• Thelma Afford Award – $10,000 Prize

Thelma Afford

The Thelma Afford Award for Costume Design in Stage and Screen was established to promote the further study of theatre, film or TV costume design, in various visual dramatic media, for young matriculating high school art students or students from drama and art schools.

Professionals wishing to participate in further education in costume design are also welcome to apply. The award is an initiative of the late Thelma May Afford, an Australian designer, theatre performer and journalist. Thelma Afford was a talented designer who explored the uses of various media for her costume work and was a recognised authority on the history of costume and theatre in Australia.

In 1934, she was commissioned to design for the Melbourne centenary pageant, then, in 1936, to design the South Australia’s centenary celebrations and she was later called to Sydney to design the costumes for the sesqui-centenary pageant. She enjoyed costume designing on a large scale and professed that period costumes’ gave a designer more scope than modern clothes.

Thelma’s designs for the 1936 Centenary event included innovative interpretations of technology as well as agricultural products and flora and fauna. With her background in the history of costume she brought wonderful authenticity to her costume designs of significant early settlers.

The Award

As per Thelma Afford’s wishes, recipients shall use the award monies to further their education or training, in Australia or overseas, in visual arts, including the history of period clothes, at any art school or university that has a suitable course.

Study may be full-time, part-time, at a summer school or as part of a formal mentorship program.

One recipient will be chosen, and will receive $10,000.

For further information regarding the award, please read the Terms and Conditions below before entering.

Applications have closed for 2020.

2020 Award Winner

David Fleischer

Congratulations to David Fleischer (pictured), winner of the Thelma Afford Award for Costume Design in Stage & Screen, a $10,000 prize for further study. David’s aims include, a self-directed research phase at the Metropolitan Costume Institute in New York, attending a 3-week part-time figure and fashion drawing course at Parson’s School of Design in New York and to undertake a 2-week observation period with a film designer or costume supervisor in the creation period of the film. The APDG looks forward to following David’s studies and on-going career. 

Thelma Afford’s Work

Images courtesy of the State Library of NSW.

An extensive library of Thelma Afford’s work can be found here.

Terms and Conditions

CLICK HERE to download a PDF copy of the TERMS and CONDITIONS

1. Eligibility

  1. Applicants must be:
    •      aged between 17 and 40 years, by the opening of entries date;
    •      a resident of Australia for more than two (2) years prior to the closing date for entries; and
    •      students or professionals seeking to further their education to specialise in stage and screen costume design. This includes students of drama or art schools, matriculating high school art students, students of tertiary institutions, or practicing costume designers.

  2. An online application form and subsequent documents must be lodged by the close of entries date. Mailed applications up to and including the postmarked close of entries date will be accepted if they arrive no more than two (2) working days later.  There are no exceptions to this rule. Applications should be mailed to:
    Thelma Afford Award
    PO Box 605, Broadway, NSW 2007

  3. Judging is based entirely on material submitted by the applicant by the closing date. No additional material will be accepted after this date. Please note that insufficient or incomplete applications may not be accepted.

  4. The Trustee reserves the right to refuse applications which are not considered eligible for entry.

Thelma Afford

2. Application requirements

  1. Applicants must submit:
    •      A completed online entry form and confirm their acceptance of the Terms and Conditions via the online system;
    • A PDF version of the applicant’s birth certificate, passport or Australian Citizenship Certificate indicating date of birth and proof of residency in Australia during the past two (2) years;
    • Copies of relevant education reports, and records of examinations;
    • A curriculum vitae, resume or biography (full CV preferred);
    • A summary of proposed aims and activities to be undertaken (up to 800 words) including acceptances, budget, dates and travel plans;
    • Six (6) original theatre, film or TV ‘costume designs’ suitable for the visual dramatization of any existing play, opera, ballet, musical, pageant or other visual dramatic work, as named. Applicants are welcome to submit additional material to enhance their application, such as photographic evidence of how their designs have been realised in three dimensions on the body, including personal, exhibition or production photographs.

  2. Designs must be:
    • created no earlier than two (2) years prior to the closing date for entries;
    • drafted / illustrated by hand or created / illustrated digitally or a mixture of the two; and
    • submitted either electronically as a high res jpeg image, or in hard copy in a suitable size.   No freight or other charges incurred in the return of works will be met by the Australian Production Design Guild.

