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Top 10 Fashion Design Schools and Colleges in the Midwest – 2016

Written by FS StaffMay 24, 2016

Did You Know.... Academy of Art University’s School of Fashion offers BFA's in Fashion, Fashion Merchandising, Textile Design, Fashion Marketing, Fashion Styling, Costume Design, and Fashion Product Development. Learn more.

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Our 2016 rankings of the Top 10 fashion design programs in the Midwest. 

We define the Midwest as Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

Founded in 1910, Kent State University (KSU or Kent State) is home to nearly 29,000 students enrolled in more than 300 degree programs across 11 colleges and the School of Digital Sciences. The College of the Arts is home to the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising (The Fashion School). The school offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers including BA and BFA degrees in Fashion Design, a BFA in Crafts (Jewelry and Metals), a BFA Crafts (Textile Arts), an MA in Fine Arts (Fashion) and an MFA in Design/Technology – Costume Design. Minors in Accessories, Textiles, Costume Design Technology, and Fashion Media are also on the menu and the College of Business Administration offers an MBA with a Concentration in Fashion Design and Merchandising.

All fashion students are eligible to participate in The Fashion School's Annual Fashion Show—FS2: Crescendo, as well as a variety of international programs. According to the school, “study tours to Europe and Asia are offered on a regular basis.” Fashion capitals such as Florence, Paris, London and Hong Kong are often on the menu. 

In addition, The Fashion School has a studio located in New York’s Fashion District. According to the School, the NYC Studio “provides full-semester academic programs for Kent State fashion students in the Fall, Spring, or Summer terms. Guest students, studying fashion at their home school, may also attend the program during Summer Session.”

2. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

Iowa State University was officially established on March 22, 1858 as Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm. Today the school is better known as “ISU” or “Iowa State” and it offers 100 majors across 10 colleges and schools to a population of 36,001 students. The College of Human Sciences is home to the Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management (AESHM) Department, which offers 15 undergraduate majors, including several programs for aspiring fashion designers.

Options include BA, MS, and PhD degrees in Apparel, Merchandising, and Design. A Minor is also on the menu. Program highlights include the opportunity to study in “major market areas” such as New York or Chicago, participation in a variety of international study programs in Europe, the opportunity to help produce Trend Magazine (the completely student-run fashion publication,) access to the interactive Textiles and Clothing Museum, and possible internship opportunities at places such as Anna Sui, Rag & Bone, Fossil Group, Kohl’s, Abercrombie & Fitch, Elie Tahari, Nordstrom, Banana Republic, and BCBG. 

In addition, all students have the opportunity to showcase their creations at the campus-based Mary Alice Anderson Reinhardt Gallery and participate in ISU’s Annual Fashion Show—one of the largest student-produced fashion shows in the nation.

3. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul), Minnesota 

Founded in 1851, the University of Minnesota (U of M) is home to 30,500 undergraduate students and 16,300 graduate and professional students enrolled in more than 400 degree programs across 17 colleges and schools. The College of Design is home to the Department of Design, Housing and Apparel, which offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Degree offerings include a BS in Apparel Design and MA, MS, and PhD degrees in Design with an Apparel Studies Track. Minor in Fashion Studies is also on the menu. 

Apparel Design students have access to The Wearable Product Design Center (WPDC), the Wearable Technology Lab, and the Human Dimensioning Lab, as well as the opportunity to show their collections at the College of Design Annual Apparel Design Fashion Show. In addition, all students have the option to study abroad. Study abroad opportunities are available in Sydney, Australia; Florence, Italy; Amsterdam; Istanbul, Turkey; London, England, and Northern Ireland. 

4. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 

Founded in 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is home to 3,590 students enrolled in more than 25 art and design programs across 40 academic departments. The Department of Fashion Design offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Options include a BFA in Studio with a Concentration in Fashion Design or Fiber and Material Studies or an Emphasis in Fashion. A Master of Design (MDes) and Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Fashion, Body and Garment are also on the menu. 

Undergraduate SAIC Fashion students have the opportunity to participate in study tours of fashion capitals such as Antwerp, London, New York, and Paris as well as showcase their collections at the SAIC Fashion Show. The show is open to Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors. 

The “intensive” two-year graduate program highlights the Fashion Design Studio. Taken each semester, the Studio “provides a place for an expansive investigation of fashion, body, and garment and for deeper individual investigation of fashion within the broader context of community, sustainability, technology, and the industry,” says SAIC. The program also encourages study in other areas such as Fiber and Material Studies, Writing, and Performance.

