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New degree in costume construction: training the next generation

Course is intended to address the current shortage of costume making skills for live performance, television and film.

By Hayley Bartley (Former Content Producer (Learning))

19 June 2015 at 3.13pm | 14 Comments

This September sees the launch of a new costume construction degree, delivered in partnership with South Essex College, the Royal Opera House and University of the Arts London, in a bid to address the current shortage of costume making skills in the industry.

‘Costume making is a specific industry that needs very specialist skills,’ says Catriona Paterson, Head of Ladies Workroom at the Royal Opera House. ‘A costume construction course, such as this one, will hopefully train people in those skills to the high levels that we expect of costume makers here at the Royal Opera House.’

The costume construction degree will be based at the new ROH Bob and Tamar Manoukian Costume Centre at High House Production Park in Thurrock. The Costume Centre is the latest development at the park, already home to the Royal Opera House’s Production Workshop and other creative venues, and will further support its growth as a creative industries hub in the region.

During the three-year degree, students will learn pattern cutting and costume construction techniques for live performance, television and film. They will also learn about costume conservation and archiving, drawing on the 20,000 costumes and wigs, as well as over 6,000 historic costumes and items from the Royal Opera House Collection, which will be held at the Costume Centre.

‘The course has its basis within costume construction as opposed to design or supervision,’ says the course leader, Rachel Young, ‘So the students will be pushed with their making skills so they come out as a highly skilled and industry level costume constructor’.

For more information about the costume construction course, including how to apply, visit

By Hayley Bartley (Former Content Producer (Learning))

19 June 2015 at 3.13pm

This article has been categorised Learning and tagged costume, Costume Centre, Costume Construction Degree, course, High House Production Park, South Essex College, University of the Arts London

This article has 14 comments

  1. Tessa responded on 22 June 2015 at 2:57pm Reply

    Oh how I would love to do this course it is everything I want to do. Unfortunately with 2 children I can't afford to give up work and study full time. :-(

  2. Ruth responded on 26 June 2015 at 10:49pm Reply

    So would I but working full time with 4 children ! Are there any part-time courses or summer courses available ?

    • Ellen West (Head of Creative Studios and Digital Products) responded on 11 July 2015 at 2:53pm

      Dear Ruth

      I'm afraid that there are no plans for short courses at the moment.

      Best wishes


  3. Isabelle responded on 29 June 2015 at 2:24am Reply

    This course is one of a kind. I´ll do my best to do it in the future!

  4. Lizzy Kennett responded on 10 July 2015 at 6:11pm Reply

    If there's such a shortage in the industry how come so few of my fellow costume BA Hons classmates have managed to get jobs doing this then? I've gone into Admin because 4 years of unemployment trying to get a costume job was getting ridiculous.

    • Ellen West (Head of Creative Studios and Digital Products) responded on 11 July 2015 at 2:49pm

      Hi Lizzy

      Was your course angled towards design or construction? The skills that seem to be lacking in the industry are the latter.

      Best wishes


  5. Dennis Jensen responded on 14 October 2015 at 4:32pm Reply

    I would love to become a costume constructor, but as I have a level 6 (BA degree level) qualification in Dance, I would have to pay international tuition fees (generally around £15,000/year) with no option to get a student loan due to the rules on Equal or Lesser Qualification (ELQ), meaning that such a course is out of the question. Apprenticeships only accept people with less than a level 4. This leaves the MA course in Theatre Costume at RADA as my only option; with an annual intake of only 4 students, it is extremely difficult to get a place. Perhaps the Royal Opera House could add an MA course, to give more people a chance to develop their skills, which are in short supply.

    • Hayley Bartley (Former Content Producer (Learning)) responded on 16 October 2015 at 10:42am

      Hi Dennis,

      South Essex College don’t currently have any plans to set-up a MA programme. They wouldn’t rule this out in the future but it is extremely unlikely in the short term. However, this could be an area for long-term development with University of the Arts London.

      Best wishes,

  6. Anthea Goodman responded on 14 October 2015 at 7:55pm Reply

    I've just started an HND in Theatre Costume Interpretation, which is a fancy way of saying Construction. Is it possible to complete my HND and then upgrade to a degree?

  7. Hi
    I would like to point out the outrage and upset your article has caused by the amazing costume makers who already have degree's and working within the industry. There are already several other course's producing fantastically skilled people I myself teach on BA & MA Costume at London College of Fashion.
    We are dyer's working within the industry since 1984 and work with costume makers of all types who are amazing!! skillful and they all struggle with finding work. Please take a look at 'The Costume Networking' and 'Costume Guild Anyone' pages on Facebook to see the response to your article. Regards.

    • Hayley Bartley (Former Content Producer (Learning)) responded on 15 October 2015 at 4:11pm

      Dear Miriam,

      Apologies for any concern we have caused. We understand that there are many other costume courses available in the UK and that there are also many highly qualified costume makers already in the industry. This article is not intended to devalue other courses but to offer an alternative in costume construction as opposed to design.

      Best wishes,

  8. Kathryn responded on 17 January 2016 at 9:08pm Reply

    I'm interested in this course but wondering about feasibility as a US citizen (currently living in the US), how course prerequisite requirements translate to US schooling, and what kinds of financial assistance might be available to apply for to help cover costs.

    Any information on the matter would be appreciated.

    • Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media) responded on 18 January 2016 at 5:20pm

      Hi Kathryn,

      I'm afraid this course is at present only open to UK applicants.



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