Building a Costume Design Portfolio

Costume design is a wonderful field to work in. As a budding designer, you're free to play and experiment. You can do costume design for movies, television and the stage, from fantasy and science fiction, to a gritty cop drama or ballet and the theater. There is no rule that says you have to go to college for costume design, but to land a dream job you will need a portfolio showcasing you and your work. Costume design is a visual field, unlike other jobs where a written resume will suffice. The portfolio is your resume and will speak louder than anything you have on paper. The article below will show you how.

Diversity is Gold

You really need your costume design skills to stand out above the rest. Including designs of a dozen pants is not going to show your skill or versatility. Include multiple designs from a variety of genres and styles so that the person looking at your costume design portfolio can see that you can work in many areas as well as with many different pieces of clothing.

Be Original

Prior to finalizing your costume design portfolio, keep in mind that employers have most likely seen it all before. This makes it very important to be original. Look at all of the professional collections and designs in current movies, TV or stage and incorporate the trends in new ways. You can borrow from old and new creations in order to create your newly inspired work.

Design Progression

Show your work from start to finish, not only tell the story of the costume design, but to show employers you can sketch and work from those sketches and ideas to bring it to life. Start with a finalized sketch followed by the design on a mannequin or in use. In large portfolios both items can fit on a single page.


If you did multiple designs for one project, include several from that collection. It shows an employer you can work in a theme while maintaining uniqueness. Do not include designs that are too similar or prints of the same costume with different trims or in different colors.

Neatness Counts

If the designs do not fill a page in the portfolio, then mount them to a backing. This also prevents pages from moving and looking sloppy. Never have any pages that are stained, creased, wrinkled, torn or written on. Create high-quality copies and mount them on colored cardboard that compliments the work.

Pick the Portfolio

What you put your samples in is a reflection of yourself, much in the same respect as wearing a business suit to an interview and not a track suit. Choose a portfolio that is large enough to hold up to 24 samples in large format. This allows you to group stages of work on one page, so the eye can be drawn from original art to finished product. Use a portfolio that is leather or high-grade vinyl that zips shut. Never have empty pages in your finished costume design portfolio.