The Three Types of Costume Designers and What they Do

Costume Desgin for the movie The Duchess

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Have you ever wondered why a character in a movie, show, or play looks the way they do? Who chooses their clothes, hairstyles, makeup, and accessories? These details are often determined by one of three types of costume designers, who create the looks of characters in movies, plays, theaters, and dance productions.

The freelance designer is typically hired on for certain productions. Freelance designers can travel from area to area or from company to company often. Since freelance designers are independent they can design for multiple companies or production theaters if they wish.

Residential designers are those who are hired on for an extended amount of time as well as for an extended series of productions.  Companies hire residential designers for periods typically ranging from a few months to a matter of years depending on the need for their services. These designers are often limited in the amount of freelance assignments they can do, and are kept on location readily available to work with the hiring companies’ costume studio as needed.

A third type of costume designer, the academic designer, is an individual that maintains a professorship at an educational facility, providing instruction to students who are aspiring to work in the costume design field. These designers are noted as being professionals with a high degree of experience and are often required to have a Masters of Fine Arts degree.

Whatever the type, costume designers have been entertaining audiences with style, looks, and excitement for years and will continue to do so for years to come.

Period Costumes in ‘Pride and Prejudice’

Designing costumes for period films can be very difficult. It takes a significant amount of research to get things “just right.” For films like Pride and Prejudice, which is set in the 1790s, few if any actual garments still exist. Costume designers must depend on existing sketches and paintings from the period, as well as the interpretations of previous costume designers. It can be a daunting task.

Costume designers also often rely heavily on prop or costuming shops to outfit the actors in the production they are working on. But these resources often have very little in the way of clothing and accessories meant to look as though they are from this time period. That means the costume designers have to have many outfits created from scratch. This was the case with the 1995 BBC production of “Pride and Prejudice.”

The designers who worked on the film have said many of the fabrics that would have been commonly used in this time period aren’t made anymore. For this particular film, the solution was to have modern fabrics printed to look like fabrics from the time period; and to have the clothing created from that.

In the 2005 “Pride and Prejudice” production, the costume designer has said she used the cut and colors of clothes to help tell the story in an interesting way. For example, the costume designer dressed Mr. Darcy to reflect the personality change he experiences. At first, his clothing is stiff and formal, much like his attitude to the people at the Meryton assembly. But by the end, when he and Elizabeth reach an understanding, he is dressed in much loser, more flowing clothes.

What is a Costume Designer?

Costume designers have an important role in film and stage productions. They create the costumes the actors will wear in the production, which can greatly impact the success of a movie or play. If their designs are off, it can be incredibly difficult for the audience to become fully immersed in the production.

Costume designers will often work with the set designers and makeup artists to help create a cohesive look for a film or play. It goes without saying that a costume designer must have a thorough knowledge of fashion, including fabrics, patterns and more. There are many things a costume designer must consider when creating the costume for a character. The designer must stay true to the director’s vision, while considering the durability of the design and the fabric used to create it, the movements the actor must make while wearing the design and more.

The first thing a costume designer must do when beginning work on a new production is read the script to understand the piece, the characters and what they will be doing. Sometimes, a designer will create costumes from purchased pieces. Other times, especially for historical or fantastical productions, a designer will work from scratch by creating sketches and patterns, and having the costumes sewn. As in any field, budget is always an important consideration.

Costume designers can be freelancers, hired on by a theater or production company for a specific play or film; or they can be resident designers hired on to work on a number of productions for an extended period of time.

Varieties of Costume Design in the Movies

The variety of costumes created for movies is a varied as the types of movies themselves. From science fiction to historical romance and everything in between, costume designers play an important role in creating the overall feel and experience of a movie.

In the most recent Oscars, the film “True Grit” was nominated for Best Picture. But for those interested in the field of costume design, it was the actors’ wardrobe that was the highlight of the movie. Designer Mary Zophres did a wonderful job recreating clothing that would have been worn in the American west more than 100 years ago.

To create successful costumes for an historical film, a designer must study the fashions of the given time period. For “True Grit,” Zophres understood that the costumes had to reflect the simplistic durability of the fashions of the time – simple lines, warm fabrics and comfortable cuts were important then, and were therefore important to the development of the film.

