Garment Designers for Movie Productions

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At the Academy Awards presentation for films made in 1974, costume designer Edith Head received the Oscar for Best Costume Design for The Sting. In her acceptance speech, she joked (paraphrasing), ''They give me the two best–looking men in Hollywood to dress [Robert Redford and Paul Newman], and then they give me a prize for it!'' It was a funny Oscar moment, but if you are interested in costume design for movie production, then you know she was doing more than making two men look good.

The costume designer’s role is to develop clothing and props that will fulfill the director’s idea of who the character is. For the lead characters the designer might have to arrange for many costume changes, and it becomes necessary to demonstrate the character’s personality through the use of color schemes and thematic props. The designer must also call upon his or her expertise to choose clothing that will enable the actor to move about unhindered during his portrayal of the character.

The costume designer’s role in a movie production company means a position on the production team itself. The designer is every bit as important to the movie’s success as the cinematographer, the lighting designer, and the sound designer. The themes and colors chosen by the costumer must be consistent with the set designer’s choices and must be compatible with lighting and photography techniques that will be utilized.



If you yearn to be successful in the field of costume or garment design, you are probably a person who was immersed in cultural opportunities from the time you were in high school. Today’s costume designer usually has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and is trained to express a character’s progression through artistic style. Besides training in costume construction, costume designers can eloquently describe a progression of historical and architectural styles and should have some experience with psychology, philosophy, and religion. And, unlike Ms. Head and her contemporaries of yore, modern costume designers must be fluent with computer software applications such as Adobe InDesign®, Photoshop®, and Dreamweaver®.

Typically costume designers gain much hands-on experience during their education. Most colleges require participation at ascending levels of difficulty throughout a four-year curriculum. Internships and workshops provide networking with masters in the field so that aspiring designers can gain a step up into this wonderful world.

If you are pursuing this career, upon graduation you will likely sign on with regional touring theatrical companies or even as faculty at a design school. These jobs might be part-time or freelance. A typical entry-level, part-time position in a collegiate faculty pool will yield $9,000 to $15,000. Once you have gained a foothold into this profession you can work full-time with a non-touring theatrical or film production company.

Costume attendants are responsible for selecting, fitting, and maintaining costumes for actors or entertainers. While every major metropolitan city offers at least one theatrical company in need of costumers, it is true that most jobs are concentrated in four states, in order: California, Florida, New York, and Nevada. These jobs pay from $25,000—$43,000 per year depending on location; New York pays the highest. Another type of work experience in this industry is available at tourist parks with a historical theme. Still other options include working to maintain costumes at museums. Many of the major film production companies maintain their own costume museums showcasing designs used in classic films over the decades. The designers in charge of these have to catalogue the costumes, keep them in good shape, arrange for loans, and have other interesting responsibilities.

The career designer at the top of his or her field designs clothing and accessories, originates garment designs that follow specifications, and becomes involved in colors, textures, and kinds of materials used. Salaries for these professionals go as high as $76,000 per year. Many costumers specialize in footwear or millinery. Those in specialized design services can earn $85,000. New York and California far outrank any other state in the numbers of people it employs in these areas, and these two states also offer the best pay. The federal government predicts top growth in this field.

If you want to see the names of the few people who reached career pinnacles like Edith Head did, then you only need to look at a list of those who achieved the Academy Award in Best Costume Design. Ms. Head lived from 1897 to 1981 and won eight Oscars, more than any other woman in history. Her achievements ranged from her first for 1949’s The Heiress, starring Olivia de Havilland, to 1950’s lavish Biblical epic Sampson and Delilah, all the way to 1974’s The Sting. She began her career as a language arts teacher at a girls’ school, and she took evening art classes so that she could teach some drawing. Her first designer job was at Paramount in 1924 as a costume sketch artist. Can you still not picture her? Think of Edna E’Mode, the costume designer in 2004’s animated The Incredibles. Director Brad Bird created Edna as homage to Edith Head.

Do you feel passionate about our world and the beauty and culture you can help bring to it? If so, then you belong in this profession. You can find the best listings of costume designer jobs or positions in garment design at DesigningCrossing.com, where experts have searched the Internet for all available openings in this industry and have placed them into one easy-to-search database. You will form a professional partnership with the staff at DesigningCrossing.com that you will want to maintain even after you find the position that meets all of your career requirements. Visit DesigningCrossing.com today to see what jobs are available.
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