California Occupational Guides

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Summary Guide for

Fashion Designers in California

May also be called: Designers; Fashion Advisors; Costume Designers; Custom Furriers; and Stylists

Specialties within this occupation include: Head Designers; Assistant Designers; Specialty Designers; and Theatrical Costume Designers

What Would I Do?

Fashion Designers create original garments and accessories. They sketch designs of clothing and accessories, select colors and fabrics, and study and follow fashion trends.

Designers tend to work independently but spend much of their time coordinating their work with workroom personnel, buyers, sales personnel, firm members, patrons, and other artists. Some work in quiet, spacious, well-lit, and well-ventilated areas, while others may work in small areas close to crowded workrooms. Regardless of their work setting, all Fashion Designers occasionally work long hours to meet production deadlines or prepare for fashion shows.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Fashion Designer will appeal to you if you enjoy activities that promote self-expression and the artistic side of things, such as forms, designs, and patterns. Also, these occupations include activities that can be performed without following a clear set of rules.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Earnings of Fashion Designers can vary widely based on the size of the employing firm, the kind of fashion designing involved, and the years of experience. Starting salaries in fashion design tend to be very low until Designers are established in the industry. Salaried Fashion Designers usually earn higher and more stable incomes than self-employed or freelance Designers. However, incomes of self-employed and freelance Designers vary with their talent, business ability, reputation, and type of clientele. A few of the most successful self-employed Fashion Designers may earn more than the highest paid salaried Designers.

The median wage in 2017 for Fashion Designers in California was $67,664 annually, or $32.53 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

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Annual Wages for 2017Low
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Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2017 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
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Benefits vary with employers. Designers often negotiate their salaries and benefits individually with employers. Some firms provide vacation and group health insurance plans. Self-employed Fashion Designers must provide their own benefits and retirement.

What is the Job Outlook?

Some employment growth is expected in fashion design, but most job opportunities will stem from the need to replace workers who retire or leave for other types of work. Job competition will be keen as many Designers are attracted to the creativity and glamour associated with the occupation.

How Do I Qualify?

Most occupations in fashion design require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree. Some may require a bachelor's degree.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Applicants may find jobs through their school or training facility‚Äôs job placement office. Also, Designers can gain exposure to potential employers by entering their designs in student or amateur contests. In addition, they can locate jobs through other people in the industry, professional affiliations, or advertisements in trade journals or newspapers.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Learn More About Fashion Designers