Costume Department Job Descriptions


These are some very basic descriptions of the different titles in the Costume Department.  There are more responsibilities and many interpretations for each job depending on the situation.  If you feel slighted in anyway with what I have written here, give me a shout out and I will change things up to make it feel better for all!

 

Costume Designer

The Costume Designer is an integral part of a film or television production’s creative team. In pre-production, they work closely with the Director, the Production Designer and the Producers to develop a look for the characters that best serves the story.  The Costume Designer seeks inspiration from many sources, including interviews with the actors who will play the characters, and extensive historical and visual research.  When shooting starts, the Costume Designer works to maintain the visual unity of the production while establishing new costumes and designing looks for new characters.  The Costume Designer is considered the head of the Costume Department.

Assistant Designer

The Assistant Designer helps the Designer with research, shopping, rentals and fittings for all characters.  On lower budget productions, the Assistant Designer may also be responsible for the script breakdown and taking on the duties traditionally handled by the Costume Coordinator/Supervisor.

Costume Coordinator (Canada)/Supervisor (US)

The Coordinator is responsible for the day to day running of the department.  They analyze the script breakdown and production schedules to prepare a realistic Costume budget, manufacturing and purchasing schedules and crewing requirements.  They handle all the financial records for the Costume Department and are responsible for maintaining the costume budget.  They coordinate all labor efforts for pre-production (the build) and the actual shoot.

Set Supervisor (Canada)/Key Set Costumers (US)

The Set Supervisor helps to maintain the Costume Designer’s vision for each character while on set.  They’re responsible for maintaining the continuity of the costumes during filming and the managing the day-to-day running of the on-set costume crew.  The Set Supervisor communicates with each department for special script requirements such as the Special Effects Department and Stunts for effects like burns and bullet hits, and Visual Effects Department for Motion Capture.

Truck Costumer

The Truck Costumer helps set up the costume trailer (the mobile work base for the Costume Department), orders supplies and expendables, organizes items needed for cast comfort, arranges the costumes into the actors’ trailers at the start of each day and for each costume change during the day, and prepares what is required for upcoming days.  They have the responsibility to track and maintain the costumes for the duration of the shoot.

Costumer

Costumers are a key part of the costume department.  Costumers must maintain a wide variety of skills to help in any situation.  On any given day they might be in the office to help with fittings, in the sewing room for alterations, on the road shopping for supplies and last minute items, and on-set assisting the Set Supervisor with cast and background players.

Dresser

A Dresser may assist in fitting, alterations and construction of costumes as assigned by the Designer or the Cutter.  They may also assist in dressing the Background at the trailers/tents

Cutter

The Cutter is responsible for making patterns, cutting, fitting and construction of costumes from specific designs or sketches supplied by the Designer.  The Cutter may assist in selecting materials and supervising the costume construction.

Stitcher (sewer, seamstress, costume builder)

A Stitcher works in the sewing room with the Cutter during the construction of the costumes.  The Stitcher will sometimes assist during fittings to help with pinning and alterations.

Textile artist/Breakdown and Dyer

The Textile Artist and Dyer works under the direction of the Designer to bring the costume to life by what is required of the feel, look and action of the character and scene. This is done through ageing, distressing, painting, printing and dyeing. Through dyeing the dyer can manipulate colours, brighten or dull colours of the costumes, and create effects through the various dye techniques.

The textile artist/breakdown and dyer often work on creating the looks for stunt scenes that require multiplies of the costume and often work on set creating looks at a given notice.

It is the part of the costume department that is the final step of the making process and it an essential part to completion of a costume.