5. University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

Founded in 1819, the University of Cincinnati is home to 44,251 students enrolled in 370 degree programs across 13 colleges and a graduate school. The College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP) houses the School of Design, which offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BS in Fashion Design, a Master of Design, and a Fashion Design Studies Minor. 

Program highlights include two focus areas—Realization (Design) or Development, a mandatory cooperative education component where students work full-time in the fashion industry on alternating semesters. In addition, all students have the opportunity to participate in the popular DAAP Fashion Show.

6. Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 

Founded in 1863, Kansas State University (Kansas State or K-State) is home to more than 24,300 students enrolled in more than 250 undergraduate majors and options, and 150-plus graduate study programs across nine colleges and a graduate school. The College of Human Ecology is home to the Department of Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design (ATID), which offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include BS and MS degrees in Apparel and Textiles, and a PhD with a Specialization in Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design. 

Apparel and Textile students who would like to focus on fashion design may specialize in Apparel Design and Production. In addition, the Department features mandatory internships, faculty-led study tours in the U.S. and abroad, and an annual public exhibition of student work. 

7. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Columbia College Chicago is the largest private, nonprofit arts and media college in the nation. Founded in 1890, the school is home to more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in 100 academic majors or programs across three schools including Fine and  Performing Arts, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Media Arts. The School of Fine and Performing Arts, Department of Fashion Studies offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers including BA and BFA degrees in Fashion Design, and a BFA and Minor in Fashion Business. Those on the entrepreneurial path may choose a double major in Fashion and Fashion Business, or a Fashion Major and Fashion Business Minor.

Program highlights include a Semester in LA, internship opportunities and access to the school’s Fashion Lab, the Fashion Study Collection (FSC), and the Fashion Study Collection Research Center (workspace and archive). Students also have the opportunity to display their creations in the Fashion Studies Exhibition Windows on campus. 

8. Stephens College, Columbia, Missouri 

Founded in 1833, Stephens College is the second oldest women’s college in the country. The school has a population of around 800 students enrolled in more than 25 programs across four schools including the Schools of Design, Health Sciences, Interdisciplinary Studies, and Performing Arts. The School of Design offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers including a BA in Apparel Studies and a BFA in Fashion Design & Product Development. 

Program highlights include study trips to international fashion capitals, the opportunity to intern at companies such as Escada, Cosmopolitan, Baby Phat, and WWD, and participation in The Collections Annual Fashion Show (est. 1944). Past jurors have included supermodel Karlie Kloss and alumna Brianne Ratliff ’03 from Armani Exchange. In addition, students have access to the School of Design Historic Costume Museum and Research Library, which consists of more than 13,000 pieces and designer garments. Bill Blass, Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, and Valentino are just a few.

9. Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus, Ohio

Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) was established in 1879. The school is home to more than 1,300 students enrolled in 35 majors, minors, and concentrations. One of the oldest and largest private art and design colleges in the U.S., CCAD offers two options for aspiring fashion designers—a BFA and a Minor in Fashion Design. Fashion program highlights include internship opportunities at companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Justice, and Victoria’s Secret (all headquartered in Ohio), participation in the Annual CCAD Senior Fashion Show, and study abroad opportunities in Chile, China, England, and Italy. 

CCAD fashion students also have the opportunity to study in a New York studio for one term through CCAD’s New York Studio Residency Program. Graduates of the program have landed positions at major companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Ann Taylor Loft, BCBG, J. Crew, Polo Ralph Lauren, Victoria’s Secret, and White House Black Market.

10. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska 

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) was founded on February 15, 1869. The school offers hundreds of programs across 12 colleges to a population of 25,260 students. The College of Education and Human Sciences (CHES) houses the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design (TMFD), which offers a variety of unique programs for aspiring fashion designers. Undergraduate offerings include BS degrees in Textiles & Fashion Design, Textile Science, and Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design/Communications. 

Graduate offerings include MA, MS, and PhD degrees in Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design. Aspiring fashion designers may concentrate their coursework in design-related areas such as Textile Science, Textile Design, or Apparel Design. Quilt Studies is another option as well as a Graduate Certificate in TMFD. 

Fashion Program highlights include study tours and international experiences in New York, Paris/Milan, London/Paris, Paris/Prague, Shanghai, and Beijing, and  internship opportunities with major companies such as Vera Wang, Tahari, Nicole Miller, and InStyle Magazine. Students also have the opportunity to showcase their creations at the biennial Student Runway Show.