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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. Graduates are prepared to:

  • exhibit the key features of design thinking, including a strong working knowledge of the various modes of researching and concept building, superior design sketching, presentation and portfolio-building skills
  • utilize design technologies and demonstrate proficiency in digital pattern cutting, grading and CAD to a level required by Industry
  • apply design knowledge of sourcing, material analysis, tailoring and machine knitting to initiate and develop the concept of a fashion collection
  • demonstrate design practice to Industry standards through skills in pattern cutting, flat pattern and 3D draping, garment construction and fitting
  • utilize a design approach to master effective communication and presentation methodologies, strategic planning and organizational skills

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.

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/Draw
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
Liberal Arts elective
Wintersession
Open elective
Spring
Senior Apparel Collection
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. Common Application

    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; eligible students may apply for a fee waiver.

  2. Academic transcripts

    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. Tests and Test-Optional

    Test-Optional, SAT and ACT

    Beginning with students applying for entrance in 2020, RISD is offering citizens or permanent residents of the United States the ability to be reviewed without submitting results from the SAT or ACT. Students who qualify may opt into this process by selecting this option within the RISD section of the Common Application. Students who hold citizenship from all other countries, as well as students who are homeschooled, are still required to submit test results from the SAT or ACT exams.

    For students who choose to submit test scores, RISD will superscore your results, looking at your highest outcome across multiple test dates. Subject tests are not required.

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

    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. Portfolio

    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. The Assignment

    In addition to submitting your portfolio, all applicants must respond to the following assignment (your response to which will be uploaded in a specific section of SlideRoom dedicated to the assignment):

    Begin by observing a phenomenon or choosing an object in the natural world. Create a visual reaction to this object or phenomenon. You may use any medium and work at any scale. Document this work and upload it as your first response.

    Then, make a transformation to or modification of your first response. We encourage you to impose no limits to the potential nature or scale of the alteration to your first solution. Document this altered work and upload it as your second response.

  6. Writing sample

    Submit one example of your writing, up to 650 words. Remember, this is the limit, not a goal. Use the full limit if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so.

    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 samples you submit.

  7. Letter(s) of recommendation

    Although not required, these letters can be very helpful to your application. One letter is suggested, 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.