8 Common Myths about Fashion School

Contrary to popular belief, several of the assumptions people believe about fashion school are myths. While many speculate about what it is like to go to fashion school, few have it right. I’m sure you’re picturing studying for exams in a closet full of clothes or taking shopping field trips. Not exactly. In fact, a degree in fashion comes with a unique set of challenges and is one of the most competitive fields.

I knew that I wanted to major in fashion long before I ever set foot on campus. From a very young age, I had visions of clothing and designs. I excelled in creative and artistic areas. My passion for fashion soared far above my other interests. Since obtaining my fashion degree in 2015, I realized that, I too, had little idea of what studying fashion would actually entail in the beginning. Here are the 8 most common myths debunked about going to school for fashion.

Contrary to what you may believe, attending fashion school is not as glamorous as it appears in the movie. Here are the 8 most common myths debunked about going to school for fashion.

1. Myth: Fashion students walk campus like it’s a runway

Fashion school is not an episode of Gossip Girl. Fashion students don’t all wear designer clothes and have the most luxurious handbags. They don’t spend all of their time shopping for shallow and materialistic items.

Unlike the Coco Chanel quote, the university campus is not your runway.

While appearance is important in any professional environment, dressing fashionably is not top priority. When you arrive to your 8 am on the very first day, don’t expect all of your peers to be in dresses and stilettos. Chances are they will be in sweats like every other college student. Despite wanting to look fashionable, you will soon learn that half of your closet is not practical for walking a mile across campus multiple times a day. Don’t even think about wearing heels, even if they do compliment your outfit. You will thank me later. 

2. Myth: Your fashion career path is limited

Why is such a common belief that there are few options for fashion majors? I cannot tell you how many times someone has asked me, “oh you’re a fashion major, does that mean you’re just going to sew alterations or work in a retail store?” No.

Many people believe that your only options are to make and draw clothes with a fashion degree. This simply is not true. In fact, you don’t even have to be creative or good at design to be successful in fashion.

Fashion is a broad industry and is one that affects every single person on the planet. There are other jobs besides designing including; journalism, marketing & advertising, fashion buying, modeling, entrepreneurship, and so much more. Many of these jobs and careers often get overlooked or forgotten about. Finding a job in fashion is no different that getting a job within any other field.

3. Myth: Obtaining a fashion degree is easy

People have said to me, “you don’t need to go to school to work in fashion” or “I didn’t even know you could major in fashion” countless times. A few very lucky souls are able to blossom in the fashion industry without a background education on the topic, but for the majority of us, it is the very foundation to develop necessary skills and future success. While fashion may be considered an unconventional major, that does not mean that it is easy. It is far from it.

There is an assumption when it comes to fashion students, that they aren’t as smart as other scholars. They think that those who choose to go into fashion do so because they weren’t “smart enough” or “good enough” to do anything else.

Fashion degrees tend to have a reputation of disrespect, especially when compared to math and science. People obtaining fashion degrees are often looked down upon from other majors that are deemed “more difficult.”

What you may not know, is that there is a mixture of so many components within fashion. It contains elements of science, math, and business aside from creativity and design. One of the most difficult classes I took in my college career was apparel textiles. it was very scientifically based with lab testing, microscope use, and integrated technology. I’m sure you would also be surprised by how much math goes into retail buying or pattern making. The concepts of fashion seem simple on the outside, until you delve a little deeper.

4. Myth: It is an individual major

When you imagine fashion, you probably think of creating your own designs and making your ideas come to life. While that can be the case, more often it is not. Fashion is a field full of compromise and listening to the suggestions of your fellow peers.

Fashion degrees are extremely team-project oriented. If you have ever watched a season of Project Runway, you know that team challenges are by far the most dreaded. Everyone prefers to work on their own designs, but in the fashion industry, you will be expected to be able to work as part of a team and collaborate. It is important to brainstorm and bounce around creative ideas with others to come up with the best final product.

