Costume Design 101

Getting The Film Look is more than just changing camera settings. Costumes are a massive part of creating a cinematic image and there are several key decisions YOU can make in order to help achieve unique and an interesting costume choice..

One of the biggest impacts you can make to the image of your film is your choice of costumes for your characters. Every fabric, colour, length, and design is telling the audience a very particular visual story which you have control over.

We certainly aren’t massive costume designers to any degree. But with the few projects we have made, we have discovered some key decisions which help aid the reasons for the design of a costume.

Realism is an important one. This doesn’t have to mean realistic in our world, but realistic in the film’s cinematic world.

Zombie film? The clothes need to be stained, weathered, and strictly functional.


A 1980s Community Centre Wrestling Event? Well all of the wrestling costumes will be cheap and nasty, and the fashion choices will steer towards the image of that decade.

Next you want to think of the colour and and texture. Choosing a few strong colours will look better than a mix-mashed pallette.  And pick clothing which will pop from your background and environments too.

Costume Design - The Medium
Costume Design - Flyswatter - Wrestler

In our short film Backstage we choose a bright yellow shirt for our character The Medium, in order for him to stand out from the blue walls of the locker room. The Flyswatter another character in the film needed to contrast The Medium so we inverted his colours and went for majority black, with gold accents.

To go deeper into this, The Flyswatter’s casual clothing is typical 80s fashion, double denim. This gives a stark contrast between his comfort and discomfort in the film. His light blue denim clothing also helps him pop on screen in the dark car park.  


In films spanning over a large length of time you’ll need multiple costumes. So pick a style for each character and don’t vary it too much. This is evident in real life too.

I’m a sweater-guy. You will see no logos or brands on them, and they will usually be dark and wooly. The sweater is always accompanied by a pair of chinos. This is my costume design.


Richard is even more basic. He is a T shirt guy and it’s usually dark. If fact I am sure he only has 3 different T-Shirts. This is his costume which he rarely differs from.


So next time you are design costumes, put yourself in their shoes and try to figure out what purchases they would make in a clothing store, or how they have acquired their clothes. Then make the cinematic choice; pick contrast colours which help them pop on screen.

This will get you one step closer to achieving the Film Look.

This video was Sponsored By - Click here to download this episode's track. Check out to discover a huge range of exclusive royalty free music!

Costume Design 101.jpg


Some of these links are affiliate links, if you purchase gear via these links The Film Look will receive a small commission, but there will be no additional cost to you. Thank you!