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The course

This course is aimed at both costume-making and costume supervising.

Costume-making

We teach costume-making from first principles, from basic sewing skills, pattern cutting and grading, through to the finished product. The basic sewing skills are organised in five levels:

  • Hand sewing, seams, hems, fastening
  • Pattern matching, tucks, cording, pleats and gathering, buttonholes, eyelets, false lacing
  • Openings, bias rouleaux and piping, facings and using bias
  • Fastenings (zips and fly opening)
  • Pockets

Although some time is given to completing all levels, you will be expected to work on them outside teaching hours.

All these skills, as well as other maintenance and alterations, are practised throughout the course by working on all the third year shows as assistants. This improves work speed and gives you experience in working with different fabrics and vintage costumes from our store.

The forms of pattern-cutting we teach are flat (block), cutting on the stand, and draping – although investigation into further forms is also encouraged, such as going straight to fabric, sizing up from a grid, and taking a pattern from an existing garment. You will also learn pattern manipulation and grading throughout the course.

Some garments are taken through to completion as class projects, including corsetry, ruffs, period shirt tailoring and millinery. Others form personal projects and are supervised, although you will be expected to work semi-independently.

Costume supervising

Costume supervising is taught in the class room with script analysis, budget skills and communication and management skills. It is also practised, firstly with the second year BA (Hons) Acting students as part of a short Shakespeare project, which is toured around schools in the London area. You will then have the opportunity to supervise two or three RADA professional performances, or a film project.

We also provide experience of other elements of a wardrobe department. You will have introductory classes in hair and make-up, wig knotting, history of costume, fabric treatments and props skills.

Year 1

Term one

The term starts with basic sewing before going on to block pattern cutting. You will also spend some time in the props department before working as assistant and dresser on the first set of productions.

You will then look at cutting on the stand and manipulating patterns, before assisting and becoming dressers on the second set of RADA productions. Ruff-making and an introduction to corset-making follows. There is also linear teaching in history of costume, costume props and professional development.

Term two

The second term continues with a full corset project, with further period underwear if time. You will spend a couple of days with professional dyers to learn about fabric treatments, before assisting on the next set of productions. An Elizabethan ruff and shirt project follows, and some lessons on hair, make-up and wig knotting.

The last set of shows are followed by some time to further investigate pattern-cutting and an introduction to millinery with a Sinemay/fascinator project. The term is completed by supervising work on the second year actors combat performances, the ‘Prize Fights’.

Term three

The final term of the year spends more time on millinery, including felt blocking and working with Buckram. There is further alteration and costume-making work on productions, as well as costume supervising teaching and a week of working with a professional tailor to produce a jacket.

The second half of term launches into supervising the Shakespeare Schools Tour and RADA Festival.

Year 2

The second year is less linear in structure.

You will choose whether to make two or three personal projects – which involve producing a costume from scratch, using a design of your choice – or supervise two or three RADA productions (a RADA film is also an option).

The work created is presented at an exhibition for industry and the public at the end of the year.

My own career began with my training at RADA and I’ve been privileged enough to use the skills I learned there in a range of projects that have taken me from the hallowed stage of the RSC to Hollywood.
Lindy Hemming, Academy Award-winning costume designer

Secondments

During the course, each student undertakes at least one secondment of approximately five weeks. This period can be split between more than one placement and its length can be changed depending on the individual students’ training requirements.

Timetable and workload

Year 1

Class times are 10am-5pm, although the workroom is available in the evenings for extra work if required.

When working on the shows, however, hours can be long. In the lead-up to the shows, staff will work alongside you throughout the necessary working hours. Evening and weekend work is common, but we try not to work beyond 9pm.

When working a show role, for example dresser or costume supervisor, there may be long hours during the tech week (usually 9am-10pm). Once the shows are open, you will have linear teaching during the day and show work in the evening, which lasts as long as the performance and will often include Saturdays. Productions usually run for approximately 10-12 days including two Saturdays, after which working hours return to the norm.

Year 2

When working on the shows, the hours described above apply. When making a costume project, you will be expected to attend from 10am-5pm as a minimum, but can (and most students usually do) work some extra hours in the evenings in order to complete your projects.

Modules and assessments

Class and personal project work take place alongside roles on RADA public productions, all of which determine your progression through the course. Assessment takes place twice per term through a combination of finished garments and presentation folders, individual portfolios, research and self-assessments.

