What you do in the job?

Drama productions usually require a costume team comprising of a Costume Designer, Costume Assistant or Wardrobe Supervisor and two dressers.

A drama may take weeks or months to film, and such a team is required in order to collate and maintain costumes, paying particular attention to the portrayal of characters and costume continuity. In general a filming day for wardrobe would begin at 6.30 or 7am and end at 7.30 or 8pm. It would be filmed on location and or in studio.

Light Entertainment and Comedy shows normally have a different schedule and may involve either a team of people or one wardrobe person alone. If it is an individual who is employed they would still be required to fulfil the activities of the whole department!

In the Wardrobe Department you find the following positions

Costume Designer
Costume Assistant or Wardrobe Supervisor
Dressers or Wardrobe Mistress or Master

The Role of the Costume Designer

Coordination and sourcing of costumes for a TV Programme, modern or period. There is input from the director and actors. A team of assistants helps to ensure the smooth running of a production. Once initial script reading has taken place, the process starts with bringing together costumes for each character.

As the designer is required to work to a budget, items are purchased hired or made according to the funds available. In addition to the garments required, jewellery and accessories have to be sourced, they can make a major contribution to the ambience of the production.

Wardrobe is required for Period and Modern Drama, Comedy, Light Entertainment and the Arts in Film, Television and Theatre. If the production is a period piece or involves specific sectors of the community, for example military, clerical or industrial the costumes must be researched thoroughly in order to achieve the accuracy necessary to make the production look entirely authentic. In accordance with the script, garments may need to be broken down, distressed with imitation blood, mud, oil or require some other particular attention. Costumes for an Actor must enable him or her to feel appropriate to the character being portrayed.

The Role of Costume Assistant or Wardrobe Supervisor

A Costume Assistant works closely with the costume designer during the initial prep time and throughout the making of the programme. Assisting the designer in fittings, the purchase or hiring of garment, liaising with actors, production and the rest of the wardrobe team. The role of the assistant comes to the fore on set when filming actually takes place. He or she will be responsible for continuity. As scenes are often filmed out of sequence, over various story days, costume continuity is of the utmost importance. On larger budget dramas the assistant will have a team of dressers as aides.

The Role of the Dresser or Wardrobe Mistress or Master

Whenever the Costume team have a base, be it in a room at the studio or vehicles for location filming, this person is responsible for this area. He or she would be expected to prep and maintain the costumes (laundry, steaming and ironing), depositing and collecting costumes from artistes dressing rooms and keeping garments in good shape. As space is often limited, and items are often needed in a hurry, being organised is essential. The Wardrobe Mistress or Master may also be required to make repairs and alterations, often at speed and if a seamstress has not been employed, then it may be her or his role to make up garments.

What qualities are required?

Qualities needed.

A degree in a related subject is required. Fashion or Theatre Design are recommended.

Being creative and artistic are important, as are sewing skills and a vivid imagination. Coming up with ideas and problem solving are an integral part of any costume role. A natural love for historical design in dress and textiles, and an interest in contemporary design in accessories and fashion is a must.

For every position in wardrobe an amenable personality is essential. The job will involve meeting many new people, and so a friendly and outgoing nature is helpful! Good communication skills, a strong team player and the eagerness and energy to cope with long working days.

How you start and where you can go with it?

Career Path.

Graduate with your Design degree and start as Dresser or Wardrobe Mistress or Master. The position of Designer requires a great deal of experience within television. It is necessary to work your way up from Dresser to Costume Assistant, Wardrobe Supervisor, to Costume Designer.

Wendy D Schofield Costume Designer

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