What Does A Costume Designer Do and How Can I Be One?

If you find yourself nerding out about the costumes of actors in films more than the films themselves, or if you want to combine your love for fashion design and film, then you might want to consider a career in costume design.

What Is a Costume Designer?

A costume designer is a person in charge of designing, creating, and/or sourcing the clothes and costumes worn by actors in a film, television, theatre, or video production. Their skills often overlap with those of a fashion designer, but they have the added dimension of design clothes as well that serve the purpose of production.

This includes the theme of costumes such as period-specific costumes, futuristic costumes, modern costumes, fantasy costumes, and so on. Additionally, the clothes must fit the character profiles and bodies of the actors, while withstanding the wear and tear of multiple costume changes for months while the shoot is still active. These are unique challenges that a costume designer faces, and it is partly because of their skill that the characters we see in films are brought to life so believably.

Costume Designer Responsibilities

The costume designer role always begins well before shooting begins. They begin by reading the script and making notes of the tone, period, and plot of the film to plan the costumes accordingly. The costume designer then discusses their ideas and concerns with the director and writer and begins research on the clothing trends of the relevant time period, social group/class, and location. This research culminates in a vast collection of visual references for the materials, costume styles, patterns, and clothing pieces on which the final designs will be based on.

It is only after this preliminary research and preparation that the costume designer begins actually sketching and designing the final costumes. Costumes are designed for each character and each scene, and each individual design is compiled into a “costume plot” which represents their costume changes throughout the film chronologically.

Once the designs of the costume plot have been approved by the director and production team, the costume designer finally begins sewing or sourcing the required costumes. Once these are ready, the actors try them on and they are altered to fit.

Costume Designer Skills

Costume designing is a technical and creative job that requires specific skills. In order to be able to deal with the mountains of research that goes into costume designing, you have to really be passionate about design. Without that interest and passion, motivating yourself to get the job done well will be difficult. An aspiring designer must also be well acquainted with technical and theoretical design concepts and understand how to conduct this research in the first place.

The next obvious skill required of a costume designer is artistic skill. You have to be able to draw your designs, even with the help of tablets or other computer aid. Luckily, this can be developed with practice and training, so anybody with the passion, resources, and time could do it. Although freehand drawings are still part of the process, digital mock-ups are becoming the norm which means that designers must also familiarize themselves with industry-standard software to make their designs.

Finally, while designers do not usually sew all the costumes themselves, they must have technical knowledge about the process of sewing and tailoring in order to not only design their costumes in a practical manner but also communicate their requirements to tailors or alteration professionals involved in the process.

How ISDI Can Help

If you are looking to get world-class training to pursue your dreams of becoming a costume designer, ISDI is the place for you. ISDI offers a number of design programs including Fashion Design, Communication Design, Product Design, Fashion Communication and Styling, Interior Design, and Strategic Design & Management, in curricular collaboration with world-renowned Parsons School of Design.

ISDI is not associated with the UGC and therefore completion of the course does not amount to a degree. However, students will be issued a certificate of achievement and course completion from ISDI and The New School and offered various routes to obtain a degree.

The campus is located in the business district of Mumbai, the commercial center of India, providing students with access to the heart of the industry. Additionally, ISDI boasts an industry-leading faculty and hands-on project-based training, all situated in a state-of-the-art campus. ISDI is the place to begin your future career in design.

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