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Costume designer

Costume designers are responsible for the overall look of the costumes and accessories in theatre, film and television productions.

Annual Salary

£22,000 to £34,000

Average UK salary in 2022 was £33,200
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

35 to 42 variable

You could work: evenings / weekends; attending events or appointments

Future employment

There will be 0.5% more Costume designer jobs in 2027.

Day to day tasks

As a costume designer, you would:

  • work with the production team to understand costume requirements
  • research costume styles, materials, location and time period
  • produce designs by hand or using design software
  • create costumes and accessories
  • hire costumes and fit, alter and repair outfits
  • make sure costumes are well maintained and stored properly for future use

Working environment

You could work in a theatre, at a film studio, at a TV studio, on a film set or from home.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role

You can do a higher national diploma, degree or postgraduate qualification in:

  • costume design
  • fashion
  • theatre design
  • costume construction

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • between 1 and 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a higher national diploma or degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
For more information

You could do a college course to get practical skills that you'll need to find a trainee position. Courses include:

  • fashion and textiles
  • production arts
  • art and design
  • T Level in Craft and Design (Textiles and Fashion option)

Entry requirements

Entry requirements for these courses vary.

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths for a T Level
For more information

To become a costume designer, you could do the:

  • Costume Performance Technician Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship
  • Fashion Studio Assistant Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship
  • Bespoke Tailor and Cutter Level 5 Higher Apprenticeship

These can take up to 2 years to complete.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
For more information

You could get into costume design by working for a company that provides costumes for stage and screen.

Some of the larger companies offer work experience and internship opportunities.

You might also get a job as a costume assistant, then do more training on the job to move into design work.

Volunteering and work experience

Experience in the theatre, film or costume industry is highly valued by employers and volunteering is a great way to improve your skills. It's also a good way to meet people and build up your network of contacts.

You could get relevant experience through:

  • student theatre and film productions
  • amateur theatre
  • working as a costume 'daily' or temporary helper on TV or film sets
  • casual wardrobe work in theatres
  • working for a theatrical costume hire company

More information

Career tips

It's a good idea to build up a portfolio of your work to showcase your creative ideas, design skills and technical ability to potential employers.

Professional and industry bodies

You can join The Society of British Theatre Designers and The Costume Society for professional recognition, training opportunities and to make industry contacts.

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a costume designer from:ScreenSkills; Get into Theatre; Discover Creative Careers

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You could go on to specialise in theatre, film or TV.

You might also work on specific types of production, for example historical programmes or theatrical shows.

You could take on responsibility for managing a team of costume designers and assistants, move into set design or become a production manager.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • design skills and knowledge
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to work well with others
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • the ability to come up with new ways of doing things
  • knowledge of the fine arts
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • knowledge of maths
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
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