The Theatre School > Conservatory > Undergraduate Conservatory > Costume Design

Costume Design

The Theatre School’s Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in costume design gives students the opportunity to explore and expand their artistic and visual expression while providing practical experience. Modeled after a professional designer’s process, the program allows students to visualize the world of plays through the garments and clothing the actors wear while collaborating with directors, dramaturgs, other designers and technicians, and our professional costume shop staff.

Students learn from a distinguished award-winning faculty of professional designers and artists, both in the classroom and through individual guidance and advising during production work. Students receive formal and informal feedback from faculty through portfolio presentations and exhibits of their work each year.

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First Year

The first year curriculum is taken in collaboration with lighting design and scenic design students and is an immersion into the culture of production and design. Students explore common themes and approaches to thinking metaphorically and abstractly with an appreciation of design as an aesthetic distinct from the other arts, and awareness of design considerations as manifested in theatrical productions. Students also begin their four-year drawing progression and take course work in costume technology and stage make-up in The Makeup Shop. Students complete three production crew assignments which will usually include one or two assignments in their area of study and one or two in another area of production. ​

Second Year

Second year students move into the specific costume design curriculum and focus on the vocabulary and historical precedent of costuming while developing creative responses to plays and characters. Students continue their drawing progression with rendering and explore period style elements through a survey of art, architecture, fashion, and furniture. Costume Technology coursework focuses on the history of clothing construction. Students work on three productions as assistant costume designers to third and fourth year students. ​

Third Year

In the third year, students hone their ability to analyze character and express themselves artistically while concentrating on different theatrical art forms – plays, musicals, operas – particularly in the context of modern texts. Students work collaboratively with their peers to propose and justify design concepts and further develop their drawing and rendering ability. Students work closely with the entire production team and Costume Shop to design two shows in our production season. ​

Fourth Year

The fourth year is a transition year, further developing students’ abilities and preparing students to enter the profession. In-class projects will focus on larger period plays and plays with complex situations. Students also explore other areas of design through electives. Production work continues as students typically design one more production in our production season and are placed in a professional internship of their choosing. ​

Graduate Showcase

At the end of each year, The Theatre School hosts a Graduate Showcase event to showcase the work of our graduating design students. Under the guidance of the faculty, graduating designers prepare a showcase exhibit of their portfolio – which is presented in Chicago for artistic directors, alumni, and other members of the theatre, film, and television industries.

Liberal Studies

In addition to the theatre training curriculum, students complete 52 quarterly credit hours (13 courses) in the university's Liberal Studies Program. Courses are taken in theatre history, writing, quantitative reasoning and technological literacy, philosophical inquiry, religious dimensions, scientific inquiry, understanding the past, multiculturalism in the United States, and electives. These liberal studies courses are scheduled during the first three years of the program.


Every student receives formal quarterly evaluation and feedback from the faculty. Evaluations are based on discipline, collaboration, professional potential, and progress in the program.