10 Courses in Fashion Design for Aspiring Designers

Updated March 12, 2023

Close-up of a person with a measuring tape around their neck, at work in a fashion studio.

If you're interested in a career in fashion, there are several educational paths you can pursue and courses you can take. The program you choose may vary, depending on your interests, skills and professional goals. Understanding potential fashion design courses you can pursue allows you to assess what matches your needs and start developing your relevant knowledge and skill set.

In this article, we discuss courses in fashion design, list 10 potential classes you may take and offer tips to help you prepare for a successful career.

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What are fashion design courses?

Fashion design courses represent educational training that individuals participate in to learn how to design and create clothing and accessories. A university or art school may offer students courses in fashion design, allowing them to receive an associate degree, bachelor's degree or master's degree after completing a certain number of courses.

University or college programs can take about four years to complete. Shorter programs may offer students a certificate of achievement, which may last one to three years. Often, students gain direct experience with the creative process in these courses. They may also showcase their design work by developing portfolios or participating in fashion shows.

Related: Fashion Designer Job Description, Outlook, Salary and Skills

10 courses in fashion design

There are often various courses in fashion design you can take at high school and university levels. A typical high school may not offer specialized fashion design courses, but you can pursue particular art electives to prepare for future coursework, like drawing or visual design.

Some universities or art schools also offer pre-college programs to aspiring fashion students. More courses may be available when completing an associate or bachelor's degree. Here are a few courses that relate to fashion design:

1. Apparel construction

A course in apparel construction teaches students the basics of constructing and assembling clothing, such as cutting fabric, working with different materials and sewing seams. Students gain hands-on experience utilizing these concepts to learn how to alter garments and create unique pieces. During this course, you may learn how to use a sewing machine and equipment and gain experience with different construction techniques.

2. Fashion design

A general course in fashion design can teach you about various aspects of the fashion industry. You may learn about fashion design history and recent developments in the industry while completing coursework related to entrepreneurship and product development.

Some fashion design courses may allow students to specialize in a particular area, such as knitwear or sportswear. Many fashion design courses focus on the technical skills needed to pursue a fashion career, such as constructing and tailoring garments or utilizing different textiles and fabrics. You may also learn various visual and digital design techniques.

Related: 12 Schools for Fashion Design

3. Footwear and accessories design

A footwear and accessories design course can prepare you for a more specialized fashion design career. Typically, students in this course learn the skills and knowledge needed to design and develop these items and build a brand.

They may complete coursework on specific footwear and accessories, such as handbags or athletic footwear. Like a fashion design course, you can gain the opportunity to develop your technical design skills.

You may also learn how to create patterns, construct footwear and accessories and use screen printing methods and computer-aided design (CAD) modeling software for your sketches.

4. Jewelry design

A course in jewelry design represents another potential fashion design specialization for students interested in creating jewelry. Students in this course learn how to design and develop jewelry using traditional and digital methods.

Besides technical skills, they may also gain knowledge about the history of jewelry techniques and trends, along with the industry's current status and practices. When learning how to craft jewelry, you may learn to work with different materials, such as metal, wood, plastics and glass. In addition, you may gain gemology knowledge from learning about the different types of gemstones.

Related: How To Become a Jewelry Designer: Steps and Skills

5. Textile and surface design

A textile and surface design course serves as another design specialization to consider before beginning a career in fashion design. This design course focuses on materials rather than garments or accessories. Students learn to design and develop materials used in fashion and interior design contexts.

You may complete coursework that teaches you how to work with different materials using hand techniques, such as screen printing or weaving. You also learn how to use computer software to plan your designs, simulate fabrics or patterns and develop a portfolio.

Related: FAQ: Why Pursue a Degree in Textile Design? (Plus Relevant Jobs)

6. Visual arts

A course in visual arts can teach you concepts related to mediums like painting, drawing and photography. Often, these courses combine traditional approaches to creating visual materials with digital formats.

You can incorporate this knowledge into your designs and use it to support your future branding as a fashion designer. A visual arts course often varies, but some provide coursework relevant to aspiring fashion designers, such as drawing and sketching.

These art forms are fundamental skills for all fashion designers because their ideas begin on paper or digitally before they move to fabric construction. You may learn more about print-making and textiles and develop skills like screen printing, dyeing, weaving, knitting, crocheting and felting. Additionally, coursework can include a focus on enameling and rendering techniques.

Related: A Comprehensive List of Visual Arts Careers

7. Art history

Fashion is an art form, and a course in art history can help you understand the diverse styles of different cultures and societies. Fashion designers often take inspiration for their designs from various sources, including history.

