The allure of costume design … and a reality check

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012 | Uncategorized

“Is being a costume designer, especially in theatre, as exciting and theatrical as I think it is??”

This question was posed to me through email a while ago.

I really want to encourage anyone with the dream of becoming a designer to do it.  There is no better feeling than getting paid to do something you love.  Not only can you proudly exclaim that you love to get up everyday and go to work.  But you also get to use phrases like, ” do what you love and the money will follow”.

Now for a small dose of reality

There are days when I DON’T like what I do.

There are actually days when I have to force myself to go to another meeting with a director I don’t enjoy working with.

There are times I want to roll my eyes at an actor in a fitting because they are just making suggestions that cannot be executed (or falls squarely into the category of “stupid).

There are nights when all I want to do is watch TV, but I can’t because I have renderings that are due the next day.

There are days when I don’t eat lunch because I’m too busy shopping for that one elusive costume piece to complete the look – which makes me crabby to everyone around me because of low blood-sugar.

I take on shows that I’m uninspired by because I need the work.  I take on shows that don’t pay well because I need the work.  I work with theaters that I know won’t lead to any notoriety because I need the work.

If I didn’t have a spouse who supported me, I would be living in an efficiency apartment, eating ramen noodles, tea, and beans on toast.

So, no, it isn’t as exciting as most people think.

Even the biggest designers are not going to red-carpet events every other weekend.  But one should have dreams….


I wouldn’t do anything else.

One thing that having a baby has taught me, is that you hold onto the good times (the smiles, the laughs, the chasing through the hallways) and put the bad (exploding diapers, sneak spit up events, inconsolable crying spells) in the back of your mind.

Being a designer requires a lot of self discipline.  There is pride in that.

There are also the joys of creating art that is enjoyed by others: audience members, actors, directors, etc.

There are wonderfully fun and fantastic people working in film, television, and theater, and you get to know them.

I am challenged, inspired and rewarded in this career.

This is why no other job has worked for me. And likely never could

10 Comments to The allure of costume design … and a reality check

rachel dozier-ezell
January 5, 2012

thank you thank you! for this honest post! i completely agree! no one wants to talk about the shitty part. and like you yes i still like my job. but sometimes it can be silly and stressful for the most stupid reasons and you find yourself thinking am i really freaking out right now because i can’t find a bra in a size 38b? or insert other thing your currently needed and by like yesterday. haha!

January 9, 2012

Yay for a Monday morning reality check! All of it, so true. In broad strokes I too love my super low paying job — except when I don’t. :)

The satisfaction is such a big part of it…

January 17, 2012

Just wanted to say I really appreciate you down to earth honesty! I do mostly film and photo stuff, but I just love costumes!

January 19, 2012

YES. i stumbled across this blog completely by mistake (one of those 2am google searches that started out productive and quickly dovetailed into a spiral of unhelpful answers) and suddenly this post appeared. You’re right. Those uninspiring shows/downer days when it’s hard to motivate yourself… those are the worst. (How creatively fulfilling, I think, yet another actor in a suit.) But! We create, we meet great people, we think and are challenged by our work, and we keep going.

Cheers to you.

January 23, 2012

As a fellow costume designer, I completely agree and have experienced those same moments you have. Then there are those jewel moments when everything goes right and or comes together and you think WOW!!! Its other-wordly and that is the reminder of why we do what we do as a career.

February 17, 2012

Yes! Exactly! Wow! I may be a scenic designer, but you are SO right on every point. Thanks for articulating it so perfectly.

May 11, 2012

I stumbled across this while searching for tips on becoming a costume designer.
This post made me smile. I loved your honesty, however, it has actually inspired me to want to do this more…..Thank you :)

September 12, 2012

I found this while looking for help deciding if I want to become a costume designer, and I would like to thank you for the dose of reality! Thank you very much!

February 11, 2013

As a professional costume designer it’s so great to read everything that I’ve been thinking.

August 13, 2013

This was brilliant. It really all comes down to the feeling after, watching your hardwork on stage or screen and it puts everything into perspective. That is your mind up there, shining brightly in front of the world to see. And to the above comment about freaking out about not finding the right size bra, spot on. Good luck to everyone.

Leave a comment