Take the Lead in Costume Design with Fashion School

by Jessica Santina
Fashion School Review Columnist

March 16, 2010

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Think about some of the greatest icons in contemporary fashion history: Cher in her red Pocahontas costume, Elton John in his sparkly sunglasses, or Madonna in her leather corset. As Audrey Hepburn once said, "If clothes make the man, then certainly the costume designer makes the actor."

The work of costume designers is part art, part fashion design, part history, and part drama. It's about capturing someone's essence, representing life in a particular time or place, and making a statement about performers that inspires fantasy and distinguishes them from the rest of us.

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Costume Designer Jill Ohanneson says, "In costume design you're designing for a character. You don't have to just design paints and a shirt and a tie. You're also designing sadness and droopiness and wiltiness."

That's why fashion design courses may only be the beginning of the training you'll need. You traditionally will need a traditional or online high school diploma, a basic understanding of accessories, hair, and make-up, as well as the principles and history of art. If there is a particular time period you're interested in, become an expert. Check local and online colleges for specialized history classes or art history classes.

Understanding the nuances of story, setting, and character are typically essential, so a solid foundation in fashion history is usually a must. Costume designers conduct enormous amounts of research, and they should have a natural curiosity about people and history.

Beyond the standard fashion school courses, a basic knowledge in theater can be an important part of translating character through fashion design.

The Truth Behind Costume Design

What you really need to be a costume designer is passion. Passion may be what keeps you going when work and pay are scarce and unpredictable. You might be credited for your work, but you might not. Also, there generally isn't much job security in costume design, and while you may work a few 16-hour days, you might struggle to line up the next job.

Opportunities should be best for those with degrees from fashion school. So explore this site for fashion school training in costume design, and set the stage for an exciting career!


About the Author
Jessica Santina is a freelance writer with a background in media and marketing. She also teaches first-year writing courses at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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