The Fashion Design program educates students in the art, philosophy, theory, process, and product of fashion design in the 21st Century. The curriculum provides an aesthetic and intellectual environment founded on the design process, enhanced by the interplay of technique, function, technology, and individual creative expression.
Coursework addresses the design process and its relationship to the retail cycle. Both involve a repetitive pattern of analysis and creativity. The program expands on the essential foundations of the liberal arts, encouraging students to be innovative, multidisciplinary thinkers and skilled communicators.
When pursuing a major in Fashion Design, you work with faculty who are experts in the field. They offer a comprehensive array of academic, historical, creative and practical learning experiences related to the construction and design of fashion apparel.
You learn about the materials used to make garments, gaining knowledge of fibers, weaves, and finishes. You also learn various techniques, functions, and technologies while developing your own original ideas and designs.
Your starting point with the degree is SOAD-A 100, Pathways: Introduction to Art, Design & Merchandising. In this course you gain wide exposure to different studio art disciplines, design disciplines, and how creative work enters the marketplace.
Next, you take SOAD-F 203 Materials for Fashion Design and Merchandising and SOAD-F 202, the associated lab on Textile Science.
In addition, Fashion Design majors take two Studio Art courses and two Art History courses. They pick from a variety of topics such as drawing, color, textiles or metalsmithing, and study different art historical movements ranging from the Renaissance and Baroque to Modern and Contemporary Art to non-Western arts and cultures.
Tracks and concentrations
Fashion Design courses are taught with a variety of methods, from lectures to labs to studios. Studio courses meet three hours twice a week to provide time for technical demonstrations and in-depth engagement with the design process. Students have access to classrooms and specialized equipment after hours to complete their creative projects.
All majors take 28 credit hours of core courses that focus on illustration, ideation and three levels of sewing and garment construction. While there are no official tracks or concentrations in the major, students can explore individual interests through elective coursework. You take nine hours of Advanced Courses, including one course in Experimental Fashion Studio, one in Dress Studies, and a third course from either category.
Students also study the history of fashion to gain understanding of the evolution of dress in Western civilization and the emergence of haute couture.
Upper level coursework
Your upper level coursework in studio topics broadens your knowledge of pattern development and other construction techniques, including tailoring, draping, and working with special materials. You learn digital drawing and layout skills to develop a portfolio of creative work suited for the apparel and textiles industries. You also study the cultural, theoretical, and aesthetic aspects of fashion through coursework in Dress Studies.
Students have the opportunity to examine historic garments up close from the Sage Fashion Collection and learn about museum practices and collection management. It's also possible to participate in an industry field seminar, meeting with business professionals in New York City or other fashion capitals around the world.
The Fashion Design major culminates with the Spring Fashion Show, usually in the senior year. Students develop a collection of three to five original garments and present their looks in a formal runway setting. The highly-anticipated event often involves collaboration with other students studying Apparel Merchandising, Jewelry Design or Interior Design.
Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates
Your coursework in the Fashion Design major represents about one third of the credits needed for the degree. With the help of your academic advisor, you may be able to pursue several areas of interest through additional majors, minors, or certificates. Some related fields include Art History, Anthropology, Folklore and Ethnomusicology, and Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance.
Many Fashion Design majors choose to pursue a minor in Apparel Merchandising or Business. They may also consider a SoAAD minor in Illustration, Creative Technologies, Interior Design Studies, or Studio Art.
Check your bulletin for more information about these and other minors.
- Enhance your major
Working with faculty
When pursuing a Fashion Design B.A. degree, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise in fields such as commercial design, product development, costume design, dress studies, and fashion history. Professors bring their knowledge from personal research and experience working for well-known theaters, apparel labels, and retail companies into the classroom.
Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of readings and assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.
A limited number of Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (UTA) positions are available for junior or senior students to assist faculty in certain Fashion Design courses. Eligible students complete an application process and usually have excelled in these particular courses.
