6 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Majoring in Fashion

If you come from a relatively traditional family, you’ll probably be greeted with disappointment when you tell them that you plan on studying fashion design or fashion merchandising in college.

Their concern is a bit warranted, as it’s really, really hard to make it as a fashion designer. But if you’re open to working in another facet of the fashion industry, they should educate themselves. The fashion industry has seen increasing job growth in recent years, and a degree in fashion merchandising can lead to a ton of careers involving buying, marketing, public relations, and graphic design.

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But that being said, a fashion degree isn’t all shopping and picking pretty fabrics from Mood. If you’re considering studying fashion or simply want to know what it’s all about, read on to see the common misconceptions debunked.

Myth 1. You’ll Never Have To Take Boring Gen-Ed Classes

This varies depending on what school you attend, but if you’re getting a bachelor’s degree, chances are you’re still going to have to take basic classes like English and math. I went to Drexel, one of the weird school that is on quarters, and they boasted that their fashion students get right into major-related courses in their first year. In traditional colleges, though, a student’s first year involves no real major-related classes at all, which means that they’re taking sciences and other gen-ed classes instead.

Even though I was “lucky” and got to take major-related classes as a freshman, they were basically the equivalent of gen-ed for art majors. Think Design I, Design II, and Design III. WTF did I do in these classes? Well, in Design III, my teacher challenged us to build a sculpture out of popsicle sticks and dental floss without using any type of adhesive. Needless to say, I had fantasies about strangling him.

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Myth 2. You’re Going To Have Tons of Creative Liberty

Fashion school is still school, which means that in order for a teacher to be able to grade properly, there are still guidelines and projects and stupid homework assignments. You’re not going to walk into your first day of class and be told to let your imagination run wild, sorry. In fact, at my alma mater, you didn’t get to truly design your own collection until senior year, and all of freshman year consisted of making basic pieces assigned by your teacher. Sure, there were projects where you got to draw out your designs or come up with concepts, but if your teacher didn’t like the idea, you had to scrap it unless you wanted to fail. As an added bonus, working with a group is even harder when everyone is trying to bring their “vision” to life.

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Myth 3. Your Teachers Have Amazing Stories & Contacts

Remember that old saying, “if you can’t do, teach”? Well, it wasn’t lost on college professors, especially those that teach in fashion programs. Of course, I had some amazing professors, one who has written tons of fashion books that I’ve quoted in pieces and another who casually had to miss class one week to go style the Kardashians — but those were exceptions.

Lots of my “fashion” professors never worked in fashion at all, or they worked at a department store until it went out of business and then decided to cut their losses and teach instead. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re bad teachers, but it means that some of their criteria isn’t based on the industry standard at all, or it’s super dated. Once you get your first few fashion internships (a necessity for anyone who wants to work in the industry) you begin to feel like your fashion courses are pointless.

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Myth 4. It’s Like Shopping, Just For a Grade

I’ll never forget the time that some frat bro who was trying to get in my pants texted me something along the lines of, “oh, you’re a fashion major? So what is that? Like, coloring?” Naturally, I immediately stopped texting him, but he’s definitely not the first person to make that assumption.

To be honest, even I probably thought studying fashion would be easier than it truly was. For some people, it might be easier than something like physics would be (although I’d probably have been better at physics, TBH). But regardless of whether it’s easy or not, it’s time consuming for everyone. You can bullshit an English paper, you can’t bullshit an entire dress from scratch during an all-nighter.

Another difficulty is that because there’s not a “right” way to do a project, teachers can grade subjectively. You also have to always worry about what everyone else is doing, because if some over-achiever decides she wants to complement her presentation with a bunch of extra shit that wasn’t required, she’s getting an A and your perfect project that checks all the boxes on the syllabus is not.

Myth 5. You’ll Get a Job That Lets You Explore Your Creative Passions

Yikes. Hate to burst your bubble on this, but the fashion industry looks a lot more glam than it really is. You might already know that getting a job in the fashion industry means first working a bunch of shitty unpaid internships, but things don’t suddenly perk up when you get your first full-time job either. Entry-level jobs are generally not a huge step up from interning (although at least you’ll be getting paid), and no matter what level you’re at in your career path, working for another fashion label means that you’re making decisions based on the head of the company — or more likely, on your customer.

When I worked one of my first internships in a big luxury brand’s shoe design department, I constantly saw the designers’ dope sketches get dumbed down into basic pieces that the “average consumer” would buy. After all, that’s where all the money is. Unfortunately, the only way to really have freedom to design your own pieces is to launch your own label and work for yourself — which generally comes along with financial risk and lots of debt. Pretty impossible, unless you have a rich daddy like Stella McCartney, of course.

6. Everyone Dresses Cute For Class

Okay, I know your classmates are supposed to be the future Gianni Versaces or whatever, but that doesn’t mean they’re not hungover and craving sweatpants on a Friday morning, ya feel? This goes double for fashion design majors since half of them spend all night in the lab and barely have time to go home and shower. Yes, there are always the students that overdress because that’s their thing, but you definitely don’t have to get all dolled up and aren’t expected to, unless you have one of those psycho teachers who somehow factors your outfit into your grade based on the “dress for the job you want” theory.

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