Diary of a Fashion School Student: My Favorite Classes

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you purchase through our links. Please read our full disclosure here.

Editor’s Note: This is part nine of Caitlyn’s ongoing series about her day-to-day experiences attending fashion school at FIDM in Los Angeles.

In case you missed the earlier entries, get caught up by reading Diary of a Fashion School Student: Introduction, Majors and Schoolwork, Housing and Having a Dog at College, Ten Awesome Perks of Attending FIDM, Classroom Attire, A College Girl’s Guide to Los Angeles, Fashion School 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Fashion School Majors, and Fashion School 101: How to Succeed in Fashion School. Whew!

Over the course of this series, many of you have asked about the classes I take at FIDM. So today I want to give you a glimpse inside my favorite fashion school courses. As a Merchandise Marketing major, many of my classes are business, math or retail-oriented. Here are my top picks:

20th Century Designers

Starting college with a class titled “20th Century Designers” was a real awakening to the fact that I was in fashion school.

Our textbook was like artwork (and now mine is a treasured coffee table book!), full of beautiful photographs of the most important garments of all time. Our classes were full of lectures about the history of famous designers and clothing. We learned technical names for the different parts of garments, which we now use almost every day. Overall, the class was a great starting point that taught us the history of fashion in order to better understand and predict today’s trends.

I was enthralled by: I became fascinated by the changing shapes of garments over time. Over the years, the popular silhouettes have shifted dramatically. The 1800s were dramatized by bustles, corsets, petticoats, hoop skirts and crinoline. Then, to the horror of many, Coco Chanel came around and freed women from corsets and women’s clothing became more relaxed. Of course, since we ditched corsets, the styles have changed a lot as well: Personally, I have a special place in my heart for the A-line and shift dresses from the 1960s.

A marvelous day: One day, my teacher strolled into class with a rack of clothing from the FIDM study collection. It was full of original designer pieces that we actually got to touch (very gingerly!). I nearly fell over with excitement after touching a Jean Paul Gaultier piece, a Christian Dior and a real Coco Chanel work!

Concepts in Trend Forecasting & Applied Trend Forecasting

Two of my most treasured classes in school were my trend forecasting classes. Instantly, I was fascinated by the way trends are understood and developed, and wanted to learn more.

Over the course of the class, each student was able to identify trends happening around them and pull them into a cohesive macro-trend. Our analysis went far beyond fashion, extending into politics, world events, technology, lifestyles, artwork and culture, religion and much more. After I learned how to identify grassroots trends, I became interested in pursuing a career in trend forecasting!

“Hey! That’s what I want to do!” moment: In the upper-level trends class, Applied Trend Forecasting, a speaker came in who absolutely blew me away. She was a denim forecaster from Donnegar Creative Services and I related to every word she said. She was creative, observant and loved to write (like me), but what I really loved was her career description: Basically, her job sent her all over the world to become immersed in different cultures, take lots of photos, and identify trends, then write about them. SOLD.

Consumer Behavior and Research

Who knew that people-watching could be a career? Alright, the subject goes a little deeper than that. There’s actual talking to consumers and analyzing their consumption patterns involved, too.

In essence, Consumer Behavior and Research extracted all that I loved from my previous psychology classes. Instead of simply analyzing why people act the way they act, the class took it a step further: We discussed why people buy what they buy and how to maximize profitability. With the help of a fantastic teacher, my eyes were opened to the whole world of consumer buying habits and the retail environment.

Be prepared for group projects: Truthfully, I had a very lackluster group in my Consumer Behavior and Research class. But although it was a struggle, the project taught me so much about handling stressful group situations. After all, we can’t always work with a fabulous group – we have to work with what we have! In the end, we created one of the best final projects I’ve ever been a part of and the situation was ultimately rewarding.

Brand Management Strategies

Every Monday, I wake up excited for Brand Management Strategies. This class gives an in-depth look at brands, marketing and ad campaigns. You’d be surprised by the amount of work that goes into a simple logo, as well as the effect a font or size can have on consumers. Our teacher gives us a glimpse inside this world and we learn about existing and past brand strategies in order to form our own one day.

If you’re taking this class: Be prepared for it! Read the newspaper and follow current events. In class we are constantly discussing the news. And if you think about it, political campaigns are the ultimate brand strategies.