Knowing more about art history can help provide context for your work and ideas. Some art history courses even include coursework focused on fashion history and other relevant fashion topics.

Your coursework may vary depending on the particular classes and your interests, but you can typically expect to learn about art from prehistoric to modern times. Lessons may include the styles popular in a specific era and the techniques used in that period.

Understanding traditional and digital art techniques can be a creative outlet and inspire your fashion designs. While studying art history, you may also learn more about ethics in art, which can be essential for fashion designers to understand, as they often gain inspiration from other designers.

Related: What Is an Art History Major? Definition, Benefits and Key Skills

8. Graphic design

Graphic design courses can help you develop the skills required to create print, web or video designs. It can teach you how to communicate ideas through pictorial elements. This skill can benefit you in the field when you're drawing your sketches digitally rather than with pencil and paper.

Digital drawing skills are critical for fashion designers because they can use more precision due to the digital artwork looking more polished. Coursework may include graphic design history, methodology, branding techniques and typography.

Students also learn traditional and digital design methods, including how to create three-dimensional images for product development purposes or how to implement user-interface design for websites and applications. Fashion brands often prefer candidates with some graphic design experience, as this experience may help them create effective print and digital marketing and promotional materials and develop captivating design elements.

Related: What Is Graphic Design? (Plus Elements, Types and Roles)

9. Tailoring

A tailoring course may provide a more detailed understanding of the tailoring process compared to a typical fashion design course. Tailoring courses teach students how to fit clothes properly and incorporate the knowledge they learned in pattern-making classes. You may learn to adjust patterns and garments for different sizes and develop your understanding of industry tailoring standards and industrial sewing machines.

Related: Seamstresses or Seamsters and Tailors: How Do They Compare?

10. CAD design

A CAD course teaches students how to use the computer programs and software that numerous industry professionals regularly use to design their pieces. They learn technical skills, such as design specifications or terminology, and how to use different types of software to develop patterns or prints. A CAD course can also help you learn the benefits of various CAD software.

Related: What Is Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD)? With Uses and Tips

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Tips for career success in fashion design

A solid educational background and relevant training can provide the foundation for a successful fashion design career. Here are some tips to help you prepare for a successful career while you're completing your education or training:

Pursue internships

While you're still a student, seek internship opportunities to gain valuable hands-on experience in the fashion industry. Working alongside a professional fashion designer can help you understand more about the industry and its day-to-day activities.

It also enables you to build the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue this career. Additionally, internships may help you develop your professional network and meet influential figures in the industry, which can lead to further opportunities.

Related: How To Apply for a Fashion Internship in 7 Steps (With Tips)

Build your professional network

At all levels of your career, whether you're a student or a working designer, it's necessary to build a professional network. You can attend industry events, such as fashion shows, or join professional groups to meet like-minded individuals and peers.

If you're a student, consider meeting with your professors regularly during their office hours. Having these connections can help you stay updated on the latest news in the industry and can potentially lead to opportunities. As you develop relationships in the fashion community, you can focus on creating a positive reputation.

Related: How To Find Fashion Jobs (Plus 10 Careers You Can Pursue)

Identify a fashion niche

As you study to become a fashion designer, consider a niche or a specialized fashion market segment for your work. For example, you may discover you prefer creating outfits and accessories for specific groups of people, like young adults or kids, or that you enjoy designing a particular style of clothing, like sportswear or formal wear. Instead of clothing, you may focus on accessories such as bags or shoes. Identifying your preferred niche can help you differentiate yourself from other designers and build a loyal following.

Related: What Is a Business Niche? (With Different Types of Niches)

Develop your business knowledge and skills

While fashion design may represent a more creative career path, it also requires basic business process knowledge. Some of your fashion coursework may include business, management or marketing topics. If not, consider pursuing another degree or minoring in business or a related field.

Completing specialized business training can also give you the knowledge necessary to develop strategies to succeed in the competitive fashion industry and differentiate your brand. Learning business concepts may allow you to collaborate more effectively with experts in other fields, like marketing and advertising individuals.

Related: 6 Business Skills You Need (And How To Improve Them)

Stay updated on popular fashion trends

Fashion frequently changes, so keeping up with the latest trends can help you better prepare for a career in fashion design. Clothing trends may represent particular styles that customers are interested in or changes in their shopping habits.

You can stay up-to-date by reading industry publications or websites and following fashion experts on social media. Additionally, you can analyze the work of designers you admire to learn how they incorporate changing trends into their brands. Attending fashion shows and events can also help you identify new or innovative trends.

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