Undergraduate scholarships and awards
Students in the School of Art, Architecture + Design can compete for annual scholarships and awards based on high-achievement in their major courses. SoAAD awarded over $100,000 in scholarships to students at the 2018 Scholarship Awards Ceremony. The deadline to apply for these awards is in November each year.
The College of Arts and Sciences offers additional scholarships and awards.
Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts in your field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities as early as after their sophomore year, though employers often prefer students who are juniors or seniors.
Many large and medium-sized companies participate in on-campus recruiting through the Walter Center for Career Achievement. Additionally, SoAAD alumni alert students to opportunities in their companies and organizations. Previous Fashion Design students have worked or interned for retailers and designer brands such as:
- Adidas / Reebok
- Bass Pro Shops
- Betsey Johnson
- Bill Blass
- Chico's FAS
- Club Monaco
- Elo Sportswear / Nina Leonard
- Forever 21
- Gap Inc.
- Isaac Mizrahi
- James Coviello
- Jill Stuart
- L Brands
- Liz Claiborne
- Michael Kors
- Nanette Lepore
- Oscar de la Renta
- Perry Ellis
- Phillip Lim
- Rag & Bone
- Ralph Lauren
- Ralph Rucci
- Saks Fifth Avenue
- Sies Marjan
- Vera Bradley
- Vera Wang
- Victoria’s Secret
- Zac Posen
Qualified students may earn credit for an internship by enrolling in SOAD-X 373 Internship in Professional Practice, available during the summer. Students should consult with their academic advisor to learn more about this opportunity.
Foreign language study
As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 60 languages.
Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington.
- Arabic Flagship Program
- Center for Language Technology
- Chinese Flagship Program
- Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships
- IU Summer Language Workshop
- Language Tables
- Project GO
- Turkish Flagship Program
Study abroad can be an enriching part of your undergraduate education in an increasingly globalized world. Fashion Design majors often pursue summer or semester-long coursework through the following overseas study programs:
- Wells College - Florence, Italy
- Accademia Italiana - Florence, Italy
- London College of Fashion - England
SoAAD faculty also lead summer overseas study programs in locations such Barcelona, Florence, Venice, and Kyoto.
Scholarships for study abroad are available from the following sources:
- Cindy Simon Skjodt Study Abroad Scholarship
- Hutton International Experiences Program
- Office of Overseas Study Scholarships
With more than 400 members, SoAAD's Retail Studies Organization (RSO) is among the largest student organizations at Indiana University. RSO members have access to professional development events, industry field seminars, leadership opportunities, and networking with leading apparel industry executives.
Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist on campus, or to start a new one.
There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:
- Global Gifts
- Habitat for Humanity ReStore
- IU Corps
- IU Eskenazi Museum of Art
- Mathers Museum of World Cultures
- Monroe County History Center
- My Sister's Closet
- Vintage Vogue by GW
Fashion Design students often submit designs or participate in the annual Trashion Refashion Runway Show in downtown Bloomington.
Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about other local opportunities and organizations.
The following professional organizations are of particular interest to students pursuing the Fashion Design B.A. degree:
- American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists
- Costume Society of America CSA
- Custom Tailors and Designers Association
- Fashion Group International FGI
- International Association of Clothing Designers and Executives
- International Textile and Apparel Association ITAA
- Textile Society of America
- Build your skills
Through the major
The major in Fashion Design provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferrable to many areas of study and work. These include:
- The ability to communicate clearly in written, oral, and visual formats
- A working knowledge of typical business practices within art and design markets, including merchandising through various channels, product development, sourcing, branding, and consumer engagement
- The ability to work productively in teams that include artists and designers
- A thorough understanding of the skills needed to solve both quantitative and qualitative problems within the merchandising industry
- Knowledge of and facility with extant and emergent technologies
- A deep appreciation for the physical, cognitive, cultural, and social factors that influence consumer behavior, particularly within art and design markets
- The ability to respect, understand, and critically evaluate work in a variety of disciplines within art, design, and merchandising
Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree
Together with your other coursework, your degree provides many opportunities to develop the following abilities, as identified by the 11 Goals of the College of Arts and Sciences:
- Achieve the genuine literacy required to read, listen, speak and write clearly and persuasively
- Learn to think critically and creatively
- Develop intellectual flexibility and breadth of mind
- Discover ethical perspectives
- Cultivate a critically informed appreciation of literature and the arts
- Practice and apply scientific methods
- Learn to reason quantitatively
- Develop historical consciousness
- Investigate and study the international community
- Develop and practice communication skills in public settings and in the study of at least one foreign language
- Pursue in-depth knowledge of at least one subject
Skills desired by employers
Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.
