Dress Design: Job Outlook & Career Requirements

Read on to learn about a career in dress design. See what the education and training requirements entail, and get career prospects too, to decide if this field is right for you.

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Career Definition for a Dress Designer

Dress designers often work as pattern makers, tailors, and sewers, creating the master patterns for dresses ranging in style from casual to evening, from a wedding gown to the 'essential' little black dress. A career in dress design can be had in any location; however, most participants in the fashion industry are concentrated in regional fashion centers such as New York, California, Miami, Paris or Milan.

Education Associate's, bachelor of fine arts, master's degree
Job Skills Strong sense of aesthetics, communication and knowledge of CAD
Average Salary (2015)* $73,180 (fashion designers)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 3% increase, 1 in 4 self employed

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

It's possible to have a career as a dress designer without a formal education. For aspiring fashion designers who may be interested in earning a college degree, an associate's, bachelor of fine arts or master's degree in fashion design may help prepare an individual for success in the fashion industry with business and technical knowledge.

Skills Required

Successful dress designers have a specialized skill set. These individuals typically have a strong sense of aesthetics, giving special attention to color, texture, how a garment lays on the body, and how the body moves. Dress designers also are apt communicators and possess strong problem-solving skills. It's also becoming increasingly important that dress designers have a firm understanding of computer-aided design (CAD). A career as a dress designer is high-energy and requires equal parts creativity and tenacity.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS,, 1 in 4 fashion designers, including dress designers, were self-employed in 2014. The BLS predicts that fashion designer jobs will increase by 3% from 2014-2024, with competition for jobs being rigorous and the best chances for work found in California and New York. For those who succeed as dress designers, the pay can be rewarding. According to the BLS, the average annual salary for a fashion designer in 2015 was $73,180.

Alternate Career Options

Alternative career options within this field are:

Wholesale or Retail Buyer

A wholesale or retail buyer selects what products a business will sell based on past sales information, forecasted trends, and supplier capability. Education requirements vary by employer and can range from a high school diploma to a master's degree in economics or a related field. On-the-job training is typical, regardless of the employer or industry. A variety of professional certifications are available. The BLS predicts that jobs in this field will increase at an average rate of 6% from 2014-2024, and the BLS also reported that wholesale and retail buyers earned an average salary of $59,270 in 2015.

Art Director

An art director is usually someone with at least a bachelor's degree and a background in graphic design, photography or fine art. Art directors lead creative teams made up of artists and designers who put together visual projects for media like print, television, and stage, and in fields like publishing or advertising. Art directors also work with clients to ensure the final product reflects their vision and budget. The BLS reports that jobs for art directors are expected to increase 2% from 2014-2024, and that these jobs paid an average salary of $101,990 in 2015.

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