Dress Design School and University Program Overviews

Dress and other clothing design studies can be pursued under the category of fashion design. These programs are most commonly available at the associate and bachelor's levels.

Essential Information

Students of fashion design programs will study patternmaking, sketching, merchandising and design theory. Hands-on learning experiences could be combined with class instruction. A more advanced degree could be pursued by those interested in seeking an academic career teaching fashion design courses.

Associate Degree in Fashion Design

Students interested in dress design can pursue introductory training in an associate degree program in fashion design. These career-oriented programs train students in all steps of design, including sketching designs, choosing fabrics and draping. Most programs include extensive hands-on training during which students create their own designs. Some programs may also include internship options so that students can gain fashion industry experience.

Associate degree programs in fashion design are typically offered at 2-year community and technical colleges. Applicants must possess a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some programs require applicants to have basic sewing skills.

Courses in associate degree programs in fashion design provide students with broad practice in the skills of the field as well as knowledge of the history of design. Common courses include the following:

  • Introduction to fashion design
  • Pattern making
  • Dress construction
  • History of textiles and costumes
  • Color and design theory
  • Fashion sketching

Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Design

Bachelor's degree programs in fashion design prepare students for entry-level careers in the textile and fashion industries in roles including designers, costumers and wardrobe masters. Students gain hands-on experience in the art and craft of dress and clothing design. Additionally, most programs provide extensive business training, including topics such as retail buying, international business and product development.

Bachelor's degree programs in fashion design are typically offered at 4-year colleges and universities, which require applicants to possess a high school diploma or the equivalent. Some schools also require applicants to submit a portfolio or possess sewing experience.

Coursework in bachelor's level fashion design programs covers the history and practice of clothing design. Common courses include the following:

  • Pattern making
  • Dress construction
  • History of textiles and costumes
  • Color and design theory
  • Computer-aided pattern drafting
  • Fashion sketching

Career Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 23,100 jobs for fashion designers in 2015. Between 2014 and 2024, this number was expected to increase by 3%. Jobs in design were expected to remain unchanged, though jobs in manufacturing and sewing were expected to decrease as more companies shift work overseas. As of 2015, the median annual salary for fashion designers was $63,670.

Continuing Education Information

Though most employers in dress and fashion design only require a bachelor's degree, individuals can pursue further study in related fields at the master's or Ph.D. levels. These are most commonly pursued by students interested in teaching design, rather than those seeking employment in the fashion industry. Individuals interested in running their own dress design business may pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.

Students interested in dress designing receive career-focused training in fashion degree programs while gaining an understanding of fashion history. Hands-on work experience or internships are often required in addition to regular coursework.

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