Set Costume Supervisor
It is rare that a costume designer works on location with the production crew during principal photography. More often, the costume designer designates a surrogate that will execute the design on set and provide leadership for the costume department.
The set costume supervisor acts as the costume designer’s chief representative on set during principal photography. He or she is responsible for managing the crew of costume dressers (performer’s costumer) and truck costumers and for maintaining the integrity of the designer’s vision by seeing that all pieces are worn as intended. During pre-production, this person will assist with the script breakdown to identify all necessary wardrobe elements and will keep a detailed catalogue of all garments assigned by character and scene number. On set, the supervisor is in charge of inventorying costumes as they arrive to the shooting location and instructs additional crew on properly labeling and sorting the clothing, in addition to properly supplying the equipment truck. Before an actor steps in front of the camera, this person will oversee the layout of costumes in a camera-ready fashion and is responsible for maintaining continuity of garments. At the conclusion of shooting, the set costume supervisor will organize wrap-up of all costume-related elements and will coordinate with the costume buyer or other assigned personnel to return garments. It is possible that where an assistant costume designer or costume supervisor is not employed, the set costume supervisor will undertake the duties assigned to that role during pre-production.
Skills & Education
A college degree in film and television production, theatrical design, or fashion design is applicable to this career. Universities with such programs may offer specific courses in costume design or costume department supervision, which are beneficial to this position. Practically, it is encouraged that the set costume supervisor has some background in design, as well as understanding the production process. Expert sewing and garment construction skills are essential. Additional courses in fine art, drawing, photography, and related areas will help to train your artistic eye. Formal training in the concepts of color theory and lighting for film and video can help to educate you in how colors, textures, and fabrics appear differently when photographed. Working on a film or television set can be hectic and demanding, therefore this role demands an individual who is highly organized, meticulous, and an effective manager of his or her crew.
What to Expect
Previous professional experience in the costume department of a film or television production is required for this role. In seeking out an entry-level position from which to build your career, you can consider working as a stitcher, breakdown artist, or tailor. However, if your aspirations are geared specifically toward working on set, then concentrate your efforts on findings gigs as a costume dresser or costume production assistant. Most work within the costume department is freelance, though permanent positions may be available in the wardrobe department at a major motion picture studio or with the independent company of an established costume designer. In hunting for jobs, you can contact the production office of shows in pre-production to inquire about availability, though networking is the best path toward a gig. Membership in guilds and associations related to production costuming are an excellent way to meet other professionals and build your personal network.
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