Fashion Design Education & Careers

Fashion Design Education & Careers

Introduction to Fashion | Career Challenges | Career Outlook | Education | Accreditation


Introduction to Fashion

Clothing is considered one of the basic necessities of life. Originally we clothed ourselves for protection from the natural elements, but later that motivation was joined by other reasons. We began to wear clothes -- and to be selective about what clothes we wore -- to make ourselves more appealing to others, to help us feel better about ourselves, to decorate and to communicate.

To accomplish these ends, clothiers thoughout time developed a host of materials and methods that they could use. By combining different textures, colors and materials in unique ways, and customizing the end results to suit each subject's particular needs, the act of clothing an individual evolved from a nessessity to an art.

Over time, that art has developed and expanded.

From sarapes to sandwich boards, the variety of apparrel that humans can create to express themselves appears to be endless. The notion of fashion now goes well beyond mere clothing. It includes the accessories that people use in their daily lives, like billfolds and backpacks. Apparel fashion melds into larger fashion landscapes, integrating itself with home fashion, product fashion, and others. An understanding and appreciation of fashion design is not just for clothing designers, but for merchandisers, purchasers and anyone else who works in an area that defines or promotes the styles and looks we live by.


Career Challenges

Fashion centers are regionally located and designers must usually live in just one of a few places - New York City and Los Angeles are promininent in the U.S..

Working conditions will range from the office studio to the manufacturing floor. At times, fashion designers may travel for showings or to communicate with manufacturers about their creations.

The fashion world experiences a certain amount of seasonality, during which designers can expect to work longer hours. Other times they may be working a typical 40 hour week.

Fashion designers now have more colors, materials and construction methods at their disposal than at any othe time in history. But even with the revolution in computers and computer graphic programs, sketching by hand is still an integral part of the creation process. Designers must develop their ideas, either alone or with a team, from the first layouts to the finished product.

Besides considering the qualities of the materials (weight, color, texture, elastisity, durabilty, expense, and chemical propeties, to name a few), designers should consider how the garmet or accessory will be constructed. What kind of stiching should it have? What is the most economical way to cut patterns out of bolts of material? And so forth.

Many fashion designers are self-employed, and so need to be skilled in all aspects of the creation process. Other designers may be specialized, leaving the actual assembly work to others. Still others may not work directly with the creation of garments at all -- instead working as purchasers for large mechandising houses or department stores, or selling fashion merchandise directly to the public.

People employed in all these areas of fashion need to pay continual attention to changes in fashion trends, tastes and attitudes.


Career Outlook

With only 16,900 fashion designers in the United States, entrants into the field may expect heavy competition for jobs. And since the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts only 5% growth through 2016, that competition will be keen.

But of the job openings that do come, many will arise from the need to replace fashion designers who leave the field, and for designers in design firms that create mass market clothing sold in department stores and retail chain stores.

The mean annual income for fashion designers is roughly $71,400. Entry level workers can expect to earn $32,000 to $42,000,while experienced and successful designers can earn between $87,120 and $124,780. Salaries may vary enormously depending on the employer, the economic environment, and the location.



A bachelor's or associate's degree in fashion is often required by employers seeking candidates who are knowledgeable about textiles, fabrics, ornamentation, and fashion trends. See Degrees in Fashion to learn more about degree options.



Part of ensuring that you get the right education is checking to see that the schools you are interested in are accredited. Accreditation means that the school meets educational standards developed by certain accrediting agencies.

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