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Wardrobe assistant

Wardrobe assistants help to make, find and look after clothes and costumes used in theatre, film and TV productions.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set entry requirements. You’ll need practical skills in hand and machine sewing, pattern cutting and dressmaking. 

Doing a college course in fashion and textiles or costume and wardrobe could help you get started in this job.

An HND, degree or postgraduate qualification in costume design, fashion or textiles may be useful, especially if you want to become a costume designer later on.

Paid or unpaid work experience can be helpful. You could get this from:

  • amateur or community theatre
  • casual work as a costume ‘daily’ (temporary helper) on film and TV sets
  • dressmaking
  • student theatre and film productions
  • working for a theatrical costume hire company

You may be able to get into this job through an apprenticeship.

You may need a driving licence to transport the costumes.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • creativity and style
  • excellent attention to detail
  • the ability to follow instructions
  • good organisational skills
  • calmness under pressure
  • a calm, tactful and patient manner

3. What you'll do

You’ll work under the direction of a costume supervisor or wardrobe master or mistress. 

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • helping to buy and hire costume items
  • looking after the costumes between takes or scenes
  • mending and altering items
  • packing and unpacking costumes and accessories
  • cleaning, steaming and ironing
  • helping to make pieces and put costumes together
  • fitting costumes onto performers
  • keeping continuity notes, so that performers look the same in each scene
  • storing costumes and returning hired items (known as 'breaking down' costumes)
In theatre, you might also act as a 'dresser', helping performers with costume changes during the show.

4. Salary

Many wardrobe assistants work freelance and their rates can vary widely. The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) has more information the recommended daily rates for wardrobe assistants.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Hours can be long and unsocial. 

In film and TV, most of the work is in the daytime, but in the theatre wardrobe assistants usually cover evening performances and matinées, 6 days a week.

You could work in theatres, at film or TV studios, or temporary cabins if on location. 

Working conditions backstage may be cramped and hot.

6. Career path and progression

You’ll specialise in either theatre work, film or TV, but you could cross over between areas once established. 

With experience, you could become a wardrobe manager or move into set design, production design or stage management.

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Last updated: 14 December 2016