For contrast, compare the costumes in “True Grit” to those in the most recent adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland.” Here, fantastical designs rule the day. Costume designer Colleen Atwood bolstered the success of the film by dressing the stars, especially Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, in outrageous style fitting the fantasy film. One must believe that Atwood worked closely with the set designer for the costumes and sets to blend as beautifully as they did.

There is no limit to the creativity a costume designer can express in film throughout the course of his or her career.

How to Become a Costume Designer

Designing costumes for film and theater can be a fun, exciting and rewarding career. But while you do need to have a good set of innate creative and artistic ability, you will also need to hone those skills through a formal education program. Luckily, there are good fashion design schools with costume design programs all across the country.

When you look at costume design education programs, you will find 2-year Associate degree programs, and 4-year Bachelor’s degree programs. Either will give you a good foundation and teach you the basics, but you will of course learn much more in a 4-year program. Choose what fits your needs and your budget.

When you are in school, you will learn about all aspects of costume design, including the differences of designing for film versus theater, how to work with the director and set designer, and much more. To be successful in school and in your career, you will need to have a good working knowledge of history, enjoy research, and have a thorough understanding of fabrics, sewing and fashion trends.

While you are in the later stages of your schooling, you will also want to look for good internship opportunities. This real-world experience will help you develop your abilities as a costume designer and give you an edge over the competition. To find an internship, look into school film and theater productions, and into projects with community theaters or production houses.

The job outlook for costume designers is stable, but does ebb and flow with the fortunes of the entertainment industry. To best establish yourself for a successful career, get a good education and internship under your belt.

Costume Design for ‘The King’s Speech’

The motion picture of the year at the 2011 Academy Awards was the period film “The King’s Speech.” Besides winning in this category and many others, the film was also nominated for the wonderful costume design spearheaded by Jenny Beaven. Beaven is no stranger to Oscar nominations, having been nominated a total of nine times in her career.

The movie is set in England, on the eve of World War II. The designs for the film capture the essence of the time and the characters in a way few costumes succeed at doing. Beaven has revealed that she had only five weeks to ready the costumes before shooting began, and a very small budget to work with.

To plan, Beaven spent a lot of time researching the King, the Queen and the times they lived in. She studied photos and read biographies, learning about the couple’s favorite colors and styles while altering some of their preferences to better fit the modern audience’s tastes and expectations. It’s a challenge that any costume designer must face when designing for a historical film.

Beaven has said she does not prefer to sketch out costumes. Instead, she pulls each costume together a piece at a time, mixing and matching to achieve the desired result. In the films she works on, much of the costumes are created from found pieces that she finds at rummage shops and prop stores combined with a few pieces created new. Beaven is also known for involving the actors in their costume development by asking them to try on different costumes and accepting their input. The result is always a costume design masterpiece, as in ‘The King’s Speech.’

Learn the Basic Steps for Putting on a Musical

The Coxton Ville : Film Crew

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If your dream is to put on a musical, you have some work ahead of you, but the results should be worth it. Of course, the first step is to choose a script that has several songs in it, and then make enough copies for the cast and crew. Once this step is complete, it is time to start seeking actors, crew members, and an appropriate venue.

The best way to start advertising auditions for a cast and crew is also the simplest way, which is to post flyers. This tried-and-true method can be performed by anyone, as long as you have access to a large batch of flyers that look good and knowledge of where to post them. Consider the desired ages of the cast and crew, and begin posting your advertisements around schools and local theater groups.

Once the ads have done their intended job of getting people interested in auditions, you will need to host the tryouts and then make a decision. The sooner you do this, the better, since rehearsals can start afterward. As your cast rehearses, start looking for a venue with a quality stage and plenty of room for the audience to sit.

Of course, you will need an audience in order for the musical to be successful, so you should work on putting out flyers once again. Post them anywhere you think people that are interested in theater or music will be. Make sure to list the show dates, time, location, ticket prices, and ticket purchasing info. Contact information is also important, in case people have questions.

Once these tasks are done, just keep directing the rehearsals until you are sure that you cast and crew members have it right. Making sure that they are ready for opening night is important in order to impress your audience. Keep in mind that one successful musical production can lead to more in the future.

