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### Best Costume Design Schools Worldwide 2024

With over 70 programs offering instruction, what sets such a program apart? Is it the proximity to film studios and theaters in the major entertainment hubs of L.A., London, and New York? The range of courses, from historical design to 3D fabric printing, or simply a comprehensive curriculum? Or perhaps it’s the opportunity to connect with award-winning alumni and industry insiders, along with portfolio development and postgraduate job placement?

Regardless of the consideration, students, as aspiring narrative storytellers, are confronted with a field in constant flux, where digital design technology, particularly artificial intelligence, takes center stage. Bill Brewer, the co-director of UNCSA’s Costume Design & Technology program, emphasizes, “We are convinced that due to our focus on storytelling about the human experience, our industry will always depend on the creativity of humans.” SCAD is also exploring AI through workshops such as “Artificial Intelligence: Friend or Foe?” and “AI 101: An introduction to Generative AI Tools.”

In compiling its annual list — which now includes NIDA in Sydney and Wimbledon School of Arts — THR consulted with academic experts and costume designers to determine what distinguishes a design school: alumni achievements, curriculum, class sizes, extracurricular activities, reputation, and networking prospects.

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)

Valencia, California

Situated just 30 minutes away from major Hollywood studios, CalArts has a rich history, having launched the careers of fashion luminaries like Edith Head and Bob Mackie when it was known as the Chouinard Art Institute. Through a merger with the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music in 1961, thanks to Walt Disney and his brother Roy, CalArts evolved into its current form.

Faculty member Camille Benda describes CalArts’ rigorous curriculum, emphasizing storytelling, script analysis, and historical research, complemented by networking opportunities from day one. Students engage in internships at prestigious venues like Western Costume and the Wende Museum, with an active alumni network facilitating industry connections post-graduation. Unique classes delve into specialized areas such as Ellen McCartney’s “Fear and ©Loathing” and the year-long “Costume in Animation” course. Additionally, Benda’s Studio Lab class, “Dress and Gender,” and the semester-long “Conscious Fashion History” offer in-depth explorations of lesser-known aspects of fashion history.


ALUMS Durinda Wood ( Mulholland Drive), Barbara Inglehart ( Scandal)

Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

CMU boasts an illustrious alumni network of costume designers like Ann Roth, Eduardo Castro, and Daniel Orlandi. According to CMU professor Susan Tsu, the school prepares students to envision an uncertain future, fostering enduring relationships with alumni who continue to engage with and support the institution long after graduation.

Aspiring costume designers at CMU are exposed to various genres and fields, including film, television, classic plays, opera, musicals, and dance. The curriculum emphasizes classical art training, digital character illustration, and entrepreneurial skills, aiming to equip students with a holistic approach to design. Visiting international designers like Deborah Riley from Game of Thrones and Katrina Lindsay from Harry Potter contribute valuable insights and assist with portfolio reviews. Opportunities for international exposure abound, with experiences at events like the World Stage Design exhibition and the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space, as well as faculty-led trips to Manhattan and workshops in Romania and India.

TUITION BFA: \(64,596, MFA \)37,000

ALUMS Terry Ann Gordon (president of Costume Designers Guild-IATSE 892), Matthew Hemesath ( The First Lady)

David Geffen School of Drama at Yale

New Haven, Connecticut

A short train ride from Broadway and offering tuition-free education, thanks to a generous donation from David Geffen, the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale presents an enticing opportunity. Executive director Ilonya Somogyi highlights the benefits of an environment conducive to focused learning, with New Haven’s tranquil setting and renowned pizza adding to the appeal.

Yale’s research facilities and comprehensive classes on script interpretation, budgeting, and project management empower students with essential skills. Access to professionally staffed costume shops, collaboration with the in-house LORT theater, and a multidisciplinary program that brings together various design disciplines create a unique learning environment. The school’s emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration, with directors, actors, playwrights, and designers studying together, sets the stage for costume designers to thrive in a dynamic industry.


ALUMS Tom Broecker ( Mean Girls), Donna Zakowska ( The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Susan Hilferty (Broadway’s Wicked)

National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA)

Sydney, Australia

For those inspired by the legacy of award-winning costume designer Catherine Martin, NIDA in Australia offers a compelling path. The institution provides a comprehensive three-year Bachelor of Costume course focusing on costume creation and technical skills, alongside a Bachelor of Design program specializing in costume and set design.

A distinctive feature of NIDA’s approach is training students as costume makers and supervisors while imparting essential design disciplines such as sewing, pattern-making, and rendering. Small class sizes ensure hands-on learning across disciplines like corsetry, leatherwork, tailoring, and millinery. The curriculum encourages critical thinking, innovation, and risk-taking, empowering students to generate fresh ideas and solutions. Special projects like the Warrior Project expose students to advanced techniques like laser cutting, leather molding, and sublimation printing, preparing them for diverse career paths in theater, film, and mixed media upon graduation.

TUITION Bachelor’s $16,560

ALUMS Edie Kurzer ( NCIS: Sydney), Kym Barrett ( Aquaman), Michael Wilkinson ( American Hustle)

NYU Tisch School of the Arts

New York

NYU Tisch stands out with its distinguished faculty, diverse student body, and prime location in the heart of New York City. A significant portion of students hails from international backgrounds, adding to the school’s vibrant creative community.

