If your reading this then your probably wanting a job as a costumer because you’ve seen all those great performances like Cirque Du Soleil or great musicals like Matilda and fabulous movies like Gone with the wind and you’ve thought to yourself I want to make great pieces of clothing like that, I want to be apart of the this industry well if you I’m about the dark gritty truth about breaking into the industry and if you still want to be a costumer, well the only thing I can say is good luck to you as you will need it and boy you will.
When you start looking for a job in costume you end up with a lot of doors closed on your face, trouble is that in this industry everyone is rather tight knit they often hire the same people over and over again because they trust that person, this makes it extremely hard for you to get into this industry so at the start of your costuming career you end up volunteering a lot of your time so that you can gain experience and network, it’s like collecting experience points in a game from the 1990s, it’s hard work, you spend hours on it trying to work out everything then when you finish it your left wondering what you are going to do now and feeling a little empty in the pockets.
Some of the people you work for do pay for your expenses and the might give you lunch but that’s it no extra frills or trims, if you get a ticket when you parked your car across the street because you were busy unloading the costumes, the rack, the ironing board and the millions of other things you need for there production, then guess what they will not pay a single cent of that fine, they expect you a person who is helping them out of there own time with no income to pay a $150 and the reason you can’t pay the fine is because keeping a steady job to support your costuming is nearly impossible.
When you are a costumer your hours are unpredictable, you are always on set in case something goes wrong or needs to be ironed, a majority of your time on set is either ironing the clothes or washing them to try and get out of the makeup stains late into the night.
When your working on any production you have early starts mixed with late nights, so your body clock is all messed up. If you can so if you can find some time and sleep on set do it but only when the director is not looking otherwise you will be seen as lazy. Now this is important, sleep when you can and eat when you can because you can’t eat whenever you want on set as you are constantly busy, whether it’s searching ironing or buying something last minute.
You need your own car and not a compact you either you need something like a minivan or a SVU because you are lugging a lot of equipment to and from your home to the production site, also if you are going to multiple sites on one day you are constantly doing this. Not to forget the constant back and fourth between the shops of you returning clothing and buying new clothes.
For a lot of films you end up sourcing a lot of costumes rather than designing and making your own, you only end up designing for productions that are more than $300, you end up having a very small budget and I mean minuscule can fit between your fingers small, (some times you will be asked to design, pattern make and sew a garment but this is usually for one person not the whole entire cast because it cost more to make a garment than to buy one, the only reason they may ask you to make a garment because the garment they want this either not made by the company anymore or they like the style but not the construction) during this time of sourcing you learn a lot about OP shops and the best places to go, little tip the best places for good clothing is definitely savers as salvos just rips you off, gumtree and even eBay is a great source, Kmart and Target will become your best friends during any production.
Unless your actors are incredibly fussy about what they wear, then you reluctantly drop Target and Kmart quicker than when the popular kids asks you to join them for lunch. I’ve had to work with some really fussy actors and actresses and let me tell you it was a headache and a half, everything I brought in was immediately dismissed as trash and in the end wore their own clothes on stage, I would have been fine with this but I had asked them before to bring in any of there clothes that were suitable, this one girl bought $30 dollar pants before she even consulted me or the director.
The director gets the final say in everything, from shoes to hats to what kind of under wear the actors wear, you may be the one sourcing the outfits, altering them and generally fixing them when they break but must always get permission from the director before you make any purchase it’s exhausting.
That is the true life of a costumer it is tiring, thankless, does not pay and there is endless amounts of washing. Not to mention you better have your parents supporting you and are wealthy otherwise you will not be able to pay the bills, that is not a joke some people spend at least out of work for 2 years out of work some times more and this was after she completed a big tv series, so if you’re an Australian costumer your best bet is going overseas for a job as you are a costumer you can work all over the world. The best places to find work are in America, the UK or France because that is where all the jobs are, it is true that there is a boom in making movies here in Melbourne but you need your foot in the door otherwise you cannot work for money, which you need, well everyone needs money.
Overseas is actually where the huge costume departments like Time Warner are places like these don’t actually make the costumes they get them from professional they merely house the costumes and look after them if you don’t want to make costumes but are great with sourcing the outfits, if you want to make the actual superhero costumes you should really be thinking about applying to Film illusions or places similar to that but it’s really hard to get in you need at least 3 years or more on working on costumes to get in, the whole process is rather tiring I must admit and cause massive frustration.
You may think after reading this that I do not enjoy being a costumer well if you think that, then being a costumer is not for you, costuming is what I love to do and is my passion I generally love all the aspects of it.
If you find yourself loving costumer her are some tips on what to do while on the set, network with everyone and be rememberable the director will remember this, the other workers will remember this and you will be asked to work on other projects, that’s how I got my second job when I started costuming. Be pleasant and go to the after party people get real chatty during this time, they spill there guts about everything and you can get some real great advice from them. Always try to get an assistant they are like an extra pair of hands, they help with everything from sourcing to unpicking clothes and are generally really helpful with everything.
If you are for looking for work in costuming please look at my blog post ‘finding work in the arts’ it will lead you to some websites that will get you your first job in either film, tv or theatre, these are great resources use them.