Costume and Wardrobe (England)

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Framework details

Framework ID: FR00632
Issue number: 3
Issued: 10 May 2011

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Costume and Wardrobe (England)
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Issued by
Creative and Cultural Skills

Contact name: Amanda Stubbins
Telephone number: 0207 015 1801
Please download the framework for email contact information.


The Costume and Wardrobe Apprenticeship has been designed with the help of employers to attract new talent into the industry and to provide them with the skills they need to run their businesses. All theatrical performances such as plays, musicals, TV or film productions rely on scenery, props and costumes to make them a success. Those working in costume and wardrobe play a key role in making sure that costumes accurately represent the period. They work with artistic directors, producers, set designers, technical and lighting departments, as well as designing, altering and sourcing costumes.

Employers have highlighted the back-stage and off-stage job roles as particularly challenging for recruitment because each job is highly specialised. Progression routes are also difficult and there is a need for support moving into supervisory roles as well as recognised qualifications which are supported by employers and recognised by them.

The Performing Arts industry is growing rapidly and 30,000 skilled workers will be required in off stage/back stage roles by 2017 of which there is a forecast shortage of 6,000.

Costume and Wardrobe is part of the wider creative and cultural sector which is experiencing a number of challenges which need to be addressed if businesses are to attract new talent into the industry and to replace those who leave or retire.

  • over half of employers have recruitment issues because applicants lack experience, and about a quarter say that applicants lack the right specialist skills for the job;
  • companies often recruit from the rich over-supply of general arts graduates and miss out on the wider pool of talent available from other areas of study or those without formal qualifications;
  • the future workforce is composed of a large pool of ‘qualified’ potential recruits who do not have the specific ‘associate professional and technical’ skills that nearly half of jobs require – these are the jobs where there is predicted growth over the next seven years;
  • skills gaps in the current workforce can lead to existing business being lost through poor delivery or impossible pressure on the workforce and they need to find time for and finance training; 
  • ICT is a skills gap and this will be useful for researching period designs, sourcing materials, costumes and equipment and cataloguing costumes and props;
  • other gaps are Marketing/Advertising and PR, Technical Skills, Business Development, Administration, Finance and Accounting, Digital Skills, Sales and Management;
  • management skills are required to manage complex creative organisations often ‘not for profit’, or with complicated stakeholder managements (e.g. subsidy, LA, sponsorship) and a need for progression pathways to enable staff to progress quickly from practitioner, supervisor, manager and to CEO;
  • the industry is predominantly young and white; nearly 50% of the workforce is under 40 years of age, and evidence suggests that people drop out of the sector in significant numbers in their thirties and forties;
  • the availability of finance and the ability to support investment in skills is key to the development and growth of the industry. 92% of creative and cultural organisations are micro-businesses (employing less than 10 people) and ensuring sufficient finance is in place to support all aspects of the business can be challenging;
  • the consequence of a potential workforce that is highly qualified but skills deficient, is that businesses and employees in the industry, and those wanting to work in the industry require re-skilling in specific areas to be adequately prepared for work, or to increase productivity for the sector itself. Funding for second Level 3 or 4 qualifications is not always possible, and thus the cost of such training falls either on the individual or the business providing the training. This can be a huge burden on businesses in the industry as they are generally small and – more than the UK as a whole – are likely to be self-employed or freelancers. This can put great strain on the ability for businesses to fund and provide training for their staff.

Amongst the future skills needs for the creative and cultural sector are:

  • Administrative skills
  • Business skills
  • Creative expertise
  • Digital skills
  • Finance/ accounting
  • Foreign language skills
  • Freelance Skills
  • Fundraising
  • ICT skills
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Online skills
  • Teaching skills

Employers are keen to increase the level of work based learning in order to change the culture of graduate recruitment to the industry. They have helped to design the qualifications in this Level 2 and 3 Apprenticeship programme to ensure that it meets their current and future skills needs and at the same time, meet the requirements of the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England.

The Costume and Wardrobe Apprenticeship will introduce people to working backstage in a theatre or live event setting and provide a basis for careers in the costume and wardrobe aspects of theatre production. Learners will gain real experience of working as part of a wardrobe team, seeing a production wardrobe through from initial idea, through development to final costume production.

Intermediate Level Apprentices will train as Costume/Wardrobe Assistants, supporting assembling, making and altering clothes for actors and assisting them to dress, helping cutters, searching for hired costumes and accessories, helping with cleaning, washing and ironing of costumes, keeping records of accessories and helping to source costumes, materials and equipment.

Advanced Level Apprentices will train as  Assistant Costume/Wardrobe Managers, researching the type of clothes & accessories worn for a production, attending meetings with the artistic director, producer, set designer & technical and lighting departments, assisting with presentation of design ideas to the production team, briefing and monitoring the team, supporting the making and finishing of costumes. 

Download framework

Costume and Wardrobe (England)
(PDF document 2.45 MB)