From Martin Scorsese's MasterClass

Costume Design

Learn how to let character dictate costume and how to collaborate with actors to find the perfect clothing for roles.

Topics include: Allow for a Touch of Artistry in Your Costumes • Costumes Should Come From Character • Collaborate With Actors on Costume • Research to Find the Right Costume


Learn how to let character dictate costume and how to collaborate with actors to find the perfect clothing for roles.

Topics include: Allow for a Touch of Artistry in Your Costumes • Costumes Should Come From Character • Collaborate With Actors on Costume • Research to Find the Right Costume

Martin Scorsese

Teaches Filmmaking

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When you talk about costume design-- all right, let's say the block of classical cinema from Hollywood or from England from Italy, whatever. That's custom design. You're talking about about Piero Tosi, you're talking about The House of Tirelli in Rome, Visconti's films, and extraordinary things. But they're of a time and place. In other words, they are depicting period, and there's an aspect of accuracy, to say the least, and some-- what's the word-- a flourish to that accuracy. A touch of the artist, so to speak, beyond that. In the case of Minnelli directing Madame Bovary. They changed the period costuming, I believe to be around the 1870s or so in Paris, because they felt it was more interesting than the actual period the book was written about. I believe could be the 1840s. And so these things are-- once you make that kind of decision, you do have drawings from the 1840s, you do have drawings from the 1870s, you do have pictures from the 1920s. One of the key things I found, like in the Age of Innocence, for example costumes-- where it was an upper strata of society-- was I always wanted the costumes to feel lived in. That they shouldn't look like costumes. That was the idea, particularly the people in the street. The extras, or what they call now the atmosphere. In the case of Gangs of New York it's different. In the Gangs of New York we had license to go as far as we wanted with costumes. We got the Daybreak boys and the Swamp Angels. They work the River Luton ships. The Frog Haulers shanghai sailors down the bloody angle. The Shorttails was rough for a while, but they become a bunch of jack-rolling dandies, lolling around Murderer's Alley looking like Chinaman. The gangs did dress differently. Gangs dress differently today. Each one, so they know each other. They could see that person's wearing that. They could see it a block away. All right, be careful. There's this group coming and this person wears suspenders a certain way. They call them gallusus. The Bowery Boys behaved a certain way. They all had their own uniforms. There's the Plug Uglies. They're from somewhere deep in the old country. Got their own language. No one understands what they're saying. They love to fight the cops. And the Nightwalkers and Ratpickers were on. They work on their backs and kill with their hands. They're so scurvy only the Plug Uglies will talk to them, but who knows what they're saying? We could take license with that. In the case of the very few characters in the film of the upper classes, were more conventional. But everything else, you could let your mind go. [MUSIC PLAYING] Of course, films like Mean Streets or Taxi Driver or going up to After Hours, things like that, it's a different kind of costume design. In other words, it shouldn't be confused, I think, with the costume designers o...

Study with Scorsese

Martin Scorsese drew his first storyboard when he was eight. Today he’s a legendary director whose films from Mean Streets to The Wolf of Wall Street have shaped movie history. In his first-ever online film class, the Oscar winner teaches his approach, from storytelling to editing to working with actors. He deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, changing how you make and watch movies.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

who could ask for anything more? :) xxoo Mahalo!

Terrific! This class and that of David Mamet are worth the annual price of admission alone. I already write/produce/direct for the major networks in LA and find great comfort in knowing that even the icons of the art form encounter the same issues, fears and feelings of inadequacy.

This course helped me refocus on what was important as a filmmaker. It also served as a great reminder that my company is moving in the right direction despite having the film school stigma attached to its founders.

Gave me three words which will stick with me forever... do it anyway



There isn't a film he's mentioned here that I haven't seen many times. I really enjoyed this lesson. A great walk down memory lane.


I love period pieces from the early 1920s -1950s. Unfortunately, the designers don't get the kind of recognition a designer of a film like Dangerous Liasons would get. The less it looks like a costume, the harder it is to appreciate it contribution to developing the character's realism.

George C.

thereabouts and roundabouts and New York specific and fancy pants and fame glitz and terrible lesson.

Dinar D.

Costumes truly are a part of characterization so much so that it gives the fourth dimension to the role and the scene. This chapter has made things more clear about involving the artists in the discussion of their character's costume to involve them in the characterization process.




Custom evolves from character identification in the period and economic stature.

Jo E.

Great Lesson…! What a character wears says a lot about the person in leaves an impression.

Avery D.

What a wonderful lesson! As someone who constantly points out items that remind me of a character or of a friend, I find that the style of a character reveals more than perhaps their dialogue.

Robert A.

Yes I am glad we touched this subject!!!. Ive always wanted to know more about costumes and all those important things. Thank you Martin!!!. Onward!!!.

Gene B.

The costumes in a film is certainly a small, but important element in the overall picture of the film. It depicts the accuracy of the culture in the time period of the world the film is depicting. Plus, it also draws the audiences into that timeframe depicted by the film as well. The elements that makes up the cinematic world allures and draws you in to their world with immense effect!