How to Become a Clothing Designer in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a clothing designer. Learn about the duties of this job, the education requirements and salary range to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Fashion Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Clothing Designer?

Clothing designers or fashion designers create and fabricate clothing to match various purposes and market demands. This typically involves researching market trends to inform a new product, then creating an initial design on paper or with the help of computer software. The garment then gets produced, often in a series of prototypes. Clothing designers often work as part of a design team to complete this process, especially within larger apparel companies.

Clothing designers may choose to specialize in a particular type of clothing, such as men's, women's, children, casual, or formal. They might also be self-employed or work for a small design company, rather than a large one. These people often rely on the Internet or e-commerce to market and sell products.

The following chart provides an overview of the education, job outlook and average salary in this field.

Degree Required Associate's or bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Fashion design, patternmaking, fabrication, illustration, CAD software, fine art, communication
Certification Certificate in clothing design
Key Responsibilities Researching, creating, fabricating or locating costumes appropriate to the needs of productions
Job Growth 3% (2014-2024)*
Mean Annual Salary $73,180 (2015)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Research Clothing Design Careers and Education

Working as a clothing designer would require you to sketch designs, select colors and fabrics, research trends and make sure finished products meet expectations. Once you have sketched your designs and selected the materials, you'll create prototypes of your designs and make any necessary adjustments. If you work for a smaller design firm or are just starting out in the business, you may also be involved in the technical aspects of clothing design, such as sewing, patternmaking and tailoring.

Completing an undergraduate degree program in fashion design is usually required to get started in this career. You may also consider taking related courses, such as fashion merchandising, business and marketing courses, since these can help you with operating your own business.

Step 2: Prepare For a College Program

Acceptance to design schools accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) often requires prospective students to submit portfolios that demonstrate their design and creative abilities. You may consider taking art and design courses in high school to assist you in creating your portfolio.

Step 3: Earn Your Degree

Common concepts covered in associate's and bachelor's degree programs in fashion design include computer-aided design (CAD), patternmaking, sewing, fashion history, textiles, draping and tailoring. You may also be required to develop a portfolio of your work or complete an internship. If you choose a bachelor's degree program, you'll likely create a clothing collection that you present toward the end of your course of study.

Step 4: Choose an Area of Specialty

You may choose to specialize in a specific category of clothing such as bridal, formal, maternity or casual wear. Additionally, you may design apparel for a specific gender or age group, such as children, juniors, misses or men. As a clothing designer, you also have the option to work for a design firm, manufacturer or wholesale supplier, or you can work as an independent designer.

Step 5: Work as an Intern

You can gain valuable industry experience through an internship position with a design company or independent designer. This opportunity can allow you to hone your design skills and gain exposure to the business aspects of the field. You'll also have the opportunity to network and form relationships that can help you later obtain permanent employment.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Clothing designers are often involved in the full process, from design to production, of wearable apparel. If this interests you but you aren't sure if clothing is quite the right industry, you could consider becoming a floral designer or graphic designer. Graphic designers often hold at least a bachelor's degree, and are responsible for developing layouts and production designs for various applications, like advertising or corporate reporting. Floral designers, on the other hand, have a more tactile, less technology-based job description, involving cutting and arranging flowers and other greenery to make decorative displays.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:

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  • The Art Institutes

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  • Michigan State University

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    • Iowa: Ames