Yesterday we visited the Queen Margaret University (QMU) – Costume Design and Construction and I feel so compelled to write about it as it was so inspiring.
My visit was prompted by having a mentoring student this year who is applying to Performance Costume Design this year. We had one student last year who is about to embark on first year at QMU and we also worked with a student last year who is now studying the HND Costume for Stage and Screen at Edinburgh College.
So, it's all about Costume Design – it's something that I considered when I was searching for courses many moons ago.
The talk was from Sarah Paulley – Programme Leader BA (Hons) Costume Design and Construction. To get the real true picture of a course you MUST visit – if you can do. The energy of the staff and place are really important in making your decisions and the chance to ask many questions is essential – I asked many!!!
The main thing I came away with was its relevance to Industry and considering what huge consumers we are of film and TV, the scope is tremendous. The course is not only about design and construction but also management. Sarah explained really well about the structure of the industry, the job opportunities and the reality of working in such. Depending on the size of the production the designers of course having the smallest set of jobs, there would be dozens of makers on a production and then many fitters etc. The QMU students seem to be exposed to getting a real understanding of the production teams as a whole and know how to speak to directors, lighting, prop makers, make-up etc and their role within this production, which is really important. My understanding is that the QMU students gain employment more at entrance level, as assistants perhaps, with the scope to work their way up. You might have hopes of being a designer from the off but the reality of how many jobs in this role may not allow for this with no industry experience – you have to start somewhere so they say.
She explained about the kind of work that you might be doing and how essentially costume is the 'outward expression of a character in a production'. So this MIGHT mean going to Primark to buy high street clothing, it might mean doing weeks of research into past eras or it might mean making fantasy outfits for some production really 'out there'. And this then might mean a whole range of costumes for that one person at various points throughout the production.
I asked about prospects after graduation, what do students go on to achieve as this is very much in the forefront of many young peoples' minds these days? Many work freelance and those who have a desire to get paid work in the Industry do so. As they have 3 Industry placements on the course the networks and connections made here are good. A few businesses and careers to mention are Sparkle Wren corsets, Angels Costumiers, military tailors, wardrobe staff, Scotland on Film and one student worked on the film Gravity making the space outfits for the production.
So, down to the nitty gritty, your UCAS application, portfolio and interview. It's good to ask about the applicant / places ratio although we found out that actually it's not quite as competitive as you'd imagine. They take 10-12 students per year and have roughly 120 applications. Your personal statement is actually very important here at QMU as some applicants get no further than the application stage based on their personal statement. So it's imperative to get it right. Read our eBook on 'Writing your personal statement' to get some really good ideas and advice. If selected then 10 images are requested digitally and an interview with a task to bring at interview.
In this digital portfolio they are looking for evidence of good observation, a variety of media, drawing of people wearing clothes although I imagine that some life drawing would be welcome too. A liveliness, variety and interest in the world.
So if you're applying for Costume Design in Scotland and are only considering Edinburgh College of Art please do your research well. All colleges are different and some will suit you better than others. If you can do, please visit the colleges and talk to staff and students and I will guarantee you will be better placed to make a decision based on knowledge rather than preconceptions.