What does a costume assistant do?
Costume assistants work for designers or costume supervisors. The types of outfits they help with depends on the types of production they are on. They could be assisting a designer or helping with the hire of dramatic costumes for an entertainment show; they might be purchasing clothes and accessories for a presenter or steaming and brushing clothes down for an expert on location. In these cases, they might be known as stylist assistants working for stylists.
Costume assistant roles can vary in seniority depending on the show. On many productions, this is the entry level role, where you may be required to research, source and purchase clothes, accessories or materials for your department; steam, mend or adjust outfits and run errands. Or you can find yourself working as a junior stylist assisting a lead stylist and looking after the appearance of guests or less central contributors. On some productions, assistants have a little more experience and are given more responsibility for key onscreen appearances.
On big budget shows, costume assistants may be part of a team ensuring costumes or outfits are ready in time for fittings, rehearsals and recordings. Once shooting starts, they are often on set to adjust and maintain, and when filming is over, they assist with cleaning, repairs and returns.
Costume assistants are usually freelance, unless attached to large in-house art departments. They often will be requested by designers or stylists they’ve worked well with before.
What’s a costume assistant good at?
- Dressmaking and tailoring: be able to draw, sew, make, alter and maintain clothes and accessories, prepare outfits to look faultless on screen
- Styling: understand the stylist’s or designer’s vision for a show, know what styles suit different people best and create the right looks with flair and creativity
- Attention to detail: spot and deal with any design or styling flaws or issues during filming, keep the department organised and tidy
- Knowledge of design: have a passion for fashion, the history of design and costume, an understanding of colour, lighting, pattern and texture, know where to source fabrics, accessories and outfits
- Communication: work well with others, listen and respond to stylists’, presenters’ and contributors’ needs, be trusted and have good relationships with designers, PR and brands who may supply clothing or accessories