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Costume Designer

Costume designers design and create costumes and clothing accessories for theatre, dance, opera, television, video and film productions.

  • Avg. Salary N/A
  • Avg. Wage N/A
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed < 1500
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Designer, Scenographer, Theatre Designer, Wardrobe Head

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Theatre Designers (5243.1) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Theatre, Fashion, Exhibit and Other Creative Designers (F143) 
  • 2011 NOC: Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers (5243) 
  • 2016 NOC: Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers (5243) 
Interest Codes
The Costume Designer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Theatre Designers

Interest in synthesizing information to create settings, scenic environments, properties, costumes and lighting for theatre, film, video productions, operas and ballets; and in preparing working drawings, creating special stage lighting patterns and selecting colours, decor and accessories


Interest in precision working with tools to construct miniature sets in cardboard, plaster and other materials; and in sketching and painting plans and submitting them to directors and producers for approval


Interest in speaking with workers when overseeing construction of sets

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated May 17, 2021

Responsibilities vary depending on the type of production but, in general, costume designers:

  • Read and analyze scripts for costuming requirements
  • Use a variety of artistic techniques to explore traditional or abstract methods of visualizing productions
  • Work closely with directors and other members of the production team (set designers, lighting designers, makeup artists) to develop design concepts
  • Conduct research to flesh out design concepts such as, geographical settings, time periods, cultures, characters and their relationships and actions
  • Produce freehand illustrations or computer renderings of working drawings and colour renderings of costumes
  • Meet with artistic directors, lighting, prop and wardrobe managers, and head cutters to discuss the resulting appearance onstage of each design
  • Approve or supervise purchase of fabrics, new or used clothing and accessories
  • Develop and implement budgets for costume-related expenses
  • Develop patterns for costumes
  • Attend fittings and some rehearsals (for theatre, dance and opera productions)

Depending on the nature, size and complexity of the production, costume designers may have assistants (such as seamstresses / seamsters or tailors) or they may construct and fit costumes themselves. In some cases, 1 designer is responsible for makeup, sets, costumes and props.

A costume designer's responsibilities may also vary considerably from one show to another depending on the designer's relationship with each particular director.

On large film productions, costume designers may have additional duties. They may:

  • Hire their own costume tailoring crew
  • Be responsible to have multiple versions of the same costume ready, for stunt doubles, stand ins and potential wardrobe malfunctions
  • Rent equipment for a workshop, office and on-set costume truck
  • Attend shoots where new costumes are introduced in order to be available to address changes
  • Wrap up after filming

In computer-rendered previsualization, animation, game design and digital graphics, costume designers work with modelling artists and texturers to create realistic garments in a digital format. The costumes are digitally mapped and anchored onto 3 dimensional characters, and assigned textures and physical properties using software to allow them to be rendered, move and distort realistically. Directors can then assess costuming in relation to the digital scenery and make adjustments as necessary.   

Working Conditions
Updated May 17, 2021

Costume designers often work long hours to meet production deadlines. Their working conditions vary considerably depending on the discipline in which they work (opera, theatre, dance, film, gaming) and on the specific project. Some travel may be required to maintain steady employment.

Due to the freelance nature of the occupation, a designer may have to work on many projects at once. This may entail working on projects at various stages of production and for a variety of companies, so good organization and time management is key. It may result in long periods of working at home or in a personal studio and long periods of travel.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated May 17, 2021

Costume designers need:

  • Creativity and artistic vision
  • The ability to illustrate and render designs and anatomy well
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Flexibility and the ability to improvise
  • Knowledge of a wide range of materials and their properties
  • Communication and interpersonal skills to work effectively with others and to market their ideas and services
  • The ability to work under pressure and the stamina required to work long hours
  • Self-discipline, organization and time-management skills and a strong work ethic
  • The ability and desire to work in a team environment

They should enjoy:

  • Synthesizing information
  • Experimenting and finding innovative solutions to problems
  • Doing precise work with tools and equipment
  • Supervising the work of others
Educational Requirements
Updated May 17, 2021

Costume designers must understand colour, fabric, texture, composition and garment construction. They need related post-secondary education, preferably a bachelor's degree or master's degree with courses in drama or broadcasting, and costume design and construction. Clothing and fashion design, marketing, business, literature and history courses are recommended. Most costume designers are self-employed and must be knowledgeable about both contemporary and historical fashions.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Concordia University of Edmonton

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated May 17, 2021

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated May 17, 2021

Costume designers work for:

  • Theatre companies
  • Film and television production companies
  • Animation and gaming companies
  • Opera and dance companies
  • Festivals

Some theatre companies employ resident designers, but most costume designers work freelance and negotiate contracts for specific projects. Therefore, aspiring designers must acquire related experience and develop a portfolio of their work. Some volunteer to design costumes for costume play (cosplay) events, amateur theatre companies or cable television stations to gain experience. Many gain experience by working in various crew positions and as designers' assistants.

Graduates of design programs usually start as designers for smaller productions, or as assistant designers for larger productions. They may work on 2 or 3 projects at the same time to earn a living. Advancement generally takes the form of larger scale and more demanding assignments. A few costume designers teach at universities and colleges. Depending on the employer, some costume designers may be required to have membership in the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

Costume designers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5243: Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers. In Alberta, 75% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Trends and events affecting funding for the arts
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation

In Alberta, the 5243: Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 0% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 0 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years. Occupational growth may be highly influenced by the number of productions companies do in a year and by the scale of these productions.

Wage & Salary
Updated May 17, 2021

Most costume designers are hired on contract for a season or particular production. Fees vary considerably depending on the production and the designer's reputation.

Costume designers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5243: Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers.

According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers occupational group earned on average from $17.89 to $25.47 an hour. The overall average was $21.04 an hour. More recent data is not available.

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
  • Human Ecology, Fashion and Food Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated May 17, 2021

Associated Designers of Canada (ADC) website:

Canadian Alliance of Film and Television Costume Arts & Design website:

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Calgary website:

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Edmonton website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated May 17, 2021. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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