21M.732 | Fall 2008 | Undergraduate

Beginning Costume Design and Construction


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


To introduce the discipline of costume design, including character/script analysis, research, rendering, and production values.


This is an intermediate workshop designed for students who have a basic understanding of the principles of theatrical design and who want a more intensive study of costume design and the psychology of clothing. Students develop designs that emerge through a process of character analysis, based on the script and directorial concept. Period research, design, and rendering skills are fostered through practical exercises. Instruction in basic costume construction, including drafting and draping, provide tools for students to produce final projects.


This course has no required texts, but teaching material was taken or adapted from the following books.

 Anderson, Barbara, and Cletus Anderson. Costume Design. 2nd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1998. ISBN: 978-0155083790.

 Cunningham, Rebecca. The Magic Garment: Principles of Costume Design. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1993. ISBN: 978-0881337624.

Baker, Georgia O’Daniel, and Helen Redel Pullman. “The Basic Figure and How Clothes Fit the Body.” Chapter 1 in A Handbook of Costume Drawing. Burlington, MA: Focal Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780240804033.

Edwards, Betty. “Drawing Out Insight.” Chapter 7 in Drawing on the Artist Within. New York, NY: Fireside, 1987. ISBN: 9780671635145.

Hamm, Jack. “Building on the Double Triangle.” In Drawing the Head and Figure. New York, NY: Perigee Trade, 1982, p. 45. ISBN: 9780399507915.

Russell, John C. Stupid Kids. New York, NY: Dramatists Play Service, 2000. ISBN: 9780822216988.

 Zipes, Jack. The Trials & Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood . New York, NY: Routledge, 1993. ISBN: 978-0415908351.

Goldman, James. The Lion in Winter. New York, NY: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2004. ISBN: 9780812973358.


You must buy/scrounge: Large sketching pad or book marked, “suitable for watercolor,” soft lead pencils, watercolor or gouache set (tube or pan is ok), miscellaneous costume supplies (your choice). Artist boards for mounting. Also, assorted thrift store items, “garbage,” various trims and embellishments. Digital camera (disposable is fine.) You may also need a binder/folder for the handouts you will be getting. And who can tell what else? Creation and inventiveness is part of the journey!

Topics and Lectures

  • What is costume design?
  • What does a costume designer do?
  • What is a costume?
  • Psychology of clothing
  • The meaning of clothes
  • Script, character, and concept
  • Styles of costumes
  • Research
  • Translating abstract into visual
  • Rendering and swatching
  • Building a show
  • Pulling a show
  • Period construction


We will read and work from 4-5 of the following:

  • Chekhov, Anton. On the Harm of Tobacco.
  • Maginnis, Tara. Kiosk Man.
  • Shakespeare, William. Hamlet.
  • Congton, Constance. Tales of the Last Formicans.
  • Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie.
  • Various. Little Red Riding Hood.
  • Churchill, Caryl. Cloud Nine.
  • O’Neill, Eugene. Ah Wilderness!
  • Shepard, Sam. Buried Child.
  • Goldman, James. The Lion in Winter.
  • Russell, John C. Stupid Kids.


  • Field Guide
  • Visual Conversations
  • Group Dynamics
  • Costumes and Food
  • Garbage Project
  • Color Workshop
  • Collage
  • Newspaper Wedding
  • Ugly Dress
  • Design Work
  • Construction Project

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2008
Learning Resource Types
Image Gallery
Projects with Examples
Design Assignments
Written Assignments