Diary of a Fashion School Student: Ten Awesome Perks of Attending FIDM

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Editor’s Note: This is part four of Caitlyn’s ongoing series about her day-to-day experiences attending fashion school at FIDM in Los Angeles. The purpose of this series is shed some light on what fashion school is REALLY like – it’s a lot different from what you saw on The Hills!

In case you missed the first parts in this series, get caught up by reading Diary of a Fashion School Student: Introduction, Diary of a Fashion School Student: Majors and Schoolwork, and Diary of a Fashion School Student: Housing and Having a Dog at College.

If you were a frequent watcher of The Hills, it probably gave you an unrealistic idea of what attending The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising is actually like. My mission today is to clear up some misconceptions and tell you what you don't already know about FIDM, by sharing a few of the things that I absolutely love about my school.

Below, I've listed the top ten perks of attending FIDM - basically, the ten things, among others, that make this school so great. I hope it's informative and helpful to those of you considering attending FIDM in the future!

FIDM Facts Picture 1

Photo Credits: 1, 2

1. The Fashion Library

In every school library, you're bound to see hoards of students hunched over books with iPods while they study. I assure you that FIDM is no exception, but while most college students struggle with calculus and bury their faces in textbooks, FIDM students are working on sketching and studying designs.

And did you know that FIDM has the largest fashion library in the West? I'll be honest: when I toured FIDM the first time, the fashion library's collection of Harper's Bazaar and Vogue magazines sold me on the school. Any educational institution that has all of the issues of these magazines from the 19th and 20th century is the place for me. Hours and hours just seem to disappear in the section of vintage periodicals...

Among my favorite features of the library include: the video room, where you can check out many of your favorite movies and TV shows; the draping room, in which design students can practice draping; the periodicals room, an absolute wonder for lovers of vintage fashion; and the textile library, where you can come to clip textiles for your projects. Also, any FIDM student who doesn't take advantage of the newspaper clipping files is missing out! They have entire file folders dedicated to styles, designers and other fashion keywords that have articles from nearly every magazine or newspaper.

2. Trend Forecasting Services and Other Subscriptions

Access to trend forecasting services and fashion databases is one of the biggest perks of being a FIDM student. Unless you work for a major fashion institution, it's tough to gain access to many of these major subscriptions because memberships can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Fortunately, FIDM students have access to Doneger Creative Services, WGSN, Women's Wear Daily, Stylesight, LexisNexis, and plenty more!

Trend forecasting services are also available to students in book form and usually predict fashion, color and style trends two to three years in advance. The books are absolutely stunning and contain sketches, photographs and sample textiles to describe what will be popular in the coming seasons. Major designers look at these books in order to get ideas for their future lines, so FIDM students are very lucky to be able to use these books for inspiration! Just the other day, I was learning about trends for women's lingerie and men's footwear for Fall/Winter 2012-2013. How exciting!

3. Student Activities

FIDM Student Activities

Photo Credits: 1, 2

Every week, FIDM produces a newsletter full of student activities. And I must say, our student activities department is awesome. Not only do they offer half-price movie and sports tickets, they have events all the time! Whether it's the Rockettes appearing on campus to dance (pictured above-right), ultimate student Halloween costume showdowns (pictured above left), or student mixers, there's always something going on! Even if you just want to hang out, there's always candy and plenty of super-sweet people to chat with in the student activity department.

What's going on in the coming weeks, you ask? The FIDM mask-decorating party for Mardi Gras, FIDM Feud, and a clothing drive for the homeless are just a few of the many activities for students to look forward to.

4. The IDEA Center

Let me just start by clearing up one big misconception about the school - classes at FIDM are hard. From my own experience, the Merchandise Math class has been the most difficult class for me. But in order to keep students from struggling through their classes alone, FIDM offers free tutoring for every class in the IDEA center. Even if you just need help with MLA guidelines or formatting a paper, the IDEA center is always happy to help students out.

5. The Diverse Campuses

FIDM Campuses

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FIDM is not only located in Los Angeles - in fact, there are four campuses for students to choose from! LA's location is by far the biggest, but FIDM also operates in Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco. The other campuses offer very limited programs, though, so students usually have to switch to the LA campus after their first year.

