Polygence blog / Education and College Admissions

Best Schools for Fashion in the US

4 minute read

Fashion has evolved beyond a mere expression of style; it's a dynamic industry that intertwines creativity, business acumen, and cultural influence. Fashion is more than garments and runway shows; it's a form of visual storytelling that reflects societal trends, personal identity, and cultural shifts. Being a fashion student opens doors to many career paths, from design and merchandising to sustainable fashion advocacy and fashion technology. If you're interested in pursuing fashion studies, the following list will guide you on the best fashion design schools in the US.

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Top Schools for Fashion

#1 Parsons School of Design - The New School

Location: New York City, New York
Tuition: $52,980

Why it’s a top school: Located in the world’s fashion capital, Parsons School of Design offers a comprehensive Fashion Design degree that combines hands-on experience with exposure to the industry's cutting edge. The school's strong emphasis on innovation and sustainability prepares students to navigate the evolving landscape of fashion.

Notable faculty:

  • Tim Gunn: Fashion consultant, television personality, and former chair of the Fashion Design Department at Parsons

  • Kay Unger: Renowned fashion designer and former Creative Director of Phoebe Company

Famous students and fashion design graduates include Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Donna Karan and Alexander Wang.

#2 Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)

Location: New York City, New York
Tuition: $5,740 in-state, $16,470 out-of-state

Why it’s a top school: FIT stands out for its range of specialized programs, including Fashion Business Management and Textile Development and Marketing. The school's close ties with the fashion industry, including internship opportunities and collaborations with renowned designers, provide students with a practical and immersive fashion program.

Notable faculty: 

  • Calvin Klein: Fashion designer and FIT alumnus

  • Joan Morgan: Fashion historian and former Chair of the Fashion and Textile Studies Department

Notable alumni: 
Reem Acra, Francisco Costa, Nina Garcia, Carolina Herrera, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Nanette Lepore, and Ralph Rucci.

#3 Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Tuition: $39,000

Why it’s a top school: RISD is a small but highly respected design school, gaining prominence as a fashion design powerhouse. With programs in Apparel Design, Jewelry and Metalsmithing, and Textiles, RISD focuses on pure design, offering students a unique and concentrated learning experience. The school's recent collaboration with Elle magazine for a student fashion show at New York Fashion Week further solidifies its position on the national fashion radar, providing career opportunities for fashion design graduates.

Notable alumni: 
Nicole Miller, Sari Gueron, Philip Crangi, Marcia Patmos, Sarah Welsh & Madeline Davy (formerly of Octopi)

#4 Pratt Institute

Location: Brooklyn, New York
Tuition: $37,500

Why it’s a top school: Pratt has evolved from an up-and-coming fashion design program to a force reckoned with. The school's student shows have garnered increased attention, attracting Vogue personalities and well-known designers. Pratt's integration into a larger design school allows students to combine art studies seamlessly, while the inclusion of electives in fashion editorial/magazine publishing sets it apart.

Notable people: 

  • Jeremy Scott: Fashion designer and Pratt alumnus

#5 Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) - Los Angeles

Location: Los Angeles, California
Tuition: Varies by program

Why it’s a top school: FIDM, located in the heart of the fashion-forward Los Angeles, offers a variety of specialized programs in design and merchandising. Known for its industry-focused curriculum, FIDM provides students with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the competitive fashion landscape. The school's extensive network of industry connections and partnerships ensures students have access to valuable resources and opportunities.

Notable people: Monique Lhuillier, Pamela Skaist-Levy (co-founder of Juicy Couture), Lubov Azria (Chief Creative Officer of BCBG Max Azria Group)

#6 Massachusetts College of Art (MassArt)

Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Tuition: $15,700 in-state, $32,600 out-of-state

Why it’s a top school: MassArt offers a unique blend of art and design education, fostering creativity and innovation. The Fashion Design program at MassArt emphasizes both traditional craftsmanship and cutting-edge techniques. The school's commitment to sustainability and social responsibility is reflected in its fashion curriculum, preparing students for a future-oriented industry.

Notable people: Fashion designers, including Carlos Villamil, Christine Alcalay, and Adam Lippes.

#7 New York University (NYU)

Location: New York City, New York
Tuition: $53,310

Why it’s a top school: NYU, situated in the heart of the fashion-forward city of New York, offers a unique blend of academic excellence and urban immersion. While NYU is not traditionally known for fashion-focused programs, its strong emphasis on arts, culture, and business provides a diverse foundation for students interested in the fashion industry. Students benefit from the vibrant city setting, with opportunities for internships, networking, and exposure to the global fashion scene.

Polygence research program mentors:

 Desira P: For ten years, I ran my sustainable fashion line for ten years and started selling my clothing worldwide. I wanted to make clothing that told stories. I began working in the film industry and eventually got my Master's in Costume Design at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.  My thesis was the design of an epic script centering on the life and times of David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust and Glam Rock culture. I have designed twenty films, including period, fantasy, narrative, and Shakespeare. I have also worked on many commercials, including Winn Dixie, Lay's, Hellmann's, and Nike. My passion is exploring the intersection of history and fashion. I view fashion as anthropology. It’s fun, sure, but how societies--and what we put on our bodies--have advanced is intrinsically linked to politics, technology, architecture, economics, and the world around us. We cannot study fashion without a keen understanding of history. Let's explore. I love what I do and would love to share the intricacies and attention to detail my expertise requires. It's way more than fashion! 

