Costumes are at the heart of a film or TV drama. Not only are they contributing to the overall storyline, but they are also helping actors feel closely connected to their characters. Costume designers attend pre-production meetings and take notes along production designers on anything related to the Writers, Directors and Producers vision. They will then draw mood boards examples of styles fitting the script. On period movies, research will be done to convey accurate colors and fabrics of the time. After the overall mood boards are approved, costume designers will need to work within a set budget to hire a team, purchase materials and assemble costumes.
Time is always an important factor, as delivering a costume comes with fitting it to an actor. When fitted, pictures of actors in their costumes will be taken and reviewed with the director and production team. A scene lasting only 1 minute may requires costumes taking days to be put together.
Once production starts, costume designers are always on location for final fitting or corrections. Costume designers are multi-talented artists needing a broad knowledge of the film and clothing industry.
Costume design reaches far beyond the selection of an outfit, it is a contribution to the character own story, where he/she is coming from, his/her state of mind. The fine details in costumes, from color, style and fit, texture of the fabrics are paramount to the viewer's experience. With costumes comes accessories, jewelry, pocketbook, etc.
Tips to the young costume designer:
Costume designers need to be patient and attentive. They also need to be reactive to changes and understand how to source their needs to stay within budget. To avoid costly mistakes, the designs on the mood boards with colors and samples are essential, as mood boards are for costume designers what blueprints are for builders. One of the challenges of the costume designer is to blend seamlessly with the rest of the production. The costumes need to be part of the story to enhance its emotion. In no way costumes can be the story. We cannot have viewers focusing on the costume exclusively.
Sometimes, production politics comes in the way and add frustration to the process. Main tip from a Hollywood costume designer is to accept opposite opinions, offer your own and remember that you are just an employee, even when you think you know best. Dive into the script, develop relationships with writers, and ask them to express their vision beyond the written words. Be flexible, do not get fixed on one design ideas, welcome suggestions, broaden your sources of influences. Do not believe that costumes from our present time are the easiest to design, do your research to identify trends and match an outfit with what the character is likely to wear, reflecting his/her emotion. Designing costumes for a production can be stressful. Be ready to work long hours and do not work for the glory, unless you are the winner of the academy award for best costume, your name will appear in small print at the end credits.
Lastly, live your costume design career with passion, it will help you make a name for yourself and be in demand.