The Los Angeles Campus is centrally located in downtown LA. It's within walking distance to the Fashion District and California Market Center, LA Live (Nokia Theater, Staples Center, Convention Hall) and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Since San Francisco is home to the headquarters of numerous fashion brands including The Gap, Inc, the San Fran campus is ideal for anyone looking to work in corporate for one of those big box brands.

Orange County is the home of many major manufacturers, making that campus a perfect fit for someone looking to attend FIDM and work for a major sportswear company. Orange County is also known for its luxury shopping, so it is an ideal spot to work in retail.

The San Diego campus focuses strongly on students interested in international product development or textiles, because of the city's port.

6. Debut Runway Show

FIDM Debut Runway Show

Photo Credit

Just last week I received my ticket for the FIDM Debut Runway Show on March 18th. This is an annual runway show that FIDM puts on for students and industry insiders. Last year I went as a prospective student and was floored by the designs. Students from many majors are featured in the show, but the top priority is the third-year fashion design team.

More than 10,000 people attend this three-night event and I promise you that if you ever get a chance to go, it will be one of the most memorable fashion events of your life. It's just another perk of attending FIDM!

7. Study Tours

A few times a year, FIDM students have the opportunity to travel with their peers to places like New York City, Paris, Milan and Rome. They get to tour companies in these cities, sight-see and visit with other FIDM grads now living in those cities. FIDM even offers foreign exchange programs for one quarter for eligible students!

8. FIDM Museum & Gallery

FIDM Museum Exhibit

Alice in Wonderland and Mad Men costumes on exhibit at the FIDM Museum. Photo Credits: 1, 2

Just the other day, The 19th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibit opened at the FIDM Museum & Galleries. I was able to browse through the costumes featured in most of the top movies from 2010, including The King's Speech, True Grit, Burlesque, Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, and Alice in Wonderland (whose FIDM-grad costume designer won the Oscar on Sunday). And this is just one example - the museum's exhibits vary throughout the year and they're always bringing in designers to speak to students. Shows are always free and always worth seeing.

In my first quarter, I discovered the permanent museum collections, another awesome aspect of FIDM's museum. My 20th Century Design teacher brought in a rack of vintage Chanel, Dior and Galliano to show to my class. After undergoing numerous heart palpitations, I learned that over 12,000 costumes, textiles and accessories from the 18th century to present day are available for FIDM students to view and study. Pretty cool, right?

9. The Career Center

The fashion industry is all about networking and who you know, and access to those fashion industry connections was the #1 reason why I chose to attend FIDM. The Career Center is very well-connected with industry insiders and always available to help students with any job issues. Whether they're holding career fairs, coaching students through practice interviews, or helping them finding jobs, the Career Center is an invaluable student resource. They even continue to help with any job needs after you've left school, as long as your job is still fashion-related!

10. The Little Perks

FIDM Perks

Photo Credit: 1, 2

Okay, this isn't exactly a tenth perk of attending FIDM - instead, this last list item is all about the little things that make FIDM so great.

The other day, my Applied Trend Forecasting class took a field trip to the "New Mart," a building full of showrooms for buyers to see clothing and place their orders. We even got to go to the Calvin Klein showroom and talk to a Sales Rep! Even though I quickly learned that being a Sales Rep is not the career for me, I had the greatest time there. Seeing firsthand how the industry operates and what high-end showrooms are like is an absolute wonder.

Also, as a huge fangirl of the TV shows Mad Men and Deadwood, I was beyond gleeful when my Consumer Behavior & Research teacher alerted the class that we were going to see the head of costume design on both of those shows! Janie Bryant, author of The Fashion File and head costume director of Mad Men, was at FIDM to speak to a handful of classes. Her knowledge of the industry was remarkable, and I was even able to ask her a question! It sounds so cheesy, but that experience was truly one of the greatest of my college career.

Finally, imagine the excitement of a Fashion Sketching class when a Lady Gaga impersonator walked in! As seen in the photo above, she was the subject of their sketches for the day.

Whether it's field trips, meeting industry insiders, or sketching Lady Gaga, FIDM always has exciting surprises for its students. And these little things are what truly make me love this school the most.

What do you think of my favorite bits about FIDM?

Do you think this is a school you could see yourself at? What do you think of FIDM's non-traditional curriculum and resources? Do you have any questions about FIDM or fashion school? What kinds of articles would you like to see me write for this column in the future? Make sure to leave a comment with your thoughts!

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