How to Become a Costumer Designer

In August 2018, on our old blog, we ran the feature Three Tips to Becoming a Costume Designer.

Written by something of an industry legend, Canadian Resa McConaghy, we’ve adapted it for our new website so we can share again the brilliant insights.

They’re ideal for anyone looking for a career in the film or television industry—particularly in costume design, obviously.

You can read the old piece for all of the essential insights, but below we summarise the essential tips she covered.

How to become a costume designer

Resa doesn’t hold back in the piece or sugar it up—it’s not a romanticised account of life designing amazing costumes. As she puts it:

“It will take more than just willingness to work hard and a decent personality. You will need to develop your creative talents and skills, get some early experience, and promote yourself.”

There are three key points she highlights that budding designers should focus on. These are:

  1. Developing your skills and talents: Study in fashion design and technology, go to art college, or film school. Work on your talents and develop your skill set in your spare time with blogging, vlogging, or work experience days.

  2. Gain practical experience: Add to your portfolio and knowledge—reach out to producers and directors. Check out local film production companies. You may need to volunteer and receive no pay, but it’s a step towards better opportunities.

  3. Promoting yourself: Create a CV/resume, portfolio, and then aim for those first interviews. Expect rejections to begin with, you can in any industry, but persevere and you’ll more than likely make progress.

Another great tip from Resa is:

“Create a “Look Book”! Rip pics out of magazines, print pics off of internet or use sketches that you create. Organise these by character into a simple portfolio available at most art shops and impress the director and producers with your creative understanding of their neat characters in their fab script.”

And you can also turn to the internet for some help with that.

Free tools and software

If you’re wondering how to go about showing off your skills, you can use free services like Canva or Pathbrite to design an ePortfolio.

The former is an excellent tool to make your CV stand out, whilst the latter will let you organise the best bits from your experience so far.

Also, get yourself on LinkedIn. It’s the biggest professional networking platform in the world and a great way to showcase your talents to established names in the industry.

About the Costume Designer

On a final note, a bit about Resa McConaghy.

Over a 20-year career in film, TV, and digital media, she’s worked for ABC, Showtime, CBS, and Lifetime. Her other work includes commercials and music videos.

For one example, she's worked with Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall on the current hit TV show Sensitive Skin.

She describes her role as follows: “To enable the articulation of character through wardrobe.”

In her spare time she runs Graffiti Lux Art, which is about artwork that adorns the streets of Toronto (and the rest of the world).