Thelma Afford Award

The Thelma Afford Award for Costume Design in Stage and Screen is now closed.

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.

The Thelma Afford Award will return in 2024, with applications opening on May 24, 2024.

Thelma Afford’s Work



Images courtesy of the State Library of NSW.

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

Application Information

Terms and Conditions

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

1. Eligibility

  1. Applicants must be:a. aged between 17 and 40 years, by the opening of entries date;
    b. a resident of Australia for more than two (2) years prior to the closing date for entries; and
    c. 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.
  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
  4. The Trustee reserves the right to refuse applications which are not considered eligible for entry.

2. Application requirements

1. Applicants must submit:

a. A completed online entry form and confirm their acceptance of the Terms and Conditions via the online system;
b. A PDF version of the applicant’s birth certificate, passport or Australian Citizenship Certificate indicating date of birth and proof ofresidency in Australia during the past two (2) years;
c. Copies of relevant education reports, and records of examinations;
d. A curriculum vitae, resume or biography (full CV preferred);
e. A summary of proposed aims and activities to be undertaken (up to 800 words) including acceptances, budget, dates and travel plans;
f. 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, suchas 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:

a. created no earlier than two (2) years prior to the closing date for entries;
b. drafted / illustrated by hand or created / illustrated digitally or a mixture of the two; and
c. 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 information’ 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 futureThelma Afford Awards. Reports should be emailed to

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 the 2024 APDG Awards, on Saturday August 24, 2024 .  As soon as possible after the announcement of the award, all applicants will receive notification to their email address.

Awards Entry

Frequently Asked Questions - Thelma Afford Award


A: Applicants can be student costume designers, aspiring designers or working professionally in a costume department. You must be aged 17 – 40 and be an Australian resident.


A: Please see the entry form link on the APDG website. Essentially there are 2 parts to your entry form, plus you need to upload documents to qualify your age and Australian resident status.

THE DESIGN PART: 6 costumes designs and supporting material to accompany each design.

THE FUN PART: Tell us in 800 words how you’d like to spend $10,000 furthering your career. Don’t forget a budget and details on your travel plans.

A CV is also required, you are welcome to submit further academic records if they are relevant to your application.


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 or travel 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.


A: You must submit six separate designs that have been created no earlier than two years prior to 16th May 2022. 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: Applicants are welcomed and encouraged to provide background information regarding the specific design that they are submitting. The supporting material must be a singular PDF or JPEG file relevant to each design. 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. We encourage supporting material to accompany every individual design to give a wider scope for judging.


A: Your summary of proposed aims and activities should detail everything you want to do with the $10,000 prize. Perhaps you have identified a gap in your professional knowledge and have found some courses you’d love to do, or have identified a skill you’d like to add to your knowledge base. Your aims and activities can be as broad or as specialised as you require for furthering your learning or taking the next step in your career.

Your Aims & Activities should include information about what you hope to learn and how you plan to go about this. This can include links to courses or schools, travel itineraries, copies of letters/emails detailing approved mentorships or course applications.

Your Travel Plans and Budget should include all the relevant logistics and how you plan to use the $10,000 to pay for it. You can do a simple spreadsheet or just list the costs, the total spend should total $10,000. The more information you can give the better.

If you need further help with this part of your application, please email the Thelma Afford Award Co-ordinator


A: The Thelma Afford Award for Costume Design for Stage and Screen will be announced at the Australian Production Designers Guild Awards, to be held in Brisbane on Saturday 24th August 2024.


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 email the Thelma Afford Award Co-ordinator for any questions or help with your application –

Thelma Afford

Past Winners

2022 Winner

Isabel Hudson

Congratulations to Isabel Hudson (pictured), winner of the Thelma Afford Award for Costume Design in Stage & Screen, a $10,000 prize for further study.  We look forward to hearing about Isabel’s experiences.

2020 Winner

David Fleischer

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.

Caitlin’s Designs from UAL’s Costume Design & History class

2018 Winner

Caitlin Murray

Congratulations to Caitlin Murray. Here’s what she has to say about her experiences:

The Thelma Afford Award gave me the opportunity to spend the 2019 summer in London exploring and developing my skills as a costume designer, and what a summer it was! I used part of the award as a stipend to live like a local in an East London house share. From here I got on the tube or walked most days into town, attending summer semester classes at the University of London and Central Saint Martins. I studied costume design & history, immersing myself in UAL’s vast design library and completing a project to design Oscar Wilde’s ‘Importance of Being Earnest’ costumes for theatre. I also did an intensive CSM fashion drawing course with the fabulous Paul Kindersleys, which included experimenting with collage, pastels and life size figure drawing. In the evenings I attended charcoal portrait drawing lessons, and creative photoshop technique lectures in an effort to nurture my costume illustration skills.

I soaked up all that London’s famous museums had to offer, and used the award to become a member of the V&A. This meant unlimited access to the costume exhibitions including “Dior: Designer of Dreams”, “Mary Quant” and “Tim Walker”. I took my little travel notebook to the V&A galleries and practiced the drawing skills I had learnt at Central Saint Martins, and ate scones, cream and tea in the members lounge. READ MORE

2016 Winner

Charlotte Lane

Congratulations to Charlotte Lane. Here’s what she has to say about her experiences:

The Thelma Afford Award has given me a wonderful opportunity to develop my craft as a designer. After receiving this award, I spent time undertaking short courses and educational development in the UK and Melbourne.

The grant allowed me to spend three months in London, attending a term of the ‘Textiles: Ancient to Modern’ course at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Comprised of a variety of lectures and gallery talks and referencing garments from the museum’s archives, this course examined the history, techniques and designs of textiles around the world, with the term I attended focusing on 18th century textiles. READ MORE