Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Updated November 2, 2022

Fashion design schools offer programs in costuming, fabrics, tailoring and more. Find your school for fashion design and make your mark.

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Young woman measuring dress on mannequin Credit: seksan Mongkhonkhamsao / Moment / Getty Images

Students interested in fashion design often don't realize the myriad positions available to them within the fashion industry. While programs like “Project Runway” have popularized clothing design, there are many additional exciting careers awaiting fashion design graduates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2012 there were over 22,000 professionals working as fashion designers receiving a median salary of nearly $63,000 annually. Those in the top 10 percent of the pay scale earned over $126,000 per year.

With so many different programs and concentrations, finding the right fashion school can seem daunting. Our guide will provide the inside scoop on the types of degrees available, curriculum options, specializations, possible careers, what to look for in a great school and more.

Fashion Design Snapshots

The Fashion Institute of Technology has also played a significant role in producing some of the best: past students you may have heard of (or worn their designs) include Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Nanette Lepore, and Carolina Herrera.

Wondering where your favorite designers completed their educations in fashion? Parsons New School of Design has been turning out iconic designers since long before Tim Gunn started telling the designers to “Make it work.” Notable alumni include J.Crew darling Jenna Lyons, Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang, Jason Wu, Donna Karan and Prabal Gurung.

Not all designers entered the world with plans to break the fashion mold: Miuccia Prada started out as a mime artist before launching her iconic line of handbags. Vera Wang was a competitive figure skater before moving into the editorial side of fashion. She started her design career as a fashion director for Ralph Lauren before launching her own brand.

Fashion Design Schools and Programs

Fashion designers are visionary individuals who combine their creative skills with business acumen to design and create garments, footwear and accessories. Whether working as merchandisers, designers, buyers or assistants, individuals with the skills, knowledge and passion necessary to succeed in this field have fascinating and fulfilling careers. The rapid nature of the industry demands professionals who thrive under pressure and can be fluid in the midst of constant change.

If this sounds appealing, undertaking a fashion design degree is often the first step of breaking into the industry. It is important to select a curriculum designed to build both the technical and creative skills needed; additionally, graduates who actively chase opportunities outside the classroom will be competitive candidates for design firms upon graduation. The majority of fashion schools tend to be in New York or California, but numerous options exist throughout the U.S. and further abroad.

  • Vocational Schools

    Vocational fashion schools are typically divided into two forms: high schools and adult learning centers. Vocational high schools emphasize teaching students a trade alongside a core curriculum while adult learning vocational schools place sole emphasis on the trade of interest. At some vocational schools, students can elect to take general education courses to supplement their fashion design certification, resulting in an associate degree. Fashion design programs at vocational schools are often delivered in an immersion style, allowing students concentrated study of a single subject during each term block. Certificates can be completed in two years and cover a range of topics including construction, textile manufacturing, patternmaking, draping and apparel computer systems. Graduates of vocational programs enjoy careers as assistant designers, production managers, pattern makers, technical designers and more.
  • Art Schools

    Students choosing to study fashion design at an art school have the unique opportunity of being completely surrounded by fellow artists, no matter the medium. The atmosphere is highly creative and many students thrive on the inventive energy. Conversely, competition can be tougher as everyone is working towards the same goals. While there is still a general education component, it is very focused on liberal arts and a higher number of hours are devoted to fashion design courses. Many internship and experiential learning opportunities run alongside the coursework. While classes offered are similar to those in traditional university settings, learning tends to be more focused and in depth.
  • Community Colleges

    Many community colleges offer Associate in Applied Science degrees in fashion design with a variety of concentrations available. Popular specializations include fashion merchandising, design and retailing. Core courses begin with basics such as clothing construction, design, patternmaking and using design technology before moving into advanced topics on apparel production and how to design collections. Some programs will require an internship component as the culminating project, allowing students to select a designer or fashion company within their area of interest. Graduates find work in a variety of positions, including as designers, fashion journalists, buyers, patternmakers and tailors. Most programs can be completed in two years of full-time study.
  • Four-Year Schools

    In contrast to attending an art school for fashion design, students looking to study this degree but seeking a traditional college experience should consider undertaking a program at a four-year institution. Typically, degrees are offered as a BA or BFA, with a strong liberal arts component acting as a foundation to degree specific courses. Most programs will require an internship component; additionally, given the typically larger-scale of universities, most will have study abroad options in a variety of fashion centers such as Paris, Milan or Tokyo. Aside from independent design work, students holding a bachelor's level fashion design degree are qualified to pursue careers as technical designers, fashion merchandisers and assistant or associate fashion designers.

