How to Become a

Costume Designer

The complete career guide to be a Costume Designer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $73,180
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 3%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute

Costume designers make a living creating costumes that actors and actresses wear in theatrical productions, for television shows, and in movies. They may design costumes to reflect historical styles—researching historical trends in apparel—or they may design costumes that imagine styles in the future.

Recommended Schools

What is a Costume Designer?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in costume designer roles:

  • Research styles from different time periods and different classes to determine appropriate styles for the setting and characters of a production
  • Sketch costume ideas, or use computer-aided design software to create costume designs
  • Choose costume fabrics, colors, and accessories that complement designs
  • Measure actor and actress proportions to create custom-fitted designs
  • Create costumes or oversee costume creation by seamstresses

A Day in the Life

Costume designers create the apparel worn by the actors and actresses that appear in theatrical productions, television shows, and movies where modern clothing is inappropriate for the setting of the production. Often, they work to create costumes that mimic styles of different classes, in different locations, during different periods of history. For example, a costume designer may need to design the costumes for an entire cast of actors playing royalty roles in Europe during the Renaissance.

For other productions, the costume designer may have to be creative and invent styles, particularly for productions set in the future. The costume designer may have to create standards for styles of different classes of characters appearing in a production, and may even create costumes for supernatural characters. Often, the costume designer sketches ideas or uses computer-aided design software to create prototypes that are reviewed by all decision-makers before costumes are produced.

With approved designs, the costume designer must then measure all required proportions of the actors and actresses that will wear the costumes so that costumes are custom-fit. Then he/she either creates the costumes—choosing fabrics, colors, and accessories—or oversees costume creation by seamstresses. Once the final costumes have been created, the costume designer works with actors and actresses to try them on, and makes adjustments when necessary to ensure costumes fit perfectly.

Typical Work Schedule

Costume designers commonly work full-time schedules, but their hours may be irregular. Overtime is common to meet production deadlines, and costume designers may have heavy workloads when working on a new project, followed by ample time off when a project is completed.

Typical Employers

Most costume designers are hired to work for theater companies that present stage productions, or for production studios that create television shows or movies. Some are self-employed and take on clients on a freelance basis.

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How To Become a Costume Designer

The starting point for becoming a costume designer is a bachelor’s degree. Many aspiring costume designers pursue bachelor’s degrees in theater with a focus on costume design, but a fashion design degree may be sufficient as well. Students should make sure that they study the principles of design, learn how to sew and put costumes together, and work to understand how designs changed in different historical periods. They should also take classes to learn how to use computer-aided design software.

It’s also important for aspiring costume designers to engage in designing costumes while still in college to create a portfolio of work. Working with your college theater division to create costumes for plays is a great way to get experience and build a portfolio, as is volunteering or taking an internship at a local theater production company. When applying for open roles after graduation, your portfolio of work will be the most crucial qualification, so it’s important to build a quality portfolio while in college.

After earning a degree, you’ll need to focus on gaining professional experience, designing costumes for a variety of different production themes, and building a portfolio of impressive work. Costume designer roles in television and movies tend to be highly competitive, so your portfolio will need to be impressive for you to score the most prestigious design positions. Working for local production companies can help build your portfolio, and after time, you may have a portfolio that’s diverse and compelling enough to earn you the most desired costume designer roles in all of Hollywood.

Costume Designer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Costume Designer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Costume Designer's can make an average annual salary of $73,180, or $35 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $44,880 or $22 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #176 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Costume Designer. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Costume Designers

  • 1.4%   Doctorate
  • 8.7%   Masters
  • 47.4%   Bachelors
  • 12.7%   Associates
  • 17.6%   College
  • 9.8%   High School
  • 2.3%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Costume Designer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 700 jobs for a total of 23,800 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 3% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #520 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Costume Designers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Apparel, piece goods, and notions merchant wholesalers 7,400 1,200 1%
Self-employed workers 5,400 100 0%
Apparel manufacturing 3,000 -1,400 -1%

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