Fashion Design: Definition & Types

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Have you ever wanted to design your own clothing? How about creating a unique pair of shoes or one-of-a-kind handbag? In this lesson, learn about different types of fashion design.

What is Fashion Design?

We see examples of fashion all around us, in clothes and accessories like shoes that we love to buy and wear. But who comes up with the ideas for how these things will look?

A fashion designer is a person who creates the ideas and concepts of new clothing styles and accessories, often by drawing and sketching. Today, fashion designers can also use Computer-Aided Design (CAD) technology to finalize ideas. Fashion designers create styles for items of clothing, including deciding fabrics and patterns to use. It's not an easy job. They must be aware of changes in seasonal style and have an ability to predict coming trends.

Now let's explore several types of fashion design.

Model wearing example of haute couture fashion
haute couture fashion

Types of Fashion Design


One of the most familiar forms of fashion design involves apparel, which is a another word for clothing. There are two main categories. The first, and most prestigious, is haute couture, or expensive one-of-a-kind clothing made for specific wealthy individuals. The phrase 'haute couture' is French, and it specifically relates to the high fashion scene in Paris. Specifically, fashion designers working in haute couture have workshops in Paris. Each season, they show their work to the Paris press at two runway shows with models. These designers usually show fashions for daytime and evening wear. Haute couture is exclusive, expensive, high-end fashion, made by hand to exact measurements. Most people never own a piece of haute couture fashion!

The other kind of apparel design is pret-a-porter. It's also a French word that means 'ready to wear'. This type of fashion design results in the clothing most people wear. Pret-a-porter fashion is quality clothing, but it's designed for standard sizes and made in factories. It's off the rack and not made for individual clients. This is clothing you buy in stores like Macy's and the Gap. Designers and design houses that make pret-a-porter fashions usually have one annual show that predicts the next year's trends and styles. The designs that preview well will then be manufactured for the mass market.

Model walking the runway at a pret-a-porter show
Model wearing pret-a-porter fashion

Other Types of Fashion Design

Fashion designers work in areas other than apparel. Some create designs for shoes in categories like casual, athletic, and formal. Other designers specialize in accessories or items that go with clothing, including scarves, jewelry, handbags, and belts.

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