“Building of a costume is a kind of witchcraft”

October 26th, 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.


Imagine a living room filled with sewing machines, fabrics, magazines, an armchair and a little girl sitting in the middle. Almost daily, she scrutinised the men and women who came to visit her mom. Her mom was and still is a dressmaker. But the little girl didn’t yet understand that tailoring was a job, so when she grew up she decided to study Communications and PR, so she could work in advertising. While studying that, she realized that she was drawn to fashion, design and fabrics. This attraction became stronger and stronger, so she ended up taking classes at the National University of Arts, in Bucharest, Romania.

Anca landed her first job as Costume Designer when she turned twenty. She pursued it out of curiosity and fun – she was getting payed to match fabrics and colors.

After many years of practice, she believes this job teaches you a little bit about psychology. “Someone once told me that I often make a subconscious head gesture. I scan people very quickly from top to bottom. I am not aware of it, I think I just measure them because it’s part of my professional routine, to scan and analyse people.”

Before designing the costume for a project, Anca first connects to a story, a script, and a brief. She is always looking for the right references. If she has worked with certain teams in the past, she already knows what they want, at least in a general way. Then she continues with a moodboard and sketches. Besides all this, she finds pleasure in sewing by hand when she prepares the costume proposals.

When she opens the door of her storage room, where she keeps everything organized, she knows at a glance what she can find in there and what she cannot, what kind of clothing an art director would prefer and what an actor would wear. When she’s walking on the street, she is able to imagine how people act around their home, whether they’ve worked through the night, if the’re going to a meeting, or if they are close to their grandparents.

“A costume is like a poster for the movie we act in daily.”

People who don’t know what a Costume Designer does tend to think it must be nice working with clothes, and Anca would agree. However, you still have to manage a great amount of work. You have to be organized and focused. You are in an industry where you sometimes have to work 24 hours a day, coordinating people and logistics, then still be able to hold meetings where you have to sell your ideas and where you always need to look good, even if you feel like you’ve just run a marathon.

“It’s a large volume of clothes and we have demanding projects. Preparation is often the most intense part – many hours of looking for garments, sorting, cleaning, of working with details, coordinating suit samples, adjusting. There are also sleepless nights, when you need to quickly sew and iron various fabrics that you get your hands on.”

Anca feels attached to clothing and over time, together with her business partner Sonia, she has built a sort of clothing storage. “Clothing is something mundane to us and I do not know what the right definition for a costume is, but it’s part of our lives, you cannot escape it. We are all moving costumes.”

Photo credit: Bogdan Ioniță