Costume Designers

Imagine Strictly Ballroom, The Dressmaker, or Priscilla Queen of the Desert without the costumes – Australian costume designers are seeking recognition and pay parity for their creative contribution to the screen industry.

Before an actor begins to speak, it is the costume that defines their character. Long after the film ends, the costume design leaves a lasting impression. Costume design is how the audience remembers characters and how film and television become cemented in memory.

Nevertheless, costume designers do not receive any royalties on their designs when characters are merchandised. Even when pictures of characters appear in the media, the costume designers remain unknown.

Conceived by the Costume Guild of America, the Naked Without Us campaign is a way for costume designers to improve conditions, gain recognition for their craft and educate the public on their work. High profile actors including Helen Mirren, Michael Douglas and Natalie Portman have thrown their weight behind the campaign, as they have spent hours in dressing rooms with costume designers and rely on them to not only ensure the costume is functional, but portrays their character accurately.

Historically, costume has been seen as a female profession and with that has come the gendered pay gap. The costume designer position requires a multitude of skills, particularly the ability to transform the text of the script to a tangible, tactile and convincing representation of the character and the character’s history.

The outdated term ‘wardrobe’ implies that costume designers simply open a wardrobe and costumes magically appear. This domesticates their art, devaluing the entire costume department and their contribution to film and television.

The reality for major films is that costume departments can reach the hundreds. The department is led by the costume designer who creates the designs and is supported by the costume supervisor who oversees the team. Even a small costume department includes a dozen workers. There are those who specialise in textiles or buying and those who have specialties such as milliners, shoemakers, cutters and stitchers – and that’s before they even reach the set.

Supported by the Australian Production Design Guild (APDG), costume designers have recently met with screen industry bodies to improve conditions for themselves and the entire costume department.

Australian costume designers are calling on industry and audiences to stand with them in solidarity, by learning more about costume design and the costume department, and spreading the word.

The Australian Production Design Guild would like to bring the Naked Without Us campaign to the attention of the Australian screen industry. The APDG seeks support costume designer equity in the screen sector. Equity in both realms; financial and industry positioning.

Naked Without Us is a campaign championed by the American Costume Designers Guild and local 892 Union. The campaign aims to raise awareness of what costume designers do, how they contribute to storytelling and the inequality in remuneration for costume designs when compared to their collaborators, specifically production designers and make-up designers.

Specifically, we seek to have costume designers included on the same level as production designers when determining screen pay rates and listed as equals on the Motion Picture Production Certified Agreement.

The APDG costume designers have outlined the rights and conditions that need to be reviewed:

  • Costume designers are paid 30-50% less than production designers on the same production. Costume Designers should be paid in line with production designers.
  • Costume designers are not paid overtime despite being on location prior to the crew call to fit the cast. Costume designers should be paid overtime in line with make-up artists.
  • Costume designers do not own intellectual property on their designs, therefore are not given royalties when costumes are merchandised. Costume designers should retain a level of IP for their designs.
  • Costume designs are worn by the actor for promotional materials and costume designers are not acknowledged or compensated. Costume designers should be fully acknowledged for their designs.
  • Costume Designers don’t have the same level of visibility or opportunity to communicate with the producers and DOPs, as production designers. Invisibility both on and off screen has contributed to the minimisation of costume designer voices and conditions. Now is the time to hear those voices.

The APDG costume designers put the following questions to our peers, colleagues and supporters consideration:

  • Will you support the APDG and Australian costume designers?
  • Will you support costume designers in this course of action?
  • Will the post on social media promoting #nakedwithoutus?

The APDG fully recognise the contribution of costume designers to the screen industry and support costume designers having a voice at an industrial level.

If you are interested in taking action and being part of this campaign, please CONTACT US.