Academics Apparel Design

Bachelor’s Program

BFA | 4-year program

Placing high value on the importance of creative individuality, Apparel Design professors assign a broad range of studio projects aimed at helping students to develop distinctive voices as creative professionals. Visits to New York's fashion district, along with required internships and competition opportunities, allow for important exposure to the industry.

Learning outcomes

The program equips students with the key technical, artistic and social attributes to contribute to and positively impact creative industries. In Apparel Design students will:

  • develop an approach to apparel design informed by an understanding that clothing the body is an invaluable form of self-expression integral to how people present themselves to and move through the world.
  • learn about critical discourses that investigate clothing on ideological terms, examining how apparel designers present and represent bodies, how clothing connects to identity/identities and how aesthetics, apparel design and sensorial human experience relate to one another.
  • learn qualitative research methods for investigating identity/identities, sourcing and audience in relation to the work they make.
  • gain a deep understanding of positive and sustainable practices in order to question, challenge and participate in the evolving world of fashion as forward-looking agents of change.
  • acquire a strong base in traditional making and craftsmanship, including drawing, pattern cutting, flat pattern, and 3D draping, garment construction and fitting.
  • develop effective communication and presentation strategies, problem setting, project planning and organization.
  • generate and share knowledge.

Inspiring community

As a close-knit group of approximately 65 undergraduates, Apparel majors benefit from regular interaction with alumni and other visiting critics and design professionals. Each spring senior thesis collections are presented to the public in a professional runway show. For students this annual event is preceded by months of conceptual development, experimentation, meticulous assembly and precise fittings. The work shown in each year's Collection show is juried by a panel of guest critics—professional designers who carefully review and discuss the work together, to give students critical feedback and relevant industry perspectives.

Learning environment

Apparel Design majors work in well-equipped studios on a single floor of the same building. The open studio environment, coupled with ongoing feedback from faculty mentors and a ready exchange of ideas with peers, fosters a collaborative and supportive environment for honing personal expression through the creation of one-of-a-kind works of wearable art.

Undergraduate student work

Curriculum

During sophomore year, students begin a series of technical classes that proceed from basic to advanced pattern drafting, draping and construction, and make use of computers as tools for designing and rendering apparel. Sophomores are fully immersed in creative practice, conversation and questioning as they accrue the necessary technical skills to develop their own responses.

Juniors focus on designing and making men's or women's tailored jackets, cut/sew knitwear projects as well as garments designed and created on the knitting machine. These advanced projects encourage forward-thinking design and emphasize the mastery of time-honored technical skills.

Foundation year

Fall
Drawing I
Design I
Spatial Dynamics I
First-year Literature Seminar
Theory and History of Art and Design I: Global Modernisms
Wintersession
Non-major studio elective
Spring
Drawing II
Design II
Spatial Dynamics II
Topics in History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences
Theory and History of Art and Design II: Premodern Worlds

Sophomore

Fall
Intro to Apparel Studio
Sophomore Design
History of Dress
Wintersession
Open elective
Spring
Sophomore Apparel Studio
Sophomore Design
Liberal Arts elective

Junior

Fall
Junior Machine Knitwear Studio
Junior Cut and Sew Studio
Junior Design/Draw
Liberal Arts elective
Wintersession
Open elective
Spring
Junior Tailoring Studio
Junior Design/Draw
Liberal Arts elective

Senior

Fall
Senior Collection Development
Senior Thesis: Design and Identity
Liberal Arts elective
Wintersession
Open elective
Spring
Senior Apparel Collection
Senior Thesis: Design and Identity
Liberal Arts elective

Senior thesis project

In the final year, seniors design and create a coat collection and intern at a design house in New York. Primary emphasis is placed on a senior thesis collection—a unified body of work that expresses a personal design sensibility and showcases professional-grade conceptual and technical skills.

Application requirements

  1. You’ll begin and manage your RISD application process by completing the Common Application. There is a non-refundable application fee of $60 to use this service, plus a nonrefundable $10 fee to submit a required online portfolio via SlideRoom.

    Don’t let the admission application fee prevent you from applying! If the fee presents a hardship for you or your family, we’ll waive it for you. You can request a waiver two ways: 1. Navigate to the "Fee Waiver" portion on the Common App and check off the answer which most fits your family circumstances and you'll be able to submit your application without entering your credit card information. 2: If your situation does not match any of the waiver criteria on the Common App fee waiver section, email admissions@risd.edu and we’ll process the waiver manually. To receive a SlideRoom fee waiver, please email admissions@risd.edu.

  2. Applicants must provide official transcripts of all secondary academic work through the most recent grading period. Your counselor may submit your transcript through the Common Application, Parchment, email or mail. If your academic credentials are not written in English, they must be translated into English by an approved translator prior to submission.

