Costume designer

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Costume designer Robert Edmond Jones (1887-1954) drawing at a waist high table (c. 1920). Robert Edmond Jones.jpg
Costume designer Robert Edmond Jones (1887–1954) drawing at a waist high table (c. 1920).

A costume designer is a person who designs costumes for a film, stage production or television show. The role of the costume designer is to create the characters' outfits/costumes and balance the scenes with texture and colour, etc. [1] The costume designer works alongside the director, scenic, lighting designer, sound designer, and other creative personnel. The costume designer may also collaborate with hair stylist, wig master, or makeup artist. In European theatre, the role is different, as the theatre designer usually designs both costume and scenic elements.


Designers typically seek to enhance a character's personality, and to create an evolving plot of color, changing social status, or period through the visual design of garments and accessories.[ citation needed ] They may distort or enhance the body—within the boundaries of the director's vision. The designer must ensure that the designs let the actor move as the role requires. The actor must execute the director's blocking of the production without damaging the garments. Garments must be durable and washable, especially for plays with extended runs or films with near-real time pacing (meaning that most costumes will not change between scenes) but whose principal photography phase may stretch across several weeks. The designer must consult not only with the director, but the set and lighting designers to ensure that all elements of the overall production design work together. The designer must possess strong artistic capabilities and a thorough knowledge of pattern development, draping, drafting, textiles and fashion history. The designer must understand historical costuming, and the movement style and poise that period dress may require.


During the late-19th century, company managers in the US usually selected costumes for a show. Many were pulled from a rental house; few were designed. Though designers in other theatrical disciplines were recognized, few who specialized in costumes were. The few that were included Caroline Siedle, C. Wilhelm, Percy Anderson, and Mrs. John Alexander. They sometimes even received credit on the title page of a playbill rather than in the back. [2]

In the 20th century, film costume designers like Edith Head and Adrian became well known. Later, those working in television like Nolan Miller ( Dynasty ), Janie Bryant ( Mad Men ), and Patricia Field ( Sex and the City ) became more prominent, some becoming authors and having their own clothing and jewelry lines. [3]

Types of costume designers

Professional costume designers generally fall into three types: freelance, residential, and academic.

Both residential and academic designers are generally also required to act as Shop Master or Mistress of an onsite costume shop, in addition to designing productions. In a resident theatre, there is almost always a shop staff of stitchers, [4] drapers, cutters and craft artisans. In an academic environment the shop "staff" is generally students, who are learning about costume design and construction. Most universities require costume design students to work a specified number of hours in the shop as part of their course work.


There are two unions that costume designers can belong to:

Costume Designers Guild, Local 892 is one union that represents Costume Designers, [5] as well as International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and United Scenic Artists. [6]

Many costumers belong to the Motion Picture Costumers Union, Local 705 and represent every position within the costume department (except the costume designer). Local 705 represents Costume Supervisors, Key Costumers, Costumers, Tailor/Seamstress, Ager/Dyer, Cutter/Fitters, Costume House Employees and Commercial Costumers. [7]

See also

Related Research Articles

Film crew

A film crew is a group of people, hired by a production company, for the purpose of producing a film or motion picture. The crew is distinguished from the cast, as the cast are understood to be the actors who appear in front of the camera or provide voices for characters in the film. The crew is also separate from the producers, as the producers are the ones who own a portion of either the film studio or the film's intellectual property rights. A film crew is divided into different departments, each of which specializes in a specific aspect of the production. Film crew positions have evolved over the years, spurred by technological change, but many traditional jobs date from the early 20th century and are common across jurisdictions and filmmaking cultures.

Stagecraft Technical aspect of theatrical, film, video production

Stagecraft is a technical aspect of theatrical, film, and video production. It includes constructing and rigging scenery; hanging and focusing of lighting; design and procurement of costumes; make-up; stage management; audio engineering; and procedures of props. Stagecraft is distinct from the wider umbrella term of scenography. Considered a technical rather than an artistic field, it is primarily the practical implementation of a scenic designer's artistic vision.

Set construction

Set construction is the process undertaken by a construction manager to build full-scale scenery, as specified by a production designer or art director working in collaboration with the director of a production to create a set for a theatrical, film, or television production. The set designer produces a scale model, scale drawings, paint elevations, and research about props, textures, and so on. Scale drawings typically include a groundplan, elevation, and section of the complete set, as well as more detailed drawings of individual scenic elements which, in theatrical productions, may be static, flown, or built onto scenery wagons. Models and paint elevations are frequently hand-produced, though in recent years, many Production Designers and most commercial theatres have begun producing scale drawings with the aid of computer drafting programs such as AutoCAD or Vectorworks.

Scenic design Creation of theatrical or film scenery

Scenic design is the creation of theatrical, as well as film or television scenery. Scenic designers come from a variety of artistic backgrounds, but in recent years, are mostly trained professionals, holding a B.F.A. or M.F.A. degrees in theater arts. Scenic designers design sets and scenery that aim to support the overall artistic goals of the production. There has been a consideration that scenic design is also production design; however, more accurately, it is a part of the visual production of a film or television.

In film and television, the production designer is the individual responsible for the overall aesthetic of the story. The production design gives the viewers a sense of the time period, the plot location, and character actions and feelings. Working directly with the director, cinematographer, and producer, production designers have a key creative role in the creation of motion pictures and television. The term production designer was coined by William Cameron Menzies while he was working on the film Gone with the Wind. Production designers are commonly confused with art directors as the roles have similar responsibilities. Production designers decide the visual concept and deal with the many and varied logistics of filmmaking including, schedules, budgets, and staffing. Art directors manage the process of making the visuals, which is done by concept artists, graphic designers, set designers, costume designers, lighting designers, etc. The production designer and the art director lead a team of individuals to assist with the visual component of the film. Depending on the size of the production the rest of the team can include set decorators, buyers, dressers, runners, graphic designers, drafts people, props makers, and set builders.

Costume design

Costume design is the creation of clothing for the overall appearance of a character or performer. Costume may refer to the style of dress particular to a nation, a class, or a period. In many cases, it may contribute to the fullness of the artistic, visual world which is unique to a particular theatrical or cinematic production. The most basic designs are produced to denote status, provide protection or modesty, or provide visual interest to a character. Costumes may be for a theater, cinema, or musical performance but may not be limited to such. Costume design should not be confused with costume coordination which merely involves altering existing clothing, although both create stage clothes.

United Scenic Artists

United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829, formerly known as United Scenic Artists of America (USAA), is an American labor union. It is a nationwide autonomous Local of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. It organizes designers, artists, and craftspeople in the entertainment and decorative arts industries. The organization was part of International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades, however it reaffiliated with IATSE in 1999. United Scenic Artists was organized to protect craft standards, working conditions and wages for the entertainment and decorative arts industries. The members of Local USA 829 are Artists and Designers working in film, theatre, opera, ballet, television, industrial shows, commercials and exhibitions. The current membership totals nearly 3,800. Local USA 829 establishes wages for designers and artists, and negotiates with employers the best possible terms and conditions of employment, as well as Health Insurance and Retirement benefits through employer contributions of Pension, Welfare, 401(k) and Annuity plans.

Alexandra Byrne is an English costume designer. Much of her career has focused on creating costumes for period dramas. These films include Persuasion (1995), Hamlet (1996), Elizabeth (1998), Finding Neverland (2004), The Phantom of the Opera (2004), Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), Mary Queen of Scots (2018), The Aeronauts (2019), and Emma. (2020). Byrne's costume design work has earned her six Oscar nominations, and she won the award for Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Wardrobe supervisor

The wardrobe supervisor is responsible for overseeing all wardrobe related activities during the course of a theatrical run or film shoot. The modern title "wardrobe supervisor" has evolved from the more traditional titles of "wardrobe mistress/master" or "mistress/master of the wardrobe". The wardrobe supervisor may be present at some production meetings and fittings, their primary responsibilities generally begin at the load-in stage of a production and during prep of a film. At load-in physical custody and responsibility for the costumes shifts from the costume designer and shop staff to the wardrobe supervisor.

Fashion design Art of applying design and aesthetics to clothing and accessories

Fashion design is the art of applying design, aesthetics, clothing construction and natural beauty to clothing and its accessories. It is influenced by culture and different trends, and has varied over time and place. "A fashion designer creates clothing, including dresses, suits, pants, and skirts, and accessories like shoes and handbags, for consumers. He or she can specialize in clothing, accessory, or jewelry design, or may work in more than one of these areas."

Howard Bay was an American scenic, lighting and costume designer for stage, opera and film. He won the Tony Award for Best Scenic Design twice.

University of Washington School of Drama American drama school is Seattle, Washington

The School of Drama is an undergraduate and graduate theatre school in the Arts Division of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.

Video design

Video design or projection design is a creative field of stagecraft. It is concerned with the creation and integration of film, motion graphics and live camera feed into the fields of theatre, opera, dance, fashion shows, concerts and other live events. Video design has only recently gained recognition as a separate creative field. For instance, United Scenic Artists' Local 829, the union that represents designers and scenic artists in the US entertainment industry, only added the Projection Designer membership category in 2007. Prior to this, the responsibilities of video design would often be taken on by a scenic designer or lighting designer. A person who practices the art of video design is often known as a Video Designer. However, naming conventions vary around the world, and so practitioners may also be credited as Projection Designer, "Media Designer", Cinematographer or Video Director. As a relatively new field of stagecraft, practitioners create their own definitions, rules and techniques.

Muriel King (1900–1977) was an American fashion designer based in New York City. She was one of the first American fashion designers along with Elizabeth Hawes and Clare Potter to achieve name recognition. She also designed costumes for several major films in the 1930s and 1940s.

Jane Greenwood is a British Costume designer for the stage, television, film, opera, and dance. Born in Liverpool, England, she works both in England and the United States. She has been nominated for the Tony Award for costume design twenty-one times, winning for The Little Foxes.

Laurie Greenan

Laurie Greenan Died April 11, 2020 DeLand, Florida worked as a wardrobe supervisor, costume maker and designer from 1976 to the late 1980s creating stage clothing for a series of rock musicians. She was described as "a Gloria Vanderbilt of heavy metal haute couture" or more simply Queen of Heavy Metal as a sought after professional with a track record in dressing male performers. Greenan established her reputation as a designer over a seven-year period working as wardrobe manager for the rock band Kiss. She subsequently designed costumes for other rock acts specializing but not exclusively working with heavy metal bands. Artists who commissioned designs include Judas Priest, Manowar, Todd Rundgren, Tom Waits and Billy Squier. She worked closely with individuals such as Billy Idol, and Rob Halford to devise costumes that recharged their stage image.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to stagecraft:

Sean Kenny was an Irish theatre and film scenic designer, costume designer, lighting designer and director.

Costume shop

A costume shop is a space where costumes for theatrical or film productions are designed, built, and stored for the company or production. Costume designers, builders, seamstresses, and stitchers work in costume shops. The shops themselves can vary in size, from one large room to a house with multiple floors. Costumes from past productions, fabric, jewelry and accessories are often stored in the shop.

Sally Jacobs was a British stage designer and director.


  1. Landis, Deborah Nadoolman (2012-03-16). Filmcraft: Costume Design: Costume Design. Elsevier Science. pp. Introduction. ISBN   9780240818672.
  2. King, Kimball. Western Drama through the Ages: A Student Reference Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2007. 534. Print.
  3. Meltzer, Marisa (2013-09-19). "Get Me Wardrobe!". The New York Times. p. E1.
  4. "stitcher", The Free Dictionary, retrieved 2020-09-30
  5. Local 829
  6. Local 705 Archived 2013-10-05 at the Wayback Machine