Our 2014 rankings of the top 15 fashion merchandising programs on the East Coast.
We define the East Coast as Virginia, Rhode Island, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, New York
The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is part of the popular State University of New York (SUNY). Established in 1944, the school opened with just 100 students housed on the top two floors of the High School of Needle Trades. Today FIT covers an entire city block and it is home to more than 10,000 students enrolled in five schools. The Jay & Patty Baker School of Business & Design is home to several programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers.
Offerings include an AAS and a BS in Fashion Merchandising Management (FMM). The AAS program prepares students for an entry-level position in FMM or for entry into the BS program. The BS program offers advanced study in the areas such as Product Development, Buying and Planning, Fashion Management, and e-Commerce. Courses are designed to broaden students’ global perspective. In addition, FIT offers an endless number of internship and Study Abroad opportunities to complement the FMM degree.
Through FIT’s internship program and connection with major players in the fashion industry, students can expect to work with companies such as Ann Taylor, Guess, Jones Apparel Group, Liz Claiborne, Macy’s, Nike, Perry Ellis, Ralph Lauren, Saks, and more. Students may opt for the five-week summer internship in the fashion capital of London or study in other fashion centers such as Paris, Florence, Rome, Hong Kong, or Australia.
Whether pursuing an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, all students may join the Merchandising Society at FIT, which offers the opportunity to manage all operations of the on-campus Style Shop. In addition, fashion merchandising students looking to take their careers to the next level may enroll in a second degree program. The BS in Entrepreneurship for the Fashion and Design Industries is a popular option.
2. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design is home to the BS in Design & Merchandising program. Concentrations include Retail Buying & Merchandising, Fashion Product Development, Fashion Promotion & Special Events, Merchandising Technologies, and Design Management for Design & Merchandising. Students may also choose a Minor in Business Administration or other area specific to their education and career goals or the Combined Baccalaureate in Fashion Merchandising/Master of Business Administration (MBA) through the College of Business and Graduate School Management. This program offers a concentration in Fashion Design and Merchandising
Design & Merchandising program highlights include the Drexel Undergraduate Co-op, which allows students to gain six to 18 months of paid career-related work experience at places such as Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Coach, and Neiman Marcus. All fashion students have the opportunity to participate in the production of the Annual Drexel Fashion Show, the school's lifestyle magazine D&M, and Drexel’s internship and Study Abroad programs.
The school offers both short- and long-term experiences in fashion meccas such as London and France, as well as Iceland, Prague, Australia, and Greece. Internship opportunities are available at local, regional, and national retailers and companies.
Founded in 1891, Drexel University sits on a 74-acre campus just minutes from Downtown Philadelphia (Center City). Home to around 21,912 students from 50 states and 100 foreign countries, Drexel University has nine campuses, and it offers more than 200 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs across more than dozen colleges and schools.
3. Philadelphia University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia University’s Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce is home to a large collection of competitive fashion programs. Offerings for aspiring fashion merchandisers include a BS in Fashion Merchandising and Management with 10 “Clusters” such as Buying and Merchandising, Fashion Retailing Experience, Fashion Entrepreneurship, Fashion Technology, Integrated Fashion Communication, and Global Brand Marketing, to name a few.
Program highlights include participation in fashion shows and events such as The Annual Fashion Show and student-run Pop-Up Stores, and the opportunity to contribute to Philadelphia University’s fashion publication STYLELINE. Students also have access to internship and employment opportunities in Philadelphia and New York, and Study Abroad experiences in fashion capitals such as London, Paris, Hong Kong, and Rome.
Philadelphia University (PhilaU) was established in 1884 as the Philadelphia Textile School. It sits on a 100-acre campus in the East Falls section of Philadelphia around 145 miles from New York, just 30 miles from Trenton, New Jersey, and only 8 miles from historic Center City Philadelphia. Home to nearly 3,000 students enrolled in 60+ areas of study, PhilaU houses 3 colleges—the College of Architecture and the Built Environment, the Kanbar College of Design, the College of Engineering and Commerce, and the College of Science, Health and the Liberal Arts.
4. University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware
The University of Delaware, College of Arts & Sciences is home to the noteworthy Department of Fashion & Apparel Studies, which offers a variety of unique programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Options include a BS in Fashion Merchandising, an MS in Fashion and Apparel Studies, a Graduate Certificate in Socially Responsible and Sustainable Apparel Business, and a Minor in Fashion History and Culture. Also on the menu is the popular 4+1 program. This program allows undergraduate Fashion Merchandising majors to complete the Master's degree in Fashion and Apparel Studies in half the time.
