What Education Do I Need to Become a Clothing Designer?

Oct 20, 2021

The education needed to become a clothing designer involves the completion of a bachelor's degree in a field related to fashion design. During postsecondary studies, students typically learn about textiles, pattern drafting, sketching for fashion, and sewing. Finding work in the industry requires a strong design portfolio, and experience gained through an internship can help as well.

Essential Information

Most professional clothing designers gain their training by completing a fashion design degree program, typically at the bachelor's level. Some designers specialize by clothing type, such as wedding attire or theatrical costumes. They can train in these specialty areas by pursuing elective courses during their degree program. To find a job, it's important for clothing designers to develop a portfolio of their designs that demonstrates their creativity and technical ability.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Design portfolio
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* -4% for all fashion designers
Median Salary (2020)* $75,810 for all fashion designers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements for Clothing Designers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many employers prefer to hire individuals with a formal education in fashion design (www.bls.gov). Most fashion design degree programs teach students about fashion textiles, design fundamentals and design technology. Coursework typically includes pattern drafting, fashion sketching, sewing, fashion history and textiles.

Fashion sketching courses provide training in drawing multiple clothing styles on different-sized models. In fashion textile courses, students learn about different types of fabric, including how the fabric is made, maintenance instructions and typical fabric uses in the fashion industry. Since designers often make prototypes of their designs, sewing courses provide useful instruction in how to use sewing machines and sergers correctly.

Some fashion design degree programs also include business training. Business courses teach students about the marketing side of the business. Students also learn how to showcase fashion designs, such as in display windows or on runway models. Many degree programs also teach students about creating a professional portfolio, which contains drawings and photographs of a student's best fashion designs.

Educational Programs for Wedding Attire Clothing Designers

Designers specializing in wedding attire may choose to focus on designing one particular type of wedding clothing, such as wedding dresses, tuxedos or wedding party apparel. Classes in bridal wear often cover specialized sewing techniques, such as how to sew on delicate lace, intricate beadwork or other trimmings that are specific to wedding clothes. Courses might address designing fabric trains, wedding headgear and how to coordinate colors and textures among the wedding party.

Education Programs for Costume Clothing Designers

Costume designers create the outfits and aesthetic look of characters for plays, movies and television. Elective courses in costume design instruct students on how to read through scripts and find visual clues about a character's costume and personality. Many courses also teach about historical costume design, which can help designers who want to specialize in designing historically accurate pieces. Students also learn how to design accessories that complement each costume design concept.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS anticipated there to be 4% decline in the number of fashion designer (including clothing designer) jobs from 2019-2029. Workers who are educated in the field, have strong portfolios and hold industry experience will likely have the best luck finding employment. In May 2020, the median salary of fashion designers was $75,810 annually, per BLS reports.

Depending on the school and program, some students of clothing design also study business and marketing strategies within the fashion industry. Other important skills learned in an undergraduate program might include how to showcase fashions or instruction on how various fabrics are made and maintained. Some programs offer instruction in specialty areas, such as costume design or wedding attire.

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