- Look after the costumes used in film, TV and theatre productions
- You'll need to have good sewing skills and a good eye for detail
- Specialise in a particular area like theatre or costume dramas, or progress into costume design or production design
As a wardrobe assistant you'll be part of a team who source, make and look after the costumes for productions or events. You'll normally work under the direction of a costume supervisor or designer.
- Helping to buy and hire costume items
- Looking after the costumes between takes or scenes
- Mending and altering items
- Packing and unpacking costumes and accessories
- Cleaning, steaming and ironing helping to make pieces and put costumes together
- Fitting costumes onto performers
- Keeping continuity notes so that performers look the same in each scene
- Storing costumes and returning hired items (known as 'breaking down' costumes)
In theatre, you might also act as a 'dresser', helping performers with costume changes during the show.
Many wardrobe assistants work freelance and their rates can vary widely. The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) has more information on the recommended daily rates for wardrobe assistants.
Hours can be long and unsocial. In film and TV, most of the work is in the daytime, but in the theatre wardrobe assistants usually cover evening performances and matinees, 6 days a week. You could work in theatres, at film or TV studios, or temporary cabins if on location. Working conditions backstage may be cramped and hot.
There are no set entry requirements, but you'll need creativity and style, excellent attention to detail, the ability to follow instructions, good organisational skills, calmness under pressure, and a calm, tactful and patient manner.
You'll also need practical skills in hand and machine sewing, pattern cutting and dressmaking.
Doing a college course, degree or postgraduate qualification in fashion and textiles or costume and wardrobe could help you get started in this job. Relevant college courses include a Level 2 Certificate in Fashion or Level 3 Certificate in Theatre Support Costume and Wardrobe.
As an alternative you could start by doing a broadcast production assistant advanced apprenticeship. This can be used to get into a lot of different jobs in film and TV, including costume runner and wardrobe assistant.
Volunteering is a great way to build up your skills and to make contacts with people in the industry. Your contacts can be a good way of finding paid work later on. You could get volunteering experience through student theatre and film productions, amateur or community theatre, dressmaking, working for a theatrical costume hire company, or casual work as a costume 'daily' or temporary helper on film and TV sets.
You'll specialise in either theatre work, film or TV, but you could cross over between areas once established. With experience, you could become a wardrobe manager or move into set design, production design or stage management.