Year 1 (45 credits)

  • Foundation technical theatre skills – 15 credits
  • Foundation theatre costume skills – 15 credits
  • Skills development – 15 credits

These are determined by undertaking two production roles in each term, alongside linear teaching.

Assessment Year 1

  • six assessment points (two per term) which must all be passed to progress to Year 2

Year 2 (105 credits)

  • Costume HoD supervisor (1) – 15 credits
  • Costume HoD supervisor (2) – 30 credits
  • Costume-making project (1) – 15 credits
  • Costume-making project (2) – 30 credits
  • Professional secondment and professional development exhibition – 15 credits

Assessment Year 2

  • five assessment points (two per term), and passing the professional placement. The accumulated marks from the second year of the course determine the final grade.

Teaching staff

Key teaching staff on the course:

Diane Favell Head of Wardrobe

Helen Chattaway Deputy Head of Wardrobe

Paul Aspinall Assistant Head of Wardrobe

Pippa Batt Assistant Head of Wardrobe

You will also be taught by visiting practitioners in different specialisms. Recent visiting professionals include:

  • Sarah Palmer Manser (make-up and wig knotting)
  • Mel McCleary (wig knotting)
  • Deborah Tallentire (tailoring)
  • Karen Shannon (millinery)
  • Jane Maier (airbrushing)
  • National Theatre dye room

How to apply

Interview process

Candidates will need to demonstrate their suitability for conservatoire vocational training. Candidates will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire prior to interview, in order to ascertain:

  • general level of understanding of costume making
  • level of understanding of costume making terminology and practices
  • an appreciation of theatre history and knowledge of texts
  • openness to learning and ability to receive and retain information

The questionnaire forms part of the panel’s assessment of the candidate as well as providing a basis for conversation in the interview. You should come to the interview prepared to talk enthusiastically about your passions and your experience. You will also be asked to bring a portfolio or samples of previous work. Please note the panel are always interested in evidence of your process as well as the final result of any project or work.

Find more details about our admissions in our admissions procedure document.

Entry requirements

Candidates must:

  • be 18 years old by 1 September 2019
  • have complete fluency in the English language
  • have IELTs (academic) level 5.5 or above in all four components if English is not your first language
  • hold a minimum of a foundation degree in a related subject
  • have significant practical experience (gained through education or professional practice)

We will consider applicants without a relevant first degree, provided that they can evidence prior learning in this area or a related area for study at level 7.

Due to the creative nature of the course, the required balance of practical skills and independent learning ability are considered mandatory to progress within the course.

Information for disabled applicants

We consider diversity to be enriching and a vital part of what makes us one of the world leaders in providing vocational training. We encourage the opportunity for self-development regardless of age, gender, disability, ethnicity, marital status, nationality, sexual orientation, parental status, religion or belief.

We welcome applications from disabled applicants and encourage them to disclose relevant information regarding any disability when completing their application form, to enable us to provide additional support during the interview process. There is more information for disabled applicants on the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama website.

Home, EU or international student?

There are strict regulations regarding residency which must be met in order to qualify for Home Student status. All EU students who are offered a place at RADA are required to verify their EU status prior to the offer of the place being confirmed.

Home (UK) student

In order to be classed as a Home (UK) student you normally need to meet all of the following criteria on the first day of the first academic year of the course:

  • You are settled in the UK (this means there is no immigration restriction on the length of your stay)
  • You are ordinarily resident in the UK, and have been for the full three years before the first day of the academic year (ordinarily resident means that your main home is in the UK, and you are choosing to live in the UK.)
  • The main reason for you being in the UK was not to receive full-time education.

EU student

You will be classed as a Home (EU) student if, on the first day of the first academic year of your course:

  • You are an EU national, or the relevant family member of a non-UK EU national, who is in the UK as a self-sufficient person or as a student, or the relevant family member of a UK national.
  • You must have been ordinarily resident in the European Economic Area and/or Switzerland and/or the overseas territories for the three years before the first day of the first academic year of the course.
  • You must not have been resident wholly or mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education

International student

If you do not fall under the Home (UK) or Home (EU) fee definitions, then you will be classed as an international student.

