Level 6

Costume Construction BA (Hons)

Duration Age Group Study Start Cost Available Locations
3 YEARS ADULT FULL TIME 26/09/2022
18/09/2023
£9000 * Thurrock Campus
Duration Age Group Study Start Cost Available Locations
3 YEARS ADULT FULL TIME 26/09/2022
18/09/2023
£9000 * Thurrock Campus
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If you require any support with your UCAS application, please contact the HE Admissions team headmissions@southessex.ac.uk

If you require any support with your UCAS application, please contact the HE Admissions team headmissions@southessex.ac.uk

Overview

Course code: B5L2

Study our outstanding Costume Construction degree, in collaboration with the Royal Opera House, awarded by University of the Arts London.

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.

Why study this degree at University Centre South Essex?

  • This degree is run in collaboration with the Royal Opera House (ROH). This means that students have access to the ROH store and archives and that the Final 3rd year project takes place at ROH Covent Garden
  • You will work in an industry-standard studio space
  • The course is focused on making costumes

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.


Costume Design by Carrie-Ann Stein

Costume Society, Patterns of Fashion Award 2019 Winner

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."

Entry Requirements

You will need a minimum of 64 UCAS points from one or more of the following:

  • At least two A-levels
  • BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma/Diploma/Subsidiary Diploma/Certificate
  • BTEC National Award/Certificate/Diploma
  • International Baccalaureate
  • AQA Baccalaureate
  • Progression Diploma
  • Advanced Diploma
  • You will also need GCSE English at grade C (old specification) or Grade 4 (new specification) or above OR a Level 2 equivalent such as functional skills

Course Structure

Year 1 Units

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:

Costume in Context

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.

Textiles for Costume Construction

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.

Introduction to Costume Construction

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.

Costume Interpretation

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.

Technical and Skills Portfolio

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.

Year 2 Units

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.

Costume for Performance

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.

Costume Conservation

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.

Work Placement

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.

Costume Design and Realisation

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.

Year 3 Units

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.

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.

Personal Project

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).

Professional Portfolio

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.

Final Costume Realisation

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.

Course delivery hours

12 hours per week.

Teaching & Learning

Teaching

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.

Independent learning

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.

Assessment & Feedback

Coursework is assessed in a range of different ways in order to accommodate a variety of learning styles and aptitudes including:

  • Portfolio and sketchbook submissions
  • Group presentations
  • Written essays
  • Research folders
  • There are no examinations.

Feedback

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.

Course Cost

Adult, full_time: £9000

Fees are per academic year for Home/UK students.

The following course-related costs are included in the fees:

  • Guest speakers, visiting lecturers and industry focussed workshops will be included in your course over the three years.
  • Third Year students will have the opportunity to showcase their final year work at the end of their studies. This may be a local, national or online platform. Event/exhibition costs will be covered by the Faculty of HE. Students will be responsible for any additional costs associated with the production of their personal project (ie: printing, materials).
  • Annual £20 printing allowance.
  • Free Car Parking at Backstage Centre, Purfleet.

Additional course costs can be found here

What Next...

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.

Success Stories...

Success story: Gemma Salter

Success story: Gemma Salter

Course studied

Costume Construction BA (Hons)

University Centre South Essex has been the biggest and most important part of my life, the whole Costume Construction team are one of a kind. They will support you and give you all the advice in the world and back you every step of the way.

My name is Gemma Salter, I am 25-years-old and I studied Costume Construction BA Hons at University Centre South Essex from 2016 until 2020 and this is my story.

Before coming to University Centre South Essex, I had completed my A-levels and unfortunately wasn’t able to get into university straight away. From this point, I did a foundation diploma, which allowed me to gain a broader perspective of what the creative industry includes. Once I finished, I was able to apply to university successfully.

Since finishing my Costume Construction degree during the middle of the pandemic, I have been lucky enough to have completed a Christmas season at LaplandUK which was an amazing experience. I have also been accepted into the Royal Opera House costume pool.

I’m currently waiting to start my first dresser role at the Royal Opera House in a new production starting in March.

I will be helping cast members get changed into their costumes as well as assisting with any quick changes that may occur during the production. I will also be setting the costumes for the next performance as well as many other things.

