Back to IndieWire

Best Costume Design Books You Should Own

We rounded up a list of six of the best books for aspiring costume designers, seasoned pros, and cosplay fans.

theatrical mannequin in a theater stage next to colored clothes

Theatrical mannequin in a theater stage.

Smoking Lens - stock.adobe.com

If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Indiewire may receive an affiliate commission.

From Darth Vador’s infamous black cape and headgear, to the yellow catsuit Uma Thurman sported for “Kill Bill,” or Mariyln Monroe’s white dress from “The Seven Year Itch,” wardrobe is an important part of any production. Clothes a character wears are just as important to them as the actor themselves, and in some cases wardrobe can become more recognizable.

Costumes have a way of bringing characters to life without uttering a single word. Looking at a costume can tell us about the character’s personality, the time period that the project is set in, and the character’s role in the story. When a costume truly connects with fans they become inspirations for Halloween costumes, cosplay, and other events that allows us to play dress-up.

As Ruth E. Carter put it, costume designing is it’s own art form. “My favorite part about costume designing is the artistry of the job,” said the Oscar-winning designer behind “Black Panther,” “Coming 2 America,” and several other films. “You meet with a director and a visionary to discuss ideas. You research the characters and figure out the components of their look through your own vision.”

Costume designers and supervisors are as integral to a production team as the actors and directors. For those who want a career in the field, or are interested in the rudiments of costume design, we rounded up a list of six of the best books for aspiring costume designers, seasoned pros, and cosplay fans. See our list below.

“Digital Costume Design & Rendering: Pens, Pixels and Paint” by Annie O. Cleveland

This is a good manual to have in your library, no matter if you’re a new to costuming or a seasoned pro. Written by a costume designer for customer designers, “Digital Costume Design & Rendering: Pen, Pixel and Paint” is a how-to guide that takes readers from the basics of using Corel Painter or Adobe Photoshop and exploring the workspace, to working with color and layers.

“Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design” by Deborah Nadoolman Landis

From Hollywood’s Golden Era to more recent blockbusters, this comprehensive collection showcases a hundred years of Hollywood’s most tantalizing costumes and the characters they helped bring to life. “Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design” includes behind-the-scenes looks at the evolution of the costume designer’s art to the CGI era.

“Costume Designers’ Handbook: A Complete Guide for Amateur and Professional Costume Designers” by Rosemary Ingham

The title says it all! If you’re looking for an all-encompassing costume designers guide, this one is an awesome user’s guide. Originally published in 1983, this updated version of the “Costume Designers’ Handbook” includes new chapters plus 150 black-and-white photos, an eight-page color insert, guidance on how to establish a costume plot, along with sketching, drawing and drafting techniques.

“Cosplay Crash Course: A Complete Guide to Designing Cosplay Wigs, Makeup and Accessories” by Mina Petrovic

Learn the fundamentals of cosplay from costume design to makeup and wigs. “Cosplay Crash Course” is a step-by-step guide on how to turn ordinary fabrics, cheap toys, wigs, and easy-to-manipulate thermoplastics into cosplay costumes. With more than 25 step-by-step projects for creating authentic-looking props, costumes and accessories, “Cosplay Crash Course” will help you learn the fundamentals of cosplay costumes in addition to cool makeup effects. 

“Costume Design 101: The Business and Art of Creating Costumes for Films and Television” by Richard LaMotte

If you plan to make a career out of costuming, “Costume Design 101” is a great reference for designers and costume supervisors. LaMotte, a costume designer on “Goonies,” “Rambo III,” “The Wind and the Lion,” “The Last of the Mohicans” and more, breaks down the ins and outs of the industry across chapters that include breaking into the business, landing a job, the role of costume designers, specialty costumes, and script breakdown.

“The Art and Practice of Costume Design” edited by Melissa L. Merz 

“The Art and Practice of Costume Design” offers up a multi-sided look at the current state and practice of theatrical costume design as told by seven different designers. From the role of a costume designer to exploring the psychology of dress, the principles and elements of design, how to create costume renderings, and more. Additionally, the book explores insights, methodologies, costume design careers within theatrical and fashion industries, and over 300 full color illustrations. 

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Shop and tagged ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox