Costume Design

The costume designer is the person in charge of designing, making, and fixing all the costumes for a play. You make sure that every actor that walks onto the stage has Articles of clothing appropriate to the director’s vision, and yours. What this entails is either finding or constructing all of these pieces of clothing, jewelry, hats, etc. and making sure that the actors both look good and feel comfortable. Sometimes this job can encompass making certain kinds of props (especially fabric related ones or certain accessory-type objects). How big or small this job is depends a lot on the size of the production, the type of the play, the director’s creative interpretation of the play, and the quality and quantity of the help you get. Sometimes you’ll have an assistant who you can send to look for certain pieces, sometimes you will have to do all the leg work yourself.

As costume designer, your job does not end when the curtain goes up on opening night. Costume designers are also responsible for being at tech week to make sure that everything works and for checking in during the run to fix any tears or stains, buy new stockings, etc. Just as the props master is in charge of all the props throughout all stages of the production, the costume designer is in charge of all the costumes (rented ones, made ones, etc) until the play is over, the correct clothing cleaned and returned to whomever lent it, and your final budget is submitted.

The final responsibility, which many costumers and producers forget about, is the dry cleaning, the cost of which also comes out of your budget and can be multiple hundreds of dollars.

The costume designer has as much creative input as the set designer, but like the set designer, will be collaborating with other staff members in designing. You will work primarily with the director and the actors, though you’ll want to check colors with the set, paint, and light designers as well, pretty early on. The work with the director is the first you should do, bringing your own ideas to the table and listening carefully to what the director envisions. Some directors bring a great deal to the design and have very concrete ideas for what they want, others want you to present your own ideas first and then play with those. Just remember that the director has final say. For more practical matters, you will be working with the producer(s) on your budget and possibly for scheduling cast and crew helpers to sew with you.

You may need to collaborate closely on a given costume with the technical director or master painter, for example. Say a dress needs to have sea landscapes painted on it, or wooden wings built into it, you will need to ask others’ help in making this work.