What is costume design

Costume design is one of the most important parts in character creation process. It helps to communicate with a viewer through symbols, textures and color palettes. Person, responsible for costumes, is a costume designer. He\ she creates looks of all characters in a movie, theater play, documentary and etc. Depending on historical period and complexity of the project, costumes can ne bought, redesigned or created from zero.

Recently were defined three main types of costumes designs:


Costumes that are designed according to fashion trends and dressing rules and habits of particular historical period and \ or cultural characteristics of countries and ethnic groups. Designing this type of costume, costume designer must be familiar with historical facts, cultural traditions, rituals and etc. Accuracy and historical context are more important then visual impact and actual fashion trends. Usually this type of costume designs is required for a movies based on real facts and documentaries.

Example: The Young Victoria




Costumes, which design is based on some period of history or cultural differences, but its symbolic meaning is more important, consequently, it is allowed to break some rules. For example making outfit more vulgar or more conservative to highlight character’s identity.

Example: Marie Antoinette (dir. Sofia Coppola)




Costume design that has no relation to historic events or some cultural traditions. The main task is to help to create a character to fit to some inexistent world or Universe. It mast reflect a personality of a character, it’s daily routine and habits and make it look real for a viewer.

Example: Hunger games



Nowadays not all costume designers follow strictly this classification. There are more and more examples of types’ combination.  It turns a project more complex, but interesting. Costume designer have a chance to emphasize some character’s features with help of some symbolic details, like and accessory or color, but respecting historic period. For example, when camera focus of corset, as a part of female character’s costume, in a historical movie to represent a discomfort. Or showing loose hair and fluid fabrics to demonstrate character’s free spirit. One of the most common example is bath scenes in movies about medieval times. It a wide known fact that people didn’t take off their under cloth, believing it protected them from dirt. But in movies we usually see a main characters naked, to demonstrate his\ her beautiful body and bring sexuality. It doesn’t mean that no one never took a bath naked at that time in the real world, but yet it was barely possible.

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