I chose to study the Costume Construction course at University Centre South Essex because of the amazing connection that it has with the Royal Opera House and for the tutors, who are still working within industry whilst teaching students. 

The course has helped me know what to expect in all the different areas of the costume department, which is a lot more than people realise. I was able to talk to people who are in the industry and ask them questions that my tutors might not have specific answers for. Being able to ask them these questions, I was able to find out how they got to where they are now and what I need to do to get there.

The best thing about higher education, in all honesty is everything. Don’t get me wrong there are hard times but the whole experience was the best thing I have ever done. Gaining my degree and being able to do a job I love is a rare thing.

Throughout my course I was constantly learning new skills such as creative pattern cutting, making a tutu with head costumer from the Royal Opera House, learning how to take measurements correctly and learning how to insert a zip into a range of fabrics and costumes.

All the equipment in both the studios is what you would use in most making studios. It only differs if you were in a wardrobe department as there wouldn’t be any industrial machine, however both studios do have domestic machines that would more than likely be in every wardrobe/costume department. Everything that I used and saw in the studios I have seen in the industry.

I don’t think I have just one favourite memory from my time at university. Looking back on my time now, just being surrounded by my best friends every day and tutors that you can just have a chat with is incredible.

University Centre South Essex has been the biggest and most important part of my life, the whole Costume Construction team are one of a kind. They will support you and give you all the advice in the world and back you every step of the way. Every person that works at University Centre South Essex will always have your best interest at heart (even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time) 

While being here my confidence has grown so much. I have always been a confident person with people, but when it came to talking about my work or having confidence in my work, that was always at the bottom of the scale. Since having my work on show in the Linbury Theatre at the Royal Opera House, I have become a lot more confident with the work I produce and the way I talk about my work to others.

My ambitions for the future is to become a costume supervisor/wardrobe manager on the west end for major shows.

If you were to tell me ten years ago that I would have a degree in Costume Construction and come out of it with a job at the Royal Opera House, I wouldn’t have believed you no matter what you said.

For more information on the Costume Construction course, visit: www.southessex.ac.uk/course/costume-construction-ba-hons 

Success story: Carrie Ann Stein

Success story: Carrie Ann Stein

Course studied

Costume Construction BA (Hons)

The course set me up very well for a career in the theatre industry because of its remarkable combination of practical training, collaboration and direct theatre experience.

My name is Carrie-Ann Stein, I am 46-years-old, I studied at Costume Construction BA (Hons) at University Centre South Essex from 2016 until 2019 and this is my story.

I trained in law and then changed my career to study BA (Hons) Fashion Design with Knit at Central Saint Martins.

Before the pandemic closed the theatre industry, I was working as a set and costume designer but now I am studying fine art at the Royal College of Art. It is a pre-master's course in fine art in preparation for a Master’s degree.

I was able to undertake two internships with the Royal Opera House during my degree and my tutors were instrumental in organising additional placements at Grange Park Opera and the National Theatre.

Learning how to make a garment to a professional standard was the most valuable skill because it not only taught me practical employable skills but also how to collaborate and work with a wide range of people from performers  to production directors.

The equipment in the university studio reflected the industry standard, namely the sewing machines, overlockers, industrial irons, draping  stands, enormous pattern cutting tables and great stock of bolts of fabric and  haberdashery.

I found that during my time, the tutors and students were especially generous with their knowledge, and they were fun and inspiring to be around.

The course set me up very well for a career in the theatre industry because of its remarkable combination of practical training, collaboration and direct theatre experience.

2019 was a very good year for me professionally. I won the Costume Society Award; the Royal Opera House Design Prize; and I was a finalist of the Linbury  Prize for Stage Design which led to a bursary to work on the set design of a production at the Royal Opera House (although this was later cancelled due to  the pandemic.)

My time at the university has been instrumental in building narrative skills and helping to compose a scene of characters in a setting. The practical garment- making component of the course has become a unique part of my fine art methodology influencing how I construct an image.

All of this has led to me to an offer to study a Master's in fine art print at the Royal College of Art, which I will be starting in September 2022.

