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Fashion design is the applied art dedicated to the design of clothing and lifestyle accessories created within the cultural and social influences of a specific time.

Fashion design differs from costume design due to its core product having a built in obsolescence usually of one to two seasons. A season is defined as either autumn/winter or spring/summer. Fashion design is generally considered to have started in the 19th century with Charles Frederick Worth who was the first person to sew their label into the garments that they created. While all articles of clothing from any time period are studied by academics as costume design, only clothing created after 1858 could be considered as fashion design.

Fashion designers design clothing and accessories also for women. Some high-fashion designers are self-employed and design for individual clients. Other high-fashion esigners cater to specialty stores or high-fashion department stores. These designers create original garments, as well as those that follow established fashion trends. Most fashion designers, however, work for apparel manufacturers, creating designs of men’s, women’s, and children’s fashions for the mass market. Designer brands which have a 'name' as their brand such as Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren are likely to be designed by a team of individual designers under the direction of a designer director.

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History of fashion designEdit


Culture beginningsEdit

The first fashion designer who was not simply a dressmaker was Charles Frederick Worth (1826–1895). Before the former draper set up his maison couture (fashion house) in Paris, clothing design and creation was handled by largely anonymous seamstresses, and high fashion descended from that worn at royal courts. Worth's success was such that he was able to dictate to his customers what they should wear, instead of following their lead as earlier dressmakers had done. The term couturier was in fact first created in order to describe him. It was during this period that many design houses began to hire artists to sketch or paint designs for garments. The images alone could be presented to clients much more cheaply than by producing an actual sample garment in the workroom. If the client liked the design, they ordered it and the resulting garment made money for the house. Thus, the tradition of designers sketching out garment designs instead of presenting completed garments on models to customers began as an economy.

Early twentieth centuryEdit

Throughout the early 20th century, practically all high fashion originated in Paris, and to a lesser extent London. Fashion magazines from other countries sent editors to the Paris fashion shows. Department stores sent buyers to the Paris shows, where they purchased garments to copy and openly stole the style lines and trim details of others. Both made-to-measure salons, and ready-to-wear departments, featured the latest Paris trends,and adapted to the stores' assumptions about the lifestyles and pocket books of their targeted customers.

At this time in fashion history the division between haute couture and ready-to-wear was not sharply defined. The two separate modes of production were still far from being competitors, and, indeed, they often co-existed in houses where the seamstresses moved freely between made-to-measure and ready-made.

Around the start of the twentieth-century fashion magazines began to include photographs and became even more influential than in the past. In cities throughout the world these magazines were greatly sought-after and had a profound effect on public taste. Talented illustrators—among them Paul Iribe, George Lepape and George Barbier—drew exquisite fashion plates for these publications, which covered the most recent developments in fashion and beauty. Perhaps the most famous of these magazines was La Gazette du Bon Ton, which was founded in 1912 by Lucien Vogel and regularly published until 1925 (with the exception of the war years).

World War II created many radical changes in the fashion industry. After the war, Paris's reputation as the global center of fashion began to crumble and off-the-peg and mass-manufactured fashions became increasingly popular. A new youth style emerged in the Fifties, changing the focus of fashion forever. As the installation of central heating became more widespread the age of minimum-care garments began and lighter textiles and, eventually, synthetics, were introduced.

Faced with the threat of a factory-made fashion-based product, Parisian haute couture mounted its defenses, but to little effect, as it could not stop fashion leaking out onto the streets. Before long, whole categories of women hitherto restricted to inferior substitutes to haute couture would enjoy a greatly enlarged freedom of choice. Dealing in far larger quantities, production cycles were longer than those of couture workshops, which meant that stylists planning their lines for the twice-yearly collections had to try to guess more than a year in advance what their customers would want. A new power was afoot, that of the street, constituting a further threat to the dictatorship of the masters of couture.

