Fashion at Ball State University

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A Fashion Industry Studies program at an Indiana university? Yes, actually. In case you didn’t know, there are multiple colleges/universities in Indiana that offer some kind of fashion or fashion industry related major, meaning you don’t need to go out of state to receive an exceptional college education from professors with decades of combined industry experience. And I say these things as a recent college graduate who studied fashion merchandising.

Ball State University, Indiana University, Purdue University, Vincennes University, Indiana State University, and even more offer fashion programs. This article is specifically about Ball State’s Fashion Industry Studies (FIS) program.

I don’t mean to sound biased because I graduated from this university, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I was able to build great relationships with students as well as my professors. And thanks to Audrey Robbins, Assistant Lecturer of Fashion Industry Studies, I am able to shed just a little more light on what the program has to offer.

Although the separate Merchandising and Design majors have been combined into a single program, students will be a part of Ball State’s Miller College of Business’s (MCOB) Department of Applied Business Studies (ABS) which, according to Professor Robbins, means a “spectrum of course offerings”.

Although I won’t get into how terrible I was at sewing and even threading a sewing machine, there will be an introductory sewing class, an introductory fashion industry class, fashion history (my personal favorite class which was taught by Dr. Diana Saiki), manufacturing and supply chain management, buying, a studio class where you are able to create a full line or collection, and much much more. The program also hosts an annual fashion show where students are able to showcase their designs.

Speaking on my experience in some of these classes, as mentioned above, my personal favorite was the fashion history class. I loved learning about ancient dress all the way to fashion in the 20th century. Because of that class, I was able to land an on campus job in the department’s Beeman Historic Costume Collection. If you are a fashion history nerd like me, this job is a great way to gain some entry level experience for museum work. I got to handle bustle era and Romantic era dresses, which if you don’t know what that means, it means those dresses are really, really old.

Another cool thing about this collection, Todd Oldham — that’s right, arguably the most iconic designer in the 1990’s — actually came to campus and donated a bunch of his Todd Oldham label fashions.

For the Fall 2022 semester, the program is offering a brand new course which I am very sad I wont be able to take – an “immersive styling course”. Robbins also stated, “we allow students the opportunity to custom tailor their courses to their hopeful career paths. You could decide you want to heavily fall in “hands on” courses versus lecture based courses. The choice is yours!”

Ball State’s FIS program boasts a “unique ratio of students” meaning you are able to get a lot of one-on-one time with your professors. The program also offers the chance to be involved with community engagement projects to allow students to gain some more diverse real world experience.

Now if you’re like me, the overall classroom culture is very important. Although I cannot speak too much on the sewing classes, Robbins expressed how the FIS experience has a “casual lab culture where faculty are able to discuss and brainstorm idea generation.” Although I took more business focused classes, I agree with her. What I loved about the program was the creativity aspect. While I may take marketing classes, and other electives, all of the fashion program core classes really allow you to exercise that creative part of your brain.

Whether it be Dr. Amy Harden (the chair), Dr. Diana Saiki, Dr. Jinhee Nam, or Professor Audrey Robbins, all the faculty in this major have plenty of actual industry experience, are members of community boards, and are “invested in potential networking opportunities that benefit our students.”

Upon graduating with an FIS degree, you are set up to enter a wide variety of fashion industry paths. You could become a costume designer, forecaster, buyer, manager, stylist, product developer, visual merchandiser, pattern maker, sample maker, and much more. There are so many other industries that intersect with fashion. You could even major in finance and minor in fashion if you want.

This program is all about “guiding students that are interested in fashion knowledge into meaningful careers through hands-on training, guidance in networking and personal brand building, and generally establishing their hopeful career path upon graduation.”

Ball State’s FIS program is “filling that common misconception” of Indiana not being a fashion state by showcasing and fostering the new generation of fashion talent here in Indiana. If you don’t want to leave your home state to pursue an education in fashion, this university is definitely a place to look into.

If you know any upcoming high school graduates that hope to work in the industry in the future, here is a link to the programs page for some additional information:

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