Design, Retail, Theater: the Many Fields of Fashion

A primer of the fields of fashion.

Please help us to make this a useful page.  Please contribute! We’d like to create a list of jobs / titles / majors / programs that would be useful for both faculty and students planning careers. As the list becomes more complete, we will make a static page, much like our style tribes section.  

When I talk about the “fashion students” at my institution, outsiders often assume they are aspiring designers — but there’s a lot more to fashion than that.  My university has a program in retail but not in design; a new certificate in museum studies broadens our scope, even thought it isn’t in the same school.  It can all be a little confusing, so perhaps a primer on fields of the field might help.These programs overlap and cross-pollinate, of course. Also, these stubs are intented to be simple, jargon-free summaries, not detailed explanations.

Links go out to the Occupational Outlook Handbook and other career resources.

Fashion Design is the creative endeavor to make new clothing styles.  Fashion designers can work for high fashion or box stores or anywhere in between.  Like any kind of designer, they must learn about the properties of the stuff they use to create, as well as considering cost, market, materials, etc.

Fashion Retail or Merchandising, then, is the business end of the bargain. Students study  how to create profitable retail stores. They aspire to be buyers, marketers, or trend trackers for larger companies, or perhaps dream of their own boutique.

Relatedly, students of fashion might be training to Teach  or practice Human / Family and Consumer Sciences . An understanding of fashion and consumer behavior is part of their study. Hospitality, dietetics, family studies, and teacher training are often intertwined with these programs.

All this commercial activity is at a remove from the study of Costume History. While any program with its finger in fashion may require a background in how clothing has changed over time, costume history can be its own program. People who major in costume history might become academic researchers themselves, or use that background for other work…

such as Theater CostumeIn theater costume, students learn how to build garments that meet the requirements of movies, ballets, and other performing arts. Sometimes that means The Most Historically Accurate Gown…, but it often includes other criteria, such as, …That Allows the Actress to Do A Cartwheel and Will Last for Six Months of Nightly Shows.  Both fashion design houses and theater companies also need skilled artistans  to make patterns, cut and sew cloth, and tailor for fit.


An academic background in Costume History might also lead to Museum Studies, to become a qualified  curator  or conservator of a textile collection.

Two books in particular talk about jobs in fashion:  The Fashion Industry and Its Careers by Michelle Granger (2015) lists dozens of other specialties.  Bloomsbury’s  Guide to Fashion Career Planning  (2016) focuses more on job search and career strategies.

All this matters to librarians, because each program requires different resources.  For example, I probably don’t need to subscribe to Passport GMID for design students. Costume historians need books showing x-rayed garments; theater costumers could use videos about how to make a flat pattern. Designers need inspiration; business people need statistics.  As always, the work of the librarian follows the work of the departments with which they collaborate.


Photo credits:

Irene: Why didn’t I live in the 1940’s.

1944: Henry Poole and Co., London.

Fashion: Now & Then Conference Registration is Open

Fashion: Now & Then: Fashion as Art 
October 20 – 22, 2016
LIM College, New York City, NY

The Adrian G. Marcuse Library at LIM College is pleased to announce the sixth annual Fashion: Now & Then Conference, a three-day conference in which participants will discuss the past, present, and future uses of fashion information and art in fashion. Participants will be drawn from the fashion industry, libraries, archives, academic institutions, publishers, collectors, and museums to represent a full range of expertise.

The theme for this year’s Fashion: Now & Then Conference is Fashion as Art. The conference will host presenters and artists that will demonstrate how fashion information and art in fashion have evolved through time and how it will continue to evolve in the future. Presentation topics and artworks will include one or more of these subjects in relation to fashion or style: archives, blogs, books, business, collection development, digital archives, digital collections, digitization projects, ephemera, fashion forecasting, fashion history, fashion studies, film, libraries, magazines, marketing, material culture, merchandising, museums, new media, oral history, patrons, photography, preservation, print & non-print media, product development, rare books, retail, social media, special collections, textiles, and trend reporting.

The event will take place in the LIM College Townhouse (12 E. 53rd Street between Fifth & Madison Avenues) from Thursday, October 20 – Saturday, October 22, 2016.

For more information, please check out the Fashion: Now & Then Conference website:

Registration is open:

A limited number of scholarships are available to help offset conference fees. Contact Nicole LaMoreaux ( for more information.

TechStyleLAB Announces 2017 Symposium, Call for Papers

TechStyleLAB Announces 2017 Symposium, Call for Papers | Kent State University

KENT, Ohio – The TechStyleLAB Symposium and Sandbox will be held January 26-27, 2017, at the Fashion School at Kent State University in conjunction with the annual Fashion/Tech Hackathon (Fashion/Tech Hackathon dates: January 27-29, 2017).

Abstracts Due: September 10, 2016

For more information, please check out their website.

Fashion, Textile, & Costume Job Opportunities (2nd Quarter)

Each quarter we hope to post fashion, textile, and costume job opportunities for our members. Here is the second round of positions that have recently been posted.

Job Opportunities:

Assistant Head of Research & Instructional Services; Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY

  • More information can be found here.

Library Assistant; Wood-Tobe Coburn School

  • More information can be found here.

Reference & Collections Librarian; Bard Graduate Center Library

  • More information can be found here.

Internship Opportunities:

The Textile Museum Internship Opportunities

  • More information can be found here.

If you know of other opportunities, please share them on the blog.

Upcoming Online Demonstration: Bloomsbury Fashion Central

The Fashion, Textile, and Costume Special Interest Group would like to invite group members to an upcoming online demonstration of Bloomsbury Fashion Central. The online demonstration will be held on Thursday, August 4 from 3:30-4:30pm (EST).

The webinar link is                                                 and you can either use your headphones/speakers or call in using this phone number (US – 1.571.317.3116; Canada – 1.647.497.9372) and this access pin: 288-212-021/meeting ID: 288-212-021.

For more information on this resource, please check out the Bloomsbury Fashion Central website.

For more information on subscriptions, please click here.