Learning to budget a project is one of the most essential skills we possess.   You will work into this process gradually: during your first show Vera will meet with you to guide the process.  On your second show, we will ask designers to try a preliminary budget before seeking advice.  For the third and thesis productions, we expect a designer to hone these skills by wholly creating the working budget.   If you need help, please do NOT hesitate to ask, especially in locating rental packages around the country or at other universities.  Some of these arrangements require delicate negotiations.

For sample budgeting and forms, see page Forms -Budgeting Forms on right sidebar.

Proposed Costume Builds, Rentals and Purchases

The first step of budgeting is creating a list of likely rentals, purchases and builds.  You will assemble this list over a period of time as you research likely sources for your garments.  First consult Vera for the amount of time allocated to your show in the shop.  If your show has less time, you may have fewer builds unless we can over hire labor, and we often do.   You may have an early indication that some costumes are so specialized they must be built.  Mark all made-to-order costumes as builds, and come back to budgeting those later.  There are many reasons to build costumes:  the actors may be special sizes, the styles may be unusual and cannot be found in a rental warehouse, the colors may be very specific, there are groups wearing identical costumes, your design requires special fabrics or textures, etc.   Begin with your ideal build number, and work from there.

Budgeting Process

Every show has its budget limitations, and no matter how generous the budget, it is rarely enough to cover the required costumes.  At UCI we try to substitute advance lead time for money if we can.  If there is enough time to think of alternative ways to accomplish your design, then we hope to avert the crisis of running out of money or going over budget.

Prepare for your budget meeting using your preliminary costume plot.  You will begin with a “Process of Elimination” system based on readily available information.

  • Determine how many garments can be found in stock or as rentals through Reciprocal Agreements.  These are free sources, and you can allocate more of your budget to other expenses.  Designers first shop in stock to see how much of their budget they can allocate to other categories.  If stock garments are in poor condition or incorrect sizes,  however, you must plan to find them elsewhere.
  • Research rentals or purchasing sources for the most advantageous prices, particularly if you are looking for multiples of the same items like uniforms.  Most rental sources must know the exact dates, sizes and length of rental before they can give a price; prepare for sourcing sessions ahead of time.
  • Research major purchases through stores or online, asking for help as needed.  Your fellow designers may know a very affordable supplier for what you need.
  • Do some footwork in local stores to assess typical prices.  Find out where the best ones are, and see if they carry what you need
  • Swatch for fabrics.  Don’t automatically discount expensive fabrics- you may adjust  by using more stock items, or free rentals so that you can afford that purchase.  Determine a preliminary yardage requirement using pattern books or ask the shop staff for help.
  • Determine very rough fabric estimates for possible built items.  You may use pattern books in sewing stores, available online or ask the shop for an early guess.
  • Research specialty items available only through certain vendors, such as uniforms of any type.  Don’t forget to research discounts available for buying in larger quantities
  • Create a supplies or notions category of 15% of your total budget. You will use this money for “hidden” costs such as shoulder pads, shirt studs, replacement socks, putting rubber on shoes, repairing vintage shoes and all manner of unforeseen details, dry cleaning some garment soiled in stock, etc
  • Create a line item for shipping. it can be difficult to predict this adequately ahead of time. Include KNOWN shipping costs in the purchase price for items you will be ordering.
  • Create a line item for multiples or duplicates.  Will your show include special effects, blood, water, fire, dirt?  Your actors may need a second costume piece to change into.  It is important to note duplicate items early in the process so you may rent or shop more efficiently.
  • Create a line item for wigs and special make up expenses.  If your show will use wigs, determine if the design calls for human hair fronted wigs, or if the design is exaggerated enough to use purchased, synthetic wigs.  For exaggerated styles, you may be able to arrange styling at the store.   Include facial hair in this category.

This process-of- elimination budget will give you a very preliminary look at your show.  You may be in pretty good shape, or you may be way over budget.  You may also have a list of items you are not sure how to estimate.  Take this preliminary budget estimate to your Budget Meeting with the costume shop manager as a place to begin the discussion. At that meeting you can identify problem areas,  ask for help researching items or finding new vendors,  or think of other creative ways to achieve your goals.

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