Nestled in the entertainment hub of NYC, NYU Tisch offers abundant production opportunities, particularly in its state-of-the-art theaters. Department of Design for Stage and Film chair Justin Townsend underscores the school’s extensive scholarship options and collaborative prospects with various disciplines within and outside the university. The active alumni network further enhances students’ post-graduation prospects, with established designers often hiring recent graduates. The School of Drama’s commitment to fostering collaboration and support among alumni and industry professionals ensures a nurturing environment for budding costume designers.


ALUMS Gregg Barnes (Broadway’s Some Like It Hot), Mark Bridges ( Maestro), Paul Tazewell ( Wicked)

The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD)

Savannah, Georgia

With campuses in Savannah and Atlanta, SCAD offers a unique educational experience tailored to students’ creative growth. Dean of the School of Film and Acting, Andra Reeve-Rabb, highlights Georgia’s burgeoning film industry, positioning Savannah as the new Hollywood.

At SCAD, students engage in diverse projects, from designing for musicals like Beautiful: The Carole King Musical to creating historical costumes for productions in locations like Lacoste, France. The curriculum integrates cutting-edge technologies like 3D printing and laser-cutting, preparing students for the evolving landscape of costume design. Small class sizes enable personalized instruction, while extracurricular programs centered on Hollywood and Broadway provide valuable industry exposure. Mentorship opportunities with renowned costume designers further enrich students’ learning experience, fostering a culture of innovation and excellence.

TUITION BFA \(41,130, **MFA** \)42,120

ALUMS Jo Hepburn ( Pain Hustlers), Lauren Driskill ( Echo), Anna Tringali ( Luckiest Girl Alive), Kashish Chopra ( The Survivor)

UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television

Los Angeles

UCLA’s reputation for student job placement, innovative curricula, and strategic location in the heart of Hollywood solidify its appeal among aspiring costume designers.

Under the guidance of industry experts like Deborah Nadoolman Landis and Chrisi Karvonides-Dushenko, UCLA offers a rich array of extracurricular events and opportunities for hands-on learning. Events like the Critical Costume conference and the Sketch to Screen Costume Design Panel provide valuable insights into the role of costume design in film and television. Collaborations with Opera UCLA and other institutions offer students practical experience in designing costumes for various productions. The school’s emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration and engagement with industry professionals ensures that students are well-prepared for successful careers in costume design.

TUITION BFA \(18,197 in-state, \)50,771 out-of-state; MFA \(34,284 in-state, \)46,529 out-of-state

ALUMS Rebecca Guzzi ( The Morning Show), Alice Garland ( Oppenheimer), Alexa Newman ( That ’90s Show), Amy Higdon ( Killers of the Flower Moon)

University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA)

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

As the only independent arts conservatory of its kind, UNCSA offers a unique environment for creative and performing arts education. With a diverse range of concentrations, including costume design and technology, wig and makeup design, and stage management, students benefit from a hands-on approach to learning.

Costume design students at UNCSA engage in a wide array of productions, gaining experience across theater, opera, musicals, dance, and themed entertainment. The school’s collaboration with the School of Filmmaking enhances students’ exposure to film costume design, attracting talented individuals seeking a multidisciplinary arts education. Despite its location outside a major entertainment hub, UNCSA’s immersive arts ecosystem provides students with unparalleled opportunities for practical learning and professional growth.

TUITION BFA \(6,497 in-state, \)22,231 out-of-state; MFA \(9,696 in-state, \)24,399 out-of-state

ALUMS Paul Tazewell ( Wicked), Kristen Mendez ( American Horror Story)

University of Southern California (USC)

Los Angeles

Focused on theater, film, and television disciplines, USC’s School of Dramatic Arts is dedicated to equipping designers with the skills and experience necessary for success in a dynamic industry.

USC’s proximity to the heart of the entertainment industry, coupled with a curriculum that emphasizes practical skills like costume crafts, positions the school as an ideal training ground for aspiring costume designers. Assistant professor of costume design Ann Closs-Farley highlights USC’s strategic location near the fashion and fabric district of Los Angeles, offering students unparalleled access to industry resources. The school’s collaboration with other disciplines, such as the Minor in Fashion, underscores its commitment to exploring the intersections of design and creativity.


ALUMS Sara Fox ( High School Musical: The Musical: The Series)

Wimbledon College of Arts


For those seeking a study abroad experience, Wimbledon College of Arts, part of the University of the Arts in London (UAL), offers specialized programs in costume design and interpretation.

Wimbledon’s focus on distinct disciplines like corsetry and tutu construction sets it apart, with graduates known for their strong foundation in costume design principles and industry insights. The school’s collaboration with prestigious institutions like the Victoria and Albert Museum provides students with real-world design opportunities and industry connections. Graduates of Wimbledon have secured positions at renowned organizations like the Royal Opera House, the BBC, and Netflix, showcasing the school’s commitment to fostering talent in the field of costume design.

TUITION Approximately \(11,650 for British citizens, about \)32,700 for international students

ALUMS Trisha Biggar ( Outlander), Caroline McCall ( Downton Abbey), Phoebe De Gaye ( Belgravia: The Next Chapter), Georgina Chapman (Marchesa), Jane Petrie ( The King)

A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.