The World Doesn’t Need Any More Costume Designers.

“The world doesn’t need any more costume designers. Grow up.”

That’s what the comment said.

I mean, sure. I wrote an essay about being a millennial, so I expected a fair amount of backlash. It comes with the territory. I went to college and essentially have a degree in playing dress-up, so I see your point. I have no business feeling burdened by student loans when I’m the one who chose to attend a 4-year private college and pursue an expensive degree in make-believe. That’s fair.

After all, it’s hard to talk about being a white lady in America without sounding like a narcissistic asshole. I’m not living in fear of being chemically gassed by the Syrian government. I’m not going to be shot in the face by the Taliban. I’m typing this from a MacBook Pro that some underpaid worker halfway around the world assembled for me. When you think about it from a broader perspective, everyone in America should probably just shut the hell up about everything.

The world doesn’t need any more costume designers.

You’re probably right about that.

But, okay, look. We’re incredibly comfortable and secure here in America, but it’s not perfect. Not by any means. Our government is in the midst of a shutdown with no foreseeable end in sight. Analysts are worried about another large-scale economic collapse. There are troops in foreign countries wondering when they’ll get to come home. There are people here starving on the streets. There are people dying because they are afraid to go to the hospital, who wait until it is too late and who are still stuck with the bill.

And we need help with that. We need economists. We need doctors. We need social workers. We need soldiers, and firefighters, and police officers. We need politicians, the good kind, the ones who value compromise, the ones with even the tiniest shred of idealism left. I have to believe there are a few of them still out there. 

So no. You’re right. The world is kind of a mess right now. We don’t need any more costume designers.

We need people with Real Jobs. Serious Jobs. We need scientists. We need lawyers. We need engineers. We need bankers.

Except that once we’ve found the cure for cancer and figured out how to bring the troops home and employed the unemployed and solved the poverty problem and developed new inventions and figured out how to turn a profit, I can’t help but wonder what happens next. What we do with all that money we’ve made, or what it is that we should look at and think about in our hours off the clock. Once we’ve figured out how to cure the sick, tell me what it is that is worth staying alive for.

Because the truth is, you’re probably right. The world doesn’t need any more theatre majors.

But the world does need to laugh. We need to laugh desperately. And I’m glad we have Tina Fey and Will Ferrell and Chevy Chase and Kristen Wiig and Amy Poehler and Bill Murray to help us do so.

(And I’m glad we have Tom Broecker, who has designed the costumes for every SNL sketch since 1994).

My other degree is in English Literature, widely regarded as a hilarious punchline in this economic climate. Look at the decline of newspapers! You can’t make money as a writer. Good luck out there, kid. The world doesn’t need any more English majors.

But the world needs to be informed of the news, with what’s happening at home and abroad, and I’m glad there are people reporting from those places. The world needs to sharpen its collective critical thinking skills. And the world needs to feel feelings, to understand human emotion as it relates to others and to themselves. Literature teaches us empathy. The world needs to be transported, through words, to other places and other times, to other realities outside of themselves. So I’m glad we have Steven King and Haruki Murakami and Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Franzen and J.K. Rowling.

(And incidentally, I’m glad we have Jany Temime, the costume designer of the Harry Potter films. While spending your days creating a magical universe might seem like a frivolous waste of time, I can’t help but think that this particular magical universe has the power to inspire, to embolden, to teach important truths to kids of all ages about what it means to be brave).

And we certainly don’t need any more dance majors. We probably don’t need any more photography majors, either. (Not to hammer the point home too hard, but Marion Cito designed the costumes for Pina Bausch for years, and I think we can all agree that Mamika owes her success to her spandex and her cape).

We probably don’t need any more puppeteers. We probably don’t need any more cartoonists. We probably don’t need any more nerds with their heads in the clouds.

There’s some truth to the idea that certain careers will fall by the wayside. We simply don’t need switchboard operators anymore, or travel agents, or the guy who plays the keytar at awesome 80’s concerts.

But we do still need interpersonal connection. We still need explorers and musicians.

