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Costume Designers Guild Calls Out Pay Inequity

Amidst their long-running battle for pay equity, the Costume Designers Guild, together with the UCLA Anderson School of Management organized an event that aimed to explore the value and economic impact of costume design in the film industries. Several professionals gathered and shared insights regarding the costume design and identified opportunities to make it more equitable.

Deborah Landis, President Emeritus of the Costume Designers Guild, led the conversation and stressed the importance of Costume design in the making of a movie.


“The goal is for audiences to lose themselves in a movie. Once the lights go down, we are on a ride. We, as the dressers, need to make everyone believe in the characters. The public cannot be in that ride, unless they are involved. Our work can disappear in the tapestry of a narrative and should. However, our work should be acknowledged and isn’t. We are not considered to be on par with our creatives that have the same input in creating the magic of a movie”, she said.

According to some data shared in the conference, salary rates for costume designers are at the bottom of the list. They earn 65% less than cinematographers and 28% less than production designers. Landis added: “The people who create the people should be paid the same as the people who create the place. Movies are about people. We are observers of the human condition. We design from the inside out. We should be taken as seriously as other artists in the industry.”

Evelyn Allen – VP of Client Experience and Insights at Blue Table Advisors underlined the relevance of the profession.

“Costume Design is Character Design. It’s storytelling. Without it even the most famous of characters can be unrecognizable. The work of Costume Designers engages and mobilizes fan in measurable ways.”

Halloween in an example. There are millions of searches everyday online around costumes that relate to movies. The issue these professionals raise is that they do not get any sort of royalties for their creations. The cosplay global market is expected to reach 23 billion US dollars by 2030, for instance. Up to now, costume designers do not see any ancillary profits from any of these scenarios.

According to Norren Farrel from ERA, Costume Design is still very much a ‘women’s industry’.

“If we do not help women in one industry, we lose leverage and power in all industries. Now it’s the time to act. There is a cultural zeitgeist. The # MeToo movement brought salary transparency to the table. It’s important for Costume Designers not to lose momentum and act now.”

Brigitte Romanov, Executive Director of the Costume Designers Guild said “Costume Design is art. We should be compensated for that. What’s the difference between making a set and making a corset? Why are they paid more? Is it because they have bigger tools? We, as a society, value bigger things. We value things that men do. We must change our own personal bias. Pay is a barometer for value. Why aren’t costumes valued as much as a set?”