Costume design is the design of the appearance of the characters in a theater or cinema performance. This usually involves designing or choosing clothing for the actors to wear, but it may also include designing masks, makeup or other unusual forms, such as the full body animal suits worn in the musical Cats (designed by John Napier, winner of the 1983 Tony Award for Best Costume Design).
The Costume designer is the person whose responsibility is to design costumes for a film or stage production. He or she is considered part of the "production team," alongside the director, scenic and lighting designers. The costume designer might also collaborate with a hair/wig master or a makeup designer, with the latter two operating on a subordinate level. In European theatre the role is somewhat different as the theatre designer will design both costume and scenic elements.
Costume designers will typically seek to enhance a character's persona through the way that character is dressed, while at the same time allowing the actor to move freely and perform actions as required by the script. The designer needs to possess strong artistic capabilities as well as a thorough knowledge of fashion history.
Professional costume designers generally fall into three types: freelance, residential, and academic.
A freelance designer is hired for a specific production by a theatre company, and may or may not actually be local to the theater that he or she is designing for. A freelancer is traditionally paid in three installments: Upon hire, on the delivery of final renderings, and opening night of the production. Freelancers are not obligated to any exclusivity in what projects they are working on, and may be designing for several theatres concurrently. Freelance costume designers may or may not be a member of United Scenic Artists, and even established residential and academic designers may freelance on the side.
A residential designer is hired by a specific theater, for an extended series of productions. This can be as short as a summer stock contract, or may be for many years. A residential designer's contract may limit the amounts of freelance work they are allowed to accept. Unlike the freelancer, a residential designer is consistently "on location" at the theater, and is readily at hand to work with the costume studio and his or her other collaborators. Residential designers tend to be more established than strict freelancers, but this is not always the case. They are more likely to be union, as most theatres that can retain such a position have agreements with USA, Actors' Equity Association, and USITT.
An academic designer is one who holds professorship at a school. The designer is primarily an instructor, but may also act as a residential designer to varying degrees. They are often free to freelance, as their schedule allows. In the past, professors of costume design were mostly experienced professionals that may or may not have had formal post-graduate education, but it has now become increasingly common to require a professor to have at least a Master of Fine Arts in order to teach.
Famous Costume Designers
Broadway and Off-Broadway
Theoni V. Aldridge - One of Broadway's most prolific designers, including Annie, Barnum and A Chorus Line.
Bob Mackie - On the Town
Desmond Heeley - Brigadoon
Julie Taymor - Lion King
Gregg Barnes - Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Ann Roth - Assassins
Jane Greenwood - The Scarlet Pimpernel, Once Upon a Mattress
Santo Loquasto - Fosse, Ragtime
Susan Hilferty - Wicked
Ann Curtis - Jekyll & Hyde
William Ivey Long - The Producers, Chicago
Ann Hould-Ward - Beauty and the Beast
Willa Kim - The Will Rogers Follies
Film and Television
Adrian - The Wizard of Oz
Colleen Atwood - Little Women (1994)
Cecil Beaton - My Fair Lady, Gigi
Jenny Beavan - Howards End, Sense and Sensibility
John Bright - Howards End, Sense and Sensibility
Milena Canonero - Out of Africa, Titus
Ngila Dickson - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Last Samurai
Danilo Donati - Romeo and Juliet
Edith Head - Sabrina (1954), The Sting
Dorothy Jeakins - The Sound of Music
Jean Louis - From Here to Eternity
Orry-Kelly - Gypsy
Walter Plunkett - Gone with the Wind, Singin' in the Rain
Sandy Powell - The Wings of the Dove, Shakespeare in Love
Ann Roth - The English Patient
Irene Sharaff - Call Me Madam, Guys and Dolls
Theodora van Runkle - Bonnie and Clyde