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Costume Attendant Job Description, Career as a Costume Attendant, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: On-the-job training

Salary: Average—$12.04 per hour

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Costume attendants help performers manage their costumes and keep track of the costume changes they must make during a show. Their job includes selecting, fitting, and taking care of the costumes. A costume attendant may be in charge of all the costumes for the entire cast of a play, or may be assigned to an individual performer with many costumes. Costume attendant is considered an entry-level job within the performing arts community, but costume attendants play a very important role in making sure that every performance goes smoothly and looks as good as possible. If a show goes poorly due to costume problems, a costume attendant may have to shoulder much of the blame.

In shows in which a performer or performers have to make a lot of quick costume changes, it is the attendant's job to arrange the costumes in the right order. To make this possible, they must create special lists, notes, and charts that outline exactly who must change into what costume at what point during the show.

Costume attendants are typically assigned the task of cleaning and pressing costumes before and after each performance, and they must also perform any necessary minor repairs to costumes, such as replacing buttons or sewing up small tears. This requires carefully examining the costumes to make sure they will look presentable on stage under the bright lights. The costume attendant is also often responsible for assigning lockers and/or dressing rooms to performers, and for maintaining and organizing dressing rooms, costume storage spaces, and laundry areas.

Sometimes costume attendants are also responsible for items other than clothing, such as table skirts, draperies, flags, or other props or elements of the set that are made of fabric. Attendants must keep careful track of all items under their care and keep careful notes about the condition of costumes, the sizes and fitting needs of performers, and any necessary alterations. It is also important for costume attendants to keep track of what costumes are available and what materials exist on hand for any costuming needs that may suddenly arise.

Costume attendants generally perform all of these tasks in collaboration with other members of the show's production team, including production designers, costume designers, and others. Some costume attendants have a lot of authority to make costume decisions on their own, while others are mainly assigned to carry out directions from higher-ranking production staff.

Costume attendants must be good problem solvers, be extremely well organized, and show good judgment under pressure. Successful costume attendants enjoy working in a creative environment with artists and performers and thrive on the fast-paced lifestyle of the theater.

Education and Training Requirements

On-the-job training is the most important form of training for costume attendants, although many have degrees from college theater programs or schools of design. Experience with costuming in high school or college productions is very helpful, and internships with theater companies and other performing groups can also provide excellent training.

Getting the Job

College placement offices, as well as theater and design departments, can often provide information about how to find a job in this field. Local performing arts organizations may be another valuable source of information about job openings and internship opportunities.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Costume attendants can advance to costume designer positions and other supervisory positions within the production team. The outlook for costume attendants is currently very good, with the number of jobs expected to increase faster than average through 2014.

Working Conditions

Costume attendants usually work backstage in a performance setting. This can range from a modern, high-end facility with good temperature control and superior lighting to an older, stuffy facility with poor ventilation and inadequate lighting. Others may work at tourist attractions, where the working conditions may be quite different, and the attendant may even work outdoors. Costume attendants must often work in the evening. Many positions are seasonal, and the number of hours worked can fluctuate dramatically based on performance schedules. More than half of the available jobs are in New York.

Where to Go for More Information

National Costumers Association
121 N. Bosart Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46201
(317) 351-1940

United States Institute for Theater Technology
6443 Ridings Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13206-1111
(800) 938-7488 http://www.usitt.org/

Earnings and Benefits

The median hourly wage for a costume attendant is $12.04. Full-time positions may offer health insurance and paid vacations. However, many costume attendant positions are temporary, lasting only the length of a show's run, which may be just months or even weeks. These positions typically offer few benefits.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts