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Clothing Design Degree and Training Program Information

Clothing or fashion design involves the development of apparel for functional and aesthetic purposes. Associate, bachelor's, and master's levels programs are available at technical and vocational schools, community and 4-year colleges, and universities.

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Essential Information

In all fashion design programs, the coursework highlights topics in fashion sketching, pattern making, clothing construction, design, and clothing marketing. In undergraduate programs, students are introduced to the history of fashion, in addition to studying contemporary trends within the industry. These programs focus on apparel construction and design. In master's degree programs, which have a greater emphasis on research, students examine advanced technologies in design, fashion merchandising, industrial production, and merchandising of clothing.

Basic sewing knowledge is recommended for enrolling in an associate degree program in clothing and fashion design. Applicants are required to have a high school diploma or GED for a bachelor's degree and a bachelor's degree, two years of professional work experience, and a portfolio of work for a master's program.


Associate Degree in Fashion Design

Through a variety of hands-on experiences and classroom instruction, associate degree programs in fashion design provide students with the technical skills and fashion knowledge needed to begin entry-level careers in the clothing design industry. Upon completion of an associate degree program, students will have created a professional design portfolio including examples of work, such as traditional fashion sketches and computer-aided design sketches.

Coursework takes two years to complete and combines classroom learning with hands-on, skill-building assignments. An associate degree program focusing on clothing and fashion design incorporates the following topics:

  • Apparel construction
  • Pattern making and design
  • History of fashion
  • Fashion illustration
  • Tailoring

Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Design

A bachelor's degree program in fashion design provides students with the knowledge and technical skills needed to seek positions in the design and production aspects of the fashion industry. Coursework focuses on developing skills leading to creative clothing designs that are marketable and suitable for manufacturing while being innovative and relevant. Students also create a portfolio consisting of constructed original designs, fashion sketches, and pattern projects. Most fashion design programs require a practicum or internship component. Some programs also provide study-abroad opportunities.

Program coursework presents the skills needed to conceptualize, develop, and present finished, original clothing and accessories. A core fashion design curriculum includes the following subject areas:

  • Advanced sewing techniques
  • Textiles and apparel construction
  • Fashion sketching
  • Fashion promotion
  • Computer applications in fashion design
  • Collection design

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Master's Degree in Fashion Design

A master's degree program in fashion design combines focused design studios, self-directed research, design theory instruction, and other topical seminars to create a comprehensive curriculum in fashion design. Graduates will have an advanced understanding of trend study and prediction, fashion presentation techniques, and research methodologies. Programs require a minimum of two years of study. A professional portfolio is needed with a collection of best work for review.

Although program coursework includes a handful of required courses and studio work, a master's degree program in fashion design often will allow students to customize learning with the help of faculty advisers. Examples of topics covered during a graduate-level program include:

  • Historical perspectives of fashion
  • Textile design
  • Fashion presentation
  • Pattern making
  • Computer-assisted design applications
  • Draping and fitting

Popular Career Options

By graduating with an associate degree in fashion design, you'll be prepared for entry-level employment in designer workrooms, apparel production companies, clothing manufacturing plants, and other custom sewing workrooms. Common job opportunities include:

  • Clothing designer
  • Design room assistant
  • Assistant designer
  • Fashion stylist
  • Production pattern maker
  • Tailor
  • First pattern maker

By graduating with a master's degree in fashion design, you'll be prepared for a broad range of employment within the fashion industry and in educating future fashion designers. Career opportunities may include:

  • Fashion designer
  • Costume designer
  • Fashion design instructor
  • Chief designer
  • Boutique owner

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

As a fashion designer, you'll use your creativity and skills to design clothing and fashion accessories that follow current fashion trends or set new ones. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of fashion designers is predicted to increase by 3% in the decade 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, the BLS listed the median annual wage of fashion designers in the U.S. as $63,670.

Associate, bachelor's, and master's degree programs in fashion design provide interested individuals with a foundation in the creation, marketing, history, and design theory of apparel. Through classroom and studio work, graduates are prepared for a number of jobs in the field, such as designer, pattern maker, or stylist.

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