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Costume ConstructionBA (Hons)

Study our outstanding Costume Construction degree, in partnership with the Royal Opera House, awarded by University of the Arts London.

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Course details


This course is subject to revalidation. Revalidation is a process that makes sure students get a high quality academic experience. During revalidation there may be some changes to course content. Please contact us if you have any questions about this course.

Important You can read a comprehensive guide to this course containing full details in our Course Information Guide.

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The BA (Hons) Costume Construction programme places an emphasis on the knowledge and use of both historical and contemporary pattern cutting, construction, textiles and finishing techniques. Areas of study may include opera, dance, theatre, musical theatre, performance art, film and television.

The programme is unique as it has been developed in collaboration with the Royal Opera House (ROH).

This programme is delivered across two locations, the first at our Grays Campus, where our newly updated costume and print studios are based. The second at the ROH Costume Centre at Purfleet, this centre has been purpose built for the ROH and houses their archive collections, costume store and one of their workroom departments. Both campuses provide students the opportunity to utilise industry standard machinery and resources.

The course operates on a unit basis, most units count for 15 or 30 academic credits, although the Final Costume Realisation unit in the third year is weighted at 45 academic credits. Total study time includes scheduled teaching, independent study and assessment activity. All students take a total of 120 credits per level and 360 credits for the degree as a whole. This full-time course typically starts in October and completes at the end of May.

What's covered?

Year one units

The first year of the programme will introduce you to concepts of design, pattern cutting and garment production techniques.

Costume in Context

This unit offers a theoretical understanding of the history of dress and how gender, identity, class and cultural issues impacted on the basic silhouettes of clothing through the eras. It is not intended to provide a comprehensive review of the area, but to introduce you into the theory of the changes of dress and for you to develop, utilise, recognise and analyse the factors involved with this to support your own design and manufacturing work. This unit will also introduce new technologies in production techniques and ideas.

Textiles for Costume Construction

This unit aims to offer a broad exploration of the basic and more developed methods, application and processes of textiles techniques. You will be introduced to a range of materials, media and processes in relation to both contemporary and traditional applications of textiles construction. You will be initiated into the use and skill of colour mixing, fabric properties, dying and the application of textiles.

Costume Construction (1)

This unit introduces the fundamental skills of fabric properties, technical skills, pressing and manufacturing studies in relation to costume construction. The unit also allows for opportunity to progressively develop individual creative solutions by underpinning construction, with an understanding of traditional stitch techniques, technical methodology, relating to pattern cutting, pressing and manufacturing within costume construction.

Costume Construction (2)

This unit provides the knowledge to translate two-dimensional designs into three-dimensional costume. You will be introduced to historical and advanced pattern cutting and manufacturing techniques to enable you to identify appropriate methods to produce a final/part garment for costume.

Technical and skills portfolio

Year two units

Expanding on your learning in the first year, year two offers opportunities to work with live briefs and undertake work placements.

Costume Construction (3)

This unit will provide the opportunity to further develop your skills in the application of pattern cutting and construction techniques from previously delivered modules from year one & year two. This will be achieved through a range of advanced processes of grading, draping on the stand, soft tailoring and corsetry. You will be required to demonstrate skills gained through the production of a fully finished garment. (There may be opportunity to engage with simulated work based learning within the module and to mirror good employment practices)

Costume for performance

Costume Conservation

This unit will enable the understanding and application of skills in the care and possible conservation of costume, and an ability to distinguish historical referencing for costume productions, which will not be limited to garments.This will be achieved through a range of both practically based activities, which will include; packaging, storing, cleaning and theory based practice on historical authenticating, to ensure that all costumes are able to be safely stored, moved, referenced, archived and guarded for future practice.

Work Placement

This unique unit will provide the opportunity to develop and demonstrate a dedicated and professional work ethos through understanding of the roles within costume construction/designer/textiles or conservation. This could be within one of the following areas: performance art, theatre, opera, dance, music, musical theatre, film and TV. The placement will give awareness to the business of costume construction/design/textiles or conservation and allow you to analyse the roles, responsibilities and the necessities of communication, teamwork and the development of your own personal skills within the industry. You should complete a minimum of 120 hours this could be several placements throughout the 2nd year period.

Costume design and realisation

Year three units

You will undertake a number of final extended projects of your own personal focus which is supported by written elements and a visual portfolio of work.

Cultural and Historical Study

This unit allows for the opportunity to develop a critical awareness, in-depth research, and to form a sustainable argument for an area of investigation. You will negotiate with a supervisor a line of enquiry that is relevant to your chosen field of study and undertake an avenue of research that could, but is not limited to conservation of costume, performance art, theatre, opera, dance, music, musical theatre, film and TV.

