18 Important Costumer Resume Skills to Explore for Success

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 11, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Great costumes can make a film, TV show, play, or other visual performance more believable and exciting. Costumers work behind the scenes to design and create costumes using skills like researching, tailoring, an understanding of lighting principles, and attention to detail. If you want to design costumes for the entertainment industry, it's helpful to know what skills employers typically require for this position. In this article, we reveal 18 costumer resume skills that can help you achieve success in the position.

What are costumer resume skills?

Costumer resume skills are an essential part of a job application because they help hiring managers determine whether a candidate is suitable for the role. Costumers are multi-skilled professionals who dress actors and background performers for visual performances. They often work closely with production crews and outside vendors, such as wholesale clothing companies, materials manufacturers and retailers, and antiques dealers or collectors. These specialized designers often have a postsecondary degree in a related field, like a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design, Merchandising, or Theatre Costume Studies.

Examples of costumer resume skills

Here's a detailed list of costumer resume skills employers often look for when hiring:

1. Research

To make a production realistic, it's important that the characters' clothing reflects the story's time period and setting. Costumers research historical information, such as how a character might dress based on their position in society and common materials in that era. For example, a film taking place in early 18th-century England requires vastly different clothing than one set in 1970s America.

Related: Research Skills: Definition and Examples

2. Planning and organization

After researching the attire for the production, costumers typically create a plan that lists the clothing for each actor in every scene, including the background performers. To do this, they create a detailed proposal that includes sketches, digital renditions, pictures, or other visuals. There can be dozens of main actors and hundreds of background performers, so extensive planning and organization skills are key.

3. Design

Costumers typically have excellent design skills and can often create something at the moment if necessary. Design skills can include drawing and sketching, using software, or creating storyboards. They also involve understanding fabrics, how certain patterns may look on film, what colours work best in different lighting conditions, and many other considerations.

Related: How to Become a Fashion Designer in 7 Steps (With FAQ)

4. Presentation

Once a costumer creates a proposal, they typically present it to the director and other key members of the production team. This may involve explaining their choices, so knowing how to articulate ideas and speak to a group of professionals is important. For example, a director might ask why a costumer chose a particular fabric, and they can explain that, based on their research, it was common during that era.

5. Adaptability

Being adaptable is an important skill for costumers, as films and other productions are typically highly fluid. Directors might ask for a costume change, a costume might require alterations, or factors like the weather, lighting, or budget can create disruptions or lead to changes. Being able to accommodate unexpected factors can be a valuable skill.

Related: Adaptability and Flexibility: Definition, Tips, and Types

6. Tailoring

Creating costumes typically requires excellent pattern making, sewing, tailoring, and accessorizing skills for different types of clothing. Costumers may create or source shirts, dresses, pants, bathing suits, tuxedos, wedding gowns, boots, crowns, hats, ascots, and walking sticks. Knowing how to craft or find these items is essential for a costumer.

7. Creativity

Costumers may require creativity in many areas outside of costume design. For instance, they might encounter budgetary issues that require them to create high-quality costumes on a strict budget or extreme, unexpected weather that requires them to adapt their designs. As costumers are expected to make believable costumes, having the talent and creativity to design innovative outfits is essential.

8. Understanding of production etiquette and jargon

Knowledge of film, TV, and on-set production etiquette and terminology is typically a strict requirement. Each production might have different expectations for etiquette, but there are some basic rules and terminology that employers usually expect costumers to know. For example, maintaining complete silence during filming, respecting the production hierarchy, and knowing costuming terms like flashing, fold and hold, and last looks are common expectations.

9. Theoretical understanding

While the job centres around creating costumes, it's helpful for costumers to understand theories and concepts about storytelling and character development. Costumers typically start by reading a script, where they gather information about the characters that can help them understand how their costumes can best represent them. Knowing how to use background knowledge and contextual information about a character can enhance a costumer's ability to create exceptional costumes.

10. General knowledge

Costumers often work on productions that cover different genres, eras, and subjects, so having extensive knowledge of history, cultures, and customs can be helpful. It's also good to understand basic film, lighting, and photography principles. Costumers can also benefit from a general knowledge of character and story development, as costuming is a large part of creating believable characters.

11. Strict adherence to deadlines

Film productions can be multi-million or billion-dollar projects, so keeping on budget is crucial. Part of this is ensuring every department keeps to strict deadlines so that filming occurs without costly delays. Costumers have many responsibilities, including monitoring orders to assure on-time arrival, making unexpected alterations, and dressing an entire cast, so adhering to deadlines is essential.

Related: Common Project Management Challenges (With Solutions)

12. Communication

Effective communication is part of successful costuming, as the job involves speaking with many people in a variety of roles, all with various wants, needs, and understandings. Film directors, materials vendors, and background performers can communicate in vastly different ways, so active listening is essential. Costumers also make detailed notes and provide directions to other crew members, so excellent written and verbal communicatioisre important.

13. Attention to detail

In visual productions, attention to detail can be critical for many reasons. For example, it's important for maintaining costume continuity and accurately representing a character, setting, or era's apparel. It's also important to ensure every cast member has the correct costume for the correct scene, which can be a challenging task in huge productions.

Related: How to Be More Detail-Oriented (With Definition and Resume Tips)

14. Understanding of production processes

A costume can look completely different depending on several factors. For example, the same costume in a film, theatre, or dance production can look different because of the lighting, distance, or camera angle. Lighting can alter the colour and detail of a costume, as can the angle the audience views it, so understanding basic lighting and cinematography principles can be important for costumers.

15. Relationship building

To be successful, costumers typically collaborate with individuals across the entire production, including the director, hair and makeup crew, and location, transportation, lighting, and equipment managers. They work closely with actors and background performers and other stakeholders, such as fabric or prop vendors and casting companies. Building good working relationships with each of these individuals is often necessary for maintaining professionalism, so having excellent relationship-building skills is valuable.

Related: What Are Relationship-Building Skills? (With Examples)

16. Business administration

Although costuming is typically a creative position, it often involves basic administrative duties, like sourcing vendors, creating purchase orders, tracking costumes, and using various software programs. Costumers regularly purchase materials and accessories to create outfits, so understanding how to find quality sellers, negotiate prices, and arrange purchases and deliveries can be part of their job. An understanding of basic accounting, sales, and business administrationise often helpful.

17. Costume breakdown

Costume breakdown is a process that ages or manipulates a costume or fabric to make it appear more realistic. While large productions might have a costume breakdown artist, sometimes a costumer might do this themselves or assist others in the process. Understanding fabric characteristics and costume breakdown mechanics, like how to dye and distress fabric effectively, can be a helpful skill.

18. Costume care

Costumes require care throughout the production to ensure continuity and availability. When an actor finishes a scene, costumers re-tag their costume with the actor's name and next scene, ensure it's in good condition, and store it safely. They also perform any necessary alterations or fixes.

Explore more articles