- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Flipboard
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Tumblr
Sure, nothing can beat hands-on experience, but learning the basics and technology of costume design can offer the skills to meet the unique demands of virtually any type of project. Just ask Emmy Award-winning costume designer Jane Petrie (The Crown, French Exit), who credits her alma mater for giving her a leg up. “I left Wimbledon Art School in 1992 with the practical skills I needed to become a trainee in the costume department of a film or theater production,” she says. “The confidence I’d gained through practice meant I could do an alteration under pressure on the set or dye and break down a garment to support the storytelling on camera.”
That kind of participatory learning continued over the past pandemic year, even as most design schools adapted to the new reality of masks, social distancing and Zoom classes. Many students honed their craft on live-streamed productions. Carnegie Mellon even took it a step further by delivering mannequins and supplies to student residences, while CalArts donated sewing machines for mask-making efforts, giving new meaning to the adage “The show must go on.”
The Hollywood Reporter consulted with costume designers and professors to choose 10 top schools based on curriculum, extracurricular programs, class sizes, reputation, alumni success and networking opportunities.
California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)
With roots dating back to 1883 as the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and 1921 as the Chouinard Art Institute, CalArts was brought into being in 1961 through the guidance of Walt Disney and his brother Roy. Today, CalArts students gain valuable experience in live production at the school’s four theaters, where classes in traditional costume design practices, historical patterning and tailoring mix with creating cutting-edge digital renderings in Photoshop.
TUITION Undergrad/BFA and grad/MFA $52,850
HOLLYWOOD ALUMS Bob Mackie and Edith Head (Chouinard), Barbara Inglehart (Animal Kingdom)
Carnegie Mellon School of Drama
With 20 to 24 student shows a season, the focus at Carnegie Mellon School of Drama is on design and productions in theater, dance, opera, film and television. The school has added anti-racist theater courses, increased the scope of its guest artist program to expose students to new career paths and issues of the day, and expanded coursework geared to virtual theater presentations.
TUITION Undergrad/BFA $57,560; grad/MFA $36,300
HOLLYWOOD ALUMS Ann Roth (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom), Eduardo Castro (Once Upon a Time), Daniel Orlandi (Ford v Ferrari)
NYU Tisch School of the Arts
While the lights of Broadway dimmed and many film and television productions shuttered this past year, NYU Tisch found creative ways to continue its tradition of excellence, such as an investment in classroom Zoom Carts for professors that include cameras and 86-inch monitors for teaching remote classes. Students receive résumé-boosting experience working closely with the NYU Tisch Graduate Acting program, where they design productions and observe firsthand the director-actor relationship. Not only do graduates (one-third of whom are international) find work in theater, film and television, but many of them teach in large and small schools across the U.S.
TUITION Grad/MFA $63,196
HOLLYWOOD ALUMS Paul Tazewell (grad; Hamilton), Mark Bridges (News of the World), Clint Ramos (The Rose Tattoo)
Savannah College of Arts and Design (SCAD)
SCAD continues to up its game with a new 139,000-square-foot Hollywood-style film backlot and state-of-the art XR Stage for virtual productions. Costume design students work side by side with sound and production designers, animators and actors for an immersive experience. Costume design is offered in the School of Entertainment Art’s production design program. The school has expanded its offerings in theme park design with a graduate course in live performances and parades, and has introduced a graduate-level rendering course on preparing a “costume bible” for professional productions.
TUITION Undergrad/BFA $37,575; grad/MFA or M.A. $38,475
HOLLYWOOD ALUMS Meghan O’Beirne, Layne Brightwell (Ozark)
UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
A world-class professional faculty, close access to the film industry, a cutting-edge curriculum, robust special events calendar and location, location, location are just a few of the reasons UCLA TFT is a top magnet for students. Helmed by professor Chrisi Karvonides and Deborah Nadoolman Landis (director of the school’s David C. Copley Center), the school has added digital rendering classes, scenography class (set, costume and lighting), and a Costume and Scenic Master Series that brings in a who’s who in the world of costume design. Students are treated to an armchair tour of the world of fashion with international guest scholars from India, Korea, London, New York and San Francisco.
