Which costume training is right for you?

 From The Stage, February 2020

With numerous courses, degrees and apprenticeships, institutions across the UK offer a wide variety of costume training. Catherine Kodicek explains how each of these routes might lead to a career in the industry

Choosing where to train for a career in costume in theatre can be quite daunting; it is a lot of money and a chunk of time and you want to graduate knowing that you have the best chance of getting work in the industry.

It can also be tricky to work out beforehand exactly what you want to do. You may see yourself as a costume maker. A course in costume will always involve sewing skills, but being able to alter costumes and make simple garments is not the same as being an expert maker who can turn their hand to anything – or a specialist cutter, tailor or milliner, for example.

Do you want to learn to create the overall vision alongside the director as a costume designer and communicate that vision to the costume team? Do you want to get into wardrobe managing and dressing, working with actors backstage, looking after the costumes and ensuring they come back looking amazing the next day? Or will you be a costume supervisor, working with the designer to turn their ideas into garments, organising makers and handling the budget? Or all of the above?

If your primary interest is costume making, a shorter course might be for you. For those who have some prior experience, Northern College of Costume has a 15-week, intensive costume-making course, which its former students evangelise over. Small class sizes mean a lot of attention to detail. The course covers pattern cutting and construction of menswear (with tailoring techniques), womenswear, period and contemporary garments including tricky fabrics and cuts such as 1930s bias dresses.