Fashion Schools

In addition to the options listed above, there are a few institutions devoted exclusively to training future fashion designers. On the East Coast, New York boasts the Fashion Institute of Technology. Aside from offering programs in fashion design and related topics, FIT also provides students a larger understanding of the industry by incorporating courses in visual arts, textiles, business skills and marketing.

On the West Coast, Los Angeles has the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Multiple fashion-related programs are available, including costume design, merchandising, footwear design and jewelry design.

Top Fashion Design Schools and Colleges

College-bound students with a flair for style and a desire to turn their passion into a career may consider enrolling in a fashion design program. A quality online fashion design school will teach students to create apparel that meets the expectations of constantly evolving trends. To help students find the right school, we analyzed each fashion design school and college in the country based on our methodology to compile this list of the best options. Explore the top fashion design schools and colleges.

#1 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Ursuline College

  • Pepper Pike, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Ursuline College offers numerous bachelor's degree programs suitable for learners from all walks of life. The Pepper Pike-based college supports both in-person and remote bachelor's degree programs. Undergraduate students benefit from skilled faculty, rigorous coursework, and a supportive learning environment.

Undergraduate students enrolled in the fashion design program may choose from two different tracks. Students can spend the third year of the program studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. These students will earn an associate degree in applied science (AAS) from the Fashion Institute of Technology upon graduation from Ursuline College. Students can also pursue an undergraduate degree in fashion merchandising through Ursuline College. Degree-seekers receive guidance throughout their studies through academic advising, career services, and other resources.

Depending on eligibility, students can apply for scholarships, fellowships, and other funding to help with educational expenses. According to the institution, 100% of all enrollees receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$33,120
Out-of-state
$33,120
Retention Rate
75%
Admission Rate
85%
Students Enrolled
1,050
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#2 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Mount Mary University

  • Milwaukee, WI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Undergraduate students can benefit from a flexible, thorough education at Mount Mary University. Students can pursue remote study or learn from the college's campus in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. To earn a bachelor's in fashion design, students connect with peers, faculty, and staff through a supportive learning community.

Fashion students follow a rigorous program curriculum, which can include study abroad opportunities in either New York City or Paris. Participants take foundational classes, as well as advanced coursework, with the option to modify their schedule and choose electives. Fashion design and merchandise management students also collaborate to create a fashion show each year.

Learners can customize their studies, choose electives, and declare degree concentrations and minors. Students can take advantage of career services, academic advising, and other supportive resources.

The college also connects students with scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities to be applied to educational expenses. The institution boasts that 99% of all enrollees receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$30,550
Out-of-state
$30,550
Retention Rate
65%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
1,246
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
44% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

St Catherine University

  • Saint Paul, MN
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Undergraduate students can benefit from a flexible, thorough education at St. Catherine University. The private institution offers a fashion design program at the undergraduate level that focuses on manufacturing ethics and sustainable fashion. 

While earning a bachelor's degree in fashion design, students learn about the technology of sustainable practices. Students gain skills and knowledge through their engagement with general and advanced classes concerning textile science, manufacturing, and fashion history. 

Through a one-on-one fashion design mentorship, students can modify their coursework, choose electives, and pursue degree concentrations. Students can also receive guidance through career services, academic advising, and other institutional resources.

When preparing for the costs of education, degree-seekers can meet with the financial aid office to explore funding opportunities.

Average Tuition
In-state
$32,522
Out-of-state
$32,522
Retention Rate
80%
Admission Rate
67%
Students Enrolled
4,401
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
36% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#4 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

University of Delaware

  • Newark, DE
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of Delaware supports flexible educational opportunities for students near and far. Learners can choose from 111 bachelor's degrees, including a bachelor of science in fashion design and product innovation. 

Once enrolled, fashion design students connect with colleagues, faculty, and staff to learn about the art and business of fashion. Along with a fashion major, the school also offers minors in fashion management, fashion history, sustainable apparel, and wearable design. Degree-seekers benefit from a robust education, completing coursework that familiarizes them with their field of interest. 

Students have the option to select electives, degree concentrations, and degree minors. While enrolled, learners can connect with institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising, to receive further guidance.

When preparing for the costs of education, degree-seekers can meet with the financial aid office to explore funding opportunities. The average student receives approximately $9,026 in financial aid, with 88% of all enrollees receiving some form of aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$12,730
Out-of-state
$34,160
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
71%
Students Enrolled
23,808
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
13% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#5 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Dominican University

  • River Forest, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students seeking a flexible bachelor's degree can learn at their own pace at Dominican University. For undergraduates, the college supports hybrid study from its main campus in River Forest, Illinois. Students gain access to a supportive learning community of committed instructors and motivated peers.

Students seeking a bachelor of arts in fashion design build competency through rigorous coursework and industry-relevant lectures. Throughout the program, students create an online professional portfolio to help jumpstart their fashion careers. The program's curriculum also provides practical experience through internships and experiential learning opportunities. 