All fashion programs offer the opportunity to participate in field study experiences in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and California. One of the most highly desired experiences is The Visiting Student program. This cooperative arrangement between the University of Delaware (UD) and the famed Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) allows students to complete courses at FIT and apply them to the BS in Fashion Merchandising. Upon successful completion of course requirements at both schools, students qualify for an Associate's degree from FIT and a Bachelor's degree from the University of Delaware.
Internship opportunities with top designers such as Marc Jacobs International are also on the menu as well as Study Abroad experiences. Hong Kong and Glasgow, Scotland are just a few popular destinations.
The University of Delaware (UD) was established in 1743. The school sits on more than 2,000 acres and it has a student body of more than 21,000 students. The former home of Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, UD offers nearly 350 programs across seven colleges.
5. LIM College, New York, New York
Established in 1939 as the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising (LIM), LIM College consists of three academic buildings in midtown Manhattan. It is home to more than 1,500 students enrolled in 10 degree programs in the areas of Fashion Merchandising, Visual Merchandising, Marketing, and Management. Options for aspiring fashion merchandisers include an AAS, BPS, and BBA in Fashion Merchandising, a BBA in Visual Merchandising, and an MPS in Fashion Merchandising & Retail Management.
LIM College prepares students for careers in the industry through a combination of classroom study and intensive hands-on experience. This means, all LIM students must participate in the Senior Co-op Internship during their final semester. Students have completed their internships with major designers and companies such as Betsey Johnson, Chanel, Liz Claiborne, Tommy Hilfiger, MTV Networks, Teen Vogue, Versace, Louis Vuitton, Oscar de la Renta, Bergdorf Goodman, and many others.
6. Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York
Marist College received a 4-year charter by the State of New York in 1946. The College, which sits on a 210-acre campus overlooking the Hudson River, is located just 80 miles from New York and Albany. A leader in fusing technology and teaching to “enhance” the learning process, Marist College is “One of the 25 Most Connected Campuses in America.” Home to more than 6,300 students, Marist College offers 44 Bachelor’s, 12 Master’s, and 21 Certificate programs across seven schools.
The School of Communications and the Arts at Marist College is home the schools famed Fashion Program. Options for aspiring fashion merchandisers include a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Fashion Design and Merchandising with a Concentration in Merchandising and Minors in Fashion Merchandising and Business for Fashion Merchandising Students. Students may choose from a number of electives that may help enhance their education and career opportunities. Just a few options include Accessory Merchandising, Product Sourcing, Events/Promotions, Fashion Branding & Licensing, and Product Development.
Program highlights include Marist in Manhattan: Internships in Art, Fashion, and Media (MinM), participation in the Silver Needle Fashion Show, membership in the student club Fashion Inc., and an exceptional Study Abroad program. Students have the option to spend a semester or academic year abroad in one of more than 50 locations such as China (Hong Kong Polytechnic University) and France (Marist-Mod’Spe Paris).
The School of Communication and Arts also features short-term Study Abroad options during winter and spring break. Programs include France: Paris Fashion program: From Atelier to Market Place (winter), Italy and France: Fashion Merchandising: Florence and Paris (spring) and Italy and Spain: Global Fashion Trends: Barcelona and Florence (spring).
7. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University was established in 1838. The school sits on a 144-acre main campus in Downtown Richmond and it is home to 31,288 students from across the U.S. and 100 countries—with Saudi Arabia, India, China, and Kuwait leading the pack. VCU offers more than 215 programs at all degree levels across multiple campuses and satellite locations—including overseas in Doha, Qatar. Sixty-six programs are unique to VCU.
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is home to VCUarts—one of the best art and design schools in the nation. The Department of Fashion at VCUarts offers an exciting program for aspiring fashion merchandisers. The BA in Fashion Merchandising features field trips to New York and the MAGIC trade show in Las Vegas, participation in the Annual Fashion Show, and short-term international trips to Paris, London, Florence, Rome, Hong Kong, and Australia. Students also have the option to attend VCUQatar where they may earn a BFA in Fashion Design and/or an MFA in Design Studies.
Study Abroad opportunities are also on the menu and last one semester. Florence or Guinea, West Africa are just a few past Study Abroad destinations. Graduates of VCU’s Fashion Merchandising program hold positions at a variety of popular retailers, magazines, and more. Just a few include Lucky Magazine, Rolling Stone, Martha Stewart Bridal, Gap, Nike, Ralph Lauren, Ann Taylor, Marc Jacobs, Nordstrom, Calvin Klein, Smithsonian Museum Stores, Perry Ellis, Ralph Lauren, and more.
8. University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island
The University of Rhode Island College of Human Science and Services is home to the Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design Department (TMD)—one of the College’s most popular Departments. TMD offers several top-rated programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Options include a BS in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design with Concentrations in Textile Science and Apparel Studies. An MS in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design is also on the menu as well as a BS in Textile Marketing, a unique Double Major in TMD and Fashion Language (French and Italian), a Certificate in Fashion Merchandising, and a Minor in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design (TMD).
