Costume Designer

What do Costume Designers do?

Costume Designers start working on films at the beginning of pre-production. They are in charge of designing, creating, acquiring and hiring all costumes for actors and extras. This must be achieved within strict budgets, and to tight schedules. Costume Designers' work is integral to defining the overall 'look' of films, and their role requires a great deal of expertise. Their creative work ranges from designing original costumes, to overseeing the purchase and adaptation of ready made outfits. As heads of the costume department, Costume Designers are responsible for staffing, and for managing a team of skilled personnel. Costume Designers also supervise practical issues, such as departmental budgets and schedules, the organization of running wardrobes, and costume continuity.

During pre-production Costume Designers break down scripts scene by scene, in order to work out how many characters are involved, and what costumes are required. They then begin the more complex task of developing costume plots for each character. These plots ensure that colors and styles do not mimic each other in the same scene, and highlight the characters' emotional journeys by varying the intensity and depth of colors.

Costume Designers must carry out research in to the costume styles, designs and construction methods which are appropriate for the productions' time period, using a number of resources including libraries, museums and the Internet. They may also discuss costume and character ideas with performers. They deliver initial ideas to directors about the overall costume vision, character plots and original costume designs, using sketches and fabric samples. They also discuss color palettes with the director of photography and the production designer.

Throughout the production process Costume Designers ensure that accurate financial records are kept, and that weekly expenditure reports are produced. They prepare overall production schedules, as well as directing the day to day breakdowns of responsibilities. Costume Designers select and hire appropriate suppliers and costume makers, negotiating terms with them, and communicating design requirements. They make sure that fittings for actors and extras are arranged. They supervise fabric research and purchase, and ensure that garments are completed to deadlines.

Depending on the numbers of costumes to be created, and the scale of budgets, Costume Designers may decide to create a dedicated costume workshop. They should be on set whenever a new costume is worn for the first time, to make sure that performers are comfortable, to explain special features, and to oversee any alterations. Once filming is completed, Costume Designers are responsible for the return of hired outfits, and the sale or disposal of any remaining costumes.

Costume Designers must be highly organized, with good presentation skills and the confidence to manage and motivate their teams effectively. They should be able to work under pressure, to meet external and departmental deadlines, and must have stamina and be adaptable to changes. They need to be able to listen to the ideas and concerns of others, while at the same time trusting their own opinions and instincts. They work closely with actors in a physical sense, and must therefore be tactful and able to put people at their ease.

Costume Designers need good descriptive abilities, and they must be able to break down scripts in terms of costume plots, and have knowledge of story structure and character arcs. They must understand the research process, and know how to source information. They need creative flair, a strong sense of color and design and the ability to draw. They should be confident in their knowledge of period costume, jewellery, corsetry, hosiery, millinery, footwear, costume accessories, etc. They must be experts on fabric qualities, clothing cuts, fits and techniques, pattern making and sewing. Creatively, they should know how to dress to particular faces or physiques to create characters.

Overall Costume Designers need a wide ranging cultural knowledge base, not only in terms of fashion, but also art and literature, film, and textiles. Costume Designers should be familiar with the requirements of all relevant health and safety legislation and procedures.

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Costume Designer
New York, NY

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Job description sources include (but are not limited to), and wikipedia.