Our 2017 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 2% of schools considered)
Founded in 1944, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is a member of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. The school is home to more than 9,000 students enrolled in 37 majors and 12 certificate programs across five schools. They include the School of Art and Design, Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology, the 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 number of fashion programs for aspiring designers of all kinds.
Students may choose from multiple degree levels including the AAS, BFA, BS, MA, and MPS. In addition, FIT offers one- and two-year options for AAS students and 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 3% of schools considered)
Kent State University (KSU or Kent State) was founded in 1910. The school is home to more than 40,000 students enrolled in 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: 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. 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. 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.
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. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa (top 6% of schools considered)
Iowa State University (ISU or Iowa State) was established in 1858 as Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm. The school is home to 36,660 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, 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.
5. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina (top 8% of schools considered)
North Carolina State University (NC State) has been around since 1887. The school is home to nearly 34,000 students enrolled in 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.
6. Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma (top 10% of schools considered)
Oklahoma State University (OSU-Stillwater) was established in 1890. The school is home to more than 24,000 students enrolled in over 200 programs across 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. University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio (top 15% of schools considered)
Founded in 1819, the University of Cincinnati is home to 44,338 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.
8. Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama (top 15% of schools considered)
Established in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College, Auburn University is home to a co-ed population of 28,290 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 a BS in Apparel Merchandising, Design and Production Management with an Apparel Design and Production Management Option (BS-APDP).
CADs also offers 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.” Focus options include Functional and Creative Apparel Design, Sustainability, Creativity, and Product Development. All 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.
9. University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware (top 15% of schools considered)
Chartered by the State of Delaware in 1833, the University of Delaware (UD) is home to 23,000 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.
10. University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina (top 20% of schools considered)
Established in 1891, the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG) consists of eight undergraduate colleges and schools, and a graduate school, and it serves more than 19,000 students. The school offers 79 undergraduate programs in more than 100 areas of study, 65 masters programs, and 30 doctoral programs.
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.
11. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado (top 20% of schools considered)
Founded in 1870 as the Colorado Agricultural College, Colorado State University (CSU) is home to more than 33,000 students enrolled in over 150 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 typically enrolls more than 600 students from more than 250 colleges and universities.
12. Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas (top 20% of schools considered)
Founded in 1863, Kansas State University 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. Also known as “Kansas State” or “K-State,” the school houses 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.
13. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas (top 25% 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 degree programs and fields of study 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.
14. University of North Texas, Denton, Texas (top 25% of schools considered)
Founded in 1890, University of North Texas (UNT) is home to nearly 38,000 students enrolled in 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.
15. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon (top 25% of schools considered)
Founded in 1868, Oregon State University (OSU) 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.
16. University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii (top 25% of schools considered)
Founded in 1907, the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH Manoa) is home to 18,865 students enrolled in more than 230 programs across 14 colleges and schools. The College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), Department of Family and Consumer Sciences houses the Fashion Design and Merchandising (FDM) Program. Degree options include a BS in Fashion Design and Merchandising with a Fashion Design or Merchandising Emphasis.
According to the school, “the curriculum teaches cutting-edge skills in computer 2-D and 3-D fashion design; apparel product development; entrepreneurship; retailing; and consumer behavior, attitudes, and consumption of textile and apparel products around the world.” Program highlights include optional membership in the Fashion Club and participation in the Annual Fashion Show. Graduates of the program are prepared to compete for positions such as Textile and Fashion Designer, Technical Designer, Visual Merchandiser, Costume Designer, Curator, and Fashion Forecaster.
17. Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi (top 30% of schools considered)
Mississippi State University was established in 1878 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of the State of Mississippi. The school is home to approximately 21,622 students enrolled in more than 175 programs across 12 colleges and schools. The School of Human Sciences houses the Fashion Design & Merchandising program. Students in the BS program concentrate in one of two areas—Apparel Production & Design or Merchandising. The Apparel Production & Design curriculum “emphasizes the total design and production process from inception to finished product and its ultimate sale to the consumer.”
Program highlights include study abroad experiences, internship opportunities at local companies or overseas, and the opportunity to participate in a variety of fashion show events and showcases.
18. Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia (top 30% of schools considered)
Established in 1838, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is home to more than 31,000 students enrolled in roughly 226 degree and certificate programs across 15 colleges and schools. The School of the Arts is home to the Department of Fashion and Merchandising which has over 300 students enrolled in two educational tracks: the Fashion Design (BFA) and Fashion Merchandising (BA).
Program highlights include optional membership in The VCU Stiletto Club, internship opportunities in the U.S. and overseas, and study abroad opportunities including Fashion in Florence, VCU Qatar, and options in Paris, London, Scotland, and more. Fashion students also have the opportunity to participate in the VCU Annual Fashion Show.
19. Texas Women's University, Denton, Texas (top 30% of schools considered)
Founded in 1901, Texas Women's University (TWU) is home to co-ed population of 15,655 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.
20. San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California (top 35% of schools considered)
Founded in 1899 as San Francisco State Normal School, San Francisco State University (SFSU) is home to more than 30,000 students enrolled in over 140 undergraduate and graduate programs, 17 credential programs, and 38 certificate programs across seven colleges. The College of Health and Social Sciences is home to the Department of Consumer and Family Studies/Dietetics, which offers several programs for aspiring fashion designers.
Offerings include a BS in Apparel Design and Merchandising with an Emphasis in Apparel Design and an MA in Family & Consumer Sciences that can be developed around Apparel studies. Program highlights include internship opportunities, participation in the Annual Fashion Show, and study abroad opportunities in Italy, London, and Sydney.