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Top 10 Fashion Design Schools in the MidWest - 2018 Rankings

Written by FS StaffJune 15, 2018 is excited to bring you our 2018 Fashion Design School rankings. Each year, we compile a list of the top list of the Top Fashion Design Schools and Colleges in the United States. Our definitive ranking of the top fashion design schools in the U.S. is based on factors like the schools’ admission data, graduation success, reputation and an extensive proprietary survey conducted with school & industry stakeholders. In addition to our Top 50 National rankings, we are happy to provide regional rankings as well.

Below you'll find the Top 10 Fashion Design Schools 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.

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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1. Kent State University, Kent, Ohio (top 3% of schools considered)

Founded in 1910, Kent State University (KSU or Kent State) is home to more than 23,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. The school offers 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, better known as “The Fashion School.”

The school offers BA and BFA degrees in Fashion Design, a BFA in Crafts (Jewelry and Metals or 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: Alchemy; which most recently featured 96 single garments and 27 total collections. A total crew of nearly 300 people worked to put on the show. Students also participate in 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. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul), Minnesota (top 5% of schools considered)

The University of Minnesota (U of M) was founded in 1851 in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul). The school is home to nearly 63,000 students (system-wide), with 48,770 students at the Twin Cities campus.

More than 400 degree programs are offered across 17 colleges and schools. Among them is the College of Design, which houses the Department of Design, Housing and Apparel. The Department offers a BS in Apparel Design and MA, MS, and PhD degrees in Design with an Apparel Studies Track. A Fashion Studies Minor is also on the menu.

Students have the ability to participate in an annual fashion show, a right of passage among Apparel Design seniors. 2018 marks the show’s 50th anniversary. Every year it gives students a chance to put into practice the work they’ve been learning.
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.

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

Iowa State University (ISU or Iowa State) was officially established on March 22, 1858 as Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm. The school, which is home to 36,660 students from more than 50 states and 100-plus countries, offers 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, and the opportunity to help produce Trend Magazine—the completely student-run fashion publication. Students also have 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 display 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. In 2018, the show attracted over 2,500 guests, who viewed over 150 student designed garments. It was awarded the 2018 Outstanding Event of the Year award.

4. School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (top 10% of schools considered)

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) was founded in 1866. It 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.

The world-renowned art exhibitions and research facilities of The Art Institute of Chicago are located one block from campus. 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.

5. University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio (top 10% of schools considered)

The University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) is home to over 40,000 students from over 100 countries and all 50 states in the U.S.  There are 4 main schools within DAAP, including School of Design, School of Architecture and Interior Design, School of Art and School of Planning. DAAP offers ten undergraduate programs, nine graduate programs, five minors and seven certificates.

 The School of Design is the focus for aspiring fashion designers. The Fashion Design program prepares students for a career in the world of fashion design and its related industries. Fashion designers communicate ideas by fashion sketching, fashion illustration, and through the creation of three-dimensional finished garments that may appear on the runways or in retail stores.  Offerings include a BS in Fashion Design, a Master of Design, and a Fashion Design Studies Minor.

Students can direct their academic pursuits in either a direction toward Fashion Design (learn how to design and construct garments, thinking about form and function) or Product Strategy (learn whats required to design and create new product lines, working through the process of bringing consumer driven fashion goods to the marketplace.)  In Fashion Design the curriculum includes 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 (top 10% of schools considered)

Kansas State University (K-State) was founded in 1863 and has a four-campus system with the main campus being in Manhattan, KS.  Manhattan is known as "The Little Apple" and has avibrant college-town atmosphere.  K-State is home to more than 22,000 students enrolled in 250-plus undergraduate majors and options, and 150-plus graduate study programs, including graduate certificates.

Among K-State’s nine colleges and graduate school, The College of Human Ecology is home to the Department of Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design (ATID).  ATID 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.

The B.S. undergraduate apparel and textiles program is, “designed to inspire students to envision fresh new approaches to the global challenges facing every aspect of the apparel and textiles industry.”   All apparel and textiles students complete the core professional curriculum and specialize in apparel marketing or 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.  Graduate offerings include a M.S. degree in Apparel and Textiles and a PhD with a Specialization in Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design.

7. Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri (top 15% of schools considered)

Missouri State University’s (MSU) main campus was founded in 1905. The state’s second largest university, MSU is home to more than 24,000 students, with a total of 26,000 system-wide. The school offers more than 180 undergraduate majors and 48 graduate programs across six academic colleges, the School of Agriculture, and the Graduate College.

The College of Business is home to the Department of Merchandising and Fashion Design, which offers one program for aspiring fashion merchandisers—a BS in Fashion Merchandising and Design with three-year and four-year options. 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.

8. Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana (top 15% of schools considered)

Indiana University (IU) was founded in 1820. It houses more than 114,000 students, eight campuses, and 20,000-plus 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.

Within the School of Art, Architecture + Design offers fashion students either a BA in Fashion Design or a BS in Apparel Merchandising.  The fashion design program offers a well-rounded education in the art, philosophy, theory, and process of fashion design in the 21st century. The curriculum addresses the design process and its relationship to the retail cycle, while also providing hands-on materials learning—including gaining knowledge of fibers, weaves, and finishes used in garment design.  The BS in Apparel Merchandising is best suited for those interested in fashion and design but have an aptitude for business.

The program(s) highlight the ability to study abroad.  IU students can travel for a semester to Paris where they examine European fashion markets, leading designers, and retailing practices. Paris, known for being a capital of high fashion, is an ideal location for this program.

9. Stephens College, Columbia, Missouri (top 15% of schools considered)

Stephens College, located in Columbia Missouri, was founded in 1833 and is currently home to around 700 female students enrolled in more than 20 programs.  It is the second oldest women’s college in the country and continues an unwavering dedication to women's undergraduate education.   The college consists of four schools including the Schools of Design, Health Sciences, Interdisciplinary Studies, and Performing Arts.

The School of Design offers degree programs for aspiring fashion designers: including a BA in Apparel Studies and a BFA in Fashion Design & Product Development.   Academic concentrations are available within Apparel Studies, Event and Convention Management, Fashion Communication, Fashion Design and Product Development, Fashion Marketing and Management, Graphic Design Communications and Integrated Marketing Communications.

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.

10. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska (top 15% of schools considered)

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) was founded on February 15, 1869. It is home to nearly 23,000 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 (TMFD). 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 show their creations at the biennial Student Runway Show.