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Quit your job, become a... costume designer

Written by
Michael Curle

Rob Greig

Jane Petrie, 49, film costume designer

So how did you start out?

'I didn't even know the job existed until I was 22! I had a stall selling hats in Camden and Portobello markets and I'd been doing portfolios for years for art foundations and not knowing what to do with them. Then I heard about the costume course at Wimbledon College of Art. It was so exciting to discover I could do it for a living!

What was your early career like?

'I worked at "Spitting Image", doing some costume-making as a trainee. I worked for Sands Films in Rotherhithe: they're known for authentic handmade period costumes. Eventually I became an assistant costume designer and worked with some great people. But ultimately I wanted to be a costume designer in my own right. So I had to go back to earning nothing!'

That must have been a tough decision.

'Yeah, you spend so long being skint as a trainee, then end up on a James Bond film or "Star Wars" film earning good money. It's hard to go back. But I wanted to design. In one year I did "Moon" and "Fish Tank": low-budget films with great potential. Both of them were really well received. They were a great springboard.'

You recently worked on "Suffragette". How did you make it historically accurate?

'We did loads of research because it was really important that the film felt immediate and real. I looked at a lot of early photography, street photography and film, to capture clothes in motion. I researched real people, wearing real clothes, as far as possible.'

Any advice for wannabe designers?

'It's hard if you're not connected. The best thing to do is apply for funding through arts bodies like Creative Skillset. I'm also involved in something called Arts Emergency. It helps young people from poorer or non-creative backgrounds find a way in.'

Hours: up to 60hrs p/w

Starting salary: £350-£500 p/w

Qualifications: Degree in costume design

Or why not become a croupier?

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