I am enthralled by: I love the way this class makes me rethink my long-held thoughts on certain brands. For example, I’ve bought Tide laundry soap for ages, but never considered why.

Merchandise Presentation

Merchandise Presentation is my hands-on creative class this quarter. In a major that requires lots of business and math classes, this course gives me the chance to show off my visual side. Each week, we spend half our time on a lecture, while the other half is reserved for our own presentations. Boards and presentations that showcase a new set of in-store display strategies are due each week. The lectures are fascinating and the class challenges me to think in a more tactile way.

Come to class with: A thick skin and an open mind for constructive criticism. Teachers don’t just hand out good grades – you have to work hard to get them. Even if visual and creative classes aren’t your thing, it is important to have an eye for design if you’re going to work in fashion.

Have your most professional face on: One day in class, we had a Human Resource Manager from Bloomingdales as a guest speaker. My roommate networked with her and ended up landing a job within the week! She is promised a future management position in one of the most prestigious Bloomingdales stores in Southern California. Situations like this are constantly happening because of the networking opportunities at FIDM, so if you’re attending, always dress like you’re going to meet your future boss.

What are your thoughts about my classes at fashion school?

Leave me a comment and let’s chat about it! Are these classes you’d be interested in taking?  Do you have any similar classes at your school (fashion-focused or not)? What aspect of attending fashion school would you like me to write about next? Let me know with a comment.

15 thoughts on “Diary of a Fashion School Student: My Favorite Classes”

  1. I’m on summer break rite now and going to be a junior in the fall so it’s time to get serious. FIDM is my dream. What do you recommend to get started?

    • Hi, Nafisa! To get started at FIDM, contact the school and get an advisor. They will help you out with everything you need to know about the school and the application process. If it’s not too far away, I recommend going on a tour of the school. That way, you can see if the school is a place you’d like to be! It’s a huge decision to make, so make sure you’ve done your research!

  2. I absolutely looooove this post because i’m a Fashion Merchandising Major at a university where people think i’m crazy for thinking i’ll get anywhere with this major…but my best friends and sorority sisters know how much i am in love with my fashion classes! Anyways, one of my first fashion classes was a Historic Costumes class and i was enthralled! In our running collection of historic costumes, our teacher lets us see a BEAUTIFUL 1800’s white corset cover with a black lace chest and shoulders and i was hooked from then on!!! Keep up awesome posts like this because I am hooked on these as much as my major!

  3. Another major to look into, if math isn’t your thing, is Product Development. I switched from merchandising due to lack of fulfilling my creative brain, and PD is the perfect mix of both business and design in fashion. Unfortunately, FIDM is the only fully accredited fashion college that has this major, so you won’t find it at Parsons or FIT in New York, if those were schools of interest.

  4. I would LOVE to study at FIDM…. and I loved the part on 20th century designers, because that is TOTALLY my era of fashion…. whether I could make a career out of it…. well, that’s a different story.

  5. Can you just take some of these classes outside of the college? Like not go to FIDM, but still take a certain class. I know you can do this with some colleges

  6. Could you tell us the name of the book; I’m majoring in neuroscience and english but have a huge passion for fashion.

  7. Never thought I’d want to work in fashion (though I love it I never thought a career in it was for me) but reading this realllllly made me want to go to FIDM! The classes sound really fun and right up my alley. maybe ill transfer. hmmm….

  8. Love this series, it’s my favorite on college fashion. I’m in high school but will be applying to fashion schools next fall, originally I thought I wanted to go into design but after a 2 week summer program at Marist and reading your articles, i realized the merchandising side is more for me. One question I have though is just how much math is involved? It’s not my best subject! Again, love these posts!

    • Thank you for reading, Carly! There is quite a bit of math involved in the merchandise marketing major. Since a lot of MM majors go on to be buyers, it’s nessecary. There’s one math class each quarter – or six total. It’s not terribly difficult math since it’s mostly budgeting and retail math, but it can be confusing at times. What I can say is that there is free tutoring from teachers all the time, so if you need help it is always available. If it’s absolutely just not your style, I’d recommend looking into another major like Visual Communications.


Leave a Comment