The costume buyer makes a living shopping for clothes for film and television stars, but there is more to it than racking up an impressive bill on the department’s credit card. This person is the conduit through which the designer sources his or her materials, scours L.A. for the perfect bomber jacket, and pulls together the look that defines a character.
Working under the supervision of the costume designer, the costume buyer is responsible for purchasing all necessary materials for the construction of original wardrobe pieces, as well as renting existing articles from costume shops; this includes fabric, fasteners, thread, and accessories. Based on the designer’s sketches and color pallet, the buyer is sent to collect fabric samples for final approval. He or she will offer the designer several options to choose from, as the concept may be altered based on new inspiration of a particular material.
After the designer has made his or her selections, the buyer works with vendors to negotiate rental rates and purchase prices and will oversee the pickup or delivery of all materials. It is also the buyer’s job to monitor the budget and maintain accurate accounting records. Once the production has wrapped, the buyer is responsible for returning any rental items in a timely manner.
Skills & Education
An education in film and television production or theatrical design is beneficial to this career. A degree in fashion is also relevant to a career in costuming. A qualified costume buyer must be knowledgeable about the process of clothing construction, though fabrication is not a duty of this job. Likewise, a thorough understanding of fabrics is necessary. There is a difference between silk chiffon and silk charmeuse; the designer knows this, and so should you. This career requires an individual with an exceptional attention to detail, whether it is selecting just the right brass rivets or tracking pennies in the budget.
What to Expect
Many costume buyers come from the ranks of seamstresses, dressers, and set costumers. As such, buyers tend to be highly versatile people with technical talent, as well as leadership and organizational skills. To be considered for such a role, the individual must have professional credits within a costume department but also must have won the respect and trust of the costume designer. The designer relies heavily on the buyer being a capable and resourceful person. A buyer who can’t keep accounts in order or the shipments arriving on schedule will hold up the entire department. Costume buyers have the ability to work in film, television, and theatrical production, as the responsibilities and pre-production processes are similar.
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