Students looking to enhance their knowledge of apparel construction, alteration, and repair, might consider the Master Seamstress Program offered through the College of Continuing Education.
TMD program highlights include access to URI’s Historic Textile and Costume Collection, which features nearly 20,000 objects, membership in the Fashion Merchandising Society, participation in the Annual Fashion Show, and internship opportunities with Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Nordstrom, Christian Louboutin, Tommy Hilfiger, the American Textile History Museum, and Marie Claire Magazine. TMD also offers a Winter Fashion Study Tour of London and Paris, Summer Study at the Universite de la Mode in Lyon, France, and Study Abroad experiences for a semester in the fashion capitals of London, Florence, Paris, Sydney, and more.
TMD graduates have accepted positions at a wide variety of companies such as Jones Apparel Group, Saks Fifth Avenue, Luxury Brand Holdings, Gucci, Fitness Magazine, Ralph Lauren, The Lace Museum, Kate Spade, Anne Klein, ROSS Stores, Reebok, Michael Hayes, Ketchum Public Relations, Lord & Taylor, New Balance, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum, and TJX Europe, London, UK.
The University of Rhode Island (URI) was established in 1892. It sits on a 1,200-acre campus just 79 miles from Boston and 29 miles from Providence—Rhode Island’s largest city. Home to more than 15,000 students, URI offers 80 majors across 10 schools and 4 campuses.
9. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia
The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is home to the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management (AHRM).
The Department offers a BS in Apparel Product Development and Merchandising Management (APDM). Home to more than 200 students, the Apparel Program emphasizes computer technology and experiential learning.
Students have access to the 5,000-piece Oris Glisson Costume and Textile Collection, they have the opportunity to join the Fashion Merchandising Society (FMDS), and all students may participate in the Spring Fashion Show and contribute to Project Cornerstone—a collaboration between the oldest women’s shelter in Virginia and Virginia Tech Women’s Center.
APDM also offers trips to Study Trips to New York City, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and San Diego, keynote speakers, and internships at local and national companies. APDM graduates have found employment at companies such as Macy’s, Calvin Klein, GAP, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Etienne Aigner, Nordstrom's, and many more.
Established in 1872, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) sits on a 2,600-acre campus that houses a collection of more than 125 buildings, an airport and 31,000 full-time students. The school offers more than 215 programs across eight colleges and an award-winning graduate school.
10. Lasell College, Newton, Massachusetts
Lasell College offers several top-rated programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Options include a BS in Fashion and Retail Merchandising, a BA in Fashion Design & Production, and a BA in Fashion Communication and Promotion. The most popular program for fashion merchandisers is the BS in Fashion and Retail Merchandising. Students looking to enhance their education and career opportunities may consider a Minor in Business or a BS in Marketing, Management or Entrepreneurship.
Fashion and Retail Merchandising highlights include access to the Lasell Fashion Collection (LFC), which consists of more than 1,000 items of clothing and accessories from the 19th and 20th centuries, participation in the Annual Runway Fashion Show, and intern ship opportunities at Gucci, Bebe, Liz Claiborne, Macy’s, MAC Cosmetics, Cosmopolitan Magazine, and more.
Students in good academic standing are also eligible to enroll in the school’s Two-Week Travel/Study Program in Paris or Study Abroad experiences in one of 38 countries.
Established as the Auburndale Female Seminary in 1851, Lasell College sits on a green 53-acre campus just eight miles from historic Downtown Boston. The school is home to more than 1,900 students, enrolled in more than 40 academic programs.
11. Albright College, Reading, Pennsylvania
The Albright College Fashion Department offers several unique programs for aspiring fashion merchandisers. Options include a BA with Major Tracks in Merchandising and Design & Merchandising and Co-Major Tracks in Fashion Design and Costume Design. Program highlights include participation in the Annual Fashion Show, the chance to contribute to the Fashion Department newsletter—Fashion Lion, and the very successful Fashion & Costume Internship program.
Students have completed internships in New York at Anna Sui, Anthropologie, Eileen Fisher, Donna Karan, Gucci, Isaac Mizrahi, Marie Claire, Michael Kors, and New York & Company. They have also interned at Nordstrom in New Jersey and at QVC, Wet Seal, and Tiffany & Co. in Pennsylvania. Study experiences are also on the menu where students visit legendary fashion capitals such as New York, France, and London as well as China, Argentina, South Africa, and more.