Stage Makeup Techniques

The woman's eye has had mascara applied to the...

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Whether or not it is apparent to the audience, actors and actresses in plays and films have all had a great deal of stage makeup applied prior to their performances. Even those who are supposed to look as though they have just woken up, fought a zombie horde or survived a military battle have had extensive time in the make up chair. Learning how to apply stage makeup well takes a great deal of time, most of which is spent watching, helping and training under stage makeup professionals. The easiest type of stage makeup is usually for a more normal look.

The first step to great stage makeup is to start with a flawless canvas. For that reason, makeup artists will insist on a clean face before they get to work. The artist will apply a thick foundation over the exposed face and neck area, paying special attention to hide any blemishes, unwanted beauty marks and scars. Next, the artist will need to bring out the actor’s features so that the finished result does not look like a blank mask. Shadowing along the cheek bones, jaw and nose will help define the features. The eyes typically receive a great deal of attention in stage makeup. Heavy eye liner, usually black or very dark brown, is applied to both the upper and lower lash lines. Next, false eyelashes are applied with an adhesive. Finally, eye shadow is used to define and create the desired look of the eyes. Some applications may cause for the eyes to appear bright and wide open, while others may call for a more shadowed and mysterious look. When applying lipstick for the stage, the lips are usually lined slightly larger than the actors’s actual lips. A similarly colored lipstick is then used to fill in the lips, making sure that the actors’ mouth is well defined and visible from the audience.

What Costume Designers Do


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C​ostume design is becoming a fast growing industry, especially among recent American college graduates. The glamour and thrill of working in New York or Hollywood is especially enticing to young adults, many of whom have been interested in the industry for years. Costume designers typically have degrees in fashion design, art history, film or another related major. The field is quite competitive, and many beginning designers must intern for quite some time before they are hired for projects of their own.

Modern costume designers do much more than just research the clothing of a specific era or nationality. They will also create costumes that help forge and define the characters. They work with the sets and director in order to establish the details before beginning to select styles or fabrics. Costume design can be particularly creative when the project involves a fantasy or science fiction theme when there are no historical references for the actors’ clothing.

Those who are interested in entering the field of costume design should understand that much work and effort is required before the job gets interesting. Potential designers will spend hours assisting or apprenticing to established designers. They will also be called upon to prepare the research necessary when designing period clothing for plays or films. There are a number of considerations that may need to be dealt with, including what actions the actors will be taking while wearing the costumes, whether or not they will be outside in the weather and the types of lighting that the scenes will call for. All of these variables will help dictate what types of fabric are used for the costumes and whether or not duplicates of certain costumes should be available. For instance, if a scene calls for a costume to be ruined or destroyed, having to do several takes may call for multiple, but easy to secure costumes for the actors.

Exposing Your Child to Theater – Finding Organizations in Canada

Theater at the Performing Arts
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Theater is certainly an area that can benefit your child. As one of the performing arts, it can allow your child to become engaged within the art. Many find it to be a lifelong pursuit. Theater can spark your child’s interest and allow him or her to find the love that they have for the art.

Developing an appreciation for art in your child can be done with the help of various organizations. The Canada Arts Presentation Fund, the Ontario Arts Council Foundation, and the Canada Council for the Arts are just a few performing arts organizations in Canada that can expose your child to theater. These organizations can make a huge difference in the lives of children.

If you would like to find out more information about organizations such as those mentioned, you should use Canada 411. Canada 411 is a search engine directory that can help you find performing arts organizations in your area. Simply search for one of these in your area, and you can find out more about the organization, including what they offer in terms of programs.

The benefits that await children who get an exposure to theater are well-observed. Developing talents, and allowing expression through the performing art of theater are a couple of benefits. It allows children to stay positive because it gives them something to work towards and an identity to be a part of. Your child can experience many of the benefits that comes with theater. At the very least, they may gain an appreciation for the dynamic performing art.

Take a look at local performing arts organizations in Canada with Canada 411. You will find information in order to get your child involved there. As you find opportunities for your child to experience the wonder and beauty of theater, perhaps your child will find something that he or she develops into a lifelong passion.