Costume Designer’s Duty

Early stagecraft master Robert Edmond Jones (1...

Image via Wikipedia

A costume designer has a big job on his or her plate. Not only does this person need to choose the right clothing and accessories, but the job’s success is also dependent on how realistic the professional can make the costume look. For the right people, this is a fun, interesting job that challenges them regularly.

Understanding the Costume Designer

For those who plan to dress up in a costume, and love every minute of doing so, consider a career path in this field. However, the challenge here is pulling off a realistic look and allowing the subject to no longer look like he or she is wearing a mask. Rather, the person should bring the clothing and accessories to life. What does this professional do?

  • The job of a costume designer often includes the development of the look of the character. Some will work closely with directors and writers to make sure that all have the same vision of whom this person should look like before moving on.
  • The design, development and creation of the costumes is the most hands-on work this professional does. Fittings are the last step, but in between, he or she needs to create the look from the ground up.
  • In addition, having the right accessories can be critical. Other details of his or her job include ensuring the ease of changing into and out of the clothing, ensuring it moves with the actor and ensuring it is durable.

For those who are considering this career path, enjoy playing dress up. However, you need also to enjoy the fabrication and idea development that goes along with it.

What Do Costumer Designers Do?

Costume design for Gianetta - The Gondoliers

Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever been interested in costume designing? Here is an overall description of what they do.

Obviously, a costume designer chooses costumes for characters, whether for a movie, TV show, or play. They will either design the costume and have it made or will find clothes that are already made. It depends on the type of show that’s the designer is costuming. If it’s a fantasy, then more than likely, the designer will have costumes created according to his or her designs. If it’s contemporary, then the clothes will likely be chosen from stores.

When deciding on a costume for a character, there are a lot of things that go into choosing that outfit. The designer must consider the character. What would he like? If she pick if she went into a department store? Would his mom or wife pick out clothes for him, or would he pick clothes for himself? If it’s a historical piece, then a lot of research must go into understanding what clothes were popular at the time and what kinds of fabrics were used to make clothes.

If it’s a fantastical film, then the designer is basically taking whatever direction is given to him or her and creating fashions based on that. More than likely, these clothes will be of the designer’s creation, almost like creating a whole fashion line. The designer still must consider the character in deciding what he or she would wear.

The best designers are able to create authentic costumes that fit the characters and the production.

Costume Designers: More Than Just Costumes

Costume design for Gianetta - The Gondoliers

Image via Wikipedia

When you think about costume designing, like most people you probably have a vision in your head of turn of the century dresses for women and the lavish costumes you see on stage and in the theater. Although this is true, there is also a more mainstream side to costume designing.

The clothes that you see characters wearing on TV and in the movies have to be chosen and put together by someone who knows fashion, and they are considered costumes. When a movie is produced the writer, director, and producer all have a vision of what the scene is supposed to look like and this includes what all the characters in the scene are wearing.

In order to put costumes or clothes together for characters you need to have an eye for fashion, and you need to be able to put the whole package together. In order to do this you may need to draw sketches to show producers what you have in mind. You also need to be able to find the clothes for the characters to wear. This could mean hitting the streets and shopping for just the right outfit.

After the clothes are chosen, a costume designer will also work with the set designers to make sure everything works together, and they will also work with the fitters and the actors to make sure everything fits properly and looks right once it is all put together.

So although costume designing can mean coming up with out of the ordinary and period clothing, it can also be a more mainstream job for a person who has a background in fashion and an eye for detail.

Period Costuming

PULASKI, TN - JULY 11:  Members of the Fratern...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

F​rom the sweeping ball gowns of the Civil War era to the streamlined and fringed dress of the 1920s flapper, costumes are an integral part of what makes a film or theater production. Without the appropriate costumes for the region, style and era, no movie or play would be able to accurately convey the true stories as they were written. For this reason, accurate period costuming is a necessity in the entertainment industry.

D​uring the time of the Roman Empire, most women and men wore similar clothing in the form of tunics and draped fabric stoles or togas. By medieval times, costumes, especially for women, had evolved into much more complicated arrangements including yards of fabric in gored sections. This created that wide, flared skirt that ensured a woman’s modesty by hiding the shape of her lower body. During this same period men began wearing the codpiece as a statement of their strength and prowess. By the Victorian era, women’s garb had become even more complicated and restrictive with elaborately boned corsets, yards of fabric devoted to undergarments, and the covering of all skin other than the face and hands. At the same time, clothing for men was becoming much simpler.

T​he clothing for women in the twentieth century ​changed drastically in nearly every decade. In the 1920s, women’s dress was much more androgynous than previous generations. Dropped waists and shorter skirts, along with simple, bucket-shaped hats, combined to make even the most curvaceous women appear boyish. By the 1930s and 40s, femininity had once again declared itself in the shapes of women’s clothing with rigid bras, girdles and the re-emergence of the defined waistline. However, the carefree 60s brought back the idea of non-gender specific clothing with both boys and girls sporting tie-dyed t-shirts, low slung bell-bottomed jeans and sneakers. Even hair styles converged with both genders choosing to wear their hair long, straight and parted down the middle.

The Difference Between a Stylist and a Designer

French costume designer Caroline Barral
Image via Wikipedia

What’s the difference between a stylist and a designer? Don’t they both make people look good? Aren’t they both the same thing?

Although a stylist and a designer are in many ways similar, they are not both the same thing. They have job similarities that can lap over into each other, but overall, their jobs are vastly different in a large respect.

- Accessories

A costume designer looks for accessories that will enhance the creation that they’ve made. They may even design something specifically for the costume, just to ensure that it gives off the initial impression they want.

A stylist takes available accessories and uses them for the purposes they already have. They don’t create (necessarily), but they use available resources. They may offer their insights to the designer, but they primarily rely on their creative sparks and available resources.

- Clothing

A costume designer actually designs clothes for their clients. They take the personality of the character, entertainer, etc. and works with it to make something specifically for that individual.

A stylist takes clothing from different designers and creates a "look." Their creative abilities are in what they can do with the things they’re given. This is where their creative abilities count for a lot, and their choices can make the costume designer shine!
A person with multiple skills in both areas could certainly successfully do both jobs. On many television sets and entertainment sets, they may in fact lap over. However, in order for there to be a uniform consistency in the way each duty is performed, it’s best to have a designated stylist and a designated costume designer. This makes the overall presentation more stunning, more impressive and keeps each person’s creative work in the area that best suits them and the task they’re working with.