Fashion design students can customize their studies to suit their personal and professional goals. Learners also receive personalized guidance from fashion design faculty to access career services, academic advising, and other institutional resources.

Depending on eligibility, students can apply for scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$33,950
Out-of-state
$33,950
Retention Rate
77%
Admission Rate
64%
Students Enrolled
3,029
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
54% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#6 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Thomas Jefferson University

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Thomas Jefferson University offers an array of flexible bachelor's degrees through both in-person and online learning formats. Students interested in a career in fashion can access the supportive learning community of the Kanbar College of Design Engineering & Commerce.

To earn a bachelor of science in fashion design, students complete general and fashion-specific coursework. Degree-seekers can supplement their classroom studies with experiential learning opportunities, such as internships and collaborative design projects. Students can also enroll in study abroad programs to experience the fashion cultures of Rome and other global centers of the fashion industry. 

In consultation with an academic advisor, students can modify their coursework, choose electives, and pursue degree concentrations and minors to suit their career goals. The college also connects enrollees with career services, academic advising, and other supportive resources.

Prospective students can meet with a financial aid counselor to determine their eligibility for scholarships, fellowships, and federal financial aid. According to the college, 99% of all enrollees receive financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$40,680
Out-of-state
$40,680
Retention Rate
84%
Admission Rate
66%
Students Enrolled
8,026
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#7 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Brenau University

  • Gainesville, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Located in Gainesville, Georgia, Brenau University provides flexible educational opportunities for learners worldwide. The Gainesville-based school supports hybrid learning opportunities with in-person and online programs. To date, the school offers 46 bachelor’s programs, with 15 online degree options. For students interested in a fashion career, the university offers an on-campus bachelor of fine arts in fashion design degree.

As part of the program curriculum, fashion students complete coursework, attend industry-relevant lectures, and gain hands-on experience in the school's fashion lab. By completing foundational and advanced coursework, students prepare for a career in the fashion industry upon graduation.

Enrollees work with an academic advisor and can customize their degrees to meet their academic and career goals. Students can also receive guidance through career services, academic advising, and other institutional resources.

Students can meet with a financial aid counselor to explore funding opportunities through grants, loans, and other forms of financial assistance. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$29,370
Out-of-state
$29,370
Retention Rate
52%
Admission Rate
58%
Students Enrolled
2,817
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
60% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#8 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Stevenson University

  • Stevenson, MD
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Stevenson University, a private college in Stevenson, Maryland, provides flexible study options for undergraduate students near and far. Enrollees can choose from one of 30 bachelor's degree programs, benefiting from a skilled faculty, rigorous coursework, and a supportive learning environment.

Students interested in a career in fashion can earn a bachelor of science in fashion design degree. Along with completing foundational and advanced coursework, fashion design students can customize their study by declaring a double major or minor, as well as choosing relevant elective classes. Students can also access institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising, throughout the course of their studies.

Depending on eligibility, students can apply for scholarships, fellowships, and other funding to help cover educational expenses.

Average Tuition
In-state
$34,528
Out-of-state
$34,528
Retention Rate
82%
Admission Rate
81%
Students Enrolled
3,579
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#9 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

University of Cincinnati-Main Campus

  • Cincinnati, OH
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

University of Cincinnati-Main Campus supports a variety of undergraduate-level degree options. Depending on the field of study, undergraduate students can choose from in-person and remote programs. Students can connect with peers, faculty, and staff through a supportive learning community.

The university offers a bachelor of science in fashion design degree through its College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. While enrolled, fashion design students complete general and fashion-specific coursework. They also choose elective classes that reflect their particular interests in fashion, such as sustainability, digital design, and fashion theory.

Throughout the program, learners can customize their studies to suit their personal and professional goals. While enrolled, learners can also connect with institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising, to receive further guidance.

The financial aid office can connect students with funding opportunities to make the costs of college manageable. Of all enrollees, 75% receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,476
Out-of-state
$24,810
Retention Rate
88%
Admission Rate
77%
Students Enrolled
39,263
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#10 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Iowa State University

  • Ames, IA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Iowa State University offers numerous bachelor's degree programs suitable for learners from all walks of life. The Ames-based college supports both in-person and remote bachelor's degree programs. Students considering a career in fashion can benefit from a supportive learning community, top-ranked faculty, and motivated peers.

Fashion students can earn a bachelor of science in apparel, merchandising, and design (AMD) to prepare them for a career within the fashion industry. Students complete foundational and advanced coursework throughout their studies. Along with a broad introduction to the industry, the program allows students to individualize their studies with elective classes. The college also connects students with numerous resources, such as academic advising and career services, throughout the duration of their degree programs.

