The typical reaction people have when revealed that I work in the costume world for film and tv is "Oh that must be so much fun, putting together cute outfits all day", I quickly intercede with "It's not what you think..."
As someone who naturally expresses myself through my clothing choices but happens to work in the world of costume and costume design I feel a responsibility in such situations to educate those around me on the distinct difference.
Lets start with fashion, shall we? Fashion is an immense artistry and industry that we all come into contact with on a daily basis. When we are in a fashion/styling mindset the goal is to dress someone with the intention for them to look their best for an event or an activity. Finding and tailoring the right clothing for the occasion and putting it together with complimentary shoes and accessories.
Fashion seen on the runway that is presented by a designer, in the designers vision and intention, incorporates a great amount of storytelling, we also see this in editorial format as well. Typically these stories are told through visual presentation in addition to more abstractly through the clothing itself.
Now let's look at the other side of the spectrum, the costume world.
I always like to use this example when I have someone in front of me. So imagine you are standing in front of me this is what I would say:
"So you just got cast in a movie I am designing, you (insert name here) are playing a character named Joan who works in the mail room of a 60 story building in manhattan in the 1980s, she is struggling to make ends meet, her husband left her for her sister and left her with 3 kids. She had to take the first job she could, so here we are. You are no longer (insert name here). You are Joan, someone with Joan's backstory cares very little about her outer appearance as she has bigger fish to fry in her life, my job is to convey that through clothing. Joan is not a fabulous creature who wears off the runway Prada. Her clothes are worn, not brand new, her kids clothes are hand me downs.
This is all of the psychology behind costume design that is never seen but greatly influence the design of the look. In regards to the job very little of it involves clothes. Majority of the work comes from taking, in this example "Joan" off of the pages of the script and into a fully visualized character.
I encourage you the next time you see a movie or your favorite tv show to take a closer look at the clothes. Are they brand new? How do they fit? Are they worn out?
Costumes in addition to the many other departments that are required to create a film is massive. So many things go into every piece that not many people realize or recognize. But isn't that what being a master of your craft is? Doing it so well that it looks effortless?