What is a Costume Maker?

Cassie L. Damewood
Cassie L. Damewood
A costume maker sewing a button.
A costume maker sewing a button.

A costume maker makes the outfits for characters in movies and in plays produced by high schools, colleges and community theaters. He may also repair drapes and curtains used on a stage or set. Any item used in plays or movies that requires hand or machine sewing skills is generally his responsibly.

Imagination and resourcefulness can sometimes be required traits for a good costume maker. Budgets for school and community productions are normally low, so he often has to create the illusion of finery from bargain basement materials. He may also be expected to recycle costumes from play to play, using the same material to create new designs. The costume maker utilizes accessories and flourishes to reinvent costumes for each production.

Costume makers working.
Costume makers working.

Knowledge of sewing equipment and related principles typically are required. The costume maker normally maintains the sewing machines, irons and inventories of fabric, thread, buttons, zippers and embellishments, such as feathers, beads, sequins and appliqu├ęs. If a support staff is available, he may be expected to train them in using the sewing equipment and teach them the principles of hand sewing.

Costume makers may look for jewelry to compliment wardrobe designs.
Costume makers may look for jewelry to compliment wardrobe designs.

Good math and computer skills sometimes are necessary to be competent in this position. After a play or movie is cast, the costume maker generally determines the size of clothing required by each actor and determines the amount of fabric and thread required. If he's working with a low budget, he may need to assess what materials and costumes in stock can be reused and what must be newly purchased. All this information is usually calculated and stored on computerized systems for easy tracking and future reference.

Costume makers may work as part of a stage play crew.
Costume makers may work as part of a stage play crew.

This position requires keeping track of costumes and accessories. A system of checks and balances assures no costumes, shoes, accessories or jewelry leave the set. Actors normally are responsible for returning the costumes to their proper places at the end of each performance. They are often also required to advise the costume maker if any tailoring or repairs to the costumes are required.

A costume maker usually works closely with the costume designer, a position to which a costume maker may aspire. The costume designer and costume maker regularly confer on costume design as well as fabric selection, use of accessories and color coordination with the items on the set.

The requirements for this position vary, but most jobs offered in this field expect the applicant to have demonstrated talents and abilities in hand and machine sewing. Experience in altering or making costumes or dresses is preferred. A certificate in costume making from an accredited university or college can be helpful.

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Discussion Comments

anon332257

Depends on the country. Some countries/states have union laws or employment law governing where people can/can't work. Workspaces can either be costume making companies with permanent workrooms, or temporary workroom set up for large or small shows, or freelancers working from home. It's a mix of all of these.

Also, the article uses 'he' all the way through, but I've never worked with a male seamstress here. Buyers, runners, assistants, art finishers, sure, but never a maker.

anon108490

Great information, though could you write something about where they work, e.g. home/office etc.?

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    • A costume maker sewing a button.
      A costume maker sewing a button.
    • Costume makers working.
      Costume makers working.
    • Costume makers may look for jewelry to compliment wardrobe designs.
      By: FedeCandoniPhoto
      Costume makers may look for jewelry to compliment wardrobe designs.
    • Costume makers may work as part of a stage play crew.
      By: jilt
      Costume makers may work as part of a stage play crew.