Late twentieth centuryEdit

During the late twentieth century fashions began to criss-cross international boundaries with rapidity. Popular Western styles were adopted all over the world, and many designers from outside of the West had a profound impact on fashion. Synthetic materials such as Lycra, Spandex, and viscose became widely-used, and fashion, after two decades of looking to the future, once again turned to the past for integration. Currently, modern fashion has seen a reference to technology such as designers Hussein Chalayan and Miuccia Prada who have introduced industrial textiles and modern technology into their fall collections.

Types of fashionEdit

There are three main categories of fashion design, although these may be split up into additional, more specific categories:

Haute couture The type of fashion design which predominated until the 1950s was "made-to-measure" or haute couture, (French for high-fashion). The term made-to-measure may be used for any garment that is created for a specific client. Haute couture, however, is a protected term which can only be officially used by companies that meet certain well-defined standards set by the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture. Nonetheless, many ready-to-wear, and even mass market labels, claim to produce haute couture, when in fact, according to established standards, they do not. A couture garment is made to order for an individual customer, and is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric, sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques. Look and fit take priority over the cost of materials and the time it takes to make.

Ready-to-wear Ready-to-wear clothes are a cross between haute couture and mass market. They are not made for individual customers, but great care is taken in the choice and cut of the fabric. Clothes are made in small quantities to guarantee exclusivity, so they are rather expensive. Ready-to-wear collections are usually presented by fashion houses each season during a period known as Fashion Week. This takes place on a city-wide basis and occurs twice per year.

Mass market These days the fashion industry relies more on mass market sales. The mass market caters for a wide range of customers, producing ready-to-wear clothes in large quantities and standard sizes. Cheap materials, creatively used, produce affordable fashion. Mass market designers generally adapt the trends set by the famous names in fashion. They often wait around a season to make sure a style is going to catch on before producing their own versions of the original look. In order to save money and time, they use cheaper fabrics and simpler production techniques which can easily be done by machine. The end product can therefore be sold much more cheaply. Increasingly, many modern high-end designers are now beginning to turn to mass market retailers to produce lower-priced merchandise, and to broaden their customer base.

Designing a collectionEdit

Planning a collection: Every collection is very carefully researched and planned so that all the items in it complement each other, and have the particular fashion look which the company is known for.

Predicting trends: One of the hardest skills a fashion designer has to master is predicting future trends. To do this, they look at what the fashion directions have been in previous seasons, keep an eye on what others in the fashion business are doing, and read fashion forecasting magazines. They also rely on knowledge of their own customers to see which styles succeeded and which were less popular in past seasons. Perhaps most importantly, designers use their imaginations to come up with new ideas. They often choose a theme to provide inspiration.

Choosing a theme: The theme of a collection can be a period in history, a foreign place, a range of colors, a type of fabric - anything which has a strong visual impact.

Designing a garment

  • The design: Different designers work in different ways. Some sketch their ideas on paper, others drape fabric on a dress stand, pinning, folding and tucking it until the idea for a garment emerges. A third method is to adapt their own patterns from previous seasons (this method can give continuity to a fashion studio's output).
  • Making a toile or muslin: After making a rough paper pattern, or life-size 2-D plan, of the garment, a sample machinist (or skilled sewing machine operator) then makes a trial version of the garment from plain-colored calico. The toile (called a muslin in the U.S.) is put on to a dress stand (or a model) to see how it fits and whether it hangs properly.
  • Making a card pattern: When the designer is completely satisfied with the fit of the toile (or muslin), they show it to a professional pattern maker who then makes the finished, working version of the pattern out of card. The pattern maker's job is very precise and painstaking. The fit of the finished garment depends on their accuracy.
  • The finished dress: Finally, a sample garment is made up in the proper fabric and tested on a fit model.

Areas of workEdit

There are three main ways in which designers can work:

Working freelance: Freelance designers works for themselves. They sell their work to fashion houses, direct to shops, or to clothing manufacturers. The garments bear the buyer's label.

Working In-house: In-house designers are employed full-time by one fashion company. Their designs are the property of that company, and cannot be sold to anyone else.

Setting up a company: Fashion designers often set up their own companies. A lot of designers find this more satisfying than working for someone else, as their designs are sold under their own label.


