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Last modified: Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fashion design: big business, art and new major at Indiana University Bloomington

Aug. 3, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In response to increasing student demand, Indiana University has expanded its fashion design program, making it the newest major at IU Bloomington.

Fashion Design

Cut, drape, color and materials are all areas that fashion design students master.

Print-Quality Photo

The new major, which students can begin pursuing in the upcoming school year, is offered by the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Until this year, students who wanted to pursue fashion design did so through the department's two-year fashion design certificate and the College's Individualized Major Program (IMP). The high level of demand and student interest in the field convinced AMID and the College that it was time to develop the major.

"The IMP played a significant role in the creation of the program," said AMID chair and Professor Kate Rowold. "By providing a mechanism for fashion design to develop into a full B.A. degree, IMP realized one of its essential missions, to act as a pedagogical and curricular incubator."

Fashion Design

Fashion design students at IU Bloomington create their final project lines.

Americans spend more than $82 billion per year on clothing. From couture boutiques to discount stores, all retailers have designer-labeled clothing. Fashion is an integral part of our material culture, a medium for personal expression, and an art form. Countless Internet sites, TV shows, and magazines are devoted to fashion. Fashion design, said Rowold, is big business.

"The fashion design Bachelor of Arts major is intended to educate students in the art, process and product of fashion design in the 21st Century," she said. "The major will replace the certificate with a more expansive degree objective. Students will have the opportunity to major in the area that fascinates and engages them, while at the same time completing the rigorous demands of the Bachelor of Arts degree in the College of Arts and Sciences. It really is the best of both worlds for them."

The degree draws upon the strengths of the department's Fashion Design and Culture Group, as well as studio and history courses from the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts.

"The curriculum is founded on the design process, enhanced by the interaction of technique, function, technology and individual creative expression," said Deb Christiansen, coordinator of the Fashion Design and Culture Group. "Courses focus on traditional and experimental techniques as well as the history and theory of fashion as a significant visual language."

The Sage Collection, comprising women's, men's and children's fashion and related objects, will provide valuable hands-on experiences with clothing from the 19th century through today.

Students who opt for fashion design as their major will be encouraged to complete a minor, such as apparel merchandising, fine arts or business, or to pursue a certificate through the College's Liberal Arts and Management Program (LAMP). Students are also encouraged to choose classes in material culture, aesthetics and dress offered by related departments such as anthropology, communication and culture, fine arts, folklore and ethnomusicology, and theatre and drama.

"The program uses and builds on the essential foundations of the arts and sciences, and encourages students to be creative designers, multidisciplinary thinkers, and skilled communicators," Rowold said. "We've been working toward this degree for a long time and I am delighted that our students will now have this choice."

For further information about the new Fashion Design major, please contact the advisor, Sheila Maben, at