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A costume designer is, in the broadest sense, someone who develops the look of costumes in a theatrical performance or piece of filmed entertainment. However, as employed by Doctor Who and sister shows, a costume designer is the head of the costume department, itself a division of the art department. They oversee every aspect of wardrobing the actors in a given episode of a Doctor Who universe, from the original concept to the actual production or purchase of the clothes, to the mundane personnel management issues their staff may face. They are one of the key department heads, and reports to the production designer.

Differences between 1963 and 2005 versions[]

The position, as is practised in the 21st century, first arose in Doctor Who on the Paul McGann telemovie. Prior to this, the costume department of the British Broadcasting Corporation would assign individual designers to single serials of Doctor Who. These people were usually credited with the title "Costumes" and had fewer managerial responsibilities. Though the core of their job had much commonality with the modern costume designer, many of the administrative responsibilities of current Doctor Who costume designers were actually handled by a person uncredited on any individual BBC programme, who managed costuming across all the programmes in production at the BBC at a given moment. In the BBC Wales version, however, the costume department is more tightly integrated with the art department. The design process is more collaborative, with some costume designs actually beginning outside the confines of the costume department and some set or prop designs influenced by the costume department.

People that report to the BBC Wales costume designer include, but are not limited to, assistant costume designers, costume assistants, costume supervisors and standby costumes personnel.

A key measure of the difference between the "classic Doctor Who" designers and those of the modern series can be found in Ray Holman. Hiring him was not a decision to hire just the individual, but instead his company, Ray Holman Design, Ltd. This company then added its own personnel to the production team of Doctor Who beginning with The Eleventh Hour. Such a situation never applied to designers of the 1963 version of Doctor Who — all of whom were regular employees of the BBC.

Credited costume designers[]

As of 2021, there have been eight individuals to have headed the costume department on Doctor Who.

For the 1996 movie, the costume designer was Jori Woodman. From Rose to The Parting of the Ways, it was Lucinda Wright, while her successor, Louise Page, worked from The Christmas Invasion through to The End of Time. Having previously taken on the job for the double banked episodes of Blink and Turn Left, Ray Holman held it continuously from The Eleventh Hour until The Big Bang, returning for The Magician's Apprentice to The Husbands of River Song, and again from The Woman Who Fell to Earth.

Classic series veteran Barbara Kidd handled the role from A Christmas Carol to The Wedding of River Song, followed by Edward K. Gibbon's one story stint on The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe. Howard Burden then occupied the position from Asylum of the Daleks to Last Christmas, and later Hayley Nebauer took up the responsibility from The Return of Doctor Mysterio to Twice Upon a Time.

Ray Holman was also the costume designer for the first three series of Torchwood.

The Sarah Jane Adventures had two credited costume designers. Pam Tait was the costume designer for the New Year's Day special Invasion of the Bane. Stewart Meachem, however, was named costume designer for the series proper, and held that position until its final episode.

Ffion Elinor served as costume designer for series 1 of Class.