Most fashion designers earn between $13,440 and $93,000. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average annual income of $67,370 for fashion designers in 2005. Median annual earnings for fashion designers were $48,530 (£26,019) in 2000. The middle 50 percent earned between $34,800 (£18,658) and $73,780 (£39,557). The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,710 (£13,248), and the highest 10 percent earned more than $103,970 (£55,743). Median annual earnings were $52,860 (£28,340) in apparel, piece goods, and notions - the industry employing the largest numbers of fashion designers.[1]

Fashion educationEdit


Most fashion designers today have attended some kind of art school. There are a number of well known fashion design schools worldwide. Possibly the most famous is Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. Alumni of St Martins include John Galliano, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan. Other notable London Fashion Schools include the London College of Fashion,The Royal College of Arts in London and the University of Westminster, whose alumni include Vivienne Westwood, Christopher Bailey, and Stuart Vevers.

Note: Fashion Designer like Coco Chanel never attended Art school.

Notable American fashion design schools include Pratt Institute, Parsons The New School for Design and Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) in New York City, Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts, Drexel University and Moore College in Philadelphia offer fashion design programs, The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (F.I.D.M) and A.I.U. in Los Angeles alumns include Uriel Saenz and Ashley Paige, and more specialized in French Haute Couture techniques, Academy of Couture Art in Beverly Hills. According to the annual survey from US News, Parsons has recently lost its position as the top school in the U.S. for graduate art programs; now The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (S.A.I.C) has shifted up in the list and taken its place. This is being attributed to Parsons' loss of Tim Gunn as a faculty member of their fashion program, who resigned to become the Creative Director for Liz Claiborne. SAIC: Founded as the Chicago Academy of Design in 1866 by a collective of studio artists, the institution went through many changes before the turn of the century, some necessitated by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The collecting arm of the School was founded in 1872, and The Art Institute of Chicago was born in 1882 to accommodate a distinct museum and school. The Art Institute moved to its current iconic location on Michigan Avenue after the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, and it remains the largest museum-school partnership in the country. Notable fashion alumi include Halston, Gemma Kahng, and Cynthia Rowley.

The most famous institute on the Indian subcontinent is National Institute of Fashion Technology (N.I.F.T.). NIFT has 8 centers across India and their New Delhi Center is regarded as the best fashion school on the Indian subcontinent. NIFT is planning to come up with at least 2 more centres in the North Indian city of Patna and in Kerala in South India. The School of Fashion Technology (SOFT) in Pune has a three year degree course in fashion apparel design. It has diploma courses as well. The Pearl Academy of Fashion has 5 centres in India and one in the UAE.

Most fashion design courses last for three years. As well as teaching students about the artistic and technical side of the subject, some courses include a year working in the fashion industry, to give students a taste of commercial fashion design. Others offer the chance to visit fashion houses abroad. At the end of their final year most students produce a collection which is then shown to buyers and prospective employers at the college show. To keep cost down, each collection consists of around three to eight outfits (the number varies from college to college). To put across a consistent and memorable look within this limited range of garments, students specialize in one particular area. Many colleges enter students for design competitions, sponsored by clothing or fabric companies.

Most of the time, people who want to become top designers will work with other designers and gain hands-on experience.

Areas of fashion designEdit

Many professional fashion designers start off by specializing in a particular area of fashion. The smaller and the more specific the market, the more likely a company is to get the right look and feel to their clothes. It is also easier to establish oneself in the fashion industry if a company is known for one type of product, rather than several products . Once a fashion company becomes established (that is, has regular buyers and is well-known by both the trade and the public), it may decide to expand into a new area. If the firm has made a name for the clothes it already produces, this helps to sell the new line. It is usually safest for a company to expand into an area similar to the one it already knows. For example, a designer of women's sportswear might expand into men's sportswear. The chart below shows the areas in which many designers choose to specialize.

