Costume Designers Do Their Homework

Ghost from Hamlet

Question: Can I design costumes if I can’t draw?

Gosh, I sure hope so, or most of my students right now in our Costume Design unit are going to be some sad campers. Because they all say they can’t draw. All of them. And the ones who can draw, won’t admit it aloud for fear of having to draw a slew of bodies for this project for all their friends.

So what really matters in costume design? Ask any designer, and you will get a myriad of answers. All agree, however in this: read the play first. Then ask, do I really know what’s going on in the play? Have I scoured the text for key details that will help inspire me when it’s time to put the pen/pencil to paper?

Today we are reading from Jessica Risser-Milne’s blog, The Costume Design Blog. It’s witty, detail oriented, and while not updated regularly, offers a reality check for today’s costume designer. I think of her posts as being a handy archive of costume design truisms. Her resume and photos of her work are here.

After reading the script a jillion times, costume designers spend a lot of time researching. Jessica Risser-Milne writes:

I research clothing styles, color palettes, current events surrounding the play. I look at fabrics I might want to use, what color, shape, texture they bring to the show, and how the characters interact with them.

With google image search at our fingertips, researching for costumes should be a snap. Yet is it? We might need some help with costume design resources…

Tell us!

Provide a link to any site you think would be most helpful to a costume designer. Describe the site in one sentence [use your own student words…] and give us one reason why we should check it out.



Categories: Design, How To

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6 replies

  1. I liked coloring and designing the luggage costume for Rollo. For me, I took the costume into a different approach with not making the costumes into a human outfit, rather a more luggage suit. The reason for that is because I felt that since it’s about luggages, then why not make the outfit show like a luggage appearance, like with the Lion King broadway, and Beauty and the Beast.

  2. Expressing my creativity was by far the best part. Although we were designing luggage in a human form, you got to incorporate all of the key details that the luggage might acquire. I chose to design Mildred. Because she is high-class but simple at the same time. A site that would be helpful would be, to google search vintage luggage because, there is more than just one picture of the luggage that your trying to find.

  3. I really enjoyed this assignment because it challenged my creativity. I chose Phyllis as my character, a young, brand new panicky carryon piece of luggage. Going off her youth and innocent appeal, I dressed her character in a plaid skirt, collard shirt and cardigan, using pink as my main outfit color.

  4. I liked being able to turn normal people into luggage but still keep their human appearance. I picked Amber and had fun creating a luggage type dress at someone like amber would wear. I wish we could have don”t this project before the paper dress because it feels like we did it in the wrong order.

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