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Diary of a Fashion School Student: Introduction

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Editor’s Note: We’re always getting emails from readers asking where they should go to school if they want to work in fashion, what to expect when attending a fashion school, etc. – it’s clear that this is a topic you guys are interested in! However, admissions brochures (and old episodes of The Hills) can only tell you so much – it’s much more valuable to learn from someone who’s actually been there.

So, in this new biweekly column, our resident fashion school student, Caitlyn, will recount her day-to-day experiences attending FIDM in Los Angeles, in order to shed some light on what fashion school is REALLY like. We hope you find it enjoyable and informative!

Fashion design classroom at FIDM
Photo Credit

Two weeks after walking across the stage in a purple robe to receive my high school diploma, I packed up my most important belongings, hopped on a plane, and moved halfway across the country to begin my college experience.

As a girl who had lived in small Midwestern towns her whole life, moving to a completely new location was certainly nerve-wracking. But that wasn’t the biggest problem on my mind. Funny enough, I also didn’t experience most of the fears associated with first-time college students: being entirely alone in a brand new place, trouble making friends, or missing home too much – none of those really crossed my mind. Instead, I was seriously intimidated by the prospect of attending fashion school.

Mostly, I was nervous about my wardrobe. After all, during high school, the closest mall had been over an hour away and had little room for a fashionista to enjoy herself. I did my best with Gilt Groupe and other online shopping destinations, but I was no California girl and I knew it would show. My nightmares revolved around other students wearing Louboutins or Balmain booties while toting their beautiful Alexander Wang bags and smelling of expensive perfume.

That’s not to say I didn’t know about fashion. Back in high school, I was constantly reading fashion blogs, magazines and news sites, but what I understood about the industry was purely knowledge; I had no practical grasp of what it was like. Which, in essence, is why I chose to attend The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

Leanne Marshall
Photo Credit: 1, 2

You may recognize FIDM from The Hills (Lauren Conrad attended FIDM), HGTV’s new show Design School, and Season 6 of Project Runway. In fact, many Project Runway contestants graduated from the fashion design program at FIDM, including Leanne Marshall who won season 5. Also, Nick Verreos, a contestant from season two, teaches for the third-year fashion design program.

To rewind a bit, I first visited FIDM before my junior year of high school. Although it sounds cheesy, I completely fell in love with the school as soon as I stepped on campus. After all, I had never been able to picture myself attending a traditional university. I couldn’t care less about a huge campus, a bachelor’s degree, or football games. When I visited FIDM, it became obvious to me that the other students felt the same way. Plus, the school has lime green and purple walls with tons of natural light. How fabulous is that?! I instantly knew it was the place for me.

FIDM 2
Photo Credit

Once I arrived in sunny Los Angeles, my concerns of not fitting in dissipated. Not only did I fit in, but I had never felt more at ease in my entire life. I was surrounded by students that shared one universal passion: the fashion industry. I was finally where I wanted to be, with a whole lot of ambition and enthusiasm about my brand new life.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share more details about my adventures at FIDM with you guys, including what the classes are like, what it’s like to live in LA, and the things I’ve learned during my time here as a student. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about my experiences – I’m looking forward to sharing them with you guys!

What are your thoughts?

What do you want to know about my fashion school experiences? Have you ever considered going to fashion school? Have you heard of FIDM? Do you have any questions about FIDM or life in LA? I’ll try my best to answer your questions in the comments or in one of my future posts, so let me know what you think.

Posted on on January 21, 2011 / Filed Under: College Life / Tags: , , , , ,

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29 Responses to “Diary of a Fashion School Student: Introduction”

  1. 1
    January 21st, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    I have thought many times of going to a fashion school. I love fashion, and would love to be a stylist someday, though I don’t think I could ever be a designer. The problem is that I also do very well in school, and am expected to go to university to become a music or math teacher. I am really excited for this series, because I think it would be a lot easier to make a decision if I new what going to a fashion school was really like.

    Gabby

    styleeklectica.blogspot.com

  2. 2
    January 21st, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this article! I am a sophomore in high school and an avid CF reader. I’ve been seriously contemplating going to a specialized art/design school (for some sort of Visual Communications/Graphic Design/Trend Analysis education , and I loved living in CA for a year, so this article is perfect! I’m really excited about this and looking forward to the upcoming articles.