International students coming to RADA on a full-time course of more than six months will require a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa before coming to the UK to start your course. Without the visa you will not be allowed to enter the UK. Please download our guide for more information.

The definitions on this page are only a very brief summary and there are a number of exceptions to the conditions listed. For more detailed information, please refer to the UK Council for International Student Affairs guide.

All EU students offered a provisional place at RADA are required to verify their EU status prior to the offer of the place being confirmed. Please contact the Student Finance Services European Team on EU_Team@slc.co.uk or +44 (0)141 243 3570.

Application fee

We charge an application fee for all courses. Our admissions process is not automated and may involve significant contact with an individual applicant. We do not refund application fees.

The application fee for the Postgraduate Diploma in Theatre Costume is £31.

Policies, terms and conditions

If you would like to know more about RADA’s admissions policies for higher education courses, please download and read our Admissions Policy.

For information about RADA’s admissions, appeals and complaints for higher education courses, please download and read our Admissions Appeals and Complaints document. Please note that this process covers the following courses only:

  • BA (Hons) in Acting
  • FdA Technical Theatre and Stage Management
  • BA (Hons) Technical Theatre and Stage Management (progression year)
  • PgDip Theatre Costume
  • MA Theatre Lab
  • Foundation Course in Acting

Please download the RADA fees policy for more information about fee levels and increases, deposits and payment.

You can read our terms and conditions for students here.

Costs and funding

Tuition fees

Make sure you’ve checked above about your status and whether you are classed as a Home (UK), Home (EU) or International student. This affects the fee and also the financial support available.

The PgDip Theatre Costume (postgraduate) fees for the academic year 2019-20 for all students will be £6,695.

Your course is two years in length so the total tuition for all students will be not less than £13,390. Please note that we are likely to increase your fees year on year by a cost of living amount.

Please see the RADA Fees Policy for more information about how RADA calculates tuition fee increases for each year of a course.

Other costs

Almost all materials you require for your course, including travel for any trips, will be included in your course costs. However, you should also be aware of the following additional costs during your time at RADA and during the application process.

Costs not included in the fees

Other materials costs: £300

The things not covered include footwear, clothes, play texts and stationery. We take a repayable deposit from students for locker keys, access passes and against any unpaid library fees. This totals around £100. Any student likely to have difficulty paying a deposit can notify us before arriving at RADA.

International students will need to pay for visa costs.

Please see the Life at RADA section below for information about likely accommodation costs.

Application fee

We charge an application fee for all courses. Our admissions process is not automated and may involve significant contact with an individual applicant. We do not refund application fees.

The application fee for the Postgraduate Diploma in Theatre Costume is £31.

Funding your training

It is important that you understand when you accept a place at RADA that you know how you will pay for it and whether you will need financial assistance. We do not take account of financial need when offering places, but we do reasonably assume that if you are applying to come to RADA, you will be able to pay the fees and support yourself.

Student loans

This course does not qualify for a Postgraduate Loan through the Student Loans Company, but UK and EU students are eligible for RADA scholarship support (see below for more information).

Scholarships

As PgDip Theatre Costume students are not eligible for the postgraduate loan, RADA will consider applications for scholarships for students on this course. You should be from a family with an income of less than £25,000 to be considered.

It is unlikely that RADA will support all of your costs, so you should be able to fund the majority of your fee and living costs from other sources.

The Postgraduate Diploma in Theatre Costume gave me the chance to explore costume in a really hands-on way, from altering patterns for historical dress to working with professional designers.

You may also be interested in

FdA in Technical Theatre & Stage Management

RADA’s two-year Foundation Degree in Technical Theatre and Stage Management (TTSM) offers broad, practical training in all the areas that contribute to a theatre production, with the opportunity to specialise in your second year in the area you wish to take into a long-term successful career.

Find out more

Life at RADA

RADA is based in the heart of London with the museums, universities and libraries of Bloomsbury on one side, and the West End and film world of Soho on the other.

Studying and living here gives you access to one of the most vibrant cultural hubs in the world. There are over 17,000 theatrical performances each year in London with venues at the forefront of theatrical innovation. The West End represents some of the highest quality commercial theatre in the world and the wealth of fringe theatres means you can experience unique performances right on your doorstep. Our graduates go on to work in many of these venues, both on and off the stage.

RADA is an international community and we welcome people from across the world to both our higher education and short courses.

