Top 10 Fashion Design Courses
Visions of Project Runway dancing in your head?
Creative and glamorous, a career in fashion design may sound about as improbable as becoming a movie star. But the truth is that there are dozens of careers in the industry—garment technologist, merchandiser, textile designer, and many more—available, and new technologies combined with growing markets have made it easier to break into than ever before.
Bonus—fashion design is the top-paying major for an associates degree!
If you’re artistic, ambitious, and love fashion, there could be a future in the industry for you. We’ve sought out a selection of the best online courses in fashion design so that you can learn more about this exciting field. From sketching your ideas to running a fashion show, from the intricacies of draping to establishing a brand identity, the classes listed below will introduce you to this exciting career and give you the skills you need to get started.
1. The First Steps to Fashion Design: From Concept to Illustration (Skillshare)
Being able to confidently express your fashion concepts on paper allows you to share them with your design team, manufacturers, clients, and the press, and the first step is learning how to sketch them—accurately, efficiently, and beautifully.
First Steps to Fashion Design is taught by Nolan Bellavance and Ava Hama, a pair of professional designers who have worked for major brands. Their tips and tricks will help anyone learn to convey their fashion ideas with style and clarity. Step by step, they teach you how to sketch essential poses, show you shortcuts for rendering face, hands and feet, and explain how to convey shape, weight, and texture.
Hama and Bellavance emphasize the importance of being able to get your ideas down quickly—an important skill when you may be creating an entire line under a tight deadline. Thus, it’s no surprise that at barely an hour long, the course itself is short and concise. It consists of 9 videos, the longest of which is less than 10 minutes. You’ll have the opportunity to post your designs on the course site for feedback and see designs by your fellow students, as well.
2. Fashion as Design (Coursera)
Fashion is more than just aesthetics. It can express aspiration, identification, and culture. It can be a way to conform … or a way to stand out. If you’re drawn to the history, politics, economics, and culture of clothing, you’re sure to enjoy this 7-week course, taught by curators from the Museum of Modern Art.
This course won’t teach you the nitty-gritty details of designing your own collection or running a retail empire. What it will do is give you a global context in which to appreciate how fashion and society reflect and influence each other. You’ll find it of particular interest if you’d like to learn more about sustainability and ethical production as they apply to fashion and textiles.
Each module offers a selection of short videos (generally around a half dozen or so), a similar number of readings, and a short assignment. Plan on spending 2 to 3 hours a week on the material.
3. Pattern Making for Fashion Designers (Udemy)
Now, it should be said upfront that a single, 45-minute course won’t teach you everything you need to know about pattern making, but if you’re still at the stage where you don’t know a princess seam from a sloper, this course will get you started. Beginning by teaching you how to transfer a muslin bodice to paper, the 8 video lectures/demonstrations walk you through everything you need to turn your ideas into patterns that can be replicated. You’ll also get a solid overview of the terminology and tools used in pattern making.
Once you have the basic principles down, be sure to check out University of Fashion’s courses (below) on pattern making for much more detail.
4. The University of Fashion
Cheating a little—this isn’t a single course, but rather a collection of classes that add up to an impressive education in fashion design at a very reasonable price. For a monthly fee, you can access classes on fashion illustration, marketing, childrenswear, menswear, and more.
But while all its classes are worth considering, The University of Fashion really shines in its detailed technical courses. There are over 40 lessons on draping alone, from darts to ruffles to ruching. There are another 50+ on pattern drafting and over 100 on sewing. From beginner to expert, there are dozens of tutorials, each of which covers a very specific aspect of garment construction. If you have a lot of gorgeous ideas but you’re not sure how to turn them into 3-dimensional, wearable clothes, this is where you’ll learn how to make it happen.
5. Photoshop and Illustrator for Fashion (Lynda)
Okay, cheating again—instructor Robin Schneider actually has several courses on learning how to use these Adobe products to further your fashion career. But they’re all useful, and they’re all available for the same monthly subscription price, so why not check all of them out?
Begin with Photoshop for Fashion Design: The Basics and learn how to create mood boards, work with scanned artwork, and create professional portfolios. The next installment, Rendering Techniques, will show you how to add textures, turn photos into sketches, use brushes to convey lace and fur, and more. The third Photoshop course, Warping Pattern Fills, will show you how to turn fabric swatches into 3-dimensional designs that seem to wrap around the body.