  3. 3
    January 21st, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    I’m already in college, but sometimes I wish I had gone to fashion school. I am interested to see what your experience is like and am really excited for this series!

  4. 4
    January 21st, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    Since you’re trading in the “normal high school stuff” what are you getting in return?
    How do you balance school work/internships with still having a relationship with friends and/or people back home?
    How did you find about the specific college you went to? What things should a person be on the look out for when searching for fashion colleges?
    Clothes! How does the added pressure of going to a fashion school affect what you wear? Are students ever in sweats?

  5. 5
    January 21st, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    I’m hoping to go to a fashion school next year, and this couldn’t have been posted at a better time! I just have a few questions:
    Since you’re not a design student, how crazy would you say the workload for design students are?
    How’s the dating scene? I’ve been wondering about that since it is fashion…
    Are fashion students dressed in perfectly put together outfits all the time, or are lazy days common sometimes there too?

  6. 6
    January 21st, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    What are your friends like? Are they as fabulous as you?

  7. 7
    January 21st, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    I was wondering if you could do a post about life in LA in general (what you like about it, what you don’t…). I’m not in fashion school, but I really want to move out there when I graduate!

  8. 8
    January 22nd, 2011 at 12:32 am

    I actually just graduated from fashion school last month! I went to the Art Institute in Houston. Going to a fashion school is WAY more fun than a regular college, we went on field trips and got to help out with fashion shows. I actually planned on going to FIDM before i decided that the Art Institute was only 5 hours away and had the same program. Anyways, i highly recommend fashion school, it definitely gets your foot in the door in the fashion industry!!

  9. 9
    January 22nd, 2011 at 12:50 am

    So cool! What did you end up wearing on your first day?

  10. 10
    January 22nd, 2011 at 6:46 am

    I’m currently in high school and it’s actually been my my dream to go to FIDM! Could you tell us more about how you got in?

  11. 11
    January 22nd, 2011 at 8:43 am

    yes yes more please

  12. 12
    January 22nd, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    I went to FIDM in LA, all the way from middle-of-nowhere northern Minnesota. It was my dream, and like most, I was so nervous about what everyone else would be like. I assumed everyone would be rich and not nice. It turned out, well yes, there were a few select students who had it all, wore all designer labels, but there was also so many other students who were just like me. However, we all had one thing in common…we were there for our love of fashion! I ended up back in MN-due to high tuition rates and no decent paying jobs in LA. BUT it was an awesome experience.

  13. 13
    January 22nd, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    I’m going to enjoy reading this section a lot.
    i’m a sophomore in high school (i know, a bit young to be reading stuff from this site, but there are too many great tips not to read it) and i have always, always loved the wonderful world of fashion.
    i read blogs, and magazines, and have even begun sewing a little amount.
    (and i’m trying to convince myself that i should start my own personal blog as well)
    but i come from a family in which im expected to go to medical school, or some sort of business school.

    its hard to have a passion for what the people around you do not have.

  14. 14
    January 22nd, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Just randomly stumbled upon this site. Just want to give out a good luck shout out. I’m a Graphic Design Major and Fashion minor at a small school in Chicago, I let prospective students know all the time about what they are getting into. The nights will be long and the mistakes and re-sewings will happen a lot. But if you love it, it’s worth it.

  15. 15
    January 23rd, 2011 at 3:41 am

    this is really interesting, especially the fact that its from a different viewpoint than the typical college student – I’m looking forward to reading more of this series! :) I’d be interested to hear more about the outfits, like what you wore the first day and everything. Cool post!

  16. 16
    January 23rd, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Very excited for this series. :)

  17. 17
    January 23rd, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Gabby, in order to be in fashion school, you have to be a good student! It is tough! The amount of schoolwork is intense and difficult. It’s not like we sit around and chat about fashion all day – it takes a lot of work! Plus, my math classes are very difficult since we produce a large amount of buyers in the industry. I encourage you to check it out because FIDM really does combine your studies with creativity.

    Miriam, you go girl! I have been in your shoes. I visited FIDM right after my sophomore year and knew there was no other school for me. I was accepted early during my junior year (which took a TON of pressure off when all the other students were sending out loads of applications). FIDM has an excellent V. Comm program – you should really check it out!

    Giulia, Thanks for all the questions! : )
    -As far as managing school, internships, and relationships go, it is difficult. It requires serious time management skills. Here at FIDM they recommend that you have an intense schedule to prep you for the craziness of the fashion industry. It is possible, though.
    -FIDM is one of the few major schools in the US that focus solely on fashion. Even our general education classes (not many of them!) are fashion driven. I’d heard of its reputation and visited it. To give you a few glimpses into why FIDM is the school I chose: the amazing connections the Career Center has (they hook you up with interviews in the industry, coach you, and find intenships), the teachers that all have part-time jobs the fields they teach so they are up to date on the latest changes in the industry, one of the best fashion marketing programs in the world, and the location in downtown Los Angeles. I really feel that the schooling I get is important, but the connections I make while here and the experience I get in the world is what truly matters. Look for a school that has an active career center that is always open to help and has mixers and networking events.
    -As far as clothing goes, that’s simple! It’s important to look as sharp as you can everyday! A pink tutu won’t get you a second glance around campus, but the laziness of sweats will. Especially since our teachers work in the industry and since we will see peers out in the fashion world, we have to impress them. You never know who you could run into and none of us want to make a first impression in sweatpants.

    Rachel – all of the majors are extremely competitive. I know that design students have a huge workload. Between the sketching, drafting, and sewing classes, my fashion design friends are exhausted. But it’s not unmanagable! You could absolutely do it if you wanted.
    - I’m so excited that you asked about the dating scene. I work for a dating coach and try to date as much as possible. At FIDM, the dating scene is non existent. Most of the students are girls and the men aren’t interested in females. The best thing you can do is just go out there on weekends to places where you can find guys and date away! So my answer in a nutshell: LA is full of single men, FIDM is not.
    - Lazy days consist of leggings. But never sweats.

    Jonika, I have the most fabulous friends in the world. : )

    Katy, thank you so much for the suggestion! Look for a post on that in late Feburary or early March.

    Lia, I wore a pair of patterned leggings, a men’s button up shirt, and fabulous fabulous boots!

    Eva, I expressed an interest in the school and was contacted by an advisor. I talked to her a handful of times and was formally interviewed twice before I was invited to apply. From the day I was invited to apply, I had nine days to do a handmade boutique lookbook project, two essays, get three recommendations, take two entrance exams AND have it on the desk of an admissions advisor in California! They interviewed me while looking at it and I was accepted that night. I knew during my junior year that I would be attending FIDM. They purposely make it that intense to prep you for the workload of school.

    Kara, I’m so glad you’re reading this! They tell us at FIDM that the industry is so small and we’ll constantly be running into FIDM grads – that’s so true! Congrats on graduating.. it’s very nice to meet you. I bet you’ll be able to relate to my articles!

    Hannah, first off: You are not too young. I’m very proud of you for taking up an interest and learning to sew and starting up a fashion blog – you’ll be amazed at the experience that will give you! Second, you must do your best to convince your family that you should be allowed to do what you’re passionate about. It’s not like FIDM is any less of a school than med school. The studies are rigorous and the connections are incredible. Take them on a tour of the school – they will be impressed. After all, going to college is far too expensive and time consuming to be unhappy in what you’re doing and not reaching your full potential.

    Thanks to everyone else for the comments! You are all fabulous.

  18. 18
    January 23rd, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    I love this idea. I can’t wait for the rest of your posts!

  19. 19
    January 23rd, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    i love reading a perspective from a traditional fashion school since I will soon be graduatingfrom a big unviersity fashion program! best of luck to you! :)

  20. 20
    January 23rd, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    This is so interesting! There’s no fashion majors at OU unfortunately, but when I graduate in May my Dad and I are going to open some retail accessory stores. My business degree will help me I’m sure, but I wish I knew the ins and outs like you will!

