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MFA in Theatre Arts - Option in Design (Costumes)

Admissions will be CLOSED for the MFA in Theatre Arts with an Option in Scenic, Lighting or Costume Design through at least the academic year 2021/2022.

Information on Applying and Portfolios is available.


The graduate program in Costume Design is intended to stimulate and arouse the creative spirit. It challenges students to explore and experiment. In a three-year program combining design, crafts, aesthetics, and hands-on production, students are given a wide variety of experiences to prepare them to meet the challenges of the costume profession.

Along with graduate costume design and crafts classes, students take a core of general design courses with scenery and lighting students. Thru this curriculum they develop unique perspectives and work collaboratively within the design process. They also learn important technology so that they are prepared to enter the costume profession as designers, assistants, costume shop staff, and educators.

The MFA program in Costume Design is recognized nationwide as a program of excellence with high standards and outstanding graduates. Our costume alumni work in a variety of professional venues as designers, craftspeople, and teachers.

Criteria for Admission

Information on Applying and Portfolios is available.


Nancy Jo Smith, head of the costume program, has designed professionally for theatre, dance, theme parks, television and video. She is also a nationally recognized fiber artist with work in galleries throughout the United States. Students are invited to accompany her on professional design engagements and participate in distinguished workshops and seminars.

Gayle Susan Baizer, a professional costume designer for stage and film, heads the theatrical makeup department. She teaches MFA rendering for the theatre, all areas of theatrical makeup design, and mentors and coordinates makeup crews for mainstage shows.

Catherine Baumgardner teaches the undergraduate costume crafts lab class and coordinates costume crews for mainstage shows. She is originally from Texas, where she designed costumes for over 25 stage productions throughout the Dallas area. She now designs for stage, commercial, and film productions throughout the LA area.

Design Opportunities & Assistantships

Students receive individual attention and the opportunity to specialize in their studies. They collaborate with professional directors, designers, actors and fellow MFA students while designing for the California Repertory Company and other productions. This prepares them to meet the unique challenges of a career as professional costume designer for the stage and related areas.

Most students will be offered an assistantship in their area of concentration. Costume students work in the costume shop for a majority of their assistantship, but there are also opportunities to help teach undergrad costume crafts classes. Assistantships are approximately $8000 per academic year.

Information is available about our shop and stock facilities.

Student Learning Outcome Goals

  1. Learn the skills necessary to enter and thrive in the professional theatre.
  2. Learn to think conceptually and grasp the content of the story in its totality.
  3. Play an active and positive role in the synergetic creative process of professional theatre.
  4. Participate in the creation and presentation of public performances of theatre.
  5. Develop visual and aural perceptions related to theatre performance, as well as a structured approach to the use of language in writing for and about the stage.
  6. Make informed assessments of quality in works of theatre and live entertainment.
  7. Fearlessly express art that reflects the theatre artist’s individual and personal points of view.


Concentration core classes: Take all of the following

  • THEA 517 Repertory Theatre I (2)
  • THEA 518 Repertory Theatre II (2)
  • THEA 519 Repertory Theatre III (2)
  • THEA 523 Theory/Practice of Contemporary Theatre (3)
  • THEA 524 Dramaturgy (3)
  • THEA 541 Portfolio Development (3)
  • THEA 544 Visual Concepts in Theatre Design (3)
  • THEA 550 Computer Graphics for Theatre (3)
  • THEA 552 Collaborative Studies (3)
  • THEA 584 Rendering and Painting for Theatre (2)
  • THEA 699 MFA Thesis/Project (1-6)

Costume Concentration: Take all of the following courses

  • THEA 546A Advanced Costume Design I (2)
  • THEA 546B Advanced Costume Design I (2)
  • THEA 556A Advanced Costume Design II (2)
  • THEA 556B Advanced Costume Design II (2)
  • THEA 656A Advanced Costume Design III (2)
  • THEA 656B Advanced Costume Design III (2)
  • THEA 540 Non-traditional Material Use in the Theatre (2)
  • THEA 554 Textile Applications in Theatre Design (2)
  • THEA 583 Theatrical Patterning Methods (2)

Take 8 units of electives.

Information on Applying and Portfolios is available.

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