For more information on the Costume Construction course, visit: www.southessex.ac.uk/course/costume-construction-ba-hons

Success story: Deborah Wingfield

Success story: Deborah Wingfield

Course studied

Costume Construction BA (Hons)

If it wasn’t for this course, I wouldn’t have come so far as I have today and hope to keep growing with experience and gaining work in future productions.

My name is Deborah Wingfield, I am 40 years old, I studied Costume Construction at University Centre South Essex from 2018 until 2021 and this is my story.

I am a mum of four children and I was taking on the odd alteration job here and there whilst running my family. Sewing is a life-long skill I have had since I was eight years old! 

I did a fashion design course when I left school. I had many jobs before having children but none were what I really wanted to do. Although I had my family to raise and this was a full-time job for a period of my life, I managed to make time to be creative and was inspired by children’s costumes. I made costumes for my children and created a side-line of little tutus. 

I came across the course by chance at a time when I wasn’t even thinking about returning to study. I discovered that the course was located only 12 minutes from my house and was in collaboration with the Royal Opera House. I was immediately excited as I could really see myself doing it but I was so nervous. 

I attended the open day and then applied for the foundation pathway course. The course was a challenge to manage around running my family but as it was so near and lots of the elements were practical, I managed to make it work.

I learned historical pattern design and construction, classical tutu making taught by the Royal Opera House makers, conservation techniques, research skills, drawing skills, how to design professionally - making sure to include all relevant information within a presentation. How to work within a group, time management, improved writing skills, how to invoice for the appropriate industries and I even learned how to build a website for my portfolio of work which proved valuable when applying for work. 

During the course I managed to set up an alterations business. I found this a good way to learn how things are put together by taking them apart and putting them back together again. My aim was to finish the course not just with a qualification but with real first-hand experience. 

Having a business and qualifications really did help with finding jobs in the costume Industry. Being a qualified experienced seamstress people seem to trust your knowledge and skills. Having an eye-catching portfolio and website really helped sell my skills. I have designed for the Digby Fairweather’s Jazz centre in Southend for their ‘How Fashion shaped Jazz’ project whilst being on the course and the project is now a feature on their website. Also for one of our last university projects our costumes were entered in to a design challenge competition with The Royal Opera House. This meant that all work up to a high standard could be entered and would be displayed at the theatre in Covent Garden and would be displayed on the ROH website. 

Since completing my course I have continued to work within my own bridal alterations business.

I have worked for Sevenoaks Panto for just over a month as wardrobe supervisor. I was running costumes for a total cast of 20 people, this included four band members, eight dancers and eight principles. I spent the first week arranging fittings with the cast and adapting/altering their costumes. When the show began I was managing the maintenance and up keep of the costumes. I had also created a costume track/plot and was responsible for overseeing back stage quick change/dressing roles. This was my biggest achievement yet as the show continued to go on during a risky time as covid19 was a big threat and other theatres were closing.

I took on some work experience with Britain’s Got Talent’s La Voix (a contact made through the course) on her UK tour. I gained experience in assistant stage management duties as well as learning a dressing track and how to prepare for a show and relevant technical information.

 My current position is one of four designers for a low budget film. I was quite nervous about the interview as I aimed for the highest position. But once I had showcased my previous designs and explained my journey so far – my experience in different areas of costume, how I had managed to run my business between jobs and that now I would really like get my teeth into designing professionally, this really helped with my confidence.

If it wasn’t for this course, I wouldn’t have come so far as I have today and hope to keep growing with experience and gaining work in future productions. I gained so much confidence in my work and developed my skill set with professional industry guidance. In the future I would like to design/make for TV and film.

The best thing about doing further or higher education is reaching the finish line and having a huge sense of achievement and being able to own having completed a degree programme and that is yours forever.

The staff at University Centre South Essex were very supportive especially through the pandemic. It’s a great place to study with everything you need to help you progress through the course. 

My time at the University Centre help me with  professionalism- how to write, email and speak more professionally in presentations and interviews. I suffer with on-going anxiety so these skills are just as highly valuable as my practical skills also built on throughout the course. I have been able to turn a hobby into a successful profession.