Fashion design is the practice and craft of employing the principles of design, style, structure, and beauty to items worn on the body. Partially directed by cultural and social trends, and also highly varied throughout history and across the globe, this form of art is fast-paced and always in the midst of transformation. As trends change and different styles of fashion become popular and then fade, fashion design works to innovate and present both new and classical takes on clothing and enhancing the human form. From the popularity of the bustle skirt in the 1870s to the shoulder pad fad of the 1980s, fashion designers have shaped the way people see and decorate themselves in the world.

Fashion designers often begin by studying and observing emerging trends in fashion (as well as in society at large) and translating them into digital or hand-drawn renderings. These renderings, along with the draping of fabric on model forms, are used to create patterns for each garment and to aid in the imagination of the finished product. Key considerations present in fashion design include, but are not limited to: functionality, color, shape, texture, seasonality, affordability, beauty, and comfort. Often, garments are inspired by modern art, history, nature, or specific characters or personalities of the age.

Fashion design is said to have begun in Paris during the nineteenth century, when a former draper sewed a label with his name on it into his fashion creation. From that point on, fashion has developed down many different paths. While Haute couture designers choose to focus on high end, dramatic and technically complicated or culturally influential pieces, other designers are hired by big box stores such as Target and Nordstrom to create affordable everyday pieces for the modern man, woman and child. In between these two paths is the ready-to-wear, or prêt-à-porter market, focusing on chic, wearable fashion that reflects the drama and modernity of Haute couture with a more accessible price tag.

Every season in cities all over the world, fashion week is held as an opportunity for the most prolific designers to showcase their collections for the new season and meet with buyers and fellow designers. Often these shows are attended by movie and music stars, department store owners, and private buyers interested in the latest designs.

The study and career of fashion design can be approached generally, but often both brands and designers choose to specialize in a unique niche such as bridal, menswear, sportswear, lingerie, accessories or swimwear (among others). Fashion studies usually include many if not all of the following subjects:

  • Basic design and drawing
  • Art history
  • Fashion merchandising
  • Draping
  • Sewing
  • Pattern-making
  • Marketing
  • Costume design
  • Fashion drawing
  • History of fashion design
  • Materials
  • Graphic design
  • Technical design

Several degrees are available under the fashion design umbrella, including but not limited to:

  • Fashion Merchandising (Bachelor’s degree)
  • Fashion Design (Bachelor of Fine Arts)
  • Costume Design (Bachelor of Fine Arts)
  • Fashion Technology (Professional diploma)
  • Fashion and Textile Design (Bachelor of Fine Arts)
  • Masters of Design (Master’s of Fine Arts)

Another offshoot of fashion design, large enough to be called its own industry and career path, is that of costume design. Costume designers work to create costumes for film, traditional theatre, television, Broadway shows, and more. From James Bond to Rent, costume design helps characters to embody history, personality, mood, and overall themes. Costume design studies often include all of the same training as fashion design, with an added emphasis on historical research and development, characterization, and theatrical styling.

Careers in this industry are highly competitive and demanding, but they can be very rewarding provided that one is willing to put in a great deal of hard work. There is constant demand for creative, passionate, and committed designers in this exciting territory of wearable art.

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