TUITION Undergrad/BFA $13,240 in-state and $42,994 out-of-state; grad/MFA $18,000 in-state and $30,000 out-of-state
HOLLYWOOD ALUMS Rebecca Guzzi (Ratched), Jackie Martinez (WandaVision)
The University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC)
While Kansas City might be far from Hollywood, the UMKC Conservatory program offers a well-rounded program for B.A. and MFA degrees. “Every student has a dream, and we give students enough technical skills to stay afloat monetarily and still work within the industry. No one designs big splashy productions immediately,” says professor Lindsay Davis. MFA degrees are offered for costume design and technology.
TUITION Undergrad/B.A. $10,500 in-state and $25,500 out-of-state; grad/MFA $11,500 in-state and $26,800 out-of-state
HOLLYWOOD ALUMS Tom Houchins (Grey’s Anatomy), Jonathan Knipscher (The Irishman)
Wimbledon College of Arts, University of the Arts London (UAL)
From Bridgerton to The Crown and The Great, costume dramas are synonymous with London and a natural place to study the craft. Wimbledon’s focus is on costume design and costume interpretation; as course leader Kevin Freeman details, “Both specialisms encourage students to explore and build confidence in traditional as well as innovative approaches to costume design and realization, through new and emerging media and digital presentation techniques.”Graduates have found success in television (Downton Abbey) and film (Beauty and the Beast), as well as in the opera and theater.
TUITION B.A. (Hons) U.K. students, approximately $12,750 per year; international students, approximately $31,575 per year
HOLLYWOOD ALUMS Jane Petrie (French Exit), Trisha Biggar (Outlander), Caroline McCall (Downton Abbey)
University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA)
UNCSA, the stand-alone conservatory based in Winston-Salem, faced the pandemic with a mix of live-streamed and socially distanced events, allowing students to participate in a variety of programs in theater, dance, music and opera. “We add new course content and explore new course offerings annually, focusing on industry trends and technology advancements,” says co-director Bill Brewer. Students can also select courses in the Wig and Makeup Design program — such as period hairstyling, wig-making and mold-making, including for facial prosthetics — to their repertoire.
TUITION Undergrad/BFA $6,497 in-state and $23,731 out-of-state; grad/MFA $9,196 in-state and $23,899 out-of-state
HOLLYWOOD ALUMS Paul Tazewell (undergrad; Harriet), Margaret Robbs (Homeland)
USC School of Dramatic Arts
USC School of Dramatic Arts students receive valuable one-on-one guidance from a faculty of award-winning professionals including Carnegie Mellon alums Terry Gordon and Christina Haatainen-Jones; 40-year USC veteran Howard Schmitt; and instructors Charlotte Stratton and JoEllen Skinner. With an emphasis on practical experience, promising costume designers work on productions as early as the first year of enrollment.
TUITION Undergrad/BFA $59,260
HOLLYWOOD ALUMS Sara Fox (The Mandalorian), Chloe Ji Yoon (Black Panther)
Yale School of Drama
For costume designer Jennifer Moeller (who created the period-perfect frocks for Apple TV+’s Dickinson), her time at the esteemed Yale School of Drama was all about a sense of community and collaboration. “The most useful thing I learned that has continued to serve me time and time again is to approach the work like a director,” she says. “To always prioritize serving the play or script. To make character-driven choices that support the story being told.” As the only graduate-level professional conservatory to offer comprehensive training in all things theater, the school aims to graduate well-rounded theater artists who are knowledgeable in costumes, sets, lighting, projection and sound.
TUITION Grad/MFA $32,800
HOLLYWOOD ALUMS William Ivey Long (Broadway’s Diana), Jennifer Rogien (Orange Is the New Black), Tom Broecker (Saturday Night Live), Donna Zakowska (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
This story first appeared in the April 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day