  3. Test-Optional, SAT and ACT

    Beginning with students applying for entrance in 2021, RISD is offering all applicants the ability to be reviewed without submitting results from the SAT or ACT. Students may opt into this process by selecting this option within the RISD section of the Common Application. For students who choose to submit test scores, RISD will superscore your results, looking at your highest outcome across multiple test dates.

    RISD’s institution code number for the SAT is 3726; for ACT the code number is 003812.

    Transfer credits

    Some A-Level classes and IB credits can be used toward RISD liberal arts requirements. First-year students can transfer a maximum of nine credits from A-Level classes with an earned grade of C or higher or Higher Level IB grades of 5, 6, or 7. RISD will not accept IB credit from art or studio classes. View RISD's full transfer credit policy

    English language proficiency tests

    All applicants who speak English as a second language, including US citizens, must submit results from any one of these three options: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or Duolingo (an online English test). Since proficiency in English is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants must attain an acceptable score on their chosen test; RISD requires a minimum result of 93 on the TOEFL or a 6.5 on the IELTS.

    Duolingo is changing its scoring system beginning with tests completed on July 15, 2019 and beyond. If you took this test prior to the change, we require a minimum result of 63. Applicants who completed the Duolingo test on or after July 15, 2019 must achieve a minimum score of 115, which is the equivalent of 63 in their prior scoring system.

    Plan to take the TOEFL or IELTS well in advance of the application deadline since it may take three weeks for your scores to be sent to RISD by the test agency. Duolingo test results may take up to four days to be received by RISD.

    The language test requirement may be waived for applicants who have studied in an institution where English is the language of instruction. You must contact the Admissions Office to explain your school history and determine if you are eligible.

  4. Your portfolio should present 12–20 examples of your most recent work that showcases your thinking and making. You will upload your portfolio in SlideRoom through the Common Application, where you will begin the application process.

    Your selected work should reflect a full range of your ideas, curiosity, experimentation and experience in creating and making. This can include work in any medium, in finished or sketch form, and can be the result of an assigned project or a self-directed exploration.

    We strongly recommend that you include some examples that involve drawing from direct observation (rather than from imagination or a photograph). Drawing is a fundamental tool for visual makers from initial concept to execution, so it is valuable for reviewers to see examples of your experience with and approach to drawing.

    While the majority of your portfolio should feature finished pieces, we suggest including some research or preparatory work in up to three—but no more than three—portfolio selections. This helps reviewers better understand how you develop your ideas.

    Finally, we strongly discourage including excessive visual elements and text descriptions in a single slide submission. These are difficult to view and are likely to exceed the allowed file limit. Additional angles or detail shots of some works can either be submitted as an individual image or video upload, or you can upload a composite including up to three images. Editing is an important part of curating your portfolio. You may need to devise creative solutions to best show your work within the limits of submission guidelines.

    Our recommended file formats are: jpeg, png, gif, mp4 and mov. These formats are most compatible with SlideRoom. Google Drive or zipped files are not recommended formats for sharing your artwork.

  5. Part I: Visual Response

    Identify something that is in need of repair. Use any material or approach to fix it.

    What you choose to fix can be anything: from a tangible object to an intangible system. You can choose something objectively broken, or something you personally believe is in need of repair. This could be a past art piece, a social or ecological issue, a historical era, technology, etc.

    Your process is entirely up to you, but your fix should involve intentional modifications that change the original state for the better. It can exist in the realm of aesthetics, function, structure, or in any other capacity.

    Visual responses will vary by applicant so how you document your assignment will depend on your repair. This could be photo documentation of your response, a digital outcome, or a short video. Our recommended file formats are: jpeg, png, gif, mp4 and mov. These formats are most compatible with SlideRoom. Google Drive, zipped files, and multiple page PDFs are not recommended formats for sharing your artwork.

    Part 2: Written Statement (250 word limit)

    Submit a written statement in a single page PDF that provides insight into the creative process you used in your visual response. Your written statement could speak to any of the following:

    • How you identified something in need of repair
      For applicants choosing a tangible object to repair, we recommend including a single image/recording of the original object in your written statement file. It’s helpful for reviewers to have a point of reference when viewing your ‘fix.’
    • Your considerations toward problem solving
    • Material choices

    For more info, check out our info session about the new Assignment.

  6. Submit your college essay, up to 650 words. You will find the writing prompts in the Personal Essay section of the Common Application.

    While we encourage you to adhere to the rules of good writing, we look for applicants who are not afraid to take risks in their expression. Please don't hesitate to use a writing style or method that may be outside the mainstream as you express a distinctive personal position in the essay you submit.

  7. Letters of recommendation can be very helpful to your application. One letter is required, although as many as three may be submitted. Recommendation letters should be written by teachers or other professionals who have firsthand knowledge of your art or academic achievements and can comment on your potential as a student.

    Please use the Common Application to invite your recommendation writers to submit letters through that service. Letters may also be sent directly to our mailing address (see below) or emailed to admissions@risd.edu.