Facilities

Our theatres

Our three theatres give you the opportunity to work in industry-standard spaces: the Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre, a fully flexible theatre with 194 seats; the GBS Theatre, a studio theatre seating up to 70; and the Gielgud Theatre, an intimate studio space seating up to 50. All our acting and theatre production students will work in at least one of these theatres during their time at RADA.

Studios and workshops

We have a range of studios and workshop spaces across our buildings on Gower Street and Chenies Street. These include teaching and rehearsal studios for actors; dedicated metalwork, carpentry, scenic art, video and props workshops; extensive props and costume stores; a costume-making workroom; a CAD suite; state-of-the-art sound studios; and equipment for filming on and off-site.

Library

This is an important resource for students, with a large collection of rare and out-of-print plays in the English language. You will also have access to a number of digital resources. Visit the Library page for more details.

Refectory and RADA Bar

The Refectory offers subsidised meals for students (for example a salad bowl is £1.50) with hot and cold food daily. You may also heat up your own food to eat in the Refectory. The RADA Bar and café is open to staff, students and the public during the day (and in the evening during public productions), and offers a discount for RADA students.

Student services and support

We have a dedicated Student and Academic Services (SAS) department who are here to support you during your time at RADA from before you arrive until after you leave. You can drop in and see us if you need letters confirming student status, if you have queries about fees or student finance, or need assistance in applying for student finance.

We aim to get to know all students at RADA so we can help with your particular needs.

Find out more about our Student and Academic Services teams

We have four teams in the Student and Academic Services department:

  • Registry and Admissions, who manage the admissions process and support you as a student
  • Higher Education Courses and Programming, responsible for the smooth running of your courses and supporting the Directors of Training and course leaders
  • Student Wellbeing, who offer pastoral care, counselling and referral to other services if necessary
  • Widening Participation and Outreach, responsible for extending opportunities to engage with RADA

Student wellbeing services

The Student Wellbeing Service is located in our Chenies Street building and includes pastoral care and access to counselling at a time that suits our students’ busy schedules. Students can drop in or make an appointment to see someone.

Counselling support is available throughout the training for any personal problems and is free of charge. RADA includes sessions on drugs and alcohol, sexual health and consent, nutrition and budgeting within the personal development training strand for all undergraduate students.

Healthcare

RADA has a relationship with a local GP (Ridgmount Practice). If you have any particular health concerns, it is worth looking for accommodation that is within the wider Ridgmount Practice catchment area.

We offer students who require physiotherapy support a limited number of free sessions. We have a relationship with a local practice and students referred for support can see someone on-site or at the practice.

Chaplaincy and faith services

We have students from all faiths at RADA.

Our Chaplaincy service is there to support you in your faith, especially if you have moved away from your home place of worship. RADA has a long-standing relationship with St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, known as the Actors’ Church. Our Student and Academic Services team can also put you in touch with someone from a particular faith to support you at RADA.

Support for disabled students

We support students as individuals at RADA, and we will work with you to make appropriate adjustments and ensure that you can obtain additional support. We encourage potential students to disclose any disabilities early in the application process so we can make reasonable adjustments for you.

You can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) to cover some of the extra costs that you might have because of a mental health problem, long-term illness or other disability. These allowances are additional to your other student finance and you won’t need to repay them. Find out more information about DSAs here.

Once you have a place at RADA, we can assist in identifying whether you are eligible for support. You will likely require a ‘needs assessment’ to determine what adjustments and financial assistance is necessary. We have a relationship with the North London Regional Access Centre (run by Middlesex University), which is a good place to have any assessment ahead of coming to RADA.

In keeping with our personalised training, you may be able to receive additional support for any condition or impairment directly from RADA. We will determine this with you as you progress through your course.

Where to live

RADA does not currently have its own student accommodation. This means that our students live in one of the following:

  • local halls of residence, including those run privately
  • with other students in private houses and flats
  • lodging with another person.

Once you have accepted your place at RADA, we will provide information about local accommodation contacts. We aim to connect incoming students with one another, which can help you to look for accommodation together. Our current students will also be looking for people to share with, and we also help you to make those connections.

For low-income students (i.e. those from a background of under £25,000), please talk to us once you have your place if you might struggle with a deposit for a flat or house.