  21. 21
    January 24th, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    I love this :)
    Congrats on attending a great school such as FIDM !!!
    You’re right looking at ”the hills” it did not paint a true picture of the fashion industry,I know people in this industry work really hard !!!
    Anticipating more of your articles thanks for sharing xoxo

  22. 22
    January 30th, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Interesting post! I’m a sophomore in high school and I want to work for a fashion magazine. I have thought about going to a fashion school but I think I just want to major in journalism at a regular college. Sounds fun though!

  23. 23
    February 8th, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Hi, I actually wanted to go to design school and looked into FIDM right away. When I was younger, I had a friend who was also interested so we visited the LA campus together as sophmores and heard about an amazing website for girls like us called FashionClub.com. Not only could we become a member of the website and get info about FIDM,win fashion prizes, see DIY videos, and learn about trends and design careers but they also had this high school program we could join. My friend actually started her own FIDM Fashon Club at her high school and got all these awesome perks like invitations to events like FIDM’s fashion summer workshop 3 Days of Fashion and V.I.P invites to FashionClub.com’s Pre-Party & DEBUT Runway Show! Members also get to be eligible for scholarships to attend FIDM! I think any girl in high school should totally join this program. My friend told me it was a blast! And even if you dont want to start a FIDM sponsored Fashion Club at your high school, joining the website gives you all this cool info every month. I am actually a member and love getting their emails.I unfortunately didnt get a chance to start a club at my high school but I totally would have now that I look back! FIDM was by far the best choice for me after looking at other design schools. While I looked at East Coast schools I honestly could not see myself stuidying anywhere and neither could my friend. She couldnt see herself studying fashion anywhere else. It is such a warm, pleasant and fashionable environment where the FIDM campuses are located. I choose the Los Angeles campus primarily for their closeness to the entertainment industry in that I have this dream of working for a major Motion Picture company or an television show! My friend loves the glamour that L.A has when it comes to the Red Carpet and she hopes to design a dresses for a celebs one day. The FIDM connections the college has are amazing! The career opportunities and networking opportunities are beyond what I expected. The Career Center at the school has thousands of connections worldwide to individuals working in the entertainment and fashion industry. I have had the real pleasure so far of meeting successful FIDM alumni at FIDM’s Career Connection, Open House events and Open Portfolio days where students can automatically connect and be offered a job at some very well known places like Saks Fifth Avenue, Barney’s, St.Johns, Macys and tons more. Take advantage of the Career Center at the school. I really enjoyed how small the classes were so that everyone could speak to the instructors and get help if they needed. The library was super informative and research wise offered endless stuff. The area around the college called the Fashion District had everything I needed for my projects from fabrics, trims, jewels, craft supplies etc. If you want to get started early and apply to FIDM defintely join their mailing list so that you can get info on when they have scholarship competitions and Open Houses. Talk to advisors and start an inspiration binder of all your favorite things that inspire your designs and sketches. Even if you feel that you cant sew FIDM will totally teach you! Their introductory courses are all about that! Be prepared to work hard while at FIDM because the A.A programs are just as extensive and then if you want to get the Business side of fashion I would definetly recommend that you look into their Bachelors program. As a graduate of their program, I am considering that as well because I eventually want to own my own design business and their program has a lot of background into that. It is an amazing program from what I have been told and totally worth it! Hope all this info helps!

  24. 24
    February 13th, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    hi. iv alwayz had dis dream of being a fashion designer/model and working in one of the big fashion industrys am23 nd have a year more to finish polytechnic my major is textile design in FIDM is it realy possible to do both f.design nd model.tanks and i realy like ur spirit.

  25. 25
    September 10th, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    thank you for your posts! they are so useful for people who feel that fashion is what they need but dont know how begin to work in this field. it would be nice if you answer on my questions. Im 24 now and I got my bachelore degree in the field of foreign languages teaching. Now I am planning to apply for fashion management dep., next year. Could you be so nice to say what did you pass to study here? Was it portfolio or essay? Im not good at drawing, but I have a good experience of openning my own small clothing shop. So, do they check your drawing skills? if not, so what did they check? Also how do you think isnt it too late to begin a career of buyer when you are 30 (after graduation) ? do there study students who are about 21?

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