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Importance of Costume Designers

Updated on December 4, 2016
Costume designers are critical in telling stories that happened a long time ago, like Netflix's The Crown.
Costume designers are critical in telling stories that happened a long time ago, like Netflix's The Crown. | Source

Costume Design and Lack of Money

Clothes are very important in movies because they are part of the story. We understand why doctors and nurses are wearing white uniforms if the story is set in a medical clinic or hospital.

Hospitals also have many colours nowadays. Cleaners and porters might wear blue overalls, physiotherapists purple, theatre staff green etc.

We would also understand why actors are wearing white sheets and hoods to hide their faces if the movie is about the Ku Klux Clan in the U.S.

Despite its importance, costume design does not get a lot of money to make clothes for the film, but costume designers always try to make the best despite very limited resources.

Music Vides

What is everybody going to wear? That is the fundamental question.

If you study costume design you will be interested in Beyonce for a different reason: her costume changes. Someone designs what she wears when she sings in London or Melbourne.

Beyonce is also a big employer with her entourage of women dancers. They also need costumes.

BAFTA award, Chiwetel Ejiofor won best actor for 12 Years a Slave.
BAFTA award, Chiwetel Ejiofor won best actor for 12 Years a Slave. | Source

Polytechnics and Costume Design

Costume or Fashion Design will help you kill two birds with one stone: get a job in film production and also work with actors and actresses you have seen on Entertainment Tonight or on the OWN network.

Ruth E. Carter is the costume designer for most of Spike Lee’s films and other American directors.

  1. Malcolm X, the 1992 version directed by Spike Lee

  2. Clockers directed by Spike Lee

  3. Amistad directed by Steven Spielberg

  4. Lee Daniel’s The Bulter

  5. Love and Basketball directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood

  6. Rosewood directed by John Singleton

  7. Sparkle directed by Salim Akil

In this video Ruth E. Carter talks about everything you ever wanted to know about costume design.

Movie Production the Process

  • Film producers decide that they want to make a film on air hostesses.

  • Script writers prepare first drafts.

  • Producers change it here and there until they are satisfied with the script.

  • Producers approach agents to find the right actors for the part.

  • Once main actors are locked in, the ball starts rolling with the rest of the cast and crew.

  • Costume designers are part of the crew because they will design costumes for air hostesses and pilots.

  • Producers want original ideas because they cannot use West Jet, Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways, Alitalia, El Al Israel Airlines, Pan Am or Qantas air hostess uniforms.

  • Someone might sue producers if the movie is about the cabin crew selling drugs when they say “Chicken or fish?” It might be a code for hard drugs or where to find them when the plane lands.

  • It is a hypothetical situation you understand. Movies are fiction.

Qantas (Australian airline) cabin crew uniform launch in 2013.
Qantas (Australian airline) cabin crew uniform launch in 2013. | Source

The Importance of Costume Design

Movies are about stories that take place in a particular time and place. We do not have the original clothes won by Egyptian queens, so costume designers would study the images in Egyptian tombs.

Costume designers will come up with sketches for the director’s approval. Does she think this sketch would be a true reflection of what air hostesses wear in the year of the lord 2014?

The director likes the rough sketches, but the producer does not because of the cost of fabric. What? Silk? No way, very expensive and it will have to be bought from India or China? Costume designers must come up with another plan.

The difference between producers and directors is the calculator. Producers punch their mobile phones constantly to find out how much things will cost. Directors want aesthetics. How will it look on a television or movie screen?

Bollywood Costume Design Capital

Some people who were born and raised in India do not like Bollywood movies. They feel that it is the same old script and dances.

I love them for the colours and the size. Hollywood producers think twice about producing something as massive as Jodhaa Akbar, an Indian film directed by Ashutosh Gowariker.

The problem with studying fashion design is that you stop being an ordinary person going to the cinema. You start wondering about numbers.

The Mughal dynasty is a very important part of Indian history. The Mughals invaded India and subjugated many Rajput kings but some of them fought to death.

Emperor Akbar was regarded as a compassionate ruler who insisted that Indians had a right to the religion of their choice. They should not be forced to Islam, as previous Mughal rulers had done.

There is a scene where all the original kings of the land came to pay homage to Emperor Akbar. The different costumes representing each king or region will fascinate any costume designer.

British Television Period Dramas

The story is important in both film and television, but sometimes available resources to tell that story take centre stage.

British producers exploit their history. They have history, a monarchy, a whole empire and costumes. That is why Downtown Abbey, the television series is so successful.

Another series that is costume driven is Brideshead Revisited, starring Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews and Diana Quick.

How does British television sell these dramas to PBS or CBC Canada? Read Rivals, Jilly Cooper’s novel about how television series are conceived, made, aired and sold throughout the world.

Real Life Costume Designers

  • School bands: what colour should be our uniform?

  • Church choirs: who will design our new uniform?

  • Weddings: what will the bride and groom wear?

  • Anniversary celebrations: should we choose a sixties theme?

  • Halloween parties: what will the kids wear?


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    Post Comment

    • bonda profile imageAUTHOR

      Nonqaba waka Msimang 

      3 years ago from Canada

      My pleasure. Thanks for reading it.

    • Venus Rivera profile image

      Daisy Rivera 

      3 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Fashion is something that repeats itself and tells a great story. The only thing that changes are the times and people wearing a design. I've enjoyed the way you've captured the costume themes in each movie, video, and television show. Thank you for sharing this hub.


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