Personal Project

This unit will allow you to establish and produce a personal theme/subject/issue relevant to costume construction. The unit will enable you to produce an in-depth research and development programme which will include; originality, creative analysis, prototyping, textiles, design work, productivity with other learners and generic skills to support learning. This will enable you to have a clear progression route for your live exhibition. The context of the unit will be defined by you; through consultation and on-going communication with tutors. It will actively encourage independent learning, self-directed research and time planning and necessitate a rigorous approach.

Professional portfolio

This unit will underpin professional practice by supporting your understanding of the roles, creative responses and potential progression routes within the Theatre, Film & Television Industry. You will explore the Theatre, Film & Television industry and their progression areas, investigating the principles of self-promotion and presentation techniques for freelance work, theatre/performance production employment, theatre/performing arts companies and TV & Film employment. Particular attention will be given to an on going portfolio build, where consideration of standards of presentation will impinge directly on the working process.

Live Exhibition

This unit will provide a platform for the realisation of the knowledge, skills and understanding gained from the design and exploration within Live Exhibition Development research outcomes. You will be expected to work to current commercial and industrial standards and articulate your ideas through suitable construction processes. The unit will encourage you to push the boundaries of creative construction and design by implementing and executing a range of skills and knowledge gained during the programme. The work produced will be of a high level of sophistication and fluency, along with evidence of a dedicated and professional work ethos.


The BA (Hons) Costume Construction course places an emphasis on the knowledge and use of both historical and current pattern cutting, construction, print and finishing techniques. These are applied and accurately tailored to fit a modern day figure whilst effectively interpreting a certain shape, silhouette or era of a given design. Areas of study will include opera, dance, theatre, musical theatre, performance art, film and television. Teaching is undertaken in small groups (Between 15 - 30), with a studio/making focus.

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, studio sessions or other timetabled sessions, students will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve reading journal articles and books, working on individual and group projects, undertaking research in the library, preparing coursework assignments and presentations, and preparing for garment construction. Your independent learning is supported by a range of excellent facilities, including the library, HE Breakout rooms and the two professional standard costume studios.

How will my work be assessed?

Coursework is assessed in a range of different ways in order to accommodate a variety of learning styles and aptitudes including:

  • Portfolio and sketchbook submissions
  • Group presentations
  • Written essays
  • Research folders

There are no examinations.


You will receive formative feedback as part of your one-to-one sessions with your unit teachers. You will also receive summative feedback on all formal assessments undertaken by coursework. Feedback is intended to help you learn and you are encouraged to discuss it with your unit leader tutor. Feedback can
be given in a range of different ways in order to accommodate a variety of learning styles and aptitudes including group critiques, recorded verbal feedback and written feedback.

We aim to provide you with feedback within 20 working days of hand-in (for all formal studio based coursework assessment). For the third year Dissertation Unit you will receive feedback and grades at the same time as your Final Creative Output Unit.

What can I do after this?

You can progress to a career in a variety of roles including costume construction, costume design, touring theatre, textiles, dying and breaking down, women’s wear, menswear, tailoring, prop costume, running wardrobe, costume conservation and restoration.

Course delivery hours

12 hours per week.

You will need a minimum of 64 UCAS points from one or more of the following:

  • At least two A-levels
  • BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma/Diploma/Subsidiary Diploma/Certificate [RQF]
  • BTEC National Award/Certificate/Diploma [NQF]
  • International Baccalaureate
  • AQA Baccalaureate
  • Progression Diploma
  • Advanced Diploma
  • You will also need GCSE English at grade C (old specification) or Grade 4 (new specification) or above OR a Level 2 equivalent such as functional skills
  • Portfolio-based interview

Open Event - Higher Education Degrees, HNCs & HNDs

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Our Higher Education Open Events are held at the Southend Campus on Luker Road. These events are the perfect opportunity to find out all you need to know about degree, HND and HNC courses on offer at South Essex College.


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The following course-related costs are included in the fees:

  • Annual £30 printing allowance
  • Car Parking at Purfleet Campus
  • Third Year students will showcase their work at the end of their studies. Exhibition costs (with the exception of costumes developed for the FMP) will be funded by the faculty of higer education
  • Venue Thurrock Campus
  • Starts Monday, September 30, 2019
  • Attendance Full time
  • Duration 3 years
  • Provision Higher Education
  • Cost £9000.00
  • Cost details Fees are per academic year for home and EU students.
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