Apparel Design provides a unique approach to graduate study through its focus on conducting independent research in aspects of apparel design including fashion theory, functional apparel, sizing and anthropometrics, cultural and historic aspects of dress and textile design, apparel industry issues, CAD and other technologies, etc. We help you craft your graduate research program based on your interests and goals to address significant issues of apparel design within the context of aesthetics, production, function, and the meanings of dress.

Diverse, engaged faculty

The apparel design faculty has research- and industry-based expertise from design conception through production and analysis. The fiber science faculty offer supporting courses in fabric structure, color and functional characteristics for apparel students and contribute technical expertise to thesis/dissertation research. Working with a professor with whom your research interests align, you'll also take courses with other department faculty and in other fields of study related to your thesis/dissertation research.

Individualized programs

A written thesis is required for completion of all graduate degrees in Fiber Science & Apparel Design. Candidates for the Ph.D. require at least three years of full-time study beyond the master's degree. Candidates for the M.A. usually complete their degree requirements within two years.  For a complete program description, see the graduate student handbook.

Unlike undergraduate studies, graduate work focuses on independent research. At the masters level, you identify a research focus and select courses that will prepare you to conduct the research. At the Ph.D. level you are also expected to take coursework that will give you a broad base in all aspects of the apparel design discipline, along with courses that will help you develop your research topic. The core courses for graduate study in apparel design are:

  • FSAD 6025: Design for Change: Imagining Decolonial Futures
  • FSAD 6415: Anthropology of the Fashioned Body
  • FSAD 6451: Fashion Curation
  • FSAD 6500: Fashion, Media, and Technology
  • FSAD 6640: Human Factors: Anthropometrics and Apparel
  • FSAD 6700: Fashion Theory and Philosophy
  • FSAD 6800 Ethical Design: Engine of Positive Change
  • FSAD 6900: Understanding Functional Aspects of Clothing and Design

Relevant, rigorous research

Your apparel design research immerses you in a problem-solving endeavor using qualitative and/or quantitative methods that link elements of apparel and textile design in the context of aesthetics, function, technique and the meaning of dress. These research projects often have an interdisciplinary perspective that reach across the university and to private industry and government.

The department and Cornell University provide excellent support and resources for graduate study, including competitive grants for research expenses, grants for travel to conferences and world-class libraries, collections and research labs.

For more detailed information on the different areas of apparel design research conducted at Cornell visit individual faculty webpages, and contact us to discuss your interests.

The fall admission deadline is December 15.  We do not admit for spring.  Graduate study applications are submitted directly to the Graduate School of Cornell University, which has jurisdiction over all graduate work and advanced academic degrees.  A complete application includes a statement of purpose, a personal statement, unofficial transcripts, and two (preferably three) letters of recommendation.  Please do not include copies of certificates, passports or other documents.  We will not review your application until it is fully complete, including TOEFL/IELTS test scores. No individual faculty member can offer you admission.  A graduate admissions committee will read your application when it is complete and make the decision. 

Please email the Graduate Field Assistant for Pre-Application information.

Application fee waivers are available in the application.

Admissions are based on evidence of potential capability for advanced study. Applicants for the Ph.D. must already hold a master's degree. We do not require the GRE.

International applicants must demonstrate proficiency in the English language by taking a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam. Minimum TOEFL scores are as follows: Writing 20, Listening 15, Reading 20, Speaking 26, as well as a minimum total score of 100. If ALL of these scores and the total are not met, applications will not be reviewed. The Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS.  

For more information, including waiver information, see the graduate school’s website:

Cornell University expects all applicants to complete their application materials without the use of paid agents, credentials services or other paid professional assistance. The use of such services violates university policy, and may lead to the rejection of application materials, the revocation of an admissions offer, cancellation of admission or involuntary withdrawal from the university.

Applicants who wish to specialize in apparel design for an M.A. or Ph.D. may be asked to submit a portfolio.  For those whose research will be in applied design areas, a portfolio is required. Other research areas may not require a portfolio. Portfolios should contain whatever you feel is necessary to show your work. and need to be fewer than 10 MB to upload to your application. 

Financial support, in the form of teaching assistantships, graduate research assistantships or fellowships is offered with acceptance to Ph.D. students only. Full assistantships include tuition, fees and individual health insurance. Assistantships are offered for four academic years, mid-August through mid-May.  Continued funding is contingent upon acceptable academic performance constituting good standing in your graduate field and satisfactory fulfillment of any teaching or research responsibilities as defined by your assistantship supervisor.

The department does not provide financial support for master's students.