Costume designers are tasked with buying, designing, and ultimately creating the costumes necessary for productions in television, film, and theatre. Designers must have a good eye for choosing designs that reflect the atmosphere or theme of the production itself. The design work is much more complex than many people imagine, as differences in costumes are often used to highlight individual character traits, suggest relationships between two or more characters, and separate major characters from secondary ones. If not done correctly, a poorly costumed production can often be very confusing.
The responsibility of creating costumes for dozens or more actors is time consuming as there are often hundreds of hours of work involved in sourcing material, drawing the designs, and then actually creating them out of the available fabrics. To make matters worse, the designers are often working under strict deadlines and within tight budgets which limit the amount of resources that can be used for purchases. The result is that designers more often than not have to rely upon creativity and improvisation in order to create the necessary costumes. As one can imagine, the stress of such work can be very high at times depending on the individual requirements of the production.
Costume designers will typically meet with other creative artists working on the project, including the director and art director, in order to determine how the costumes should look and what the designs should communicate to the audience. Because the creative aspects of this work are often a team process, designers must be able to work well with other artists who may have different views from their own as to the direction of the design.
During production, costume designers aid in maintaining continuity by ensuring that characters are appropriately clothed for different scenes throughout. The choices must be logical given the story and the personalities of the characters. Since the main characters require multiple outfits throughout an entire production, this job can be very difficult to plan ahead and organize. In order to better manage things, designers create what are called costume plots, which are essentially charts showing the different costumes that the actors will wear during certain scenes and at which point changes are to be made.
Finally, designers are expected to account for expenses and miscellaneous fees that have been paid out for material and costumes during the course of the production. With this in mind, detailed financial records as well as receipts are kept which can then be shown to the heads of production should the need arise. Detailed reports are sometimes required by producers for the purpose of accounting for all the costs associated with the production. Costume designers are often expected to write these reports and submit them to management.
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