How do I make it in a costume career?

I am looking to pursue a career in the costume industry specialising in costume making and would really appreciate some advice of how to break into this industry. 

I have completed a Level 3 Fashion and Textiles Apprenticeship with a textiles manufacturing company and have a good foundation of how the textiles industry works from this. I have completed a work experience placement with the costume department and the Theatre Royal and currently volunteer at a local amateur dramatics theatre group, helping make and dress the actors and actresses in their costumes.  

I am regularly looking our for jobs and other opportunities in the costume sector and am always thoroughly researching the industry and opportunities nearby. Unfortunately due to living in a small county in the South of England, it does reduce opportunities and jobs available to me in this industry. I have tried looking further afield from home but due to funds and what with most opportunities being unpaid, it makes things very difficult and not entirely practical. 

I was wondering if you had any further advice you could offer me, or if you could think of anything else that I am not already doing/have already done. 

Many thanks for your help.

— Emma

Expert answers

Kate Unwin's reply:


It is really hard and it's just disgraceful how much unpaid work is the the norm in this industry. I worked for a year unpaid before I got a lucky break by just being in the right place at the right time.

You are certainly doing all the right things. It's all about getting experience and building up your portfoilio which you are doing.

Keep applying for things. Apply for everything, even if it's out of your comfort zone.

Keep making and getting great stuff in your portfolio. Maybe you could do some alterations or bespoke making jobs which will pay you to keep on making and designing clothes while you continue to apply for things?

Send your CV and images of your work to everyone you can and follow up with a phone call. You never know when you will be the right person in the right place at the right time.

Sorry I can't be more helpful, you are doing everything I would advise. Don't give up! Good costume makers are like gold dust, so once you get your chance you will be unstopable 😊

Send your CV to me and I'll see if I can get you involved in some of my projects.

All the best luck and good wishes.


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