Area Brief Market
Women's Day wear Practical, comfortable, fashionable Haute couture, ready-to-wear, mass market
Women's Evening wear Glamorous, sophisticated, apt for the occasion Haute couture, ready-to-wear, mass market
Women's Lingerie Glamorous, comfortable, washable Haute Couture, ready-to-wear, mass market
Men's Day wear Casual, practical, comfortable Tailoring, ready-to-wear, mass market
Men's Evening wear Smart, elegant, formal, apt for the occasion Tailoring, ready-to-wear, mass market
Girls' Wear Pretty, colorful, practical, washable, inexpensive Ready-to-wear, mass market
Teenage Wear Highly fashion-conscious, comfortable, inexpensive Ready-to-wear, mass market
Sportswear Comfortable, practical, well-ventilated, washable Ready-to-wear, mass market
Knitwear Right weight and color for the season Ready-to-wear, mass market
Outerwear Stylish, warm, right weight and color for the season Ready-to-wear, mass market
Bridal wear Sumptuous, glamorous, classic Haute couture, ready-to-wear, mass market
Accessories Striking, fashionable Haute couture, ready-to-wear, mass market

Fashion design around the worldEdit

Most major countries have their own fashion industry, including Belgium, Spain, Portugal, India, The Netherlands, Germany, and Australia. However, only five nations have established truly international reputations in fashion design. These countries are France, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Italy, and Japan. Below are brief descriptions of the fashion industry in each country.

French fashion designEdit

Most French fashion houses are in Paris, which is the capital of French fashion and of the world. Traditionally, French fashion is chic and stylish, defined by its sophistication, cut, and smart accessories. Among the many Parisian couture houses are Chanel and Christian Dior, who present e

xclusive fashion shows in their salons; other designers display their work at the designer collections that are held twice a year.

British fashion designEdit

As in France, the majority of British fashion houses are based in the capital, London.Where as the French are considered the epitome of style and fashion in ladies' garments, the pinnacle of men's is considered to be London[citation needed], Savile Row in particular. British fashion houses are associated with a very traditional, British style: elegant, yet conservative cuts, fine yet not overly extravagant materials and a sort of noble, even 'imperial' elegance, such as that of traditional 'Fifties debutantes' gowns, compared to the French 'chic'. The first fashion designer, Charles Worth, was a native of Britain, although he made his name in Paris in the 19th century. In the 1920s, Norman Hartnell became known for elaborate evening gowns, and went on to design Queen Elizabeth II's world-renowned wedding and coronation gowns, along with others for many members of the British royal family. Famous British Designers include Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Matthew Williamson, Luella Bartley, Sir Hardy Amies, Christopher Bailey, Bruce Oldfield and Christopher Kane,

American fashion designEdit

The majority of American fashion houses are based in New York, although there are also a significant number in Los Angeles, where a substantial percentage of clothing manufactured in the US is actually made, and Chicago, which was once a center of American fashion. American fashion design is dominated by a clean-cut, casual style, reflecting the athletic, health-conscious lifestyles of many American city-dwellers. A designer who helped to set the trend in the United States for sport-influenced day wear throughout the 1940's and 50's was Claire McCardell. Many of her designs have been revived in recent decades. More modern influences on the American look have been Calvin Klein (known for classic coats and separates), Ralph Lauren (known for casually elegant clothes in natural fabrics), Uriel Saenz (known for his luxury detailing and superb craftmenship), Anna Sui (known for her unique styles of clothing and for creating new trends), Donna Karan (known for practical, sophisticated women's wear), Kenneth Cole (know for a modern, casual look), Marc Jacobs (known for a diverse style and influences), Michael Kors (for a fresh appeal), and Tommy Hilfiger (known for preppy, modern American style). Also, among the younger American crowd, Hollister, American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch, Aéropostale, and Coach predominate.

