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Working As a Costume Designer

  • Thinking Creatively
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
  • Getting Information
  • Judging the Qualities of Things, Services, or People
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Stressful

  • $111,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Costume Designer Do

Fashion designers create original clothing, accessories, and footwear. They sketch designs, select fabrics and patterns, and give instructions on how to make the products they designed.

Duties

Fashion designers typically do the following:

  • Study fashion trends and anticipate designs that will appeal to consumers
  • Decide on a theme for a collection
  • Use computer-aided design (CAD) programs to create designs
  • Visit manufacturers or trade shows to get samples of fabric
  • Select fabrics, embellishments, colors, or a style for each garment or accessory
  • Work with other designers or team members to create prototype designs
  • Present design ideas to the creative director or showcase them in fashion or trade shows
  • Market designs to clothing retailers or directly to consumers
  • Oversee the final production of their designs

Larger apparel companies typically employ a team of designers headed by a creative designer. Some fashion designers specialize in clothing, footwear, or accessory design; others create designs in all three fashion categories.

For some fashion designers, the first step in creating a new design is researching current fashion and making predictions about future trends using trend reports published by fashion industry trade groups. Other fashion designers create collections from inspirations they get from their regular surroundings, from the cultures they have experienced and places they have visited, or from various art media that inspire them.

After they have an initial idea, fashion designers try out various fabrics and produce a prototype, often with less expensive material than will be used in the final product. They work with models to see how the design will look and adjust the designs as needed.

Although most designers first sketch their designs by hand, many now also sketch their ideas digitally with computer-aided design (CAD) programs. CAD allows designers to see their work on virtual models. They can try out different colors, design, and shapes while making adjustments more easily than they can when working with real fabric on real people.

Designers produce samples with the actual materials that will be used in manufacturing. Samples that get good responses from editors or trade and fashion shows are then manufactured and sold to consumers.

Although the design process may vary by specialty, in general it takes 6 months from initial design concept to final production, when either the spring or fall collection is released. Some companies may release new designs as frequently as every month, in addition to releasing designs during the spring and fall.

The Internet and e-commerce allow fashion designers to offer their products outside of traditional brick-and-mortar stores. These designers can ship directly to the consumer, without having to invest in a physical shop to showcase their product lines.

The following are examples of types of fashion designers:

Clothing designers create and help produce men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel, including casual wear, suits, sportswear, evening wear, outerwear, maternity clothing, and intimate apparel.

Footwear designers create and help produce different styles of shoes and boots. As new materials, such as lightweight synthetic materials used in shoe soles, become available, footwear designers produce new designs that combine comfort, form, and function.

Accessory designers design and produce items such as handbags, suitcases, belts, scarves, hats, hosiery, and eyewear.

Costume designers design costumes for the performing arts and for motion picture and television productions. They research the styles worn during the period in which the performance takes place, or they work with directors to select and create appropriate attire. They also must stay within the costume budget for the particular production.

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How To Become A Costume Designer

Most fashion designers have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as fashion design or fashion merchandising. Employers usually seek applicants with creativity, as well as a good technical understanding of the production process for clothing, accessories, or footwear.

Education

Most fashion designers have a bachelor’s degree in fashion design or fashion merchandising. In these programs, they learn about textiles and fabrics and how to use computer-aided design (CAD) technology. They also are able to work on projects that can be added to their portfolio, which showcases their designs.

For many artists, including fashion designers, developing a portfolio—a collection of design ideas that demonstrates their styles and abilities—is essential because employers rely heavily on a designer’s portfolio in deciding whether to hire the individual. For employers, it is an opportunity to gauge talent and creativity. Students studying fashion design often have opportunities to enter their designs in student or amateur contests, helping them to develop their portfolios.

The National Association of Schools of Art and Design accredits approximately 320 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design, and many of these schools award degrees in fashion design. Many schools require students to have completed basic art and design courses before they enter a program. Applicants usually have to submit sketches and other examples of their artistic ability.

Other Experience

Fashion designers often gain their initial experience in the fashion industry through internships or by working as an assistant designer. Internships provide aspiring fashion designers an opportunity to experience the design process, building their knowledge of textiles and colors and how the industry works.

Advancement

Experienced designers may advance to chief designer, design department head, creative director, or another supervisory position in which they oversee certain fashion lines or company brands.

Some experienced designers may start their own design company or sell their designs in their own retail stores. A few of the most successful designers work for high-fashion design houses that offer personalized design services to their clients.

Important Qualities

Artistic ability. Fashion designers sketch their initial design ideas, which are used later to create prototypes. Designers must be able to express their vision for the design through illustration.

Communication skills. Fashion designers often work in teams throughout the design process and therefore must be effective in communicating with their team members. For example, they may need to give instructions to sewers regarding how a garment should be constructed.

Computer skills. Fashion designers use technology to design. They must be able to use computer-aided design (CAD) programs and be familiar with graphics editing software.

Creativity. Fashion designers work with a variety of fabrics, shapes, and colors. Their ideas must be unique, functional, and stylish.

Decisionmaking skills. Because they often work in teams, fashion designers are exposed to many ideas. They must be able to decide which ideas to incorporate into their designs.

Detail oriented. Fashion designers must have a good eye for small differences in color and other details that can make a design successful.

