The New Zealand Diploma in Costume Construction is the only tertiary course in New Zealand that specialises in costume construction for stage and screen. The course is taught by some of New Zealand’s best industry professionals and aims to provide students with skills in all forms of costume construction and production. This will lead to employment in film, theatre and allied industries. Costume students have the opportunity to collaborate with the New Zealand School of Dance on their major performance events as well as being actively involved in most shows, films and performance projects at Toi Whakaari. In addition, the annual Costume Showcase exists to present the graduating costumiers’ work in a live performance event.
“The three most important things my time at Toi gave me were: 1) the ability to identify opportunities for learning, 2) the sensitivity to see a job that needs doing (even if it is just a reset of a working area) and 3) the network of contacts consisting of students, tutors and industry practitioners.”
The Diploma is a full‐time, two year, vocational and highly practical course covering all aspects of costume work. The second year involves students undertaking industry secondments with professional performing arts organisations in their particular area of interest. This includes areas like film, commercials and theatre.
Costume Construction students must be 18 years of age by the first day of the first term – there is no upper age limit. Applications are invited from candidates of all backgrounds, with or without prior costume experience.
***Applications for entry in 2024 will open from 26 May 2023*** Entry to the NZ Diploma in Costume Construction is by portfolio and interview. Applicants are asked to submit evidence of at least two garments you have made. We would also like you to answer some questions outlining why you want to study at Toi Whakaari and how this training will help you accomplish your future goals.
Personal Statement Info:
In the Personal Statement section of the Application Form please address the following (150-200 words each MAX):
You are particularly encouraged to share some personal insights and influences that shaped you.
In the Portfolio section of the Application Form you can either: enter a link to your website/Tumblr/Dropbox or other online portal, or you can compress the portfolio images into a ZIP file and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org before the application deadline.
The NZ Diploma in Costume Construction is designed to provide graduates who may enter the workforce as an employee, freelance or self-employed practitioner in roles such as:
“Tutors are invested in every individual and their knowledge is an invaluable resource both during and beyond the course of the diploma. Having had opportunities to apply my learning through industry secondments right from the first year, the training has equipped me to graduate with confidence and momentum towards achieving my career goals."
Sarah Carswell, Graduate 2014
- Costume Assistant – Ghost in the Shell (Dreamworks);
- Wardrobe Assistant, Royal New Zealand Ballet;
- Costumier, Shakespeare Globe Centre NZ;
- Recipient of the 2014 Bill Guest Award.
After completing a BA in Communications-Theatre/Media at Charles Sturt University in Australia, Kaarin embarked on a freelance career as a costumier which saw her working across Australia for resident theatre companies, big-budget musicals (including Beauty and the Beast and Sunset Boulevard) and small project-based groups. In 1997 Kaarin accepted a full-time position with Opera Australia, where she had the opportunity to collaborate with local and international designers, creating costumes for the vast repertoire of Australia’s national opera company.
In 2005 she moved to New Zealand and set up the Diploma of Costume Construction at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School which recently celebrated its 15th year of graduating students. Kaarin continues to practice her profession and has been involved in creating costumes for Weta Workshop, Capital E: National Theatre for Children, Amici Trust and The Hobbit trilogy.
Leimomi is a Hawaiian-born costumer and fashion and textile historian, with a BA (with Honours) from Mills College, in California, USA. After moving to New Zealand in 2006 she worked for the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa as Acquisitions and Loans Officer, and then as a Curatorial Assistant. Following this she did a wide range of freelance work in the costume and museum world, and taught in the textile department at the College of Creative Arts at Massey University.
Leimomi's practice is focused on historical costuming, and on understanding history, as well as modern construction methods, through recreating historical techniques. Her recent research has centred on fashion and social history from 1900-1925, but she has created costumes from across history, from 17th & 18th century fashions in collaboration with Radio NZ, to reproducing dresses from Impressionist paintings. She is known for authoring the popular fashion & textile history blog thedreamstress.com, as well as designing a pattern line, Scroop Patterns, which includes both historical and modern garments.