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Top 20 Public Fashion Design Schools and Colleges in the US – 2016

Written by FS StaffMay 23, 2016

Our 2016 list of the Top 20 Public Fashion Design School Programs in the US. 

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, New York (top 1% of schools considered) 

The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is a member of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. Founded in 1944, the school is home to more than 9,500 students enrolled in 37 majors and 12 certificate programs across five schools including the School of Art and Design, Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology, School of Liberal Arts, the School of Graduate Studies, and the School of Continuing and Professional Studies. The School of Art and Design offers a large collection of fashion programs for aspiring designers of all kinds. 

Students may choose from a large number of degree levels including AAS, BFA, BS, MA, and MPS programs. In addition, FIT offers one- and two-year options for AAS students and both credit and non-credit Certificates. An international option in Florence is on the menu for fashion design students pursuing an AAS degree, and an option in Milan/New York is available for knitwear and sportswear students pursuing a Baccalaureate degree.

AAS degree programs for aspiring fashion designers include Accessories Design, Fashion Design, Illustration – Fashion and General Illustration options, Jewelry Design, Menswear, Textile Development and Marketing, and Textile/Surface Design. Baccalaureate (BFA and BS) degree programs include Accessories Design, Fabric Styling, Fashion Design (Children’s Wear, Intimate Apparel, Knitwear, Special Occasion, and Sportswear, and Knitwear options), Technical Design, Textile Development and Marketing, and Textile/Surface Design.

Graduate programs for aspiring fashion designers include an MA in Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice and credit Certificate programs include CAD for Fashion Design - Art, Draping, Gemology, Haute Couture, Ladies Tailoring, Leather Apparel, Millinery, Patternmaking, and Performance Athletic Footwear. Minors are available in Ethics and Sustainability, and Fashion Studies, and Non-credit Certificates include Computer Essentials for Fashion Design, Fashion Styling, Wardrobe Technician and Costume Design Specialist, and Certified Technical Designer. 

All FIT Fashion Design students have the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, London, Milan, Nottingham, England, Melbourne, Australia, or Hong Kong. Students also have the opportunity to intern at local, national, or international companies, and all students may participate in the Annual FIT Fashion Show. 

2. Kent State University, Kent, Ohio (top 5% of schools considered)

Kent State University (KSU or Kent State) was founded in 1910. It is home to nearly 29,000 students enrolled in 300-plus 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.” 

3. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa (top 5% of schools considered) 

Iowa State University (ISU or Iowa State) established as Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm on March 22, 1858. The school is home to 36,001 students enrolled in 100 majors across 10 colleges and schools. The College of Human Sciences is home to the Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management (AESHM) Department, which offers 15 undergraduate majors.

Offerings for aspiring fashion designers 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.

4. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul), Minnesota (top 10% of schools considered) 

The University of Minnesota (U of M) was founded in 1851. The school is home to 30,500 undergraduate students at the Twin Cities campus, 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.  

5. Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama (top 10% of schools considered) 

Auburn University was established in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College. Today, the school is home to a co-ed population of 27,287 students enrolled in more than 140 degree options across 13 colleges and schools. The College of Human Sciences is home to the Department of Consumer & Design Sciences (CADS), which offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. 

Programs include a BS in Apparel Merchandising, Design and Production Management with an Apparel Design and Production Management Option (BS-APDP), an MS in Consumer and Design Sciences – Apparel and Interiors (MS-CAHS), and a PhD in Consumer Design Sciences (PhD – CADS) with a fashion-related Focus in areas such as Functional and Creative Apparel Design, Sustainability, Creativity, or Product Development.

Apparel Design students have the opportunity to intern at local retailers and design houses as well as opportunities to study in New York (IQLA New York Study Tour) or abroad. Study abroad locations may include Italy, London, Fiji, Jordan, Peru, South Africa, and more.

6. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma (top 10% of schools considered)

Oklahoma State University was established on Christmas Day 1890. It is home to more than 35,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs across a five-campus system and 10 colleges. The College of Human Sciences, Department of Design, Housing and Merchandising (DHM) offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. According to the Department, “the ADP program at OSU is one of only thirteen apparel programs in North America to receive the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) approval.” This means that the “curriculum and facilities have met the rigorous standards” of the AAFA.

