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Top 20 Fashion Design Schools and Colleges in the Midwest – 2015

Written by FS StaffJune 11, 2015

Our 2015 rankings of the Top 20 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

Kent State University (KSU or Kent State) was founded in 1910. It is home to 27,500 students enrolled in more than 300 degree programs through more than a dozen colleges and schools. The College of the Arts is home to the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising or “The Fashion School.” The School offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include BA and BFA degrees in Fashion Design, a BFA in Crafts (Jewelry and Metals), a BFA Crafts (Textile Arts), and an MFA in Design/Technology – Costume Design. Minors in Accessories or Textiles are also on the menu.

All fashion students are eligible to participate in the Fashion School's Annual Fashion Show—FS2 Visionnaire, 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 (ISU or Iowa State) was established in 1858. It is home to 34,734 students enrolled in hundreds of programs through 10 colleges and schools. The College of Human Sciences is home to the Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management (AESHM) Department. The Department offers several degree programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BA, MS, and PhD in Apparel, Merchandising, and Design. A Minor is also on the menu.

In addition to a variety of program offerings, Apparel, Merchandising, and Design students have the opportunity to study in “major market areas” such as New York or Chicago, they may participate in a variety of international study programs in Europe, and all students have the opportunity to participate in ISU’s Annual Fashion Show.

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

Founded in 1851, the University of Minnesota (U of M) is home to 69,221 students enrolled in more than 400 degree programs across 17 colleges and schools. The College of Design houses the Department of Design, Housing and Apparel. The Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers including a BS in Apparel Design as well as MA, MS, and PhD degrees with an Apparel Studies Track. A 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

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) was founded in 1866. It is home to 3,519 students enrolled in more than 25 art and design programs through 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 and a Master of Design (MDes) in Fashion, Body and Garment. A Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Fashion, Body and Garment is also on the menu.

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

The “intensive” two-year MDes 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.  Stephens College, Columbia, Missouri

Stephens College was founded in 1833. It is home to around 800 students enrolled in more than 25 programs across four schools including the School of Design, the School of Health Sciences, the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, and the School of Performing Arts. The School of Design offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BA in Apparel Studies and a BFA in Fashion Design & Product Development.

Fashion design students have the opportunity to take study trips to international fashion capitals, they may participate in the annual fashion show—The Collections, and they have the opportunity to intern at companies such as Escada, Cosmopolitan, Baby Phat, and WWD. Student also have access to the School of Design’s 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.

6. Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas

Kansas State University (Kansas State or K-State) was founded in 1863. It is home to more than 24,300 students enrolled in more than 400 programs. K-State houses nine colleges and a graduate school. The College of Human Ecology is home to the Department of Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design which offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BS in Apparel and Textiles, an MS in Apparel and Textiles, and a PhD with a Specialization in Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design.

Apparel and Textile students that 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. University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

The University of Cincinnati was founded in 1819. It is home to 43,691 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 features 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, and participation in the popular DAAP Fashion Show.

8. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska  

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) was chartered in 1869. It is home to nearly 25,000 students enrolled in dozens of programs through 10 colleges. The College of Education and Human Sciences (CHES) houses the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design (TMFD), which offers a wide variety of programs for aspiring fashion designers.

Undergraduate offerings include BS degrees in Textiles & Fashion Design and Textile Science.

Graduate offerings include an MA, MS, and PhD 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 Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design.

Fashion Program highlights include biennial juried student exhibitions, study tours and international experiences in New York, Paris/Milan, London/Paris, Paris/Prague, Shanghai, Beijing, and more, 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.

9. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Columbia College was founded in 1890. It is home to more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in more than 100 academic majors or programs. The School of Fine and Performing Arts houses the Department of Fashion Studies. The Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include BA and BFA degrees in Fashion Design.

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.

10. Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri

Missouri State University was founded in 1905. It is home to more than 20,000 students enrolled in more than 150 undergraduate majors and 48 graduate programs across six academic colleges, one School of Agriculture and the Graduate College. The Department of Fashion and Interior Design is a member of the College of Business. The Department offers one program for aspiring fashion designers—a BS in Fashion Merchandising and Design with an Option in Fashion Design and Product Development.

Students may choose the three-year or four-year option. Both options require completion of four credit hours’ worth of internship experience. In addition, all fashion students have the opportunity to study abroad in places such as London and Paris, and participate in the Annual Spring Fashion Show. 

11. Mount Mary University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Mount Mary University was founded in 1913. This women’s college has a student population of 1,475 enrolled in more than 30 undergraduate majors, 9 graduate programs (co-ed), and a variety of certificate programs through four schools. The School of Arts & Design offers a BA and a Post-baccalaureate Certificate in Fashion Design. Some fashion students choose the Minor in Entrepreneurship to enhance their degree and prepare them to start their own fashion design business. The Minor is offered through the School of Business.

Fashion students have access to the latest industry technology in the classroom and labs, they have the opportunity to participate in the Annual Student Designer Fashion Show, and internship opportunities are available. Past fashion students have had the opportunity to exhibit work at the Villa Terrace Museum, Gallery Night & Day and Harley-Davidson Museum, and they have also competed in regional, national and international competitions.

Workshops by global designers and retailers are also on the menu as well as volunteer opportunities with Fashion BOOT Camp for high school students.

12. Central Michigan University (CMU), Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

Central Michigan University was founded in 1892. It is home to 26,902 students enrolled in more than 200 programs across eight academic colleges. The College of Education & Human Services (CHES) houses the Department of Human Environmental Studies which offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include BA, BAA, and BS degrees in Apparel Merchandising and Design with a Concentration in Fashion Design. An MS in Apparel Product Development and Merchandising Technology is also on the menu.

Fashion Program highlights include study abroad opportunities in Paris, London, Italy, and Hong Kong, the New York City Professional Study Tour (summer), and access to The Center for Merchandising and Design Technology (CMDT). In addition, students have the opportunity to participate in the Threads Fashion Show and intern at companies such as Bloomingdale’s, Louis Vuitton, Jason Wu, Sears, and more.

Graduates of the Fashion Program at Central Michigan University have been hired by companies such as Forever 21, Quicksilver, Urban Outfitters, Club Monaco, and many others.

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

Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) was established in 1879. It is home to more than 1,300 students enrolled in 35+ majors, minors and concentrations. Programs for aspiring fashion designers include a BFA and a Minor in Fashion Design.

Just a few 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.

14. St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minnesota

St. Catherine University was founded in 1905. It is home to more than 5,200 students enrolled in more than 100 fields of study through the School of Business and Professional Studies, the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, the School of Humanities, Arts and Sciences, and the School of Social Work. The School of Business and Professional Studies offers 24 undergraduate majors and minors, including several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include BA and BS degrees in Apparel Design and a Second Major/Post Baccalaureate Certificate in Apparel Design.

Program highlights include study opportunities in London, Paris or NYC, participation in St. Kate's Annual Katwalk Fashion Show, the (paid) Assistantship Mentoring Program (AMP), optional membership in St. Kate’s Fiber Arts Club, access to Katies Entrepreneur Organization, and internship opportunities. Past students have completed internships at American Girl, BCBG, New Look retailers in London, and more.

15. Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois

Dominican University was founded in 1901. It is home to 3,470 students enrolled in more than 50 undergraduate degree programs and dozens of graduate, joint degree, and accelerated programs through several colleges and schools. The Rosary College of Arts and Sciences is home to the Apparel Design and Merchandising Department.

The Department offers a variety of programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BA in Apparel Design with Concentrations in Fashion Development, Dress and Textile Studies, and Surface Design. A Minor in Apparel Design is also on the menu. Program highlights include internship opportunities, participation in the Annual Fashion Show, and study abroad opportunities. Dominican offers special apparel student-only options in Paris and Milan.

16. Ursuline College, Pepper Pike, Ohio

Ursuline College was founded in 1871 by the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland. It is home to 1,496 students enrolled in more than 25 majors through the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Professional Studies, and Breen School of Nursing. The School of Professional Studies offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers including a BA, a Minor, and a Certificate in Fashion Design.

The BA program offers a F.I.T. Option which allows students to spend their third year at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Other program highlights include access to the Historic Costume Study Collection which features more than 3,500 pieces of 20th century American apparel and accessories, internship opportunities, and participation in the Annual Fashion Show.

17. Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri

Washington University in St. Louis was founded in 1853. It is home to more than 14,000 students enrolled in more than 90 programs through seven schools. The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts is home to the College of Architecture, the Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design, the College of Art, and the Graduate School of Art. The College of Art offers a BFA in Fashion Design. Program highlights include study abroad opportunities in Berlin and Florence, internship opportunities and participation in the Sam Fox School Fashion Design Show.

18. Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana

Ball State University was founded in 1918. It is home to around 21,000 students enrolled in more than 300 programs through seven academic colleges. The College of Applied Sciences and Technology houses the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. The Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include BS, MA and MS degrees in Family & Consumer Sciences (FCS) with a Specialization in Apparel Design. A Minor in Fashion is also on the menu.

Program highlights include access to the Beeman Historic Costume Collection, participation in the Annual Fashion Show and internship opportunities with major designers and brands such as Betsey Johnson, Donna Karan, Kate Spade, and Michael Kors.

19. Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan

Eastern Michigan University was established in 1849. It is home to 23,000 students enrolled in more than 200 majors, minors and concentrations through the Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and a graduate school. The College of Technology is home to the Apparel, Textiles, and Merchandising Department which offers a range of programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include BS and MS degrees in Apparel, Textiles and Merchandising and a PhD concentration in Textiles.

Program highlights include access to facilities such as the apparel studio with computer aided systems, the textile laboratory, a state-of-the-art computerized cutter, the textile studio, and the costume collection; possible internship and employment opportunities with companies such as Kenneth Cole, DKNY, Betsey Johnson, Neiman Marcus, and many others, and participation in the Annual Fashion Show.

Students also have the opportunity to participate in the Annual Market Trip to New York or LA, the Annual Career Day trip to Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, and possible study abroad opportunities in London, Paris, Rome, Florence, and more.

20. Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

Indiana University (IU) was founded in 1820. It houses 114,370 students, eight campuses, and more than 20,000 faculty and staff. Students have access to more than 180 majors, 330 degree programs, and more than 190 master’s, doctoral, and professional degree programs through 15 colleges and schools. The College of Arts & Sciences is home to the Department of Apparel Merchandising & Interior Design. The Department offers one program for aspiring fashion designers—the Fashion Design Bachelor of Arts (FD-BA). 

Program highlights include internship opportunities, optional membership in the Retail Studies Organization (RSO) and access to the Sage Collection which features more than 20,000 pieces. Students also have the opportunity to take select upper-level courses at The Indiana University Center for Art and Design Columbus (IUCA+D Columbus) and they may participate in a variety of IU fashion show events.