  3. Late applications will not be accepted.

  4. Dates listed under ‘Key Dates’ must be strictly adhered to by the applicant.  There are no exceptions to this rule.

  5. All successful and unsuccessful applicants will be contacted by email.

  6. Award recipients will be required to submit a report (between 800 – 1500 words) including photographs, of how the award monies were utilised, to the APDG, within one year of the award closing date. The report will be featured on the APDG website, and will be used to promote future Thelma Afford Awards. Reports should be emailed to thelmaaffordaward@apdg.org.au.

Thelma Afford

3. Judges and judging process

  1. The prize shall be awarded to the entry which, on the recommendation of the majority of judges, is considered to have the highest artistic merit.

  2. If the majority of Judges considers that there is no entry of sufficiently high merit to warrant the award, no prize will be awarded.

  3. The majority decisions of the Judges, and of the Trustee or its nominee on the interpretation of all rules and conditions, shall be final and legally binding & no correspondence will be entered into.

  4. If at any time after the award has been granted to an entry, a majority of Judges determine that the entry did not comply with the eligibility conditions, the award may be withdrawn and the winning applicant must immediately repay the prize money to the Trustee. In the event that an award is withdrawn, other entries submitted in the same year may be reconsidered, otherwise no award was conferred in respect of that year.

  5. Whilst it is expected that these conditions will be strictly observed, the Trustee reserves the right to waive compliance with or alter any conditions.

  6. The award amount is $10,000.  Recipients should obtain their own professional advice in respect of any tax implications.

4. Publicity and promotion

  1. By entering this award, the applicant grants the Trustee and its agent, a licence to reproduce any material/s or image/s which it may use to further advertise and in other ways publicise the Thelma Afford Award and any other scholarships and awards in its portfolio.

  2. It is expected that the winner of the award will be announced at an end of year APDG event, on Sunday 6 December 2020.  As soon as possible after the announcement of the award, all applicants will receive notification to their email address.

Thelma and Max


Q: Who can enter?
A: Applicants can be student costume designers, aspiring designers or working professionally in the costume department. You must be aged 17 – 40 as of 17th August 2020 and be an Australian resident. 

A: You must submit six (6) separate designs of costumes that have been created no earlier than two years prior to 17th August 2020. These designs can be from the same production or separate productions, the six designs will be judged individually on artistic merit and not as an ensemble. The designs may be from one, or a mix of: theatre, film, TV, plays, opera, ballet, musicals and all other forms of visual dramatic medium.

A: Follow the link HERE to the entry form. You will be required to upload documents to qualify your age and Australian resident status. A CV or resume is also required, you are welcome to submit further academic records if they are relevant to your application.

Q: Can I post my entry in?
A: Entrants are encouraged to upload all design work on the entry form, however, should you need to post in items relating to the design work, this option is available. For cut off dates and postal address, please see the Terms and Conditions document for further details. Please note that late or incomplete entries will not be accepted. No freight or other charges incurred in the return of works will be met by the Australian Production Design Guild.

A: Applicants are welcomed and encouraged to provide background information regarding the specific design that they are submitting. Examples of this could be photographs of how the costume was realised on the actor or how the costume was realised on stage / on set etc. There photos can be personal photos (for example, fitting photos) or production photos. There can also be a written element to provide context for the costume design submitted. Please note that all of this information will need to be a single page PDF or JPEG upload. We encourage supporting material to accompany every individual design to give a wider scope for judging.

You must have your online application submitted by 30th Oct 2020. Should you wish to post your design work, entries must be postmarked by the close of entries, 30th Oct 2020. As outlined in the Terms and Conditions, there are no exceptions to this rule.

A: The Thelma Afford Award for Costume Design for Stage and Screen will be announced at the Australian Production Designers Guild end of year celebration, to be held simultaneously in capital cities around Australia, on Sunday 6th Dec 2020.

Q: What can I spend the prize money on? 
The $10,000 award is for furthering your education or study in the field of costume design. How you plan this, is up to you! Previous winners have travelled interstate and overseas to take short courses and attend workshops, enrol in summer class or attend intensives at design colleges or universities. The money can also be used as a stipend or to cover mentoring costs. You can be as creative as you wish with the $10,000 but must show how you plan to spend the funds by way of explanation and budget breakdown.

Q: I have a different question or need some help with my applicaion form
Please email the Thelma Afford Award Co-ordinator for any questions or help with your application – thelmaaffordaward@apdg.org.au.

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