 

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14 thoughts on “Costume Department Job Descriptions

  1. this is really quite good but what about the COSTUME STANDBY? or STANDBY WARDROBE The person is on set and who maintains Costume Continuity or is this just a Australian Position? Now the Key Costume / Key Standby as far as I know only looks after certain artist on set is that right? Thanks Theo Benton

    • Hello! Yes I have to look further into those titles. I believe that they are similar to British titles as well. The titles I have listed are the ones we use in Canada/America and Standby Wardrobe would be the same as a set costumer. I would love to hear from you with job descriptions for the other positions so that I will be able to add them into the list! When you have some time send me an email at info@dontshootthecostumer.com Thanks Dawn

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  3. These sound like LA titles and descriptions. Things are broken down a bit differently in New York. There is less fluidity between the roles, for example costumers don’t shop in NY. It’s an 829 (Design union) job, not a 764 (Wardrobe union) job. It’s all the same union in LA, thus the fluidity. There are both Costume Co-ordinators and Wardrobe Supervisors out here. They are different jobs and different unions. For most shows out here there is a Tailor who usually is both the Draper (Cutter) and the Stitcher, but they are just called a Tailor. Some shows require very little pattern or garment making and are mostly alterations. On a big movie or a period show where there are multiple Tailors, the Key Tailor is usually the draper, but not always, it depends on how many people they are supervising. There might be multiple Drapers, but even so, they are mostly referred to as Tailors. Draper and Stitcher (and First-hand/Cutter) are terms used primarily in theater costume shops in NYC and not on TV/film sets. Dresser is also a Broadway term here and not used on set. I think Fitter is the term most used instead of what is labeled here as Dresser.

    I am a member of 764 and have worked in many roles in theater and TV/film in NYC including First-Hand, Dresser, Stitcher and Swing Dresser for Broadway shows and Tailor for a bunch of TV/Film.

    Maybe you should consider getting some people from 829 and 764 to write up the job descriptions for our coast? I know the costume construction/alteration ones pretty well, since that’s my speciality, but , for example, the nuances about who is in charge of which pieces of the budget are lost on me. I know I have heard assistant designers talking about submitting the budget for an episode before we start it and know that the Co-ordinator is the person who deals with receipts, etc. But I know the Supervisor is also involved and I have no idea of the their specific role.

    • Hello,
      I am very interested in adding another list. Yes, I am from Vancouver Canada and all my titles are from what I am used to working under. As well as I added the LA titles because they are titles that I also work under when I am there. I know that so many others have been missed from around the world.

      London is totally different as well.

      If you are interested in gathering titles and descriptions and writing them up I will happily publish them with your name attached as the writer.

      It is great to be able to share with more people that have the questions all over the world!

      Thanks for the the info!
      Dawn

    • The Unions in LA are 892 (Costume Designers Guild) for Costume Designer, Assistant Costume Designer, and Costume Illustrator. 705 (Motion Pictures Costumer Union) Is for Supervisors, Cutter/Fitter, Aging Dying specialist, shoppers, Key Set Costumer and Set Costumer. Theatre Costuming is a separate union local 768.

  4. Hi there, I am studying costume design in England and trying to break down all the different roles involved, I didn’t know there was so many! Thank you for posting this it has been very helpful. I’m very interested in getting into costume design for film, I’m hoping its not as hard to break through as everyone says it is. Many thanks Anna

    • Hello Anna, if you take a look at some of the comments you will see some titles from a New York costumer as well. I have friends in England and i believe it is tough… But stick to it put it out there and it will happen!

      Good luck and have a great tome getting there!

      Dawn

  5. When I worked in NYC, I was often a “Shopper”. I would shop for whatever was needed, which I don’t see mentioned here. Also missing is that most important stitcher person, the “finisher”. The finisher was very important for getting details just right, like collar points.

    • Huh. Interesting. I have worked in theatrical costumes shops (regional & Broadway) on both coasts and TV/film shops in NYC and I have never heard of a finisher as a position anywhere other than a factory making mass produced clothing. Very few TV shows or films would have a costume shop large enough to even consider having a separate person for finishing. I certainly have always had to do my own! Where did you work where they had a separate person for finishing?

      NYC definitely has shoppers as a position. On a union gig, the shopper is 829 and is either also an assistant designer, or just the next step below.

      • A finished costumer in LA is an on set costumer. It is a person who deal with costumed that are completed and on camera.

        Hope I got that correct, if not please fellow costumer correct me! Thanks

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