The Importance of the Costume Designer

costume designer

Films and screenplays win awards and trophies, actors are praised to the heavens for their performances, and the technical side of film production is not forgotten by the Academy. But there is one group that doesn’t get its fair share of the limelight: costume designers. Yet their work is just as important, though perhaps taken for granted, in the opinion of Riccarda Merten-Eicher, who has herself been in the business for 30 years.

She will be reading from her book ‘Kostümbildner in Film, TV und Theater’ (‘Costume Designers in Film, TV and Theatre’) at Prolight + Sound 2015 Film and Theatre Colloquium, and revealing the magic that can be found in the wardrobe. Merten-Eicher spoke to us to give us a taste of what’s in store.

What makes costumes so important for film and TV?

Costumes are intimately connected to the body and transmit the very first signals that a person sends out. They expose relationships, put characters to the test, and offer the audience the possibility of internal communication with the figures on the screen or on the stage, to be inspired and enchanted by them.

What exactly does a costume designer do?

We dress one or more film or theatre characters so that they look authentic and a connection with the audience in terms of that particular role can be formed successfully. Skilled costume design choices require you to act thoughtfully, selectively, and with a precise feel for dramaturgy. Costumes are not there simply as decoration. Costume designers do not simply imitate characters; they are themselves the originators of their creations. Their conception is dependent on their personal perceptive capability, their inner voice, sense of taste, and the capacity to achieve an artistically consistent and comprehensible result.

How can you become a costume designer?

There is no predetermined career pathway to becoming a costume designer, but there are certain requirements and motivations which come into question. What is it that drives me to practice this craft? What do these images mean to me? Do I seek admiration within a glamorous world, perhaps? I am not sure that I should go so far as to say it is a calling, but love for this career, even to the point of obsession, should be present, or be awakened by the first taste of the job. One thing is certain, one should be a lover of film and the theatre, a cineaste in the best sense of the word.

Riccarda Merten-Eicher will be reading from her work on 16 April from 2-3.30pm in the Film and Theatre Colloquium. Please register here.

Picture source: Benjamin Ochse

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