Costume Design

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The goal of the MFA Program in Costume Design is to develop professional artists for the next generation. Ours is not a program with a single-minded approach. Practical professional training is designed to expose students to all theatre-related performance and entertainment fields, including stage, musical theatre, opera, film, dance, television, theme park, and special event design. UCIrvine's close proximity to Los Angeles provides a vast choice of costume materials, supplies, rental houses, and research venues, as well as career connections for the future.Costume 1

The program prepares graduates for employment as professional artists by emphasizing the concept of costume design as a fine art. Areas of study include drama as literature and as a performed art, reflective and digital presentation, costume history, and technique studies in masks, millinery, and fabric modification. We strive to teach our students to see with "the eye of the mind" and use creative imagination to render passion into reality, bringing life to characters and stories with color and style as well as cultural and historical sensitivity. Only six students are admitted to the program, two per year, to provide them with individualized attention and support.

Classroom experiences cultivate intellect and imagination by exposing students to a wide variety of subjects and skills. Download a list of our MFA Costume Design Classes. This document lists all available courses; some are electives. Students may choose elective courses to broaden their skills or to create an emphasis of experience. The program includes professional guest artists for seminars, lectures, and critiques.

Students engage in active learning through academicCostume 2 theatre productions as a costume designer. The mentor for each produced project assists students as they make the transition from conceptual work to practical application.

Each graduate student designs three to five fully supported production designs during their three-year residency in the program. Budgets, construction, humanistic studies, familiarity with contemporary practices, the "business" of professional costume design, and career transitioning are addressed in four ways:

  • Design Theory Studio and Hands-on Design Skills Classes
  • Industry Field Trips - Behind-the-scenes visits to entertainment venues and vendors such as Disneyland Entertainment Costumes, Center Theater Group Costume Shop, LA Opera Costumes, Knotts Berry Farm Costume Shop, exclusive Curator Tours of museum exhibitions and libraries, studio visits, artists studios and others
  • Possible internships in the Industry, including Western Costume Company Research Library, Mark Taper Forum Costume Shop, South Coast Repertory Theater and others
  • Participation in Design Showcase West for qualified third year MFA students

Two award-winning, professional faculty members, Holly Poe Durbin and Shigeru Yaji, lead studies in the area of costume design. Both artists, with 25 years of professional work behind them, share their professional experiences with the students. Students witness the high level of expectation that these professionals hold for their work and learn to set their own high standards.

Application to the Costume Design MFA program is a three-step process.

  • Complete an online application to the university. Please see the Apply Tab at the top of this page for appropriate links. The application deadline is Feb 1st.  For those interviewing through the U/RTA auditions and portfolio review process, please email Holly Poe Durbin,, before Jan 20th to indicate which city you will attend.
  • Send your resume, a copy of your portfolio (physical copy, CD or online link) and a cover letter to the Drama Dept. Please note the university application does not provide an upload function for your portfolio, so this must be sent directly to the Drama Department with a cover letter expressing your area of interest. Portfolios will not be returned.
  • An interview and portfolio review. Qualified students will be interviewed either on the UC-Irvine campus or at the U/RTA National Auditions and Interviews in New York and Chicago. This interview will include your original portfolio. 

For a more thorough discussion of the application process and what we look for in a portfolio, please download and review the Costume MFA Process.

You may view our Costume Design MFA Website. This site is the official Costume MFA Program Handbook.