Some students will carrying on living at home whilst at RADA and others live across London. We advise that you balance out both the time and cost of a commute with spaces that might seem more expensive, but are closer to the Academy – you will spend a lot of time here.

Our students pay an average of around £650 per month (based on a 12-month contract) for a room in a shared house. Some private halls can be considerably more expensive. If you have specific access needs, please speak to someone in our Student and Academic Services team for assistance in finding an appropriate place to live.

At the open day I loved what I saw, in particular the enthusiasm and talent of students and tutors for their chosen field of work. I enjoy the vocational aspect of the course; I learn new skills directly applicable to shows.

Careers

The course aims to prepare you for a career in costume supervising and costume-making, across theatre, TV and film.

The training has also led students into other career paths connected to the specialism, for example:

  • Dresser
  • Running wardrobe
  • Touring supervisor
  • Buyer
  • Dyeing and breaking down
  • Fabric printing
  • Costume hire

With further training, the course can lead to a profession in the following areas

  • Make-up
  • Tailoring
  • Wig making and styling
  • Costume designing

Recent graduate destinations

Graduates have recently worked in costume-making, supervising and other costume and wardrobe related roles at:

London theatres

  • Almeida Theatre
  • Bridge Theatre
  • Lyric Hammersmith
  • Royal Albert Hall
  • Southwark Playhouse
  • Theatre Royal Stratford East

West End productions

  • Aladdin the Musical
  • Dreamgirls
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • Heathers the Musical
  • Wicked

Regional and international tours

  • The Crucible
  • Flashdance
  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
  • Madagascar: the Musical

Film and television

  • BBC's Strictly Come Dancing,
  • ITV's Dancing on Ice
  • Netflix's The Crown

Films

  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
  • Maleficent
  • Mission: ImpossibleFallout
  • Peterloo
  • Suffragette

FAQs

    I am under 18, can I apply to RADA?

    Candidates must be at least 18 when the Postgraduate Diploma in Theatre Costume begins. We do offer opportunities for young people under 18; you can find more information here.

    What qualifications do I need?

    This is a vocational course and candidates must be able to demonstrate Applied Prior Learning (APL). Please see the entry requirements above under 'How to apply'.

    Does RADA hold open days for Postgraduate Diploma in Theatre Costume programme?

    Yes, we hold open days for our theatre production programmes. Keep an eye on the What's On section of the website for further details.

    The open days are primarily aimed at the Foundation Degree in Technical Theatre and Stage Management course, but this will give you the opportunity to meet the tutors, have a tour of the building and ask questions about the Theatre Costume course.

    Do I apply through UCAS?

    RADA does not use the UCAS service for applications and we have an independent admissions process. You can download our application form at the top of this page - click 'Apply now'.

    When is the deadline for application?

    The deadline for entry in September 2019 is 1 April 2019.

    What are the interview requirements?

    You will be invited to interview if you hold the relevant prior qualifications or experience. You should come prepared to talk enthusiastically about your passions and your theatre experience. If you have a portfolio of work, please bring it with you.

    After I’ve sent in my application, how long will it take to hear back from you?

    You will receive an automated email confirming receipt of your application as soon as it has been received and processed. If you do not hear from us within two weeks of sending in your application, please email admissions@rada.ac.uk.

    If I do not attend my interview will my application fee be refunded?

    The application fee is not refundable under any circumstances.

    What if I am ill on the day of my interview?

    If you are ill on the day, please email admissions@rada.ac.uk in advance of your interview time. We will try to provide an alternative date, but this may not be possible as it is dependent on where we are in the interview process.

    Can I defer entry?

    No. You should apply for a place in the year before the September you wish to begin your training.

    How do I pay for the tuition fees?

    The PgDip in Theatre Costume is not eligible for any government funding, so students on this programme will need to be able to finance their study.

    We do not take account of financial need when offering places, but we do reasonably assume that if you are applying to come to RADA, you will be able to pay the fees and support yourself. However, we will consider applications for scholarships for students on this course.

    Please read our Costs and funding section above for more information.

    Is there any accommodation/housing provided?

    RADA does not currently have its own student accommodation. All students offered a place are provided with guidance on finding accommodation in London.

    Please read the Life at RADA section above for more information on where to live.

    How many students are there on the course?

    There is an intake of up to four students in September each year.