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Top 5 Fashion Design Schools and Colleges in Illinois – 2017

Written by FS StaffMay 22, 2017

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

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) was founded in 1866. The school is home to nearly 3,600 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 display 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. 

2. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 

Columbia College Chicago (Columbia College) is home to more than 10,000 students, making it the largest private, nonprofit arts and media college in the nation. Founded in 1890, Columbia College is also one of the oldest colleges of its kind in the region. The school offers more than 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 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. 

3. Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois 

Dominican University was founded in 1901 as a women's college. Today, the school is home to a co-ed student population of 3,522 enrolled in more than 70 undergraduate and graduate programs across several colleges and 20 academic departments. Rosary College of Arts and Sciences houses the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Design, which offers two degree programs for aspiring fashion designers. Options include a BA in Apparel Design or Apparel Merchandising. A minor in both areas is also available. Besides fashion design, the BA program prepares graduates for careers in textile, stylist, pattern maker, sketcher, product developer, colorist, and entrepreneur. 

4. Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois 

Illinois State University (Illinois State) was founded in 1857 as Illinois State Normal University (ISNU) for the purpose of training teachers to work in Illinois schools. It is Illinois’ first public university. When the school opened, it had just 43 students. Today, Illinois State offers 39 masters, two specialist, eight doctoral, and 67 undergraduate programs in more than 188 fields of study to more than 21,000 students. Illinois State University houses six colleges and 34 academic departments. 

Programs for aspiring fashion designers are available through the College of Applied Science and Technology, Department of Family & Consumer Sciences. Options include a BA or BS in Fashion Design and Merchandising (FDM) with a Fashion Design or Fashion Design and Product Development Option. Program highlights include study tours inside and outside of the United States to locations such as New York and California, as well as various locations in Europe, and participation in the Fashion Design and Merchandising Association’s (FDMA) annual fashion show. 

5. Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, Illinois 

Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU Carbondale) was established in 1869 as the state’s second teachers college. When it opened, the school had a dozen academic departments and 143 students. Today, the school is home to more than 17,000 students enrolled in more than 300 degree and certificate programs across 11 colleges and schools. The College of Applied Sciences and Arts, School of Architecture, offers Specializations in Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising, and Fashion Stylist. SIU is the only public university in Illinois that offers these specializations. 

Program highlights include specialized training in fashion production, construction, fashion history, pattern making, draping, experimental design, and computer-aided apparel design, participation in the annual fashion show, internship opportunities, and study abroad experiences. Students also have access to teaching studios, a historical garment collection, a resource library, and a state-of-the-art computer lab with the latest industry software packages.