Students can meet with a financial aid counselor to determine their eligibility for funding and explore scholarships, fellowships, and other forms of aid. The institution reports that 90% of all degree-seekers receive some form of financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,042
Out-of-state
$23,230
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
92%
Students Enrolled
33,372
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
23% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#11 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Meredith College

  • Raleigh, NC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Meredith College offers numerous bachelor's degree programs suitable for learners from all walks of life. The private college offers 47 bachelor's degree programs, including a major in fashion merchandising and design. 

Fashion students gain skills and knowledge through their coursework to better prepare them for their future careers. Students take classes covering art, psychology, and the fashion business. Enrollees can receive further guidance through academic advising, career services, and other resources. Study abroad and internship opportunities are also available.

The college connects students with numerous funding opportunities, from scholarships to federal financial aid. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$38,520
Out-of-state
$38,520
Retention Rate
81%
Admission Rate
65%
Students Enrolled
1,810
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
0% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#12 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Stephens College

  • Columbia, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Undergraduate students can benefit from a flexible, thorough education at Stephens College. Located in Columbia, Missouri, the private institution offers competitive programs that can be completed in person or online. Students interested in a career in fashion can connect with supportive faculty and colleagues to jumpstart their careers in the industry.

To earn a bachelor of fine arts in fashion design and product development, fashion students follow a rigorous program curriculum, collaborate with other students to create real-world projects, and showcase original designs. Participants take foundational classes, as well as advanced coursework, with the option to modify their schedule and choose electives.

Learners can customize their studies to suit their personal and professional goals. Students seeking further academic and career guidance can also access numerous institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising.

To defray the costs of education, students can apply for scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities. According to the college, 100% of all enrollees receive financial aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$22,500
Out-of-state
$22,500
Retention Rate
63%
Admission Rate
56%
Students Enrolled
652
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
25% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#13 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Centenary University

  • Hackettstown, NJ
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

From its main campus in Hackettstown,  New Jersey, Centenary University supports numerous degree options for undergraduate students. To date, the college offers 25 bachelor's programs. Students benefit from a supportive learning environment and personalized interactions with faculty and staff.

Fashion students are introduced to foundational and advanced coursework, as well as industry-specific technology.  While earning their bachelor of fine arts in fashion design, degree-seekers can modify their classes and choose electives to reflect their particular interests. 

While enrolled, participants benefit from career and academic counselors, receiving personal and academic guidance throughout their studies.

Students may be eligible for scholarships, fellowships, and other financial aid awards. The college reports that 100% of all learners receive some form of aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$32,572
Out-of-state
$32,572
Retention Rate
71%
Admission Rate
75%
Students Enrolled
1,681
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
37% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#14 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

University of the Incarnate Word

  • San Antonio, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The University of the Incarnate Word supports a variety of undergraduate-level degree options. To succeed, undergraduate students connect with peers, faculty, and staff through a supportive learning community. Students considering a career in fashion may consider the school's bachelor of science in fashion management degree. 

While enrolled in the fashion program, students complete general and fashion-specific coursework emphasizing the business aspects of the industry. Participants take foundational classes, as well as advanced coursework, with the option to modify their schedule and choose electives. Students can choose to concentrate on merchandising or apparel production and design. 

Fashion students can work with their academic advisors to modify their studies, select electives, and pursue additional coursework that suits their career goals. Students can also access institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising, throughout their studies.

Students can meet with the financial aid office to determine their eligibility for scholarships and other educational funding. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$29,900
Out-of-state
$29,900
Retention Rate
73%
Admission Rate
94%
Students Enrolled
8,175
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
23% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#15 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

SUNY Buffalo State

  • Buffalo, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

SUNY Buffalo State supports flexible educational opportunities for students near and far. According to the college, undergraduates can access 89 bachelor's degree programs. For fashion students, the school's bachelor of science in fashion and textile technology degree can jumpstart their career.

Upon enrollment, fashion students connect with a supportive learning community. As part of the program curriculum, students can choose to concentrate their studies in fashion technologies, apparel design, product development, or merchandising. Students gain skills and knowledge through their engagement with general and advanced classes.

Students can work with their academic advisors to modify their studies and select electives. Students can also apply to earn an associate's degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City as part of their experience. Learners can receive personalized guidance by connecting with career services, academic advising, and other institutional resources.

Students can meet with the financial aid office to determine their eligibility for scholarships and other educational funding. Students can expect to receive an average financial aid package of $9,107.

