June 22, 2011

SIUC creates unique fashion stylist specialization

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A new degree specialization within Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Fashion Design and Merchandising program could allow graduates to work alongside film producers and directors or with major retailers.

The fashion stylist specialization is a unique offering among public universities. The specialization begins in August with the 2011 fall semester, and offers students a variety of avenues to pursue, said Jane E. Workman, professor and director of the Fashion Design and Merchandising program.

Faculty members have been considering adding the specialization for several years, and are seeing prospective students indicating an interest in pursuing a fashion stylist major on admissions forms, Workman said. Her own research shows a dearth of fashion stylist programs, making SIUC possibly the only public university in the United States to offer the specialization within a baccalaureate program.

While there might be a scarcity of academic fashion stylist programs, the job opportunities for graduates in the field appear limitless. Fashion stylists not only work for designers, fashion houses, magazines and newspapers, they also work for retailers, online merchandisers and with television and film production houses, public relations firms, advertising agencies and movie producers, Workman said. Macy’s, for example, has a new program called “Macy’s by Appointment,” which utilizes a personal shopper for customers, Workman said.

Fashion stylists work as wardrobe consultants for agents, celebrities and wealthy clients, with many stylists establishing their own business. Their work can also include scouting locations for various film and television productions, selecting appropriate fashions and accessories for characters, and color and style coordination, Workman said.

“We’ve organized the program so at the outset after students learn about options available to them, they can choose their core curriculum classes to fit whatever their goal is,” she said.

For example, students who want to pursue careers that involve magazine and advertising layouts will take some appropriate journalism classes to learn about the industry; those interested in movies and television will take some cinema and photography and radio-television-related courses.

Workman believes the specialization has the potential to attract new students to the program and SIUC, and assist in student retention by offering current students another educational option. There is a likelihood that some current students within the fashion design and merchandising program may want to also pursue a fashion stylist specialization to further bolster their own careers, she said.

“There are almost limitless possibilities,” Workman said.

Workman anticipates the specialization can ultimately attract an additional 30 to 40 students. Depending upon experience level, graduates can earn from $50,000 to $100,000 annually, she said.

“It’s a very popular occupation,” Workman said.

Courses within the specialization will include basic principles of clothing design; visual communications in fashion design, fashion forecasting and trend analysis, and fashion event planning.

Walter V. Wendler, director of the School of Architecture, also believes the opportunities are endless for students who pursue the specialization. Both Wendler and Workman point to the “1+3” offering for students who earn cosmetology certificates at community colleges but then want to transfer to a baccalaureate program. The same offering is applicable to students who want to pursue the specialization after obtaining associate degrees.

Wendler said he is a proponent of finding ways to help people who earn certifications from a community college continue their education at a four-year institution. In many instances, students find that they enjoy the educational challenges and want to pursue additional degrees.

For more information on the fashion stylist specialization, contact Workman at 618/453-3743, or by email at jworkman@siu.edu.