A costume designer is a fashion professional who is responsible for creating the look and mood for actors and actresses in film, television and stage productions. The costume designer does this through designing, sewing, researching and purchasing actual clothing and costumes worn by those on stage and by selecting or designing the accessories and props which help to define each character.
A costume designer must have a thorough understanding of film, production, theatre, marketing, and fashion design. Also needed is the ability and desire to research and continually learn about scenarios, cultures and periods of history which help demonstrate the director's vision.
The costume designer and his/her team must ensure that individual props and wardrobes reflect the story being told and portray the character's personalities, cultures, ages, status and relationships. Many costumes may be required for each character as costumes define the attitude and feel which may change with every new scene, setting or development.
Each costume design job begins with the designer carefully reading through the script. It is important that the costume designer has a good feel for the overall plot, the director's focus and intent, as well as the personalities, roles and relationships various characters have throughout the production.
Once the costume designer has a good feel for the direction of the production, he/she may research clothing, designs and materials indicative of the particular location or time period. Next, the costume designer will create a costume plot which follows characters through the progression of the production, changing their attire when appropriate. This plot can include sketches, photographs or computerized images that are presented to the director and production team.
Once approved, the costume designer begins the hunt for necessary costumes and props. In some situations, entire costumes may be purchased either new or from second-hand stores. Other costumes will be drawn and sewn either by a tailor in close coordination with the costume designer or by the costume designer himself. Other costumes will be a combination of these two options. The costume designer is also responsible for supervising fittings and dress rehearsals. It is the designer's responsibility to ensure that every costume is ready by the specified deadline.
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Costume designers are employed in every city in the United States, Canada and internationally, though production hubs like Los Angeles, New York and Toronto employ a much higher number of designers. Costume designers work on film and television productions, stage productions, theatre, and even at festivals. The more experience a designer has, the greater his/her chance of being hired.
Most costume designers get their start with university or regional theatres and work their way toward off-Broadway and Broadway productions, then television and film. Whether a novice or experienced costume designer, hours are often long and demanding. From the moment the designer first reads the script until the show begins, the costume designer is always on the go. Once a production begins, the costume designer's job is basically complete though he/she may assist in the event problems occur with costumes during production.