Success story: Gemma Salter

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: