A costumer is an assistant to the costume designer who works in theatrical production, as well as film and television. This person begins work during pre-production, participates in the processes of research and sourcing materials, then works on through to the delivery of the wardrobe to the stage or location set.
The precise responsibilities of the costumer will vary greatly depending on the scale of the production. Among the first tasks will be conducting research concerning the appropriate style of dress and types of materials required for the time period and location of the show. This research is to assist the designer in producing sketches that are authentic and believable within the context of the story. As instructed, this person will contact vendors to seek out necessary materials such as fabric and fasteners, and retrieve cost quotes. If a buyer is not hired onto the crew, the costumer is then responsible for shopping and completing purchase orders for costume department goods. During the fabrication phase, the costumer will assist the designer and other craftspeople with costume breakdown and ageing of the garments, as well as laundry and ironing. For costumers who are assigned to work during production, he or she will be similarly responsible for wardrobe care and maintenance until the end of the stage show’s run or until principal photography has wrapped. Additional tasks may include dressing of extras or background performers and transportation of department equipment.
Skills & Education
A college degree in theatrical design with a concentration in costume design and fabrication is appropriate to this career, as is a major in film and television production. Study should include the proper techniques for garment construction, as well as the use and care of fabrics. Naturally, the costumer must be proficient in sewing, as well as processes like dyeing, painting fabric, distressing, and others. As this position requires one who is familiar with the fashion trends of numerous periods, study of art history and world cultures is beneficial. Additional courses in fine art and photography are also helpful. The costumer must have great attention to detail and take direction well. The ability to work efficiently under minimal supervision is highly desirable.
What to Expect
The role of the costumer is one of several entry-level positions within the costume department, including the stitcher, dyer, painter, and costume craftsperson. Experience within this role can lead to advanced positions as a milliner, buyer, set costumer, and assistant costume designer. Employment opportunities are available within costume studios that cater to the entertainment industry, as well as within costume shops of resident theatrical companies. Freelance positions exist for those who wish to work in theater, as well as film and television production. To begin a path toward professional work, you may build your résumé through experience in college productions or as a volunteer with local community theaters. Costumers are eligible to become members of IATSE, the union that represents technicians and artists working in multiple facets of the entertainment industry.
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