Where Can I Learn How to Make Clothes Professionally?

Professional clothes-making programs are available under multiple names, including fashion design, apparel design and textile design. Certificate programs as well as undergraduate and graduate degree programs are offered to would-be fashion designers.

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For those interested in designing and making clothes as a profession, there are a number of schools that offer programs that prepare students for successful careers in the fashion industry.

10 Schools with Fashion and Apparel Design Programs

Here are a list of some of the schools from around the nation that offer programs in clothing design and fashion, as well as their location and tuition rates.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered* 2015-2016 Tuition*
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 4-year, Private, not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's & Doctoral $49,116
Washington University in St. Louis Saint Louis, MO 4-year, Private, not-for-profit Bachelor's $48,093
Syracuse University Syracuse, NY 4-year, Private, not-for-profit Bachelor's $43,318
Baylor University Waco, TX 4-year, Private, not-for-profit Bachelor's $40,198
University of Delaware Newark, DE 4-year, Public Bachelor's $12,520 (in-state)
Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's $13,560 (in-state)
Drexel University Philadelphia, PA 4-year, Private, not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $48,791
Howard University Washington, DC 4-year, Private, not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $23,970
Iowa State University Ames, IA 4-year, Public Bachelor's $7,736 (in-state)
University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH 4-year, Public Bachelor's $11,000 (in-state)

Source: *School websites, National Center for Education Statistics

College Selection Criteria

While most programs cover the basic skills needed for making clothes, and many programs spend a great deal of time on women's wear, what sets a program apart from another are the specializations and offshoot courses. Consider the following list of factors to take into account:

  • Students wishing to specialize in men's wear, children's clothing or sportswear will want to ensure that the school they're attending offers classes in these areas.
  • Similarly, students interested in related fields such as accessory or shoe design will need to also check the schools availability of such programs.
  • Certificate and associate degree programs teach mainly basic garment construction, while bachelor's and master's programs prepare students for higher level, fashion-related careers, so researching the credential offered at each school can be beneficial.
  • Class sizes make a difference; smaller student-to-instructor ratio means more one-on-one interaction with instructors as well as individualized feedback.

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Associate's Degree Programs

Students who want to learn to make clothes professionally can enroll in associate-level fashion design programs, which usually confer an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree. These programs provide general education coursework and an introduction to the fashion industry. Courses related to clothes-making include sewing, patternmaking and advanced construction. In total, these programs last for two years.

Undergraduate Certificate Programs

Undergraduate certificates give students the chance to take a short series of 6 to 10 fashion design courses without committing to a full degree program. Relevant courses for aspiring professional clothes makers include pattern drafting, tailoring and construction. Some programs can be finished within less than a year, while others are offered on a part-time basis and can take over two years to complete.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Like associate's degree programs and certificates, bachelor's degrees in fashion design, apparel design and textile design introduce students to the basics of the fashion industry, so students have the opportunity to take basic courses in clothing construction. However, because these programs last for four years instead of two, they can provide a more comprehensive overview of the fashion industry than associate's degrees, offering more advanced courses in fashion history, clothing marketing and industry technologies. Over the course of these programs, students develop a professional portfolio of their work, which can be presented to potential employers or admissions officers at graduate schools to demonstrate their clothes-making skills.

Master's Degree Programs

For students who want to pursue graduate studies related to professional clothes-making, Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and Master of Science (MS) in Fashion Design programs are available. MS programs provide advanced coursework in the theory and practice of professional clothes-making, and they usually offer students the opportunity to conduct research in the field. A real-world internship in the fashion industry may also be required. In contrast, MFA programs focus on the more artistic elements of fashion design, requiring students to submit a thesis or portfolio of design work prior to graduation. Master's degree programs in this field typically last for one to two years.

A number of public and private schools around the country offer training in clothing and textile design, fashion design and apparel design. Tuition varies depending on the school, with some costing as little as $8,000 and some close to $50,000 per year.

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