Study our outstanding Costume Construction degree, in partnership with the Royal Opera House, awarded by University of the Arts London.
Important You can read a comprehensive guide to this course containing full details in our Course Information Guide.
The BA (Hons) Costume Construction programme places an emphasis on the knowledge and use of both historical and contemporary pattern cutting, construction, textiles and finishing techniques. Areas of study may include opera, dance, theatre, musical theatre, performance art, film and television.
The programme is unique as it has been developed in collaboration with the Royal Opera House (ROH).
This programme is delivered across two locations, the first at our Grays Campus, where our newly updated costume and print studios are based. The second at the ROH Costume Centre at Purfleet, this centre has been purpose built for the ROH and houses their archive collections, costume store and one of their workroom departments. Both campuses provide students the opportunity to utilise industry standard machinery and resources.
The course operates on a unit basis, most units count for 15 or 30 academic credits, although the Final Costume Realisation unit in the third year is weighted at 45 academic credits. Total study time includes scheduled teaching, independent study and assessment activity. All students take a total of 120 credits per level and 360 credits for the degree as a whole. This full-time course typically starts in October and completes at the end of May.
It is with absolute joy and pride that we are able to announce that our third year BA (Hons) Costume Construction graduate Carrie-Ann Stein has won the highly prestigious Costume Society, Patterns of Fashion Award 2019. Carrie's winning costume is a beautifully executed reconstruction of a 17th-century Kitchen Maid's waistcoat, jacket from the ‘Seventeen Century Women's Dress Patterns, Book 1'. Carrie completed all the embroidery by hand taking her over 300 hours to do. The skirt, apron, petticoat and scarf are all Carries work too.
Such wonderful talent and skill and a wholly well deserved winner. We are so excited to see what the future holds for you Carrie.
Alongside thanking The Costume Society, fellow finalists, friends and family, Carrie also thanked the BA (Hons) Costume Construction team stating:
"Thank you to the tutors and technicians at South Essex College who inspire, encourage and advise us on the BA (Hons) Costume Construction degree. I am thrilled to be connected with this new course and feel very excited for its future and its special link with the Royal Opera House."
Your Stage 1 studies will familiarise you with the foundation and introductory nature of the BA (Hons) Costume Construction. The emphasis is on acquiring knowledge and applying diagnostic skills and all units will enable you to develop essential learning skills, and to extend your knowledge base whilst developing analytical and critical awareness of the main area of study. Specialist subjects include:
This unit offers a theoretical understanding of the history of dress and how gender, identity, class and cultural issues impact on the basic silhouettes of clothing through history. It is intended to provide an introduction into the theory of the changes of clothing and for them to develop, utilise, recognise and analyse the factors involved with this to support their own work practice.
This unit aims to offer a broad exploration of traditional and contemporary textile applications relating to costume making. Textile methods, processes and applications are introduced including fabric dyeing, embroidery and printmaking techniques. Consideration of fabric properties, sustainability and the importance of Health and Safety is also covered.
This unit introduces students to fundamental pattern cutting and garment construction skills. The unit also provides opportunity to develop understanding through creative solutions, of different materials utilised within costume construction.
This unit extends the knowledge gained in the unit ‘Introduction to Costume Construction’ in order to translate two-dimensional designs, images and characters into a three-dimensional costume. You will be introduced to historical and/or contemporary pattern cutting and construction techniques to enable you to identify appropriate methods and fabrics to produce a final garment/costume.
An introduction to the skills and practical elements underpinning the fundamental construction and finishing skills required at levels 5 and 6. This includes basic elements of costume making, with an emphasis on fastenings, hand finishing, pressing, measuring, block drafting and dart manipulation and covers fitting etiquette, communication and time management.
This unit underpins all practical elements within the course specifically enabling students to elevate the finish and quality of their work. The outcome is to produce a portfolio that students will utilise for levels 5, 6 and after graduation.
Studies in Stage 2 have the overriding emphasis on expanding skills and knowledge gained at the first stage, whilst aligning various theories with costume design and construction practices.
This unit offers the understanding and development of skills covering the production and alteration of garments. Consideration of performers needs, body shapes, movement requirements and flexible construction. The acquired knowledge will be applied to create a garment for a specific performance utilising a given design.
This unit will enable the understanding and application of skills in the care and possible conservation of costumes and other costume related artefacts. This will be achieved through a range of practical and theory based activities, which will include; packaging, storing, cleaning and historical authenticating, to ensure that all costumes can be effectively conserved and archived for future generations.
