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Occupational Profile

Costume Designer

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

  • Avg. Salary $39,473.00
  • Avg. Wage $21.04
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Designer, Scenographer, Theatre Designer

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

61%
61%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Costume Designer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Theatre Designers
NOC code: 5243.1
INNOVATIVE

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

METHODICAL

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

DIRECTIVE

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

Duties
Updated Mar 27, 2017

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

  • read and analyze scripts
  • 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, characters and their relationships and actions
  • produce working drawings and colour renderings of costumes
  • meet with wardrobe managers and head cutters to discuss 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 sewers or mulliners) - or they may construct and fit costumes themselves. In some cases, 1 designer is responsible for makeup, sets, costumes and props.

A 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 crew
  • 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.
Working Conditions
Updated Mar 27, 2017

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) 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. 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 Mar 27, 2017

Costume designers need to possess:

  • creativity and artistic vision
  • flexibility
  • the communication and interpersonal skills required 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, good 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, and supervising the work of others.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 27, 2017

Costume designers must understand colour, fabric, 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 design, marketing, business, literature and history courses are recommended. Most costume designers are self-employed and must be knowledgeable about both contemporary and period 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

Grant MacEwan University

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

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 27, 2017

Costume designers work for:

  • theatre companies
  • film and television production 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 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 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 (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions)
  • size of the occupation.

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 Mar 27, 2017

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.

Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers
NOC code: 5243

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $13.00 $26.56 $17.89 $18.00
Overall $14.90 $22.00 $21.04 $21.15
Top $21.00 $26.60 $25.47 $25.30

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

C: Lower Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lower Reliability, represents a CV of between 15.01% and 33.00% and/or if fewer than 20 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 33% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Public Administration
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES
Retail Trade

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

61%
61%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

N/A

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

N/A

2015 Vacancy Rate

N/A
Related High School Subjects
  • Fine Arts
    • Drama
    • Visual Arts
  • English Language Arts
  • Science
  • Media, Design and Communication Arts
    • Design Studies
    • Fashion Studies
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Fine Arts and Performing Arts
  • Human Ecology, Fashion and Food Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 27, 2017

Associated Designers of Canada (ADC) website: www.designers.ca

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Calgary website: www.iatse212.com

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Edmonton website: www.iatse210.com

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 27, 2017. 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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