According to Oscar-winning designer Jenny Beavan, sexism is to blame for the “huge” salary difference between male-dominated occupations in the entertainment industry and costume designers.
The British designer, who earlier this year earned her third Oscar, remarked, “I suppose it’s because we’re predominantly women.”
She claimed that TV designers made less money on a base salary than “the man who serves your tea and your breakfast bread.”
At the Oscars, she was wearing a sleeve with the words “Naked without us” inscribed on it. That is the catchphrase of the US Costume Designers Guild’s fair pay initiative.
Beavan claimed on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row that production designers, who mostly develop the sets and are male, earn 30% more than costume designers, who are about 80% female.
According to data from the Costume Designers Guild, its members are paid at the bottom of the film crew wage scale, below set grips, assistant lighting technicians, and assistant prop assistants.
A production designer’s approved base weekly rate is $4,102.70 (£3,660), whereas a costume designers is $3,139.86 (£2,800).
A TV costume designer’s base pay is $2,952.11 (£2,640) a week, which is less than that of someone working in “craft services,” which typically feeds the crew while they are on the job.
With her Oscars for A Room with a View, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Cruella, Beavan is one of the most prominent British actors working behind the scenes in Hollywood.
For movies like The King’s Speech, Gosford Park, and The Remains of the Day, she received an additional eight nominations.
The man who brings your tea and breakfast muffin, who is paid more than a basic scale TV costume designer in America, is severely underpaid compared to our basic scale rates. Just extraordinary,” she remarked.
“And we, the film lot, are way down,” even though our work is important and tough.
After it was discovered that certain male actors were earning far more than their female co-stars, there has been a push for equitable pay on screen in recent years. But Beavan asserted that it had not yet reached the roles in the background.
Additionally, she claimed that when their works are turned into fashion lines or items, as was the case with Cruella de Vil, costume designers don’t get paid.
It seemed disrespectful to her, she claimed. “As costume designers, we tend to create items that are the easiest to sell, whether they are Halloween costumes or popular clothing items of all kinds.
But we hardly ever observe any kind of partnership with those responsible for the merchandising.
The film studios are the owners of the rights to the designs. You essentially “sign your life away,” she said.