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,070
Out-of-state
$16,980
Retention Rate
58%
Admission Rate
67%
Students Enrolled
8,658
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#16 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

SUNY Oneonta

  • Oneonta, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

SUNY Oneonta supports flexible educational opportunities for undergraduate students. The Oneonta-based school supports hybrid learning opportunities through in-person and online programs. Students interested in a career in fashion may choose to pursue a bachelor of science in fashion and textiles.

The college provides students with a competitive education through intensive study concentrating on either fashion design or fashion merchandising. Learners complete foundational and advanced coursework, with the option to pursue internships and other experiential learning opportunities, such as study abroad opportunities, exchange programs, and fashion show contributions. 

Enrollees work with an academic advisor and customize their degree to meet their academic and career goals. Students can access institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising, throughout their studies.

The college connects students with scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities to be applied to educational expenses. According to the college, 85% of all enrollees receive financial aid, with the average student awarded $9,095 in assistance.

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,070
Out-of-state
$16,980
Retention Rate
80%
Admission Rate
56%
Students Enrolled
6,528
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#17 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Ferris State University

  • Big Rapids, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Students seeking a flexible bachelor's degree program should consider Ferris State University. The college supports 98 bachelor's programs, with 10 offering a fully remote learning format. Students benefit from a supportive learning environment and personalized interactions with faculty and staff.

Students pursuing a bachelor of science in fashion studies gain skills and knowledge through classes, lectures, and experiential learning opportunities. Students can also customize their college experience by declaring a double major, a minor, as well as choosing elective classes. Students benefit from institutional resources throughout their studies, including career services and academic advising.

Prospective students can meet with the financial aid office to determine their eligibility for scholarships and other financial aid awards. The college reports an average financial aid award package of $9,769.

Average Tuition
In-state
$12,376
Out-of-state
$12,376
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
87%
Students Enrolled
12,472
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
29% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#18 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Michigan State University

  • East Lansing, MI
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Michigan State University, a public college in East Lansing, Michigan, provides flexible study options for undergraduate students. The public college offers 119 bachelor's degree programs, including two undergraduate degree options for students interested in a career in fashion. Students can choose a bachelor of arts in fashion and textile design with a concentration in the business and history of fashion. Alternatively, students interested in the creativity of fashion design can choose to pursue a bachelor of fine arts.

Students complete foundational and advanced classes throughout their studies. Students can work with their academic advisors to customize their degree and study trajectory. Enrollees can receive further guidance through academic advising, career services, and other resources.

Depending on eligibility, students can apply for scholarships, fellowships, and other funding for their educational expenses. The college boasts an average financial aid award package of $11,755, with 70% of all enrollees receiving some form of aid.

Average Tuition
In-state
$15,555
Out-of-state
$40,384
Retention Rate
91%
Admission Rate
71%
Students Enrolled
49,809
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#19 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Montclair State University

  • Montclair, NJ
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Montclair State University, a public college in Montclair, New Jersey, provides flexible study options for undergraduate students near and far. Students can choose from 63 bachelor's degree programs. While enrolled, students connect with premier faculty and benefit from a supportive learning community.

To earn a bachelor of arts in fashion design and merchandising, fashion students take foundational and advanced classes, learning the ins and outs of the fashion industry. Students can modify their degrees depending on their career goals, and the school offers specialized minors concentrating on either fashion design or fashion merchandising. While enrolled, participants benefit from career and academic counselors, receiving personal and academic guidance throughout their studies.

The college connects students with numerous funding opportunities, from scholarships to federal financial aid. At the college, 83% of all enrollees are awarded financial aid packages.

Average Tuition
In-state
$12,082
Out-of-state
$20,042
Retention Rate
80%
Admission Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
21,007
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#20 Top Fashion Design Schools & Programs

Virginia Commonwealth University

  • Richmond, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

From its main campus in Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University supports numerous hybrid degree options for undergraduate students. The Richmond-based college supports both in-person and remote bachelor's degree programs. Students benefit from a supportive learning community, top-ranked faculty, and motivated peers.

Students seeking a bachelor of fine arts in fashion take foundational and advanced classes, learning about techniques, theories, business, and the new technologies of fashion design. Students can customize their studies by declaring a double major, a minor, or taking advantage of study abroad programs in fashion centers around the world. The college connects students with numerous resources, such as academic advising and career services, throughout the duration of their program.

Applicants may be eligible for funding, such as scholarships, fellowships, and federal financial aid, to defray the costs of education. Of all enrollees, 81% receive financial aid awards.

Average Tuition
In-state
$12,177
Out-of-state
$32,825
Retention Rate
83%
Admission Rate
87%
Students Enrolled
29,757
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Fashion Design School Must-Have List

The world of fashion is a highly competitive environment. One way students can make themselves stand out is by ensuring the fashion school they choose has the right elements for success. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Accreditation

    The National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD) will accredit a good fashion design program. Employers will know which schools are and are not accredited, so selecting one with proper certification is of utmost importance.

