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Film costume designer and fashion designer differences

For professionals in the film and fashion industries, the differences between costume designers for film and fashion designers are quite clear.

However, for those outside these industries, the distinction between these two professions seems quite vague. How do you differentiate one from the other?

Costume Design

Costume design in film is the art of designing, choosing, and procuring the right set of clothes and accessories for a character to help tell the film’s story. Since it supports the establishment of moods, eras, scenes, and environments in the film, costume design work involves a bit of being a historian and a researcher, along with a touch of technical skills and scientific knowledge, to make a costume work best for the actor or actress, the film’s lighting, and the camera.

More than just the construct of style, costume design extends to the psychology of how and why such clothes and accessories are worn. Let’s take the case of the 13th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards nominees Jenny Beavan for “The King’s Speech” and Michael Kaplan for “Burlesque.” The period film like “The King’s Speech” requires Beavan to base her work from historical inspirations, while the contemporary costumes worn in “Burlesque” requires Kaplan to create a modern depiction of how the performers of the Burlesque Lounge can utilize such outfit in present-day Los Angeles.

Fashion Design

Fashion design is a form of art combining creativity and commerce to come up with clothing for the public to buy. Branding is highly regarded in the world of fashion. The clothes seen on catwalks and magazines are targeted to the consumer.

Fashion design is pretty straightforward. It features the latest trends and what the public prefers for their clothes and accessories.

Infusing Fashion Design in Filmmaking

Both costume design and fashion design are visual art forms that use clothes and accessories.

Infusing fashionable brands in a film is a case-to-case basis. If the story needs it, fashion design can seamlessly blend into what the actors and actresses wear.

Depending on the film’s story, fashion design can work hand-in-hand with the movie project’s costume design needs. For instance, in films like “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Sex and the City,” fashion design plays a crucial part on the films’ costume design.

Influence of Cinema in Fashion

There is a reciprocal admiration between fashionable clothes used in cinema and fashionable clothes inspired by a film, which gets sold in the market for the general public’s consumption. For instance, Audrey Hepburn’s iconic black column dress and opera gloves in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and Marilyn Monroe’s white dress in “The Seven Year Itch” are readily recognizable and widely used in the fashion industry for classic photo shoots and inspirational gowns and dresses, as demanded by the public.

Differentiating Costume Design from Fashion Design

In simplest terms, a costume designer makes clothes to be shown on the screen to help tell a film’s story, while a fashion designer makes clothes to be worn in real life.

Film actors and actresses wear costumes that best fit the story with primary consideration of having to look good on the camera, regardless of how comfortable or uncomfortable they could be. Fashion designers make clothes that can be worn by the person in specific occasions, whether on a rugged day or a classy ball.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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