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Average Yearly Salary
$111,000
Show Salaries
$78,000
Min 10%
$111,000
Median 50%
$111,000
Median 50%
$111,000
Median 50%
$111,000
Median 50%
$111,000
Median 50%
$111,000
Median 50%
$111,000
Median 50%
$157,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Eastern Kentucky University
Highest Paying City
Cottleville, MO
Highest Paying State
Kansas
Avg Experience Level
2.4 years
How much does a Costume Designer make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Costume Designer in the United States is $111,187 per year or $53 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $78,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $158,000.

Real Costume Designer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Costume Designer J & M Costumers Inc. CA Oct 01, 2010 $106,787
Costume Designer Jeetish Imports Inc. New York, NY Mar 11, 2010 $104,350
Costume Designer Brighton Ballet Theater Co., Inc. New York, NY Aug 11, 2015 $78,499
Fashion/Costume Designer Actors Playhouse Productions, Inc. Coral Gables, FL Jun 23, 2012 $66,851
Costume Designer Xcessory International, LLC New York, NY Oct 01, 2013 $65,000
Fashion/Costume Designer Precision Global Consulting, Inc. New York, NY Apr 25, 2016 $56,000
Costume Designer Jeetish Imports, Inc. New York, NY Oct 01, 2011 $52,175
Fashion/Costume Designer Precision Global Consulting, Inc. New York, NY May 06, 2014 $52,000
Clothing and Costume Designer Daniela Kurrle Couture West Hollywood, CA Sep 10, 2014 $50,088
Fashion/Costume Designer Precision Global Consulting, Inc. New York, NY Mar 15, 2013 $48,000
Fashion/Costume Designer Precision Global Consulting Inc. New York, NY Aug 03, 2011 $48,000
Fashion/Costume Designer Precision Global Consulting Inc. New York, NY Jan 05, 2012 $48,000
Fashion/Costume Designer Brighton Ballet Theater Co Inc. New York, NY Oct 05, 2012 $45,914
Fashion/Costume Designer Brighton Ballet Theater New York, NY Apr 25, 2010 $45,914
Fashion/Costume Designer Brighton Ballet Theater New York, NY Oct 05, 2009 $45,914
Costume Designer Xcessory International, Inc. New York, NY Oct 01, 2010 $45,121 -
$22
Costume Designer Cirque Tacular Entertainment LLC New York, NY Sep 19, 2016 $43,827

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Top Skills for A Costume Designer

  1. Wardrobe
  2. Costume Fittings
  3. Design Costumes
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Contributed in production and on set as an assistant dressing the actors, maintaining the costumes, and setting up/organizing wardrobe.
  • Assisted designer with costume fittings; patterned and sewed the actor's costumes.
  • Design costumes for characters, sort all donations of clothing throughout closets, make props for play.
  • Maintained Costume Shop; cleaned up excess materials and tidied-up work space, organized and stored costumes from previous theatrical productions.
  • Designed and manufactured custom costumes and jewelry.

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Top 10 Best States for Costume Designers

  1. Iowa
  2. Kansas
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Texas
  5. Utah
  6. Colorado
  7. California
  8. Illinois
  9. Arkansas
  10. New Mexico
  • (34 jobs)
  • (15 jobs)
  • (18 jobs)
  • (143 jobs)
  • (20 jobs)
  • (72 jobs)
  • (355 jobs)
  • (74 jobs)
  • (8 jobs)
  • (2 jobs)

Costume Designer Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 2,183 Costume Designer resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Costume Designer Resume

View Resume Examples

Costume Designer Demographics

Gender

Female

71.7%

Male

17.2%

Unknown

11.1%
Ethnicity

White

59.0%

Hispanic or Latino

17.1%

Black or African American

10.1%

Asian

9.7%

Unknown

4.1%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

38.4%

French

23.2%

Chinese

6.5%

Italian

5.8%

Mandarin

5.1%

Japanese

3.6%

Irish

2.2%

German

2.2%

Arabic

2.2%

Korean

2.2%

Portuguese

1.4%

Polish

1.4%

Hawaiian

0.7%

Turkish

0.7%

Dakota

0.7%

Serbian

0.7%

Sinhala

0.7%

Catalan

0.7%

Bengali

0.7%

Russian

0.7%
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Costume Designer Education

Schools

Fashion Institute of Technology

19.8%

Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising

14.5%

Savannah College of Art and Design

7.8%

Parsons the New School for Design

5.6%

International Academy of Design and Technology

5.3%

Academy of Art University

4.5%

Columbia College Chicago

4.2%

New York University

3.9%

University of California - Los Angeles

3.9%

Brigham Young University

3.6%

University of Texas at Austin

3.4%

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

3.1%

Virginia Commonwealth University

3.1%

Art Institute of California - Inland

3.1%

Illinois Institute of Art - Chicago

2.5%

Florida State University

2.5%

American InterContinental University

2.5%

Kent State University

2.2%

Rhode Island School of Design

2.2%

Indiana University Bloomington

2.2%
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Majors

Graphic Design

30.4%

Theatre

25.9%

Fine Arts

9.0%

Specialized Sales And Merchandising

4.4%

Business

3.6%

Photography

3.3%

Communication

3.1%

English

2.5%

Drafting And Design

2.3%

Psychology

2.1%

Liberal Arts

1.8%

Apparel And Textiles

1.8%

Marketing

1.5%

Dance

1.3%

Visual And Performing Arts

1.3%

Education

1.3%

Music

1.3%

Entertainment Business

1.2%

Management

1.0%

Writing

1.0%
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Degrees

Bachelors

55.6%

Other

18.0%

Masters

12.3%

Associate

9.7%

Certificate

3.0%

Diploma

0.6%

Doctorate

0.5%

License

0.3%
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Updated May 19, 2020