  • Interdisciplinary Focus

    Ask any professional in the fashion industry and they will tell you it's not enough to simply design beautiful pieces: Graduates need to have a solid understanding of business and communication skills to get noticed. Look through degree curricula to see if these skills are taught alongside core design topics.

  • Work Experience Opportunities

    The fashion industry is all about paying your dues; most entry-level positions require 2-3 years of experience, meaning students need to be taking advantage of internships, assistantships and work experience programs while in school to be competitive for positions upon graduation.

  • Public Exposure

    A great design program will hold student fashion shows, attracting the attention of local media and industry insiders. Making it as a designer means getting noticed for your creations, so ensure potential programs offer this avenue of exposure.

  • Industry Alumni

    It may seem obvious, but take time to research program alumni. They don't necessarily have to be internationally recognized, but how many graduates are actually working in the industry? Understanding this data will help ascertain if the education they received at that institution successfully propelled them into the field of fashion.

Fashion Design Degrees and Certificates

Associate degrees are an excellent option for those who wish to work as design assistants or retail professionals and provide a thorough review of design fundamentals. Bachelor's degrees will allow students to claim entry-level roles in the industry such as merchandisers, buyers, junior visual merchandisers or editorial assistants. Professionals who already have successful careers in fashion typically undertake master's level degrees to either concentrate their knowledge on a specific area or to become more competitive for managerial roles in design firms. This is also an attractive option for those seeking to move towards an academic career. While no doctorate program in fashion design currently exists, complementary programs such as apparel design are offered at a few institutions.

Fashion Design Certificates

A variety of options are offer for certificates in fashion design. Whether your goal is to learn the basics of fashion or learn about a specific area, programs exist.

  1. 1

    Basic Certificates

    A number of institutions offer certificates for students seeking to learn the fundamentals of fashion design. Many of these will only require a high-school diploma or GED, making them an appealing alternative to full degrees. Certificates of this depth are also applicable to professionals from other industries looking to change careers. These can typically be completed in two years of full-time study. Courses could include sewing fundamentals, figure drawing, patternmaking, construction, embellishments and silhouettes.

  2. 2

    Advanced Certificates

    For students with prior education or experience in fashion design, these programs offer focused study in a specialized topic. Certificates in areas such as haute couture, ladies tailoring or children's wear will often require students either have pre-existing education in design or that foundation courses be taken prior to admittance. The length of these programs range from three months to two years depending on the scope and intensity of study.

Some of the certificates relating to fashion design available to interested candidates include:

  1. 1

    Fashion Styling

    This certification will outfit students to produce visually stunning styled pieces ready for store windows or photo shoots. Courses include styling tricks of the trade, fundamentals of fit, working with still life, hand sewing and in-depth fashion show studies.

  2. 2

    Millinery

    Students with a flair for flashy headwear will enjoy this certificate focused on developing skills for the creation of fashion-forward hats and head accessories. Studies include learning about fabrics and other materials, construction, special occasion headwear and seasonal wear.

  3. 3

    Graphic Design in Fashion

    Understanding how to use design-specific technology is crucially important in the fashion industry; students undertaking this course will learn how to use the software most often associated with design including Microsoft Excel, Illustrator, Photoshop, Kaledo, WebPDM and NedGraphics.

  4. 4

    Fashion Business

    A passion for fashion doesn't always translate into a desire to design pieces. For students who love the industry but want to work on the organizational side, the fashion business certificate will develop skills in finance, marketing, retailing and information technology specific to the fashion industry.

Fashion Design Associate Degrees

Lots of interesting options exist for students looking to pursue fashion design at the associate degree level. Typically offered as an Associate of Fine Arts or an Associate of Applied Science, these programs attract many professionals who already have a college background and are seeking a career change. Most programs are 32-36 credit hours, can be completed in 1-2 years and do not require any prerequisites. Given the immersive nature of associate programs, classes are similar to those at bachelor's level are but exclude a general education focus. Some of these could include:

  • Structured Silhouettes

    Focused on equipping students with essentials of construction, this course covers principles of scale, sketching, draping and construction of tailored garments.
  • Color Theory

    Color is analyzed from every perspective during this class; students will come to understand the cultural, social and psychological implications associated with colors. Specific theoretical frameworks are taught, including the illusion of transparency, contrast and patterns.
  • Sewing Techniques

    The entire process of creating a garment is reviewed in this course; from cutting to construction and fitting to finishing, students will have an understanding of the full development. They will also be immersed in learning how to use industrial sewing machinery and selecting the appropriate types of fabrics.
  • Pattern-Making and Construction

    Offered as beginner and advanced classes throughout the degree, this course teaches students about both flat pattern design and two-dimensional methods of garment design. Concepts such as slash-and-spread and pivot techniques will be reviewed and students will likely have project requirements relating to proper form and fit.

