Costume Ideas

There are sources of inspiration for costume ideas all around us. Visual information about colour, texture, shape will help to inspire you. If you see or think of something that inspires you, even if it is not appropriate for your current production, photocopy it, write it down or, photograph it, and save it in a folder for use later.

Reference Books

Costume books are inspiring, enlightening, fun and expensive, so unless you find a book that offers stunning value, try and use the local library service to order the book for you to loan.

Research the history of costume, art and theatre and conscious study of play scripts and character all can help you find ideas for costumes.

Fabric and Materials

Rummage through fabric samples for an assortment of fabric colours and textures. Shops will often let you have a small sample to take home. Most fabric colours and textures will suggest the type of character that might wear them.

sample of Orange Spandex material

Orange Spandex

Young, trendy, annoying, cheerful, energetic, fashionable.

sample of Tweed material


Old, sick, professorial, tired, educated, reliable.

sample of Plaid Flannel material


Masculine, stable, practical, strong, comfortable.

Another good source for ideas is the material at hand. Almost anything can be made into costumes, and often the best idea comes when you only have a few things to work with. Limitations of this kind can make design decisions simple.

Never underestimate the aesthetic possibilities of less obvious materials. Fabric paints, metallised plastic film, Chenille yarn (often used to make sweaters) can all be utilised.

Media, Art and the Internet

One of the best ways to find design ideas is to look at other media like magazines, television, film, painting, sculpture, etc. Magazines do not have to be fashion orientated to trigger your artistic imagination. Television is a constantly available resource with a wide variation of cultures and periods reflected in its programmes. Films too are a good source of inspiration and the much larger viewing screen compared to TV may help you see and remember important details more easily. Classical artwork is a rich resource and there is also all the art made by the peoples of the Third World: masks, textiles, jewellery, carvings, painting. Almost any of these resources will be represented and easily accessed on web sites.