Moving on to Illustrator, you’ll begin with Drawing Flats, which will show you how to produce professional-quality fashion flats (2-dimensional technical drawings). Next, in Advanced Drawing Flats, you’ll learn how to modify existing flats and add details such as texture, buttonholes, and zippers. Finally, Creating Brushes will show you how to render details such as ruching, smocking, pin tucks, and sequins.
The classes run from 2.5 to 5 hours long and consist of video instruction. Transcripts are available. Note that all these courses assume a basic familiarity with these programs, but you don’t have to be an expert. Schneider will get you up to speed quickly.
6. Fashion Design & Creation (EdX)
Actually two complimentary courses in one (Designing & Creating Skirts and Designing & Creating Trousers), this professional certificate program shows you how to individualize lower-body garment design to create pattern blocks from measurements. Once you’ve mastered the process, you’ll be able to create custom-made clothing for anyone, regardless of size or shape.
The styles have been selected to give you a broad knowledge of clothing construction. By the time you’ve worked your way through both classes, you’ll be comfortable designing and sewing everything from jeans to tailored trousers to pleated skirts. You’ll complete the course with a finished, made-to-measure skirt and pair of trousers of your own design.
Each of the two courses lasts for 5 weeks (10 weeks total), and you should plan on putting in 3-5 hours a week.
7. Management of Fashion and Luxury Companies (Coursera)
Moving from the design and construction of clothing and on to the business of managing a fashion-based company, this intensive course covers topics such as product development, brand identity, retail strategy, and digital communication. Presented by Universit¡ Bocconi, one of Italy’s most prestigious business schools, this class uses case studies to explore how luxury brands balance heritage while staying fresh and relevant in a fast-paced world. It’s a must for understanding the broader economic environment of the fashion industry.
Each of the 7 modules consists of 7 to 16 videos along with assorted readings, a “midterm” quiz, and a final exam. Expect to spend around 18 hours completing this course.
8. Fashion Design 101: An Introduction (Universal Class)
Fashion Design 101 is an interesting blend of both the creative and the business sides of fashion. While it has modules on garment construction and developing creativity, it also explores some of the different careers available in the fashion industry, looks at the pros and cons of starting your own company, explains the manufacturing process, and tells you how to set prices. If you’re intrigued by the industry but just don’t feel like you know enough about it, this is an excellent way to get your feet wet.
There are 11 modules in the course, each of which consists of a video, one or more readings, a quiz, and in some cases, an assignment.
9. Fashion Design Start to Finish with Jay Calderin
This is my “if I had to choose just one” course. Taught by Jay Calderin, fashion designer, author, and Director of Creative Marketing at the School of Fashion Design, Boston, the class covers pretty much every aspect of fashion design. Beginning with mood boards, inspiration and sketching, it moves on to pattern making and garment construction before tackling branding, business models and building relationships in the business. It concludes with 13 lessons on producing a successful fashion show.
There are 47 lessons and over 10 hours of video in this course, and it comes with a collection of bonus guides, checklists, and readings. It’s easily one of the most comprehensive courses available, and for what you get, the price can’t be beat.
10. Fashion Styling with Lucinda Chambers (Business of Fashion)
As the name suggests, this highly-rated course focuses on fashion styling, rather than directly on design, but that doesn’t mean budding designers won’t learn a thing or three about developing a creative identity, spotting trends, and developing concepts—and, of course, working with stylists.
Taught by Lucinda Chambers, former fashion director for British Elle and British Vogue, the course boasts unusually high production values. The video and audio quality are top-notch, and Chambers herself is a lively and engaging teacher. Each of the 8 modules consists of a mix of videos, reading assignments, and quizzes.
The cost of the course is relatively steep, but it includes access to Business of Fashion’s 7 other courses, all related to (wait for it) the business of fashion, including topics such as digital marketing, merchandising, and entrepreneurship.
The Final Touch
This is just a small selection of the courses that are out there. If you want to dive deeper into a specific aspect of fashion design (such as designing shoes or creating non-sewn pieces), we encourage you to look for a class online—it’s probably out there. In the meantime, the courses listed above will give you the tools you need to begin getting your designs out of your head and into the world.