Chapter 14 of 30 from Martin Scorsese

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

Martin Scorsese Teaches Filmmaking

In 30 lessons, learn the art of film from the director of Goodfellas, The Departed, and Taxi Driver.

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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 class, the Oscar winner teaches his approach to filmmaking, from storytelling to editing to working with actors. He deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, changing how you make—and watch—movies.

Watch, listen, and learn as Martin teaches his first-ever online class.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Martin will also answer select student questions.


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

I enjoyed the masterclass but hoped for more technical information.

Look to the Old Masters of Cinema, find your way and see where it started in yourself. I know what I have to do for my feature.

I have a spark that is itching to ignite. It's in me and I'm baring down on it. This masterclass is a chemical compound developed to ignite that spark.

thank you for your Good Work And it is awesome journey





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!

Karmen B.

I simply love sitting and listening to Marty's stories. His lessons take me in and for me become heartwarming stories filled with the flourish, the smells, the colors, the personalities so rich in expressing the times and culture in which he lived - to be realized, of course with all the techniques and brilliant crew members, into the manifestation of a work of art - a Martin Scorsese film.

Richard F.

Great class! Wonderful reflections on costume and character, with unforgettable stories of Robert DeNiro in Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and King of Comedy. Many thanks. Richard Figge


Costumes a really important to me, but in a way It´s the easiest part. Costumes brings you to any place and talk a lot about the character. I love to design this part of the film. Since I´ve been small, been buying costumes. I never knew what for. They don´t fit me. Now I now they are for my own stories. The stories I wanna shoot.

Mia S.

"'King of Comedy' was really interesting because we tried something different. Zimmerman script, something I didn't want to do again but he convinced me over the years because I wasn't aware of the element of celebrity, at that point, at which Bob was. He became aware of it right around the time we did 'Taxi Driver,' because he had done 'Godfather II,' and he became aware of a certain kind of - his relationship to the people around him started to change, people would come up to him in the street in a different way, and this whole strangeness about the cult of celebrity. By the time we did 'Raging Bull,' I began to sense what they were talking about. I was still on the cusp of it, I felt in a way like one of the cultish fans, of 'The Tonight Show,' New York TV, filmmakers, that sort of thing. But at the same time, you're trying to work as a filmmaker, so that you're on both sides of it. With Rupert, we just didn't know what he'd wear. We knew that we should go to certain places on 47th Street, 48th Street, 53rd, Broadway, 7th Avenue - it was still very much Broadway, and all the filmmaking centers were up in that place - now they're all downtown, in Tribeca or Soho. But in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, it was really the sense of Broadway Danny Rose, clothing stores that sold to lounge singers, comics from the Borscht Belt - so it's like, really showbiz, but on a really hard-working, day-to-day foot soldier world, in a way. They'd have all they're 8 by 10 stills, and their glossy 'signed to' the different store owners, 'thanks for everything.'But primarily New York comics, performers. We had some thoughts, 'What is he?' As we're walking by, there was this store, 'Shirt Maker to the Stars.' Small storefront, their shirts were interesting looking, had a kind of showbiz feel to them,a kind of flourish, ruffled shirts. We looked in the window and we were stunned, we saw this mannequin wearing a seersucker blue and white striped suit. Not only was the costume right, but the face was right - the hair on the mannequin was right. The mustache was right; it was a fraction of an inch shorter on one side than the other. 'That's him!' It came out of that part of the world at that time in New York - it was show business, but it wasn't necessarily the successful show business, it was show business because you had no other choice, you wouldn't get out of it. you're always looking for the big break, and it didn't come maybe. For us, it came out of the actual environment that the film takes place in, so it wasn't something imposed on the environment."


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...