I love costuming in film. It is not what you think it is, however. I do not pick the clothes the actors wear. That is the job of the Designer and it’s our job to make sure the vision of the Designer is what is in front of the camera. Although I completely understand the design job, I’m not creative in that way. If I were to design, it would be technically great for the department, but I would be fearful about how it would look. It’s just my job to make sure they are wearing the right thing at the right time. At least, that’s what I do as a set costumer.
The set costumer is responsible for continuity and has to fix ANYTHING bad that comes up during the filming. Continuity is making sure all the different takes will match when the editor cuts the footage together. The shirt collars have to lay the same way, the same number of buttons buttoned up, jewelry worn the same way and all other issues dealing with the clothes have to match shot to shot. Quite often things are shot out of sequence, and that means sometimes I’m guessing about how dirty an actor is going to get in a fight not yet filmed. Things that are bad can be anything from a seam busting open to an actor spilling a drink on the clothes. Life is fun when the entire crew is watching and waiting on you to make repairs.
The other job I do a lot is supervising, which is basically managing the department. It’s as far away from actual costuming as you can get and still be in the department. It involves creating a budget, tracking labor and other costs, setting up vendor accounts, making sure the crew has everything they need to do the job, scheduling the department, finding whatever the Designer wants and wrapping at the end of the show. The kind of costumer I like to hire knows and does the job without a lot of direction. That costumer will have other skills that can be used to help out teammates in the weeds.
There is also aging and dyeing, keeping the warehouse in order, stitching/sewing/tailoring (three different levels of skill), and shopping. Shopping and sewing are the two jobs where I’m not so good. But I know lots of people who are.
The hours are unbelievably long and the commitment to the project means I basically drop off the face of the Earth for three months or however long the filming lasts. It also means when a film wraps, I’m out of a job. But it beats working for a living, as I always say.