Costume Symposium 2020 postponed to autumn 2021 – read more here.

About Costume Symposium

In 2017 award-winning costume designer Susannah Buxton was invited to speak at a costume symposium for young technicians and designers held at the Opera House in Oslo, Norway.  The experience inspired her to set up a similar event in the UK.  The first UK Costume Symposium was held in London in June 2018, followed by the second at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts in 2019.  There will be further events in other parts of the country.

Why we started

Practices which support costume design, such as millinery, corsetry, embroidery and tailoring, are often taken for granted and the results achieved are rarely acknowledged. Costume Symposium events aim to recognise and demonstrate these extraordinary and in some cases endangered skills, and help maintain the high quality of production in every area of the arts and entertainment industries.

Who Costume Symposium is for

Some of the technicians working in theatre, opera, film and television work at home in relative isolation and on low pay. They often have little chance to see how others work. Costume Symposium events will enable them to share their knowledge and enthusiasm, hear from experienced practitioners and try out new skills.

What we do

The first UK costume symposium for young technicians and designers took place in June 2018. It consisted on a day of talks, with a costume demonstration and panel discussion on training for costume makers, and two days of practical workshops in corsetry, embellishment and patination, handmade gloves, men's period tailoring and millinery. The 2019 event at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts had a similar format.

Costume Symposium videos

We are hoping to hold a physical event again in the autumn this year, and in the meantime, here are some taster videos from our talented tutors. Look out for more videos from our other tutors, and watch this space for news of this year’s plans as they become clearer.

Toni Bate, Course Leader MA Costume Making at LIPA, shows how to cut a period bodice on the stand.  Toni ran a period ladies’ wear pattern cutting workshop at the Costume Symposium at LIPA in 2019.

Embroiderer Michele Carragher (Game of Thrones) shows how she starts creating the embellished beetle design that participants learned how to make during her workshop at the 2019 Costume Symposium in Liverpool.

Watch this video from the second UK Costume Symposium in Liverpool (6-8 September 2019) to see what it’s all about.

Here’s the video from the first UK Costume Symposium in London (15-19 June 2018).

Here’s a trailer for a video from the Crafts Council in which Susannah Buxton talks about her career as a costume designer and why it’s important to share knowledge and experience with designers and makers through events such as Costume Symposium.  To see the whole film visit the link at the end of the trailer and scroll down the Crafts Council page.

Photos of Costume Symposium 2019 workshops © Andreas Sterzing

Thanks to the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Fund for their support for Costume Symposium 2019.

what participants said about Costume Symposium 2019

I found the talks really engaging and highly inspirational, especially Tom Pye’s talk, a combination of set design and costume design and how he creates these stunning worlds onstage and in film and television production.

All speakers were extremely well informed and enthusiastic.

Michele (Carragher) was fabulous.  Her attention to detail was outstanding, even in the way she laid out the equipment we would use.  I thought she had planned it really well and the beetle task was complicated enough to challenge us but simple steps to follow to make it feel attainable.

Again a brilliant chance to network.

It was a welcoming atmosphere where everyone felt comfortable to ask questions regarding their millinery pieces and other aspects of millinery and wardrobe and career development.  Sean was always very attentive and patient.

I learnt so many new techniques.

Organisers extremely friendly, welcoming and easy to chat to.  I attended to find out more about the industry and how to get into it and it answered all my needs.  I have since been in touch with ScreenSkills also.

I rarely get the opportunity to mix with other costume workers. Seeing what other people produce and think about is always inspiring.

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