We still need innovators and dreamers. We still need artists and scientists, musicians and storytellers. We need choreographers and sound designers and lighting engineers and computer animators and fashion stylists and filmmakers and radio personalities. We need people who can uplift, and inspire. Who can make us laugh, can make us feel. We need the interior designer who can figure out the low-cost way to brighten the dreariness of the office cubicle, and we need the street artist who changes your morning commute overnight, an unexpected new creation waiting to be discovered on the corner. 

Without those folks, I can’t help but imagine that life would be relentlessly dull.  Without anyone to write new songs, or create vibrant postcards and murals, to decide what colors the trains and the buses should be painted and why. Without filmmakers and writers and actors and playwrights and technical staff and, yes, designers, to help transport us to new, imagined frontiers – I think the world we live in would seem unyieldingly dull, indeed.  

So no, you’re right. The world doesn’t need any more costume designers. 

But then again, I think I’ll stick around for a bit. Just in case you change your mind. 




61 thoughts on “The World Doesn’t Need Any More Costume Designers.

  1. Pingback: Friday Follies: Wrong and Right | Ever So Scrumptious

  2. As the daughter of a costume designer, I totally agree with the commenter because there is already a great costume designer and that’s my mom. So send all the costuming work her way, forever. She juggles a lot already but I think she could absolutely manage costuming all tv shows and all movies, all theatrical productions, all children’s theater (her specialty), all ballets, all operas. Did I miss anything? Icecapades, Olympic competitions, sketch troupes, commercial advertising. Photo shoots, rich people’s parties. Yeah, she’s got this covered. Nobody else is needed.

  3. The only thing modern, big companies want more of, are consumers with infinite needs and infinite cash reserves, that don’t collect salaries from THEIR company yet magically pull money out of their rear-end every day to finance the CEO’s super-yacht. Turns out they found it. His name is Fed. Do they really want anyone else at the moment? No. I have one of these golden STEM degrees (the masters variation) and honestly, the only reason they’re claiming there is a shortage in this field is to convince congress to grant them more visas – so they can get the cheapest possible labor. Truth: the world doesn’t want me and it doesn’t really care what happens to me.

    Yay. I’ll survive. I’ve sure become more cynical, I laugh when bad things happen in the world (some degrees cost you more than money), but I’ll survive.

    Don’t listen to these morons when they say “If you had actually applied yourself to something ‘hard’ you would have a ‘real’ job.” or “The world doesn’t need more Costume Designers.” You’ll notice this same archetypal commenter never says “Gee, if only you had ‘this degree’, I would love to offer you a great job on the spot and you would make so much more money.” Funny that. It almost gives me the impression that none of these little trolls, not a single one, actually works in the field they claim is the promised land for our entire generation. None of them seem to have a wink of hiring power, either. Imagine that. They’ve never worked there, they have none of your skills or talents, they can truly offer you nothing, but they sure know what’s best for you. Sure they do, and if you believe them I have some magic beans I want to sell you.

    This ends up resulting in more than just bad advice, it’s resulted in cliched bad advice, and that’s simply unacceptable. Now, I’m sure when life throws a truly golden opportunity next to your path, you’ll eat it right up. We all would. And while I doubt all of us will ever, truly, recover (even if no one can truly comprehend why this life feels so painful to us), the future will likely get better once it gets worse, again.. and then possibly again. So being a costume designer is awesome, at the very least, your work has a hell of a lot more spiritual value then some stupid paper pusher in an office. Your life is meaningful and the creative work you sew together is actually worth talking about (you want to trade that for office politics over the water cooler? Ha!)

    So you may as well ignore them. Life may not be great, but that’s just the state of our generation. We’ll survive. We may be a bit crazy when we’re done. They might not like us when we’re done, but we’ll survive.

  4. Pingback: The World Doesn’t Need Any More Costume Designers. – boringwhat2do

  5. I’m an old Scenic Designer and my wife is a gifted Costume Designer. Theatre speaks to the human condition. It reaches people in a way no other art form can. It can change minds and hearts. It is here to enlighten and to entertain. We are here to help the actors and director to convey the message of the playwright. We can help to change the world. What we do not need are more stupid, opinionated philistines.

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