Wardrobe Guide: 6 Rules on What to Wear on Film Sets

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

A successful film goes beyond having a compelling storyline, a great script, and excellent actors. To achieve the vision of your film, wardrobe choices play a significant part. It is what the characters wear in the film that defines who each character is and helps give life to the script and the story. However, the wardrobe department calls for a lot of creativity that can sometimes be challenging even for seasoned filmmakers. In this article, we discuss six rules you should follow to make the best wardrobe choices for the success of your film.

Rules to follow when making wardrobe decisions for your film

Costume design is a vital aspect of the overall film experience. Follow the rules discussed below to design costumes that help you tell the story not only in a visually appealing manner but in a way that audiences connect with each character:

Rule 1: Choose costumes that help develop the character

Good character development is synonymous with good storytelling. If viewers are to connect and relate to your story, it is necessary to develop your characters well. This involves defining the characteristics that make them full-rounded humans; from how they behave, talk, and act to the relationships and decisions that they make. How you clothe the characters can be a great tool to develop your characters. Make sure that the wardrobe decisions that you make effectively and authentically bring out the character. Make careful choices in style, colors, and accessories to establish the characters’ personality, social status, emotional status, and more.

Rule 2: Keep story continuity in mind

Most people dress according to how they feel at the moment. Every character changes as the story progresses. Pay close attention to the characters' vibe at different stages of the story and make wardrobe choices that match how the characters are feeling at every step of their journey. For instance, for characters that start out as weak and vulnerable and become strong and confident as the story ends, the audience should be able to see the change in what they are wearing. You can go for subdued tones at the start of the movie and switch to vibrant colors and bold styles to portray the strong and confident character at the end.

Rule 3: Use costumes that match the time period

Clothes are powerful in transporting us to different eras and time periods. If you are telling a story from a different era, or your story develops through different time periods, use fashion choices that depict the specific eras. This contributes to the accuracy of your setting and sets the tone for your film. For instance, vintage styles such as military uniforms and ball gowns with intricate designs can help you recreate a time period in the past. Ball gowns can also be perfect for setting the ambiance for modern-day celebrations such as weddings, engagement parties, prom, and red-carpet events.   

Rule 4: Always choose practicality and comfort

Your actors need to feel comfortable and confident if they are to give you their A-game. Make sure that you consider the body type of your characters when choosing their wardrobe. You want to make sure that the choice of clothes accentuates their best parts while subduing their weaknesses. Comfort is also key when your characters have to endure long hours of shooting. In addition, the outfits should be practical enough to allow them to get into various sets easily.

Rule 5: Match the location

The location of the film also contributes to the wardrobe choices that you make for your film. The story would feel authentic on a beach location where characters are adorning sundresses with hats and sunglasses. Moreover, this would help the audience engage and connect with the narrative in a deeper manner. Before deciding on the costumes for your film, consider the details of the locations where the shooting will happen. Is it indoors or outdoors? Is it a cold or hot area? How do the people in those locations dress?

Rule 6: Mind the colors and patterns

Colors and patterns matter greatly to the outcome of the film. It is important to stick to colors that look good on camera. Light colors such as white can be challenging as they reflect and cause glare on the camera. Also, consider the background when making color choices. You want to go for colors that make the character pop out rather than blend into the background. Likewise, some patterns vibrate on the screen, creating an effect that might be disturbing to the viewer. It would be wise to stay away from bold patterns or layer them carefully if you must use them.


Costume design plays a vital role in the success of the film. However, it is a work of art requiring careful decisions to get it right. Make sure to choose costumes that help contribute positively to the character's and the story's development. In addition, keep in mind the time period and the movie's location. Don’t forget that colors, patterns, and the comfort of your actors matter as well.

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About the Author

Delilah Anderson
Delilah Anderson works as a freelance content writer. Delilah is a writer, runner, and SEO strategist. Delilah's superpower is eternal curiosity.

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