Fashion Design Bachelor's Degrees

Two options exist for fashion design degrees at this level. While a Bachelor of Arts will emphasize a liberal arts underpinning supported by studio practice, a Bachelor of Fine Arts will require a creative thesis project such as designing a collection. While most schools do not have prerequisites at this level, demonstrable interest in fashion or design will help potential candidates stand out for competitive programs. Internships are a vital component of most degrees and will give students hands-on experience and networking opportunities. Study abroad options are also sometimes available in international cities of fashion. Core classes generally build upon basic design and patternmaking skills learned in the first two years before moving on to more advanced topics. Programs are typically completed in four years of full-time study. A sampling of popular courses is given below.

  • Introduction to Fashion Technology

    Students will learn the basis of design software used within the fashion industry, including the use of bitmap and vector tools. In addition to skills in digital drawing, topics on industry expectations will be covered.
  • Apparel Construction

    Provides an overview of techniques, including patternmaking, draping, sizing and sewing a complete project.
  • History of Costume

    Usually offered in survey format, the course reviews costumes throughout the ages, touching on moments of history ranging from the Ancient Greeks and Shakespeare to modern day theatre and film designs.
  • Fashion Drawing

    This course introduces concepts of proportion, silhouettes, body types, movement and detailing while exposing students to varied forms of mediums. Emphasis is placed on both traditional drawing techniques and digital methods.

Fashion Design Master's Degrees

Master's degrees in fashion design prepare graduates to move from assistants to primary designers, buyers, merchandisers and more. Most programs do not have fashion-related prerequisites or admissions criteria but more competitive departments may require a portfolio. Hours required for completion range between 36-42 hours depending on the program and the student's choice of capstone project. Hands-on practice in a structured environment forms an important component of master's degrees in fashion design and nearly all will require some form of field experience such as an internship, assistantship or other work experience. Core courses will involve fashion history, drawing, materials, silhouettes, tailoring, draping and other specialized topics. Some of the master's level courses students could expect to take include:

  • Fashion Buying and Merchandising

    Gives students an understanding of the processes, operations and best practices in the retail arena; topics could include inventory management, seasonal planning, pricing schemes, markdown theory, and understanding profitability.
  • Interpreting Fashion

    Introduces students to the scholarly study of fashion as pieces of history and culture; students will engage in discussions on how fashion has informed and shaped generational change and examine how their own designs fit into (or break) the mold of current trends.
  • Entrepreneurial Studies in Fashion

    A key course for those aspiring to have their own brand, this course prepares students to conceptualize and plan for starting a line and typically includes the development of a comprehensive business plan.
  • Textiles and Materials Design

    This course is often divided into lecture and studio practice portions, examining the history and concept of materials in design and allowing students to learn about material creation techniques. Common skills acquired during this course include weaving, knitting, crocheting and printing and will involve both traditional and digital methods.

Fashion Design PhD or Dual Degrees

While PhD programs specifically in fashion design do not currently exist, several similar options are available. Students seeking to pursue a fashion education at the doctoral level should research programs in apparel design, textile and apparel management or apparel science. Do note that, given the level of hands-on design and development work required of these degrees, it could be hard to find a program offered fully online.

Fashion Design Toolbox/Checklist

What to Look for

In addition to the expected skills of sketching, draping, silhouette design, garment construction and sewing, interested students should seek out programs offering a design curriculum balanced with courses in business, finance, communication and other practical skills that will help them market themselves and their designs.

  • Software/Technological Knowledge

    Increasingly, conceptual design is done via digital platforms. It is imperative for graduates to have a firm grasp on the common software used within the industry. Some of these include Microsoft Excel, Illustrator, Photoshop, Kaledo, WebPDM and NedGraphics.

  • Internships

    Internships and experiential learning play a crucial role in fashion design education; as most entry-level positions will look for at least two years of work experience, students should actively seek out any and all opportunities outside the classroom.

  • Certifications

    Undertaking a certificate in fashion design related-topics can serve two purposes. For students looking to learn the basics of design, a fundamental design certification can introduce them to all the baseline skills necessary. Alternatively, professionals already working in the industry could take advantage of an advanced certificate to build their skills in a concentration.

  • Skills and Personality

    While it is a given that all designers have a creative streak, they also need to be able to communicate. Whether working with investors, design assistants, photographers, stylists, casting agents or merchandisers, designers must be able to communicate their vision and execution plan in order to be successful. Determination is also vital; new designers will be expected to pay their dues and many hone their craft for years before achieving recognition. Students considering this career must be passionate about fashion and prepared to work hard doing what they truly love.

