Formal Dress Designers Career Information

Mar 06, 2019

Formal dress designers often are charged with adding the glamour to the worldwide fashion industry - providing elegant designs via large, well-known couture design houses or by designing and selling gowns independently on a per-client basis. Read on to learn more about this competitive profession.

Career Definition for a Fashion Dress Designer

Both men and women have excelled as formal dress designers within the global fashion industry. A career as a formal dress designer entails creating and overseeing the development of all types of gowns, ranging from wedding dresses to elaborate evening gowns. Formal dress designers are creative and have an eye for the technical aspect of dresses, designing them within a specific theme or purpose and for a specific market.

Education Bachelor's degree in fashion design
Job Skills Detail-oriented, communication, creative, problem solving
Median Salary (2017)* $67,420 (all fashion designers)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 3% (all fashion designers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A career as a formal dress designer requires a bachelor's degree in fashion design, yet those who earn a master's degree have an advantage in this extremely competitive field. Coursework for a career as a formal dress designer includes a thorough understanding of textile fibers, quality and design elements, as well as honing conceptual design and presentation skills, computer-aided design (CAD), and manufacturing procedures. Despite the increased use of CAD, sketching ability remains an important advantage in fashion design.

Skills Required

Formal dress designers must possess a strong eye for design and function; attentiveness to color, detail and a sense of balance and proportion are essential. Additionally, formal dress designers must exhibit excellent problem-solving skills and the ability to communicate solutions and ideas clearly.

Career and Economic Prospects

Fashion designers, including formal dress designers, typically begin their careers as pattern makers or sketching assistants for an established design company. However, formal dress designers also have the option to work as freelance designers for companies or individuals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), average annual earnings for fashion designers, including formal dress designers, depend on an individual's years of experience; starting salaries in fashion design tend to be low until designers are established in the industry. In 2017, the BLS reported an annual median salary for fashion designers, overall, of $67,420. The BLS predicts a 3% increase in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Alternate Career Options

Those seeking to become fashion designers may consider a variety of occupations in the fashion industry, including modeling and graphic design.


Those interested in fashion might also consider careers as models, whose poses and photographs help advertise products, including clothing. Formal postsecondary education isn't required, but many models do attend modeling schools. Many also work part time. In 2017, the BLS reported models earned a median salary of $22,900. Employment for models was projected by the BLS to decrease by 1% from 2016 through 2026.

Graphic Designer

Normally earning a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a related field, these professionals design visual concepts with computer software or by hand for ads, magazines and brochures. Slower than average job growth of 4% was anticipated by the BLS during the 2016-2026 decade, and a median annual wage of $48,700 was reported in 2017.

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