students to work on specialized costuming in men's and women's wear.

Theater History

Costume design students should have an appreciation for theater, and theater history courses help foster this. Students study theater development and the elements involved in putting on a production, possibly going back more than 2,000 years ago. The courses also cover the plays, playwrights and actors that have stood out over the centuries. Students will also spend some time on the influences on the craft like literature, culture and societal systems in various time periods.

Theater Production

Costume designers may be expected to be a part of actual theater productions at the school by working various aspects of the show with the backstage crew. They could be working with a variety of elements, from scenery to lights or painting to rigging. This also includes various tasks that include front of house, board operation or wardrobe. A class in theater production not only gives students varied learning experiences but also teaches them that no job in the theater is menial.

How to Choose a Program in Costume Design

Prospective costume designers may want to consider location when deciding on a college or university to attend. It may be a good idea to attend a school near major entertainment centers, like New York or Los Angeles, where design jobs might be easier to find after graduation. One might also want to find out if the costume design program has a specific focus. For instance, some programs may focus contain mostly design knowledge and skills that could be applicable to film or theater, while other degree programs heavily emphasize theater history and stagecraft as part of the curriculum.

Career Options with a Costume Design Bachelor's Degree

Graduates who hold a degree in costume design can find employment as costumers or fashion designers for theaters, film and TV productions or variety shows. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that employment of fashion designers, which includes costume designers, will grow by 3% from 2014-2024. Fashion designers earned an average salary of $76,480 0 in 2016, according to the BLS, and those work worked in the motion picture and video industry earned an average of $89,190. Look below at some other related careers that graduates in costume design might find available.

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