The 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 today’s best industry professionals and aims to provide students with skills in all forms of costume construction and production, leading to employment in film, theatre and allied industries.

Costumier Tessa Paaymans presents Eriodna. Model Tess Sullivan. Toi Whakaari, Costume Showcase 2015. Photo credit: Stephen AíCourt. COPYRIGHT ©Stephen AíCourt

The costume course enabled me to refine my skills and gain experience in multiple roles giving me confidence in my ability to adapt to any job.

Tessa Paaymans (Costume Graduate 2015)Contractor – Weta Workshop, Costume Designer – Festival Opera NZ, Garment Technician – WOW®; presented a collection at New York Fashion Week 2015.

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 first year, the training has equipped me to graduate with
confidence and momentum towards achieving my career goals.

Sarah Carswell (Costume 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.


The Diploma in Costume Construction is the only course in New Zealand that specialises in costume for stage and screen

The Diploma is a full-time, two year, intensive 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 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.

Costumier Johanna Otto presents The Calling Of Tzeentch. Toi Whakaari, Costume Showcase 2015. Photo credit: Stephen AíCourt. COPYRIGHT ©Stephen AíCourt

The three most important things my time at Toi gave me: the ability to identify opportunities for learning, the sensitivity to see a job that needs doing (even if it is just a reset of a working area) and the network of contacts consisting of students, tutors and industry practitioners.

Johanna Otto (Costume Graduate 2015)Costume Props Assistant — Mortal Engines 2017 (Universal Studios), Costume & Props team member — Ghost in the Shell (Dreamworks)


Year 1

  • Core sewing techniques
  • Pattern making
  • Millinery, costume props and accessories
  • Costume construction for productions and events
  • Costume design process
  • Costume history
  • Costume dyeing, printing and finishing
  • Costume textiles and technology
  • Context and practice

Year 2

  • Advanced millinery
  • Costumes for dance
  • Corsetry and undergarments
  • Speciality and special effects costumes
  • Tailoring
  • Costume construction for productions and events
  • Costume workshop management
  • Major work
  • Industry secondment


The tutors at Toi Whakaari are also practising professionals. All have worked extensively in theatre, film or television both nationally and internationally and bring this experience to bear in their teaching

Kaarin Macaulay

Head of Costume

Donna Jefferis

Costume Tutor


We are proud to say that many theatre and screen luminaries in this country went to Toi Whakaari


Costume Graduate 2008

Hazelle moved to Wellington from her home town of Motueka to study Costume Construction at Toi Whakaari in 2007. Since graduating she has pursued a path in costume for film working alongside costume designers such as James Acheson, Ngila Dickson, Amanda Neale and Lesley Burkes-Harding. Hazelle’s interest in millinery saw her working as a milliner’s assistant on the pre-production of feature film Kingdom Come directly after leaving Toi Whakaari. Hazelle then went on to work on the NZ feature film Predicament.

She has worked in the costume department for Weta Digital on the animated feature film The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn and she has just finished working on The Hobbit.

Toi Whakaari offered me the opportunity to meet, work with and learn from some amazing people. Being surrounded by their enthusiasm and passion has encouraged and inspired me to be everything I can be.”


Costume Graduate 2009

Costume Designer Jane Boocock has been working freelance for theatre, dance and film in Wellington since graduating from the Diploma of Costume Construction in 2009. Jane has worked on the World of Wearable Arts in the sewing workroom, as a Dresser for the NZ Opera, 18 months as an Assistant Cutter on the Hobbit and as a Costume Designer for the recent Circa Theatre production of West End Girls. She has also made costumes for the NZ School of Dance and Java Dance Company.

Studying at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School has not only given me the technical skill set I need to work in this industry but the community of students, graduates and tutors has provided really valuable ongoing support in the years since I graduated.”


Design Graduate 2011

In his first year out from Toi Whakaari, Oliver worked as the Costume Co-ordinator for the World of Wearable Art Awards Show.

Toi Whakaari gave me a strong base and helped me create a huge stepping-stone to start my career as a costumier. The skills I gained were not only extremely specialised but were extensive enough to create an entire costume and work on a variety of productions. Toi Whakaari provided a great platform to create connections with practitioners in the wider industry and current Toi Whakaari students, the industry’s future practitioners.”