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Fashion Designers

At a Glance

  • Most work for apparel manufacturers
  • Create sketches, patterns, and sample pieces
  • Often use computer-assisted design (CAD)
  • Work with clients, managers, and workroom staff
  • May work long hours to meet deadlines
  • Have a bachelor's degree

Career summary

Fashion designers design clothes and accessories for manufacture and sale to the public.

#match with 4442, checked 2/26/15 lh

Fashion designers read fashion magazines and attend shows to keep up on fashion trends. They consult with clients or supervisors to find out what types of designs are needed. They combine this information with their own taste to create designs.

Fashion designers make rough sketches of garments or accessories. They measure and draw pattern pieces to actual size on paper. They use these pieces to measure and cut pattern pieces in a sample fabric. Designers sew the pieces together and fit them on a model. They examine the sample garment and make changes until they get the effect they want. Some designers have assistants who cut and sew pattern pieces for them.

Designers often use computer-based drawing programs to create sketches and drawings. These programs allow designers to save drawings and easily change details.

Fashion designers work cooperatively with designers or manufacturing firms to show sample garments at sales meetings or fashion shows. When the designs are approved, they make final drawings. They also specify color scheme, sewing method, and type of fabric. In some companies, designers are involved in each step of production.

Some fashion designers are self-employed and design clothes for private clients. Others work for fashion houses or specialty stores. These designers create original designs but also follow trends. Most designers work for apparel manufacturers. They adapt fashion designs for the mass market.

Some designers work independently. They may be in charge of purchasing materials for designs as well as the designing itself. They may also decide how to price and market their work. Some designers do custom work for individuals, including certain stores or even TV shows and films.

Related careers

This career is part of the Arts, Audio/Visual Technology, and Communications cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to fashion designers.

Common work activities

Fashion designers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, fashion designers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Fashion designers frequently:

It is important for fashion designers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for fashion designers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Fashion designers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a fashion designer, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most fashion designers have a bachelor's degree in fashion design or fashion merchandising. In these programs, you learn about textiles and fabrics and how to use computer-aided design (CAD) technology. You also work on projects that can be added to your portfolio, which showcases your designs.

You usually need to complete one year of basic art and design courses to qualify for a program in design. You may be asked to submit drawings and other examples of your artistic ability.

Training in computers and drawing programs is important preparation for this occupation.

Work experience

Look for opportunities to showcase your talent. Draw for your school or community paper. Create drawings for special events and enter contests.

A job at a clothing or fabric store is also good background. You can also gain skills by working as a tailor.

An internship is another opportunity for gaining skills. These are available at design or manufacturing firms. In an internship you can work with practicing designers.

On-the-job training

Beginning designers usually receive on-the-job training. You may begin as a pattern maker or sketching assistant. As you gain experience, you work on more difficult tasks.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Many fashion designers are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers prefer applicants who have two- or four-year degrees in fashion design. They also prefer applicants who are familiar with fabrics and textiles. In addition, employers prefer applicants who can demonstrate artistic talent. Applicants are usually asked to provide employers with a portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of examples of a designer's best work. A good portfolio is often the deciding factor in getting a job.

Some employers may accept experience or demonstrated ability as a substitute for training. Applicants who gain experience through an internship while in school increase their chances of being hired after graduation. Upon graduation, interns may be hired as assistant designers or into technical jobs such as patternmaker or sample cutter. They may be hired by the employer they did the internship with or by another company through references and word of mouth. Employers look for workers who are highly motivated and self-disciplined.

Experience coordinating overseas production is a plus. Employees who start out as assistant designers or patternmakers may be assigned to a designer position within the same company.


Find a summer job in a department or specialty apparel store. Visit a garment manufacturer to see fashion employees at work. Take classes in graphics and art. Follow world news and global economic trends. Attend style shows, visit art galleries, observe clothing worn by fashion leaders, and "shop" through all kinds of stores where garments are sold. Read fashion books and magazines and learn sewing skills. Courses in small business management may be helpful.

Costs to workers

Costs may include professional association dues. Some fashion designers may be required to buy their own tools.

#Took over national content to remove statement about familiarity with CAD software as something that may be helpful. Seems more likely need to use it for this job, so deleted that statement 4/11/16 cj.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Fashion designers (SOC 27-1022)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $19.18 $22.61 $29.49 $38.58 $49.26
Monthly $3,324 $3,918 $5,111 $6,686 $8,537
Yearly $39,900 $47,030 $61,340 $80,240 $102,460
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $19.72 $23.13 $30.08 $39.46 $50.24
Monthly $3,417 $4,008 $5,213 $6,838 $8,707
Yearly $41,020 $48,096 $62,582 $82,077 $104,494
    Vancouver Hourly $18.87 $24.57 $33.97 $46.66 $61.47
Monthly $3,270 $4,258 $5,887 $8,086 $10,653
Yearly $39,263 $51,099 $70,655 $97,054 $127,863
United States Hourly $17.51 $24.38 $34.96 $48.45 $74.75
Monthly $3,034 $4,225 $6,059 $8,396 $12,954
Yearly $36,420 $50,710 $72,720 $100,780 $155,470

A few well-known fashion designers in top companies earn much more than the median wage. Designers who have their own lines of clothing can earn bonuses and shares in the company.

Besides these few highly-paid fashion designers, wages vary by employer and area of the country. Wages also vary based on a designer's experience and success.

Benefits also vary by employer. Full-time fashion designers often receive benefits such as paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. Part-time designers rarely receive benefits. Fashion designers who are self-employed must provide their own insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Fashion Designers (SOC 27-1022)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 671 11.6% 16.1% 80
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 12 8.3% 11.9% 1
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 10 50.0% 14.6% 2
    King County 547 11.5% 19.6% 65
    Pierce County 21 23.8% 15.2% 3
    Snohomish County 51 2.0% 12.4% 5
    Spokane County 11 18.2% 13.9% 1
United States 25,800 1.6% 5.2% 2,600

National employment

About 24% of fashion designers are self-employed.

Major employers:

Fashion designers generally work for textile, apparel, and pattern manufacturers. They also work for fashion salons, high-fashion department stores, and specialty shops. Many work in major fashion centers such as New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

National outlook

Demand is expected to be slow for this occupation as more clothing is made overseas.

Many talented people are attracted to careers as designers, so the competition for jobs is strong. Creative people with a formal education in design will have the best opportunities. Job prospects are also better in design centers such as New York and California.

Other resources

American Apparel and Footwear Association (external link)
740 - 6th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (external link)
2885 Sanford Ave SW #19588
Grandville, MI 49418
Council of Fashion Designers of America (external link)
65 Bleecker Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10012
Fashion Group International (external link)
National Retail Federation (external link)
1101 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005
Textile Society of America (external link)
Trend Seattle (external link)
528 North 79th Street
Seattle, WA 98103
US Small Business Administration (external link)
Seattle District Office
2401 Fourth Avenue, Suite 450
Seattle, WA 98121


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster