Should I Go To Fashion School? An FIDM Alumni's Perspective
Oh, Spring. The time of year when everyone is simultaneously graduating and receiving college acceptance letters. I have been asked the question: "Should I go to fashion school?" SO many times since I graduated from FIDM, so I thought I would answer that question with this week's post.
Keep in mind: I attended FIDM (The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising) at the San Francisco campus, from 2010-2012. There are many different programs to choose from at FIDM, and I was in the Fashion Design program.
But first.. Before I give you a "yes" or a "no", I want to tell you about HOW I ended up at FIDM in the first place. Back in high school, I was always drawn to fashion and to sewing. I asked my mom for a sewing machine for Christmas one year, and I got this tiny little Brother sewing machine. It was the most basic of the basic, but it was really all I needed.
I taught myself basic sewing on that little machine, mostly just by altering my clothes to make them fit a little better. I really had no idea what I was doing--I would just make things more or less fitted, or I would add patches to worn garments. But even though I had no idea what I was doing..
I could just sit for hours and hours at my desk sewing, trying to figure something out. (Not much has changed really.. I can still sit for hours just trying to figure something out.)
Keep in mind: This was in the early 2000's, so there weren't too many sewing blogs to choose from for help. And even if there were, I would have to use the dial up internet, which I could only use for a few hours at a time. (Because it would tie up the phone lines. YAH.)
I feel like I'm aging myself.
Anyways. I pretty much had that guiding light when the time came to choose where I wanted to go to college: Fashion Design. That was all I really knew.
I didn't apply to any colleges the Fall of my senior year though.. I was pretty much just focused on my friends and getting through high school. And I grew up with my Dad, and he was never pushy about college. He knew I would go, but he never forced me to do anything I wasn't ready for. And I definitely wasn't ready for a university of ANY sort. (Is any 18 year old really ready?)
So when I met my (now) husband the winter of my senior year, he was shocked that I hadn't applied to any colleges. It was pretty much WHAT YOU DO the entire first half of your senior year of high school. I still remember when I told him that I hadn't applied anywhere..
It's actually kind of funny, looking back on it now. After I graduated high school I ended up going up to Oregon to be with my (now) husband. I was planning on just spending the summer with him (you can see, I really wasn't too concerned about the future) but I ended up moving in with him and staying up in Oregon.
I remember, we made the decision for me to stay in Oregon when we were at a stoplight. We were driving back to our tiny apartment in Eugene, and Paul said "I don't want you to leave", and that was pretty much it.
We've been together ever since!
Now here's where I got lucky. In Eugene, Oregon, there is a small junior college called Lane Community College. Lane has a program where residents from bordering states (i.e. California, Washington, Idaho) can attend Lane for the same cost as in state students. And for anyone trying to attend an out of state college, THIS IS HUGE.
Out of state tuition (even at a junior college) can cost 2-3 times more than in state tuition. It's ridiculous. The only reason I was able to attend Lane was because of this program.
I ended up getting my Associate of Arts at Lane, while I grew up a little and started to figure out what the fuck I was going to do with my life. (When I really started to ask myself the question: "Should I go to fashion school? Could I actually really do it?")
This was probably one of the best decisions I have ever stumbled upon in my life: Attending a junior college before going to FIDM.
If you take anything, ANYTHING from this blog post.. Please take away this lesson. Attend a junior college before EVER going to private school.. Especially FIDM.
Not only does it give you some time to grow your ass up, but it will also save you about $50k. And coming from someone who has been paying private school loans for 5+ years, $50k IS A LOT OF MONEY. Don't just shrug it off. Please.
Anyways.. I graduated from Lane with my AA in 2010, and then started with FIDM in San Francisco that Fall. The exact program that I completed at FIDM was for the Associate of Arts Professional Designation Degree in Fashion Design.
What exactly does that mean? Associate of Arts: Exactly what you think it means. An Associate of Arts, just like anywhere else. Professional Designation: This means that I only had to complete 2 years at FIDM, since I already had my AA.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND GOING THIS ROUTE. Not only did it save me like $50k in the long run, but while I was at FIDM I was able to focus solely on my Fashion Design courses. No math, science, English. I literally only took (& paid for) the courses that I was there to take, and the courses that mattered.
Fashion Design: The course study that my education was focused on. This includes: Sketching, pattern drafting, draping, history of costume, technical design, textile science.. The list goes on and on. But seriously. If I hadn't fallen in to getting my AA at Lane before attending FIDM..
I know that's not a big deal for everyone. But for someone that had to take out student loans to pay for the entirety of her education, IT'S A BIG DEAL.
And it's not even only about the money. While I was at the junior college in Oregon, I grew up another two years. The difference between being an 18 year old and being a 20-21 year old is huge. If I had attended FIDM at 18, I feel like it would have been a complete waste.
And I saw plenty of 18 year olds on campus.. At that time in your life you're too young to seriously understand and care about the money you're spending, and the limited amount of time that you have at this school.
I LOVED all of my classes at FIDM. And with the exception of one shitty teacher, I loved all of my teachers. They were incredibly knowledgable, patient, and kind.
The classes at the SF campus were all pretty small, no more than 15 to a class, which is HUGE when it comes to hands on learning. The campus itself was small, clean, and tight knit--Something that I think is unique to the SF location.
I graduated from FIDM in 2012, with a completely different understanding of fashion and design than when I started. I learned what GOOD design is. How to sew properly, and how to draft my own sewing patterns. I learned how to draw and how to use Photoshop & Illustrator.
Literally every class that I took at FIDM has proved useful post graduation, which I think is more than what A LOT of people with traditional educations can say.
So, the ultimate question: "Should I go to fashion school?" IMHO, if you are attending a Fashion Design specific program, then YES. If you are getting your general education out of the way FIRST, then YES.
I cannot testify to the other programs at a fashion school (i.e. Merchandising, Marketing, etc.) but I can say that I believe the Fashion Design program at FIDM is 100% worth it.
If you are at all hesitant about working in the fashion industry for life, then don't do it. Don't waste your time or money.
But please, PLEASE. Save yourself some money and get your generals all out of the way first. (Have I stressed that enough yet?) Not only do I use my FIDM education every day here on The Flora Modiste, but I would never have gotten my internship & job in NYC without it.
And that's at a small fashion label--Imagine trying to get a job at one of the bigger labels. They would probably laugh you out the door if you didn't have any type of formal design education.
There seems to be some sort of stigma about fashion design students.. That we just go to fashion design school because we don't want to go to a 'real school' or that we are not as smart, or that we don't care. Which I think is rather unfortunate, because attending FIDM was HARD. It is NOT a walk in the park.
I had many sleepless nights, countless crying fits, and entire weeks just filled with overwhelm. I even had to quit my job for a semester because I was so freaked out all the time.
BUT. But. I wouldn't take it back for the world. I learned an invaluable skill, a skill that I can take with my anywhere and everywhere. A skill that has led me here, to The Flora Modiste.
So, asking the question: "Should I go to fashion school?" Answer the following questions:
- Do you know the difference between loving shopping and loving fashion design? (Because YES, there is a BIG difference.)
- Do you love fashion design (NOT SHOPPING) enough to stay in the industry for years to come?
- Have you already received your AA or BA? (i.e. Is your general education out of the way?)
If you can answer YES to the above questions, then I would say go for it.
Attending FIDM is fast, hard, and exhausting.. But to me, so worth it. If you have any questions AT ALL about attending FIDM (or just fashion school in general) I'd love to help out!