This unit will provide the opportunity to develop and demonstrate a dedicated and professional work ethos through understanding of the roles within costume construction/designer/textiles or conservation through the undertaking of a work placement or live project. This could be within one of the following areas: performance art, theatre, opera, dance, music, musical theatre, film and TV. The placement/live project will give awareness to the business of costume construction/design/textiles or conservation and allow students to analyse the roles, responsibilities and the necessities of communication, teamwork and the development of their own personal skills within the industry. The student should complete a minimum of 120 hours this could be several placements throughout the second-year period.
Research for this unit will begin at the end of year 1 (level 4). Students will be encouraged to undertake the majority of work placement between level 4 and level 5.
This unit combines the discipline of costume design with realisation. Students will be required to undertake in depth analysis of a given/chosen text and characters which will inform design ideas. A range of advanced pattern cutting and construction processes will build upon skills gained in year 1. Professional skills are developed by producing a technical folder demonstrating effective use of time management and communication skills.
At stage 3 the emphasis is on self-directed study and the ability to undertake different modes of assessment all requiring the production of work to levels of professional quality. You are expected to demonstrate the necessary skills required to produce a qualitative outcome in the form of a live exhibition and a cultural and historical study.
This unit provides learners with the opportunity to develop a critical awareness, undertake in-depth research and to form a sustainable argument for an area of investigation. Students will negotiate with a supervisor a line of enquiry that is relevant to their chosen field of study and undertake an avenue of research that could be, but is not limited to conservation of costume, performance art, theatre, opera, dance, music, musical theatre, film and TV.
This unit builds on theoretical and research skills built in yeas 1 and 2.
This unit will allow individuals to establish and produce a theme/subject/issue relevant to costume construction. The unit will enable learners to produce an in-depth research and development programme which will include; originality, creative analysis, prototyping, textiles, design work, productivity with other learners and generic skills to support learning. The context of the unit will be defined by the learner; through consultation and ongoing communication with Tutors. It will actively encourage independent learning, self-directed research and time planning and necessitate a rigorous approach. Research for this project will begin at the end of year 2 (Level 5).
This unit will underpin professional practice by supporting the student’s understanding of the roles, responsibilities and potential progression routes within the Costume Industry. Students will build on their year 2 Work Placement unit by looking at marketing, self-promotion and presentation techniques in preparation for the workplace and/or freelance work, particular attention will be given to students producing traditional and online portfolios.
This unit will provide a platform for the realisation of the knowledge, skills and understanding gained from the enquiry and exploration within Levels 4 and 5. Students will be expected to work to current industry standards and articulate their ideas through suitable construction processes. The unit will encourage students to push the boundaries of creative construction and design by implementing and executing a range of skills and knowledge gained during the programme. The work produced will be of a high level of sophistication and fluency, along with evidence of a dedicated and professional work ethos.
The BA (Hons) Costume Construction course places an emphasis on the knowledge and use of both historical and current pattern cutting, construction, print and finishing techniques. These are applied and accurately tailored to fit a modern day figure whilst effectively interpreting a certain shape, silhouette or era of a given design. Areas of study will include opera, dance, theatre, musical theatre, performance art, film and television. Teaching is undertaken in small groups (Between 15 - 30), with a studio/making focus.
When not attending lectures, studio sessions or other timetabled sessions, students will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve reading journal articles and books, working on individual and group projects, undertaking research in the library, preparing coursework assignments and presentations, and preparing for garment construction. Your independent learning is supported by a range of excellent facilities, including the library, HE Breakout rooms and the two professional standard costume studios.
Coursework is assessed in a range of different ways in order to accommodate a variety of learning styles and aptitudes including:
There are no examinations.
You will receive formative feedback as part of your one-to-one sessions with your unit teachers. You will also receive summative feedback on all formal assessments undertaken by coursework. Feedback is intended to help you learn and you are encouraged to discuss it with your unit leader tutor. Feedback can
be given in a range of different ways in order to accommodate a variety of learning styles and aptitudes including group critiques, recorded verbal feedback and written feedback.
We aim to provide you with feedback within 20 working days of hand-in (for all formal studio based coursework assessment). For the third year Dissertation Unit you will receive feedback and grades at the same time as your Final Creative Output Unit.
You can progress to a career in a variety of roles including costume construction, costume design, touring theatre, textiles, dying and breaking down, women’s wear, menswear, tailoring, prop costume, running wardrobe, costume conservation and restoration.
Course delivery hours
12 hours per week.
You will need a minimum of 64 UCAS points from one or more of the following:
Applying for a course is simple:
If you have any questions, a course adviser is here to help you.
The following course-related costs are included in the fees: