Costume Designer (Unscripted TV)

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What does a costume designer do?

It’s all about the outfits for costume designers – and the types of outfits depend on the types of production. In entertainment, costume designers design, create or hire costumes worn by participants competing in talent, sports or games. But they also style any presenters, such as judges or experts, in suitable contemporary fashions. When they are working in this way, the role is often referred to as being 'a stylist'. They may do both jobs. Costume designers need to consider the whole look of the person for whom they’re designing, so they also select, source or make suitable accessories like shoes, hats and jewellery.

Costume designers research, sketch and may create mood boards to communicate suggested colours, textures and styles. They work with directors, producers and production designers to collectively create an overall look and style of a show. On big budget programmes, they recruit a team and ensure costumes or outfits are ready in time for fittings, rehearsals and recordings. They are also responsible for ensuring any costumes or outfits meet health and safety guidelines (that they’re not flammable, for example) and are within budget. Once shooting starts, they are often on set to adjust and maintain. When filming is over, they oversee any cleaning, repairing and returns.

Costume designers are usually freelance, unless attached to large in-house art departments.

What’s a costume designer good at?

  • Dressmaking and tailoring: draw, sew, make and source clothes, including fabrics and accessories
  • Knowledge of design: have a passion for fashion, the history of design and costume, understand colour, lighting, pattern and texture, know where to source fabrics, accessories and outfits
  • Styling: understand the producer and director’s vision for a show and see what that means for the outfits or costumes, know what styles suit different people best and create the right looks with flair and creativity, have an eye for detail
  • Communication: work well with others, listen and respond to presenters’ or contributors’ needs, be trusted and have good relationships with designers, PR (public relations) and brands who may supply clothing in current styles, as well as hair and make-up artists
  • Organisation: schedule the costume production and hire, manage the team and the budget

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