Fashion Design Information Competencies

These competencies are from the June 2018 ARLIS/NA report on student information competencies reevaluates and broadens the Information Competencies for Students in Design Disciplines (2006, updated 2007).

The Fashion Design competencies were revised by Alyssa Vincent, Information Services Librarian at Northeastern Illinois University. The report is maintained and updated by the Research + Information Services Section. Please contact the moderator and vice moderator with questions or comments. View the full report.

Fashion design occupies an interesting space as a discipline and demands utmost flexibility from learners. They must familiarize themselves with the past and present fashion trends, forecast the future, maintain a well of creative inspiration, and understand how to market and sell their designs. Learners must therefore adopt an adaptive mindset and be willing to seek information in a variety of formats and spaces. While print monographs have and will continue to be an excellent source of inspiration – particularly as publishers have expanded their offerings following the critical success of museum fashion shows* – the relentless pace of the fashion world requires that designers maintain a strong comfort with digital information sources like blogs and various image-oriented social media platforms. However, museums continue to support the development of historic costume collections, recognizing that the ability to see items in person provides the learner with valuable visual and experiential information that cannot be gained from an image.

The Fashion, Textile, and Costume Librarians Special Interest Group of ARLIS/NA, founded in March of 2011, has been instrumental in sharing resources for fashion learners and librarians, while a wide variety of professional fashion associations, ranging from the American Apparel and Footwear Association to the Costume Society of America to the International Textile and Apparel Association and more, provide post-baccalaureate support in networking, sourcing manufacturers, and continuing education.

Learners are able to:

  • Utilize industry terminology to conduct searches in subject-specific databases as well as online search engines
  • Browse physical fashion objects (items of clothing, accessories, etc.) in libraries for inspiration
  • Create and maintain personal image archives through a variety of physical (filing systems and image inspiration boards) and digital (social media accounts, online storage accounts) tools
  • Cultivate a social media or web-based presence to share their work
  • Create mood boards from provided briefs
  • Correctly cite images in keeping with an understanding of and respect for copyright
  • Identify their role as a creator and consumer of fashion objects and content

Learners are aware of:

  • Library resource lists developed by fashion school librarians
  • Trade publications available in print and online
  • Key terms and subject headings for fashion** for the sake of browsing
  • Image repositories for historical images and online resources for updated coverage of current runway shows
  • The role of trend forecasts in their own design process and in the fashion business
  • Archives and museums of fashion objects and patterns
  • Social media platforms (Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) as both image resources and tools for professional connection and brand development
  • Physical and digital ways to organize research (mood boards, RSS feeds for blogs and industry news, etc.)
  • The intersection of commerce and creativity in fashion design

Learners are able to:

  • Acknowledge the usefulness of digital images and resources as well as physically interacting with physical images or constructed garments
  • Articulate creative and business goals and format them for different mediums (pitches, grant applications, etc.)
  • Create an informed, well-researched business plan
  • Source manufacturers through professional associations and lists
  • Cultivate design thinking skills, including developing a product from a design brief
  • Engage with design as an iterative process and a product
  • Identify disciplines that influence and impact fashion, such as cultural studies, anthropology, psychology, business, and history, among others

Learners are aware of:

  • Intellectual property related to their own designs and the work of other designers
  • Business periodical indexes
  • Grants, residencies, and fellowships to continue their work after school
  • The purpose and utility of swatch books
  • Professional associations (Council of Fashion Designers of America, etc.)
  • The value in questioning established design processes and experimenting with new fabrics and forms

* Lindsay M King and Russell T. Clement, “Style and Substance: Fashion in TwentyFirst-Century Research Libraries,” Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 31, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 93-107,

** “Fashion Directory,” Women’s Wear Daily, accessed February 10, 2018,