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Bachelor's degree programs in fashion design can provide students with skills and hands-on experience relevant to the design world. While the type of degree earned varies by school, students usually pursue either a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in fashion design. Individuals can apply the degree toward an entry-level career or a master's degree in fashion design.

Online bachelor's degree in fashion design: coursework and overview

Over the course of four years, a typical full-time student takes required fashion design courses in addition to courses in other disciplines. Examples of courses both inside and outside of the degree program that can benefit fashion design students are reviewed below:

Fashion Design Degree Courses

  • Fashion Design: Introductory courses provide an overview of various aspects of the fashion design industry, such as production and terminology, and may also review industry trends.
  • Drawing: Students explore and gain experience in a variety of drawing techniques specific to fashion design, such as model drawing. Degree programs often offer both introductory and advanced drawing courses.
  • Textiles: Courses examine textile characteristics and applications in fashion design and also explore a variety of specific materials, such as fiber, yarn, and finishes.
  • Draping: Students receive an introduction to draping and pattern-making techniques and apply those techniques using a three-dimensional form.
  • Portfolio: Students develop a portfolio of their fashion design work for entry-level careers and may also learn how to present it to potential employers.

Courses outside of Fashion Design

  • Communications: Courses help students develop and enhance interpersonal, public speaking, and written communications skills. Many schools offer a variety of specialized courses in topics such as business communications and oral communications.
  • Art History: Introductory courses, a requirement for some fashion design programs, explore and compare art across different cultures and time periods, such as the prehistoric era. Schools frequently offer an array of art history electives, often centered on a specific time period.
  • Marketing Research: Individuals study research techniques and processes, learning how to conduct, analyze, and interpret market research data -- often for decision-making purposes.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many individuals studying fashion design can submit their designs to student or amateur contests, providing an opportunity to expand their portfolios.

Potential careers for individuals with a bachelor's degree in fashion design

While a bachelor's degree is not always required for fashion design jobs, the BLS states that many designers earn a two or four-year degree in a relevant field. Postsecondary education can, in fact, help students acquire useful design skills, such as the ability to use computer-aided design (CAD) technology. Individuals can apply their degree to a variety of fashion design specializations, some of which are reviewed below:

  • Clothing designers develop and assist in the production of men's, women's, and children's apparel. They may also specialize in a specific type of clothing, such as sportswear, evening wear, or maternity clothes. Students interested in designing clothes can learn techniques and gain experience in examining how their designs look through draping courses. Additionally, textiles courses may help students interested in clothing design to further their knowledge of fabrics and other materials used in clothing production.
  • Footwear designers create various shoe and boot styles. They also select materials and develop designs to incorporate comfort, function, and form in footwear. Drawing courses can help students gain experience sketching designs and styles, and marketing research classes can help them learn the skills and tools used in investigating popular and emerging design trends.
  • Accessory designers create and design fashion accessories, including suitcases, belts, handbags, and eyewear. Like footwear designers, accessory designers may gain and improve upon their skills in sketching designs and researching relevant trends through drawing and marketing research courses.
  • Costume designers design costumes for the performing arts, television shows, and movies in accordance with the allocated budget. They may also research styles or collaborate with directors to produce costumes appropriate to the setting of each performance. Some schools offer electives specific to costume design that could help students gain experience in this area.

In addition to pursuing one of the above careers, individuals with a bachelor's in fashion design have an opportunity to further their education in the subject with a master's degree (typically an MFA) in fashion design. Students interested in MFA programs should contact an admissions counselor to discuss qualifications and requirements.


"Fashion Designers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/fashion-designers.htm

"27-1022.00 - Fashion Designers," O*NET OnLine, 2015, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/27-1022.00

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