“To be a Costume Designer you need self preparation”

September 5th, 2017

What is the role of a costume designer? How is the costume design process for a film, stage production or television? Why is a costume important? I spoke with four Costume Designers to get their story.


During Ciresica’s childhood, her mother was always making clothes at home, because back then, during communism, everyone was trying everything in the intimacy of their own house. Ciresica didn’t realize she was influenced by her mom right until she went off to high school. The talks they had about her future were always tied to Law School or Mathematics. One day, out of nowhere, she decided: “I want to study the arts.” She had never drawn before. Picking this up in the 11th grade was pretty weird, but she met a student who tutored her, had enough patience and supported her when she was still wondering whether she had any talent.

After she graduated fashion, she released a magazine together with a friend. “We were in the fourth year of college, in 1997. Together with Elena Perseil, who is now a known designer, we launched 2000 Plus magazine. Through that project I learned so many things, not just about fashion but how to design a cover, how to manage a team, and so on. At the same time we launched a line of clothes for the magazine. Ten items released with every issue. Those times were like a school of life for me, and that helped a lot.”


She’s been working in advertising as a Costume Designer since 2005. Cireşica says she hadn’t learned anything about advertising or film costumes during her University years. She remembers that, at first, advertising or film projects were instead made with the help of an army of set designers. That’s until specially trained people came around.

In order to be a Costume Designer, you need self preparation. It’s good to have a background in art history, to be visually literate and to be knowledgeable about costume history, anatomy and perspective. An eye for composition and for details also helps. If you are passionate about these, you can find learning resources all around you and you can try anything you like.

“It’s important to study certain eras, to bring authenticity to the costumes that actors wear, then patiently search for then in stores or just design them. For a single project you must have three to four proposals of costumes for a character. I buy clothes from stores that accept returns for unused clothes, so I can recover part of the budget.”

Ciresica prefers to build costumes using natural fabrics. “I always suggest natural fabrics, because you won’t sweat and you won’t smell.”

It’s certainly interesting, dressing up people you do not know and making them feel comfortable. Sometimes it’s even funny, because extras are usually not accustomed to vests, hats, long dresses. On the other hand, if there’s a scene where the actor gets wet, you don’t have time to dry the clothes. If five takes are needed for the scene, you need five identical costumes for the actor to wear.”

She thinks dressing women is more complicated than dressing men. They often don’t like the proposals, although they’re playing a character. They all want to look good, regardless.

Being a Costume Designer is  always a challenge, especially when she gets the body sizes by phone. She doesn’t know how their hips and breasts look like in reality. Over time, she has learned to buy more items than she needs, so she can have several options if she needs to switch or modify something. For this job, she needs to be open-minded and prepared to start everything over from scratch.

“If you want to do this, it’s best to volunteer at first, to get involved in debut movies. You should seek work to find out whether you’re good at it. It’s not hard to get into this field, it’s not inaccessible. Quite the contrary, people are still looking for good Costume Designers for their projects.”

Regarding clothing and the way we dress, Ciresica thinks we are at a time when we buy a lot and we have forgotten how to reuse and recycle. We should reuse things because fashion is cyclical. Let’s use less and let’s only buy quality garments. But we only learn these things through education. That takes time.

Photos from Ciresica’s personal archive.