The following abilities are sought in the job market across many employment sectors:
- Communicate effectively with persons both inside and outside the organization
- Work in a team structure
- Make decisions and solve problems
- Plan, organize, and prioritize work
- Obtain and process relevant information
- Analyze quantitative data
- Create and/or edit written reports
- Obtain technical knowledge related to the job
- Proficiency with computer software programs
- Ability to persuade or influence others
As you explore various career fields, you should pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.
Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.
- Launch your career
Plan your search
A good starting point for exploring your career options is an appointment with a career coach. Fashion Design majors have a dedicated career coach in art and design who assists with internship and career planning.
The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.
Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.
You might want to take a career course to help you maximize your time at IU. SoAAD students should consider taking ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. This course provides the opportunity for students to explore the relationship between their chosen field of study and life after graduation while developing a career and academic development plan for post-collegiate success.
The job market
The employment outlook is positive for students with a B.A. in Fashion Design. Designers are always needed in the mass market for everyday wear. Now more than ever, due to the evolving world of fabric technology, fashion designers are needed to keep up with the demand for fashion and accessories made from new, alternative fabrics.
Fashion Design majors take their education in many directions, with most graduates moving directly into full-time entry-level positions. In addition to opportunities at corporate offices and with independent designers, opportunities are available with internet-based companies and design firms. Recent graduates have worked in the areas of technical design, product development, pattern making, and merchandising. Students have also used the Fashion Design degree to transition into careers in costume design, wardrobe management, journalism, public relations, sales, and other related fields.
The Innovators Guide provides job outlooks for a variety of creative and design professionals. The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations, including those in the art and design fields.
Talk with faculty, your academic advisor, career coach and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates with this degree.
Post-graduate short-term experiences
After graduation, a short-term work experience or internship can help you make connections, further develop your design portfolio, and assess your interest in future careers. Talk with your career coach and use these and other resources to find opportunities that fit with your goals:
- All Retail Jobs
- Coroflot Design Jobs
- Society of Publication Designers Job Board
- Teach for America
Fellowships for post-graduate study
Fellowships are temporary post-graduate opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profit, and government organizations.
Good resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:
Graduate and professional study
When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your creative work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.
Some Fashion Design majors have pursued advanced degrees in fashion design, costume studies, or museum studies. Use these and other resources to research master programs related to fashion design:
You might consider these Indiana University graduate opportunities:
The IU College of Arts and Sciences organizes Alumni and Friends events. Check out the IU College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.
Join and use the IU Alumni Association to remain in touch, network directly, and let others know where your path takes you.
Is it for you?
The Fashion Design B.A. degree attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically possess some of the following qualities:
- Artistic ability in areas such as sewing, drawing, painting, textiles, ceramics or jewelry design
- Creative thinking and a gift for expressing the vision of their designs
- An interest in developing computer skills, including computer-aided design (CAD) programs and graphics editing software
- Organizational and decision-making skills, as well as the ability to work well with others
- Product development skills, to understand how to build a clothing line from start to finish
- Ability to adapt to fast-changing circumstances and work environments
If you are creative and detail-oriented, enjoy working with your hands, and have an aptitude for learning new technical and digital skills, the Fashion Design degree may be a good fit for you.
Contact the Fashion Design academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.
- Department website
- Advisor email address