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Costume Designer

Typical Day

Sally Seamstress is up at 8am and heads into work by 9. (She'll work earlier hours once production starts, but for now they are only in the planning stages.) She is the head costume designer for an independent film set in the old West. Because we haven't done quite enough Westerns yet. She starts out by meeting with the production team, where the costume, hair, and makeup teams assemble to discuss the look and feel of the project. The main character, for example, is a stranger from the "mysterious East." In other words, Ohio. How should this character dress in relation to everyone else? Sally's thinking fewer spurs. Also, the director wants this film to feel something like an old photograph. He's not going to shoot everything in sepia, but he wants that general vibe. What does that mean for the costumes? How much of that effect will be created by the cameras, lights, and gels, and how much will she have to take this into consideration when designing clothing? These are the types of things that are discussed (and resolved) at the meeting.

Next, Sally and the rest of her team head over to the local library. For the next several hours, they pore through books and peruse a plethora of websites, slowly but surely becoming experts on the dress, material, and style of the people of the given period. It won't do just to watch a couple episodes of Deadwood and assume you've got the idea. The research has to be meticulous, because if there are any historical inaccuracies in the finished product, someone will notice and make a big deal about it. Not to mention that she'd just kind of like to get it right because she takes pride in her work. That's a pretty good reason, too.

At 2pm, Sally takes leave of the rest of her team and allows them to continue researching—she has decided how at least one of the main characters should be dressed, and is ready to start designing. She has printed out plenty of visual research material to go off of, and uses these as reference as she sits in her office back at the studio, starting her rough sketches. These are real rough, mind you—some of the poor girls in her drawings don't even have feet. Hey, the West was a tough place, what can we say?

At 4, Sally meets with a young woman—a friend of one of the members of her costuming team on this picture—who is hoping to join the team. Sally interviews her, takes a look at her portfolio, tries to gets a sense of her personality, work ethic, etc. The girl is bright and her portfolio shows that she knows what she's doing. Sally tells her she will get back to her and let her know—she's already made her mind up that this girl would be a great addition to her team, but she has to run it by the director first. It would be nice if she could just hire 300 young costumers to make her own life easier, but unfortunately there is that pesky chain of command to worry about. And a 300-person costume department, while it would certainly be more efficient, is probably not going to be financially feasible.

Which one of you is in charge of hats?

Sally wraps things up at about 6. It will be another couple weeks of research and design before she starts purchasing the actual materials to actually put this stuff together, and to see her ideas come to life. Not literally to life, of course, because that would make the costumes far too difficult to wear. Plus, PETA would be all over it.

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