Wedding dress design programs are commonly part of a larger area of study known as fashion design. Prospective students may pursue associate's or bachelor's degrees in fashion design. These programs can train students to fashion couture wedding dresses and other formal attire for diverse clientele. Both associate's and bachelor's programs include a combination of studio design classes, lecture-based sessions and final projects. Admission to some programs may require a portfolio of relevant design work.
Associate's Degree in Fashion Design
An associate's degree program in fashion design introduces students to foundational fashion principles, such as drawing, textiles, industrial sewing mechanics and visual merchandising. Students hone their technical skills with fellow classmate designers in studio-style classrooms, where they learn how to choose appropriate fabrics and textiles for each wedding or couture dress, operate industrial-style sewing and pressing equipment and learn about mass-production manufacturing that produces affordable gowns.
Applicants to an associate's degree program for wedding dress designers must have a high school diploma or GED as well as a portfolio that demonstrates artistic proficiency. Applicants may also need to participate in a personal interview. Once admitted, these programs require students to complete a professional fashion design portfolio prior to graduation. Students also participate in the following fashion design courses:
- Retail merchandising
- Fashion design and illustration
- Rendering and pattern development
- Industrial sewing equipment and techniques
Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Design
Most wedding dress designers complete a bachelor's degree program in fashion design due to its depth and concentration in pattern creation, illustration and industrial sewing and pressing techniques. This type of degree program is also presented in studio-style classrooms that encourage creativity and technical design skills. Students explore the history of fashion and are introduced to basic fashion design principles. They also learn how to interpret consumer trend analyses and hone their drawing, sketching and rendering skills. Many degree programs teach students how to apply hand-sewn techniques to mass-market formal attire production.
Interested applicants are required to have a high school diploma or GED and submit formal applications, letters of recommendation and, in many cases, artistic portfolios that represent their work. These 4-year degree programs culminate in a final portfolio project that is judged by a panel of fashion design experts. Students may also take these types of courses in a fashion design degree program:
- Formal attire design
- Visual merchandising
- 3D design and fashion sketching
- Computer-aided rendering and modeling techniques
- Fashion journalism
- Applied textiles
An associate's degree in fashion design provides many wedding dress designers with entry-level employment opportunities. Large and small wedding boutiques hire qualified candidates as designers and seamstresses. Many of these professionals are responsible for helping clients select the right wedding gowns, while others are responsible for fitting and tailoring those garments. Graduates may also start their own businesses. Popular wedding dress design positions for those with a degree in fashion design include:
- Wedding dress designer
- Formal attire seamstress
- Wedding boutique owner
Salary Information and Employment Outlook
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) doesn't have specific data related to wedding dress designers, it does forecast a 3% increase in job opportunities from 2014-2024 for fashion designers. However, top wedding dress designers may find better employment opportunities near fashion-minded cities, such as New York. The BLS states that fashion designers earned a median annual salary of $63,670 as of 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Wedding dress designers do not have continuing education requirements and are not held to professional certification or licensing standards. However, public opinion and consumer trends play an important role in the success or failure of many fashion designers. Wedding dress designers must expand their artistic vision and technical expertise by attending fashion shows, trade events and textile seminars to stay current with modern wedding and formal attire trends. Many join professional organizations, such as Fashion Group International, the International Association of Clothing Designers and Executives and the International Textile and Apparel Association. These organizations offer annual fashion shows, trade expos and fashion design seminars to their members.
In order to become a wedding dress designer, individuals have the option to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in fashion design. These programs prepare students through courses in fashion merchandising, illustration, and 3D fashion design.