Theater and performing arts companies rely on costume designers to provide authenticity to plays, musicals and other theatrical productions. Theater costume designers read play scripts and research dress styles in certain eras and determine which costumes they need for cast members. If you want to become a theater costume designer, you may need an associate or bachelor's degree in fashion design or a related major.
Salary and Qualifications
The average annual salary for a theater costume designer was $49,000 as of 2013, according to the job site Indeed. Talent is more important than education in this field, although some employers may prefer that you have an associate or bachelor's degree in fashion or costume design, theater design or performing arts. Other essential qualifications include an attention to detail, stamina, creativity, artistic ability and communication, decision-making and computer skills.
In 2013, average salaries for theater costume designers varied the most within the West region, according to Indeed, where they earned the lowest salaries of $33,000 in Hawaii and highest of $54,000 in California. Those in the Northeast made $42,000 to $60,000 per year in Maine and New York, respectively. If you worked as a theater costume designer in the Midwest, you'd earn $37,000 in South Dakota or Nebraska or $54,000 in Illinois, which were the lowest and highest salaries in that region. In the South region, you'd make $42,000 to $58,000 in Louisiana or Washington, D.C., respectively.
A theater costume designer earns more in New York and Washington, D.C., because it's more expensive living in that state and district. For example, if you earned $50,000 as a theater costume designer in Pierre, South Dakota, you'd need to make $110,689 in New York City to maintain your living standard, according to CNN Money's Cost of Living calculator. You'd have to make $70,806 in Washington, D.C., to enjoy the same living standard, or approximately 42 percent more. Theater costume designers also likely earn more working for larger theater or performing arts companies, which can better afford the higher salaries.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts little or no change in employment for fashion designers, including theater costume designers, from 2010 to 2020. A better indicator is the 11-percent increase the BLS predicts for producers and directors during the same decade. Theater producers and directors will need costume designers for their productions, which may increase job opportunities for those interested in this field. Job creation is largely contingent on funding and patronage, which tends to increase when the economy is strong. People have jobs and higher disposable incomes when the economy is strong and may spend more on attending theater productions.