Theatrical Costume Maker (Costumier)

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to 2016-17: 5 000 < 10 000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: $801 to 950 (Source: DEEWR Australian Jobs 2012:
Brief If you are one of the many who drool over the beautiful costumes in the movies and theatre or wonders how a costume can look 2000 years old when it was only made yesterday or how a skinny actor can be made into a big momma then the Diploma of Costume for Performance may be the course for you. Costumes are an integral part of any performing arts production whether film, theatre, dance, television or even commercials. The right costume not only assists the actor or dancer to become the character they are portraying but acts as a bridge to engage the audience with the performance.

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To become a theatrical costume maker, you must have an interest and passion in clothing, fashion and historical/culturally specific costuming or theatrical/film costuming.

Theatrical Costume Makers/Designers (Costumiers) are technicians who design, make to a brief or purchase costumes for all kinds of live productions and events, theatre, opera, dance, film and television productions, corporate mascots etc. They work closely with artists/performers, with each other, with designers and other technicians to create the ‘look’ required for a production by either making the pattern for the costume and sewing it or making alterations to existing costumes. They also estimate costs involved in supplying costumes and accessories such as hats, shoes and jewellery and prepare material and labour budgets for supplying costumes for each production. They take the actors' measurements and coordinate garment, wig, hat and shoe fittings, clean and launder the costumes during production and make running repairs and alterations as necessary. Make sure costumes are properly stored and cared for when not in use.

They can be also Costume/Props Makers or Costume Stylists and Theatrical Milliners. Costume/Wardrobe Supervisors oversee and coordinate staff in a Costume Department during a production, manage the budget and liaise with performers/actors.

There is employment available in theatre, dance, opera, film, television, all facets of Performing Arts, corporate presentations, festivals and other live entertainment, television productions, live music performances; static displays for museums and in tourism-linked entertainment such as theme parks and cruise ships.

Education Requirements

It is possible for a theatrical costume maker and designer to work without formal qualifications but this is now becoming rare. Most theatre or performing arts companies require costume employees to have either a Diploma of Costume or many years’ experience working in the field. Ongoing training and learning new skills always occurs on the job.

If this sounds like the job for you, the TAFE SA Diploma of Costume for Performance can be a great asset when gaining employment in this field. Pathways include the Certificate IV in Costume for Performance. Other courses associated with this occupation include the Certificate II and III in Applied Fashion Design and Technology and the Advanced Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Technology.

Still unsure? Then try a short course also offered through TAFE SA such as Corsetry or Pattern Making for Beginners.

Career Path

You can start as a wardrobe assistant or costume maker and work your way up to designer as you build experience and contacts in the industry. This can lead to working as a Wardrobe Supervisor for a Theatre, Dance Company or on film and television.

Nature of the Job

Theatrical costume makers and designers are responsible for the overall look of the clothes and costumes in theatre, film or television productions. They oversee the design, manufacture, and purchase of costumes for film, television and stage productions. The design process usually starts with a series of sketches of original designs. A pattern, which may be computer generated, is created on the basis of these sketches and used as a guide for cutting fabric. A theatrical costume maker and designer must be creative and artistic, have a good sense of style and colour and preferably be able to sew. They may also be required to study the script and try and work out the best costume for the script. Theatrical costume makers may discuss ideas with production designer, director, and make up set and lighting designers so that they can identify and create costume ideas to fit the production’s design concept and budget. Theatrical costume designers apply these skills to work in contexts such as theatres, dance and film companies, television stations or video production houses. They usually begin their careers as wardrobe assistants.

It is essential that you have:
• Existing hand and machine sewing skills in garment construction
• Some basic knowledge of pattern making
• Creativity, imagination and initiative
• Ability to work independently or as a part of a team
• Basic Computer Skills - Word Processing & Spreadsheet, E-communication,
• Research skills
• Maths and Geometry to year 10 level
• Good oral and written communication skills
• Good personal time management skills
• Proficiency in written and spoken English

You also need to be

• A ‘people person’ who likes working as part of a team
• A ‘self-starter’ able to work both independently and collaboratively
• A good, diplomatic communicator, able to work collaboratively with a wide range of people
• Able to work under pressure and meet deadlines
• Able to use creativity and innovation to troubleshoot and problem solve
• Able to take on leadership roles
• Able to work in a constantly changing environment
• Highly motivated to pursue a professional career in entertainment or related industries
• Have a mature work ethic

This is a demanding occupation and you need to be reasonably physically fit and resilient to stress. Excellent communication and coordination skills and the ability to work under pressure are essential attributes.

Typical Physical Working Environment

Theatrical costume makers and designers usually work as a part of a production team and they sometimes begin their career as wardrobe assistants. They may also work long and irregular hours and be indoors for long periods of time.

Typical Occupational Example

Experienced industry representatives suggest that with technology impacting upon the industry, a knowledge of computer aided design and e-commerce are seen to be important for theatrical costume makers and designers of the future.

Theatrical costume makers and designers can be employed in theatres, dance and film companies, television stations or video production houses. It can take many years at assistant level to gain the experience needed for the industry to recognise advanced skills. Job competition is high and often interstate or overseas experience may improve employment prospects.

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online