5. Myth: All you need is good style to be a fashion student

While many believe that having a good sense of style is all you need to succeed in fashion school, style is actually only a small component. It will come in handy when you are putting colors, fabrics, and other design elements together. However, there are other skills that far surpass stylish decision making.

One important skill that people tend to overlook is having a basic understanding of sewing. I cannot stress this enough. Knowing how to sew is essential for anyone aspiring to work in fashion design. You must have basic garment construction knowledge to know if your design is practical and will ever become anything more than just an idea.

Another important skill in fashion is public speaking. You must have the confidence to be able to explain your design or project, answer questions, and defend your work. It is a key part of the industry to help others understand your thought process and the choices you made. Be able to speak up and voice your opinions.

You must be tech-savvy to work in the industry. Having expert knowledge in basic computer skills and programs is a must. Fashion professionals also use CAD software such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign on a daily basis.

A fashion student should have impeccable organizational skills and attention to detail. To survive in the industry, you must be on top of everything that needs to be done, no mater how small. Every single detail is critical to a design from the size of the buttons down to the hook & eye closure. One mistakes affects the entire outcome.

Fashion is not just about looking pretty.  

6. Myth: All you have to do is pass your classes to make it

Going to class and passing the exams does not guarantee a good grade. You must always go to class prepared with the right materials in order to learn and participate. Many lessons are hands-on and not something you can easily teach yourself through reading a textbook.

Keeping up with course work and not procrastinating is key. This major has more projects than almost any other. They are time consuming and details are vital to success. The professor will be able to tell who put the time and effort into the project compared to those who did not.

You must also participate outside of class. Extracurricular activities are very important to build a portfolio. This could include making garments in your free time to practice, or getting involved in student-run organizations on campus.

Similar to extracurricular activities, internships and networking events are vital to success in the industry. Once you graduate, you are on your own. Interning helps develop relationships and potential job leads in the future. Be sure to make the most of these opportunities.

7. Myth: Everyone studying fashion is cold and mean

Not all industry leaders are like Miranda Presley from the Devil Wears Prada. That is not the reality, at least not typically.

Not just fashion school, but the industry as a whole, does have a reputation of being hard on people and tearing you down. However, it is designed to make you better. Learning to take criticism in a constructive way is important. While it may come off harsh and scary, it will give you more confidence in the end. You must believe in your work because if you don’t, no one else will. 

There is also thought to be coldness between your fashion peers. While there is a lot of competition within the fashion industry, you do not have to be cut-throat to make it. Everyone will be looking out for their own best interests, but they can also be great friends. Of all the people, other fashion majors already have so many things in common with you. Don’t let competition get in the way. Allow yourself to help and encourage others.

Similarly, fashion majors are artists and often feel misunderstood. You may see them sketching alone in a corner, but that usually means they are lost in their own train of thoughts. It does not mean that they are cold and unapproachable.

8. Myth: There are no new things to be learned in fashion

Many people believe that fashion is all about recycled ideas and old styles falling back into trend. While previous decades are reintroduced season after season, there are also many new ideas. These ideas are not just in clothing and trends but also how fashion is made.

Innovation and technology are rapidly changing the fashion industry. This includes things like 3-D printing, CAD software, and virtual reality systems for fashion. It is revolutionizing the way clothes are made and sold to customers. In fashion school, I had the opportunity to work with a cold weather chamber to see how garments stand up to extreme weather conditions. I also used an infrared camera to test body heat. Those are just a few real world examples of technology being used in fashion every single day to make clothing fresh and new.

These myths about fashion school give fashion majors a bad reputation. Studying fashion is full of pretty A little things, but is also a lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes. A bit of style, a lot of passion, and even more dedication. I hope this inspires future fashionistas and debunks many of the misconceptions surrounding fashion school.

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*Disclaimer: movie quote images and gifs are not my own. All rights belong to the original owner.

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