Italian fashion designEdit

Most of the older Italian couturiers are in Rome. However, Milan is the Italian fashion capital because it is base to most of the well-known designers, and it is the exhibition venue for their collections. Italian fashion features casual elegance and luxurious fabrics. The first Italian luxury brand was Salvatore Ferragamo (who has exported exquisite hand-made shoes to the U.S. since the 1920s); among the best-known, exclusive fashion names are Valentino ("Rosso Valentino" [Red Valentino] line), Gianfranco Ferrè (boldly-cut, brightly-colored clothes), Giorgio Armani (subtle masculinity for men and women), Gianni Versace (beautifully-cut leather clothes), and Dolce & Gabbana (classic-to-modern avante-garde appeal); per, Gucci is the greatest-selling Italian fashion brand, with world-wide sales of $7.158 billion dollars. [1]

Japanese fashion designEdit

Most Japanese fashion houses are in Tokyo. The Japanese look is loose and unstructured (often resulting from complicated cutting), colours tend to the sombre and subtle, and richly textured fabrics. The most famous Japanese fashion designers work in Europe and the U.S.A., but the Tokyo designer collection presentations are major international fashion event. Famous Japanese designers are Kenzo (layered looks, highly original knitwear), Issey Miyake (masterful drape and cut), and Rei Kawakubo, who developed a new way of cutting (comparable to Madeleine Vionnet's innovation in the 1930s).

Fashion design termsEdit

  • A fashion designer conceives garment combinations of line, proportion, color, and texture. He or she may or may not know how to sew or make patterns. Formal training is not always essential, yet most fashion designers are formally trained (apprenticed) and schooled.
  • A pattern maker drafts the shapes and sizes of a garment's pieces with paper and measuring tools, and, some times, an AutoCAD computer software program, or by draping muslin on a dress form, the original way. The resulting pattern pieces must compose the intended design of the garment and they must fit the intended wearer. Formal training is essential for working as a pattern marker.
  • A tailor makes custom designed garments made to the client's measure; suits (coat and trousers, jacket and skirt, et cetera).
  • A textile designer designs fabric weaves and prints for clothes and furnishings. Most textile designers are formally trained as apprentices and in school.
  • A stylist is the person who co-ordinates the clothes, jewelry, and accessories used in fashion photography and catwalk presentations of clothes collections. A stylist also is a designer whose designs are based upon extant things, trends, and the collections of other designers.
  • A buyer orders stocks of clothes for shops, chain stores, and other types of stores. Most fashion buyers are trained in business studies.
  • A seamstress sews seams wither manually or with a sewing machine, either in a garment shop or as a sewing machine operator in a factory. She (or he) may not have the skills to make (design and cut) the garments, or to fit them on a model. A seamstress is not synonymous with dressmaker.
  • A teacher of fashion design teaches the art and craft of fashion in art schools and in fashion design school.
  • A custom clothier makes custom-made garments to order, for a given customer.
  • A dressmaker specializes in custom-made women's clothes:day, cocktail, and evening dresses, business clothes and suits, trouseaus, sports clothes, and lingerie.
  • An illustrator draws and paints clothes for commercial use.
  • A model wears and displays clothes at fashion shows and in photographs.
  • A fit model wears and comments on the clothes during their design and pre-manufacture.
  • A fashion journalist writes fashion articles describing the garments presented, for magazines or newspapers.
  • An alterations specialist (alterationist) adjusts the fit of completed garments, usually ready-to-wear, and sometimes re-styles them. NOTE: despite tailors altering garments to fit the client, not all alterationists are tailors.
  • A wardrobe consultant or fashion advisor recommends styles and colors that are flattering to the client.
  • A photographer photographs the clothes on fashion models for use in magazines, newspapers, or adverts.

See also Edit


  1. "Best Global Brands: The 100 Most Valuable Brands", BusinessWeek
  • Barwick, Sandra A Century of Style, London, Allen & Unwin, 1984
  • Hawes, Elizabeth Fashion is Spinach, Random House, 1938
  • Albert-Terrou, Histoire de la Presse, Paris, PUF, 1970
  • Lobenthal, Joel Radical Rags: Fashions of the Sixties, New York, Abbeville Press, 1990
  • O'Hara, Georgina The Encyclopedia of Fashion, Abrams
  • Ireland, John Patrick Encyclopedia of Fashion Details,

External links Edit


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