Program offerings include a BS in Design, Housing and Merchandising (BS DHM) with an Option in Apparel Design and Production (ADP) and an MS in Design, Housing and Merchandising (MS DHM) with a Research Thesis Option or Design Thesis Option in Apparel Design & Production (ADP). A PhD in Human Sciences with a Specialization in Design, Housing and Merchandising (PhD DHM) is also on the menu as well as a Minor in Apparel Design and Production (ADP).

Apparel design students have the opportunity to complete an internship with designers and brands such as BCBG, Lands’ End, Max Azria, Vera Wang, Liz Claiborne, and Victoria’s Secret. In addition, travel-study programs allow students to explore the fashion scene in places such as New York, Dallas, Mexico, Paris, and Berlin.

7. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina (top 15% of schools considered)

North Carolina State University (NC State) has been in existence since 1887. Home to 24,015 students, NC State offers more than 300 degree programs across 12 colleges and 65 academic departments. The College of Textiles houses the Department of Textile and Apparel Technology and Management (TATM). The Department offers several unique programs for aspiring fashion designers.

Undergraduate offerings include a BS in Fashion and Textile Design and a BS in Fashion and Textile Management with a Concentration in Fashion Development and Product Management. Graduate offerings include both a Master of Textiles (MT) and an MS in Textiles. Design Specializations include Textile and Fashion Design, and Textile Technology.  

TATM fashion students have access to spacious studios outfitted with the latest technology to design textile products and fabrics as well as prototypes. Students may also participate in TATM’s “study abroad-friendly” semester in their junior year, which prevents students from falling behind in their classes. Study abroad locations may include France, the Czech Republic, Australia and India. 

8. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado (top 15% of schools considered)

Colorado State University (CSU) was founded in 1870 as the Colorado Agricultural College. The school is home to 32,236 students enrolled in 150-plus degree programs across 14 colleges and schools. The College of Health and Human Sciences is home to the Design and Merchandising Program. Degree offerings for aspiring fashion designers include a BS in Apparel and Merchandising - Apparel Design and Production, and an MS in Design and Merchandising - Apparel and Merchandising.

The College of Liberal Arts, Department of Art and Art History has several additional offerings for fashion students. Options include BA in Studio, BFA in Studio Art, MA, and MFA degrees with a Concentration in Fibers or Jewelry and Metalsmithing.

Apparel Design students have the opportunity to work with more than 18,000 artifacts and view collections at the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising (formerly the Historic Costume & Textiles Collection). Special collections include designer garments from Calvin Klein, James Galanos, Carolina Herrera, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, and Versace, as well as ethnographic holdings, and The Ruth Payne Hellmann Lace Collection, which features more than 1,500 pieces of historic lace and lacemaking tools. 

In addition to having access to Avenir Museum, design students have the opportunity to participate in the internship program and study abroad opportunities. Past design students have studied in Italy, France, Peru, Ghana, and Australia. Some have also participated in Semester at Sea, which 

9. University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio (top 15% of schools considered)

The University of Cincinnati was founded in 1819. The school 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. 

10. University of North Texas, Denton, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)

University of North Texas (UNT) was founded in 1890 as Texas Normal College and Teachers’ Training Institute. The school is home to 37,000 students enrolled in around 220 degree programs across 11 colleges and schools. The College of Visual Arts & Design offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers including a Fashion Design Pre-Major, a BFA in Fashion Design, an MFA in Design with a Concentration in Fashion Design, a Studio Art Pre-Major, and BFA degrees in Studio Art with a Concentration in Fibers or Metalsmithing and Jewelry. 

Program highlights include an internship program that provides the opportunity to work at fashion houses in Dallas and Fort Worth as well as apparel companies in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and London. Students also have the opportunity to participate in the annual ArtWear Fashion Show as well as national and international events such as Fashion Group International of Dallas’ Career Day, and The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and Gap Inc.’s Design Your Future competition. 

Graduates of the Fashion Programs at UNT have been hired by major companies such as Calvin Klein, Dillard’s, Fossil, the Haggar Clothing Co., Nicole Miller, Ralph Lauren, Zac Posen, and more.

11. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon (top 20% of schools considered) 

Oregon State University (OSU) was founded in 1868. It is home to more than 30,000 students enrolled in 280-plus degree programs across 11 academic colleges. The College of Business houses the School of Design & Human Environment (DHE). The School offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers at all degree levels.

Undergraduate offerings include a BS in Apparel Design with Specializations in Active Sportswear, Protective Clothing for Industry, Functional Apparel (for people with physically challenging conditions) and Costuming for the Theater. Graduate options include a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) and an MS or MA in Design with Concentrations in Textiles or Human Behavior in the Near Environment (Apparel and Housing). The MS and MA programs also offer a Concentration in Design and the Near Environment (Apparel Design and Interior Design).

Fashion design students have the opportunity to learn from the DHE Historic and Cultural Textile and Apparel Collection, which includes approximately 2,000 Euro-American and ethnic apparel pieces and other textile products. In addition, teaching and assistantships are offered to graduate students, and all undergraduates have the opportunity to participate in the internship program. Students have interned with major designers, brands and retailers such as Anna Sui, Columbia Sportswear, Nordstrom, and Fred Meyer. 

12. University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware (top 20% of schools considered) 

The University of Delaware (UD) was chartered by the State of Delaware in 1833. It is home to 22,852 students enrolled in more than 300 degree programs across seven schools. The College of Arts & Sciences is home to the Department of Fashion & Apparel Studies, which offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BS in Apparel Design, an MS in Fashion and Apparel Studies, and a 4+1 program that allows undergraduate Fashion Merchandising majors to complete the MS in Fashion and Apparel Studies in half the time. A Minor in Fashion History and Culture is also on the menu.

Program highlights include the opportunity to complete an internship at home, overseas, or both and the UD Visiting Student Program. This “cooperative arrangement between the University of Delaware (UD) and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)” allows students to attend FIT for one year and apply coursework towards the BS program at UD. In addition, the Department of Fashion & Apparel Studies introduced its very first Fashion Week this year. Students have the opportunity to participate in Fashion Week as well as the annual Synergy Fashion Group Student Fashion Show.

13. University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina (top 25% of schools considered)

The University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG) was established in 1891. The school serves more than 19,000 students enrolled in 79 undergraduate programs in more than 100 areas of study, and 95 advanced degree programs. Programs are offered through eight undergraduate colleges and schools, and The Graduate School. 

The Bryan School of Business and Economics is home to the Department of Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies (CARS), which offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include BS, MS, and PhD degrees with a Concentration in Apparel Design or Global Apparel and Related Industry Studies. A Post-Baccalaureate Certificate (PBC) in both areas is also on the menu. 

All CARS students have access to an Historic Costume Collection with garments and artifacts dating from 1776-2003, internship opportunities at major companies such as Anna Sui, Anne Klein, Barney’s, Bloomingdale’s, Calvin Klein, Polo/Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Tommy Hilfiger, and a Global Experience program which offers the opportunity to study in fashion capitals such as Paris and London. Fashion students also have the opportunity to participate in the Annual THREADS Fashion Show. 

14. Texas Women's University, Denton, Texas (top 25% of schools considered) 

Founded in 1901 as The Girls Industrial College, Texas Women's University (TWU) is home to 15,303 students enrolled in more than 150 programs across four colleges and a graduate school. The College of Arts & Sciences offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BA in Fashion Design, a BA/BS Dual Degree in Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising, a BA/BBA Dual Degree in Fashion Design and General Business-Entrepreneurship, and a BA/BS in Fashion Design and Marketing. A Minor in Fashion Design is also on the menu. 

In addition to a variety of programs that teach students how to design, produce and sell their own products, the School of Management offers internship opportunities at companies such as Aldo, BCBG Max Azria, Coach, Express, Michael Kors, and Nordstrom. Students also have the opportunity to participate in the Annual Montage Senior Fashion Show.

15. Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas (top 25% of schools considered) 

Kansas State University (Kansas State or K-State) was founded in 1863. It is home to more than 24,300 students enrolled in over 250 undergraduate majors and options, and 150-plus graduate study programs (including graduate certificates) 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. 

16. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas (top 30% of schools considered) 

The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) opened in 1883. It is home to 50,950 students enrolled in more than 500 programs across 18 colleges and schools. The College of Natural Sciences, School of Human Ecology houses the Division of Textiles and Apparel, which offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Offerings include a BS in Textiles and Apparel (TXA) with five fitting options for fashion designers and an MS in Textile and Apparel Technology (MSTAT). BS options include Apparel Design & Conservation - Apparel Design Specialization; Apparel Design & Conservation - Conservation Specialization; Apparel, Functional, and Technical Design,  Retail Merchandising, and Textiles and Apparel Honors. 

Program highlights include access to study abroad opportunities in places such as India and China, internship opportunities with major companies such as Anne Klein, Betsey Johnson, Coach, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, and Zac Posen, and the UT in NYC Program. The NYC program “brings apparel design, conservation and merchandising students together for a broad look at the apparel industry with an entrepreneurial focus.” Students also have the opportunity to participate in the annual fashion show and exhibition. Past sponsors have included Sephora Cosmetics, Cobalt Blue Hair Salon, and Tribeza. 

17. Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas (top 30% of schools considered) 

Texas Tech University was founded in 1923. It is home to more than 35,150 students enrolled in 300 degree programs across 10 colleges. The College of Human Sciences is home the Department of Design (DOD), which offers one program for aspiring fashion designers—a BS in Apparel Design and Manufacturing (ADM). Fashion students may also choose a minor to enhance their degree. Possible minor study areas include Art, Business, Retailing, Mass Communications, and Theater.

Fashion program highlights include two annual apparel design contests including the Design Competition and the Senior Fashion Show, undergraduate research experiences in ADM, field trips to New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris and other fashion capitals, and opportunities to submit entries to national and regional competitions such as Fashion Group International, Dallas Career Day, and the Denim Runway Project. 

The program also includes a 370-400-hour internship. The Department often places interns with major apparel design companies in Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and London. According to the school, these internships often lead directly to a job offer.

18. Washington State University, Pullman, Washington (top 30% of schools considered) 

Washington State University (WSU) was founded in 1890 as Washington’s original land-grant university. The school’s main campus is located in Pullman, Washington, and it has regional campuses in Spokane, Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and West Richland), Vancouver, and Everett. WSU is home to 28,686 students enrolled 95 undergraduate majors and 85 minors, 120 graduate and professional programs, and 100-plus certificates and in-major specializations across 11 colleges.

The College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Science (CAHNRS) is home to the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles (AMDT). The Department offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers. Options include a BA in Apparel, Merchandising, and Textiles with a Specialization Track in Apparel Design and an MA in Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles offered in collaboration with the Department of AMDT and the Graduate School. 

Program highlights include study abroad opportunities in more than 70 countries, access to the third largest apparel and textile industry in the country, optional membership in student chapters of two major industry associations—the International Textiles and Apparel Association (ITAA) and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC), study tours to places such as Los Angeles, and the opportunity to contribute to Cougar Couture—WSU’s AMDT Newsletter. Students also have the opportunity to participate in several campus events including exhibitions, design and merchandising competitions, and the popular Mom’s Weekend Fashion Show. 

19. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska (top 35% of schools considered)

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) was founded on February 15, 1869. It is home to 25,260 students enrolled in hundreds of programs across 12 colleges. 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. 

20. California State University-Long Beach, Long Beach, California (top 35% of schools considered) 

California State University Long Beach (CSULB) is the third largest member of the 23-school California State University system. Established in 1949 and home to nearly 37,500 students, CSULB offers more than 300 programs across eight colleges. The College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), Department of Family & Consumer Sciences (FCS), and the College of Business Administration offer several programs for aspiring fashion designers. 

FCS offerings include a BA in Family and Consumer Sciences with Options in Fashion Design or Textiles & Clothing, a Minor in Textiles, and a Certificate in Textiles. Program highlights include the Annual Spring Fashion Show and Fashion Study Tours of New York City offered every January and July, and tours of Paris luxury fashion industries offered every June. 

The College of Business Administration offers an MBA with a Specialization in Fashion Merchandising and Design. The MBA is a self-paced, 48-unit evening program designed for part-time, full-time, domestic or international students. An undergraduate degree in business is not required to enter the program.