  • Fashion Design Specializations

    No two days in the life of a fashion designer are ever the same; the fast-paced nature of the industry means designers are expected to think on their feet and adapt quickly. One minute they could be sketching out a new design and the next they could be handling a shipping crisis. For students identifying a specific area of the industry appealing most to them, numerous concentrations are offered to help them excel in their chosen field.

  • Merchandising

    For those who love fashion but want to work on the business side, a concentration in merchandising prepares students to be high-powered buyers, visual merchandisers, fashion show coordinators, stylists or product developers and managers. Students will learn the basic concepts associated with clothing design and manufacturing alongside core courses, allowing them to be versatile and indispensable fashion professionals.

  • Children's Wear

    Students interested in outfitting the future generations should consider a concentration in children's wear. After undertaking core design courses common to general fashion design programs, students will specialize their skills in children's apparel through courses on designing for children, understanding common children's fabrics and children's wear licensing.

  • Costume Design

    For students with a passion for fashion who also love theatre and film, a costume design concentration will allow them to marry their interests into a fulfilling and exciting career as a costume designer. In addition to core design classes, students undertake interdisciplinary courses on topics such as acting, movement of actors, history of costume, set and lighting design and interpreting genres.

Interview

Jamie Atlas, the Dean of the Fashion Design program at O'More College of Design

Q. What should potential students be aware of before applying to a fashion design program?

Project Runway does not provide a realistic look into an accredited fashion design program or the detailed and meticulous process of design. The work is rigorous and far from glamorous. However, student designers do not mind the intensive projects and workload because it is a progression leading to a successful career in the industry they love.

Q. What are common traits of designers who have achieved success?

Successful fashion designers that include but are not limited to Ralph Lauren, Billy Reid, Vera Wang, Tory Burch, Michael Kors and Nanette Lepore are excellent communicators and businessmen and women. Each of them found a niche and understood the importance of targeting that market. Accomplished designers are competitive and do not take no for an answer.

Q. What can potential students and young designers do to make themselves competitive?

Focus on communication skills and take as many business courses and/or workshops in entrepreneurship, financial management, manufacturing, sourcing, branding, marketing and social media. In addition, intern with a variety of large and small businesses. Entry-level positions in the industry look for 2-3 years of experience, and internships can provide that experience.

Q. What advice do you have for those considering a career change into the fashion industry?

It is never too late. Typically the strongest students and graduates made a career change or decided to pursue a fashion design degree while working towards a different degree. It is important to love what you do, and if you can make money doing something you love, it is well worth the extra time working towards that goal.

Q. What should students expect when enrolling in a fashion design program, both in terms of what will be expected of them and what they can hope to gain?

An accredited fashion design program is a demanding degree that will require a lot of sleepless night working on projects, but students loving what they are working towards beyond graduation enjoy and take in every minute of learning.

After Fashion Design School: What's Next

The fashion industry is known for being a highly competitive environment; graduates are expected to gain hands-on experience during their studies and should take advantage of any internship or assistantship opportunities available. Upon graduation, even entry-level positions will require at least two years of experience. Job titles available to new graduates include junior visual merchandiser, assistant buyer, editorial assistant or design assistant.

Above all, graduates trying to break into the industry should be extremely passionate about the field, dedicated to working hard, prepared to work long and unsociable hours, and understand that it could take a number of years before they are in their dream position.

The types of employers graduates could find themselves working for are wide ranging. Some of the most popular include stylists, photographers, designers, casting agents, textile manufacturers, retailers, costumers or a variety of publication outlets.

  • Fashion Designers

    Use technology and sketching to create designs for clothing and accessories. Fashion designers are able to follow fashion trends and even forecast future fashion trends. They should understand a variety of fabrics and how they work as clothing. They may specialize in on facet of clothing such as costuming, children's wear, handbags and shoes, and more.

    Median salary: $63,760
    Hourly salary: $30.65
    Growth: -3%
    Number employed: 22,300

  • Fashion Writers

    Fashion writers may write about fashion and the fashion world for fashion magazines, blogs and online publications. They may be required to travel to cover designer collections and fashion shows. They have knowledge of fashion and strong research skills.

    Median salary: $57,750
    Hourly salary: $27.77
    Growth: 3%
    Number employed: 129,100

  • Fashion Buyers

    Keep abreast of the latest fashion trends and anticipate future trends, have connections and insight into the fashion world, understand the history of fashion, and understand business principals as well. They are able to combine those skills to discern what fashions should be obtained for sale in their organization or company. They should understand textiles and fabric and understand how these aspects of fashion appeal to customers, along with overall design.

    Median salary: $52,370
    Hourly salary: $25.18
    Growth: 4%
    Number employed: 125,000

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