Katharina W: I grew up trilingual in England, France, and Germany before attending Brown University to study fashion history and design. For my thesis, I designed and sewed a 12-look fashion collection that showed during Brown University Fashion Week. I also completed an intensive fashion design program at the Istituto Marangoni in Milan, where I learned to develop both menswear and womenswear collections and worked backstage at several Milan Fashion Week shows. I went on to complete my MFA in Costume Design at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and am currently working as a costume designer for film and television in New York. My recent projects include the NYU graduate theater production of Suddenly Last Summer, directed by Pamela Berlin, and the music video Religion for British pop singer Shura. My work is motivated by the precision and logic of clothing construction and my love of visual storytelling. I enjoy making my own clothes and learning about fashion history in my free time. 

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Lesser Known Schools for Studying Fashion and Design

#1 Lasell University, School of Fashion

Location: Newton, Massachusetts
Tuition: $40,920

Why it’s noteworthy: Lasell University offers a Fashion Design and Production program emphasizing a hands-on, experiential approach. With a focus on sustainability and global perspectives, students gain practical skills through industry collaborations and internships.

Notable people: 

  • Jill Carey: Chair of Lasell's Fashion Department and accomplished designer

#2 Stephens College

Location: Columbia, Missouri
Tuition: $30,040

Why it’s noteworthy: Stephens College might be smaller in size, but its Fashion Design + Product Development, along with the Communication program, is making waves. With a curriculum that spans journalism, marketing, and visual communication, students are prepared for diverse roles in the fashion industry.

Notable faculty:

#3 Mercyhurst University

Location: Erie, Pennsylvania
Tuition: $38,750

Why it’s noteworthy: Mercyhurst University's Fashion Merchandising program combines business and creativity, providing students with a well-rounded education. The school's emphasis on practical experiences, such as internships and industry partnerships, sets it apart.

#4 LIM College (Laboratory Institute of Merchandising)

Location: New York City, New York
Tuition: $33,050

Why it’s noteworthy: LIM College focuses exclusively on the fashion business, offering programs in Fashion Merchandising, Marketing, and Management. With a prime location in NYC, students benefit from networking opportunities and real-world exposure.

#5 Marymount University

Location: Arlington, Virginia
Tuition: $34,380

Why it’s noteworthy: Marymount University's Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising programs provide a well-rounded education in the industry’s creative and business aspects. The school's proximity to Washington, D.C., adds a unique dimension to fashion education.

#6 Kent State University

Location: Kent, Ohio
Tuition: Ohio resident: $9,030; Non-Ohio resident: $16,900

Why it’s noteworthy: Kent State University stands out as a powerhouse in fashion education. With Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising programs, the university provides a comprehensive and dynamic learning environment. Kent State is committed to experiential learning, offering study-abroad programs in fashion capitals like Paris and Milan. The School of Fashion also boasts a garment center studio in NYC, providing students with a real-world connection to the heart of the fashion industry.

Polygence research program mentors:

Sarah Y: I have been working in the Fashion Industry for 5+ years in various areas such as Merchandising, Visual Merchandising, Creative Services, Marketing, and Wholesale. I am very passionate about capturing a brand's identity or overall message and translating it to make an impactful impression on the consumer. I enjoy painting, meeting new people, reading, and exploring new places in my spare time.

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How Do You Decide Where to Go?

Now that you have an idea of the best fashion design schools, it's time to weigh your options by choosing the skill you want to specialize in. Fashion is a vast and diverse field with numerous sub-fields catering to various interests and talents. Here are some prominent sub-fields in the fashion industry.

1. Fashion Design or Apparel Design

The creation of clothing and accessories. Designers conceptualize and bring their ideas to life through sketches and prototypes.

2. Fashion Merchandising

Involves the business side of fashion, including buying, marketing, and selling. Merchandisers analyze trends, manage inventory, and develop strategies to promote and sell fashion products.

3. Textile Design

Focuses on creating and designing fabrics, patterns, and textures in clothing and accessories.

4. Fashion Marketing and Management

Encompasses fashion brand promotion, advertising, and strategic management. Professionals in this field work on campaigns, brand development, and retail management.

5. Fashion Journalism

Involves writing, editing, graphic design, reporting on fashion trends, events, industry news, and everything else related to fashion communication. Fashion journalists can work for magazines, websites, or broadcast media.

6. Fashion Styling

Stylists curate and coordinate clothing and accessories to create visually appealing looks for photo shoots, fashion shows, or individual clients.

7. Accessory Design

Focuses on designing accessories like handbags, shoes, jewelry, and hats that complement and enhance fashion ensembles.

8. Fashion Illustration

Artists create visual representations of fashion designs using traditional or digital mediums.

9. Costume Design

Involves creating costumes for film, television, theater, and other performances, blending creativity with historical and cultural knowledge.

10. Fashion Technology

Emerging field that incorporates technology into fashion, including wearable tech, digital fashion design, and sustainable fashion technologies.

When deciding where to go, take the time to visit campuses, attend informational sessions, and speak with current students and alumni to request information and guidance. These will help you make an informed decision about which fashion school aligns best with your goals and aspirations. Good luck with getting that fashion design degree!