Established around 1856, Albright College is the oldest college in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Located just 63 miles from Philadelphia just under 125 miles from New York, the school’s 118-acre campus accommodates more than 1,600 students enrolled in 60+ programs. Albright College also offers accelerated programs at 10 locations throughout Central and Southeastern Pennsylvania.
12. Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia
The Darden College of Education-Department of STEM Education and Professional Studies at Old Dominion University (ODU) is home to the ODU Fashion Merchandising Program. Options include a BS and a Minor in Fashion Merchandising. Program highlights include Fashion Market Trips to Italy and MAGIC in Las Vegas, and a Summer Fashion Academy.
While the goal of many ODU Fashion Merchandising students is to become a Buyer, the program prepares students for a variety of other careers in the fashion industry such as Visual Merchandiser, Fashion Writer, Retail Manager, Marketing Coordinator, and Fashion Coordinator.
Founded in 1930, Old Dominion University (ODU) sits on a 250-acre campus just 17 miles from Virginia Beach—the state’s largest city, two miles from Chesapeake—the third largest city in Virginia, and 148 miles from Washington, D.C. Home to more than 24,670 students, ODU offers more than 220 programs across 7 academic colleges. Old Dominion University also has extended campus centers in Hampton, Virginia Beach, and Portsmouth VA, and it offers more than 70 distance degree programs.
13. Marymount University, Arlington, Virginia
The School of Arts and Sciences at Marymount offers the only Fashion Merchandising program in the Washington DC area, an international retail center. Options include a BA and a minor in Fashion Merchandising. The program teaches buying, product development, public relations and fashion events, writing and media, visual merchandising and international trade. Students produce the annual (televised) Portfolio in Motion Fashion Show, examine costumes in Marymount's historic collection, and have opportunities to study abroad and do internships in Europe, Central and South America, Oceania, Africa and the Middle East. They intern domestically with Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, Burberry, Nordstrom, Theory and the US Department of Commerce. They travel to the NYC fashion market and the MAGICShow, the sourcing market in Las Vegas.
Founded in 1950, Marymount University consists of four schools including the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business Administration, the School of Education and Human Services, and the Malek School of Health Professions. Home to 3,286 students enrolled in more than 75 programs Marymount University sits on a convenient 21-acres campus just 3 miles from Washington DC, less than 40 miles from Baltimore, and around 127 miles from Philadelphia. Marymount's membership int he Consortium of Universities in Washington DC gives students the opportunity to take courses at the other universities in the metro area.
14. Framingham State University, Framingham, Massachusetts
Established in 1839 by Horace Mann, Framingham State University (FSU) was America’s first public teacher preparation school. The school, which sits on a 50-acre “traditional New England campus,” is just 20 miles west of the bustling City of Boston. Home to 6,110 students, FSU offers more than 40 academic programs.
The Department of Consumer Sciences at FSU offers a competitive BS in Fashion Design and Retailing. Concentrations include Merchandising and Apparel Design. Program highlights include access to the Costume and Textile Resource Center, membership in The Style Magazine Club and the Fashion Club, study trips to New York, and opportunities to intern at local, regional, and national fashion companies.
The Fashion Design and Retailing Program prepares students for the following careers: Fashion Designer, Retail Buyer, Technical Designer, Theatrical Costumer, Retail Merchandising, Patternmaker, Market Researcher, Fashion Coordinator, Costume Curator, Visual Merchandiser, Fashion Merchandiser, and more. Graduates of the program hold positions at companies such as New Balance, Gap, Reebok, TJX, Stride Rite, and US Army Research Center.
15. Immaculata University, Immaculata, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1920, Immaculata University (IU) sits on a 375-acre campus overlooking historic Chester County, Pennsylvania. Located just 20 miles from Philadelphia, the school is home to 3,600 students enrolled in more than 60 programs. One of the most popular programs is the Fashion Merchandising program. Part of the Fashion/Family & Consumer Sciences Department, the program leads to a BS in Fashion Merchandising.
This “customizable” BS program has eight Minors to choose from including Visual Merchandising, Buying, Marketing, Product Development, Entrepreneurship, Graphic Arts for Fashion, Communication, and Public Relations & Journalism. Other program highlights include field experiences at QVC, GAP, Carolina Apparel, Ann Taylor Loft, Talbots, Nordstrom, Anthropologie, and many others, participation in the Annual Fashion Show, and trips to fashion capitals such as New York City. Students may also join a variety of organizations such as the IU Fashion Group and Kappa Chi Chapter of Kappa Omicron Nu Honor Society.
Depending on the students customized curriculum, career options include (but are not limited to) Account Executive, Merchandise Manager, Purchasing, Senior Buyer, Visual Merchandiser, Fashion Forecaster, Fashion Marketing Coordinator, Technical Designer, Product Line Developer, Fashion Magazine Editor, and Product Campaign Specialist.