Growing up, was costume design always a dream or was it working in a creative industry in general?
I always knew I wanted to work in a creative industry; more specifically fashion or textiles. I was taught to sew by my mum from a very early age and we’ve always had a sewing room in our house. But I didn’t even think about costume as a career until I was in sixth form and accidentally walked into the costume studio at the Edinburgh College of Art open day. I thought it was so cool that a degree existed where you could design clothing, textiles and sets based on novels, scripts, poetry or music.
What is it about your current role that interests/excites you the most?
At the moment I’m a costume trainee, which is great because I’m still learning but get to experience all the different aspects of the world of costume. Everyday is different: one minute you could be sewing up a ripped jacket, or doing a fitting with an actor, then organising the costume stock and the next day you could be stood on a mountain on a huge TV set in Belfast dressing 150 extras at 5:00am.
What experience or skills do you think help you get this role?
The costume course at Edinburgh College of Art is amazing. You’re taught pattern cutting, millinery, set design, puppetry, life drawing, textile design and more. You’re encouraged to get involved in productions, films and internships outside of uni during the summer break, during which I always crammed in as many experiences as possible. I definitely learnt how to manage my time well and work as hard as possible. To work in the film and TV industry you need to have a lot of stamina.
Were there any other influential females that convinced you costume design was the way forward?
My art teacher as school was incredible! She’s Glaswegian and encouraged me to go to all the art school open days all over the UK, specifically the Scottish ones which lead me to fall in love with Edinburgh. Without her help and late nights in the school studio, I wouldn’t have had the portfolio (or confidence!) to apply to all those art schools.
On the course at ECA I was part of a class of twenty-one girls, who were all from various parts of the world and all amazingly talented. Being in that studio every day made me so inspired and excited. Working until 4:00am some nights didn't feel too bad when you’ve got so many energetic and creative ladies around you.
And of course my mum was the biggest influential female in my life. She used to be a fashion designer and showed me the love for fabrics and sewing from a young age.
Where do you see your career and experiences taking you?
As much as I am enjoying working in Belfast at the minute, I would love to travel around a bit more. I would love to do more costume work in London or Berlin and hopefully gain more experiences as a costume designer.
Working in a creative/design sector isn't necessarily for everybody - what kind of mindset do you think is needed for a job like yours?
You need to be prepared for long hours and sometimes thankless days. But you have to remember when working on a film, TV show or music video that the director/supervisor/assistant is trying to get the best possible outcome and you need to be on standby for any changes. You need to be in the mindset that anything could happen and you need to be ready for it. But overall you have to love what you do. As long as you enjoy the work, it will never really feel like a job.
What advice do you have for young girls that maybe don't know what career path to go down?
The truth is that no one else knows what they’re doing! Don’t be fooled and think at some point it will all become obvious, everyone else is like you and trying to work out what they’re doing. Sometimes it can be really overwhelming when having to decide what career you want, but my advice is that there’s no rush. It takes time to work out what your skills are and how to find a job that suits you. Someone recently told me, ‘What’s meant for you won’t pass you’, which is nice to think about when stressing about what path to take.
What advice would you give 16 year old lily?
Not to worry so much!
What has been the biggest challenge for you over the last few years?
Working for free was definitely the hardest part. It’s demoralising to put in such long hours and slave away over someone else’s fashion collection/film/play/event without getting paid; sometimes without much thanks either. Especially doing internships while living in London was tough. But you have to think of the positives. The skills and contacts I got through those unpaid jobs led me to some amazing opportunities. People start to notice when you keep working for the love of something whether you’re being paid of not. You have to keep going.
You can visit Lily's website and view some of her work here!
Interview by Polly McDonnell
Working long hours as a costume trainee may sound tough, but Lily Bailie tells us why it's 100% worth it...
Edinburgh College of Art
Degree: Performance Costume Design
Costume Trainee, Game of Thrones
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