5 Common Misconceptions About Fashion Merchandising Majors
By Justine Boorady
One simple question opens a door to a whole word of conversation. “What’s your major?” I am a fashion merchandising major. Unfortunately, when I tell people this, I always receive the same snap judgment. When I told my family and friends my decision to pursue a career in fashion, a million of the same thoughts swirled in their heads: “Will she make enough money?” “Where would she work?” “Is this going to be a challenging enough major?” Why does being part of this major come with an unfair bias that classifies who I am? No wonder the star in “Legally Blonde,” Elle Woods, kicked major lawyer ass just to prove her degree in Fashion Merchandising was just as useful as any other. It goes back to that silly saying we all were taught in kindergarten: Never judge a book by its cover. If Elle Woods can do this, then certainly we fashion merch majors can unite for a greater cause to disprove these five common misconceptions: 1. “You must shop all the time.” Okay, I totally get that our major does involve clothes, but shopping is a whole other thing. Sure, I do my fair share of online binge-shopping during class, but browsing the web for sales isn’t my first priority. While I love finding a new pair of Ralph Lauren fall boots, I can appreciate the process that went into making those boots far more than the actual pair itself. Knowing the stitching or fabric used in products will not only help in recognizing the quality of clothing I am buying, but it will also help in my future as a product developer or buyer. 2. “Oh, so your classes must be super easy.” This is definitely the biggest misconception of them all. Just because our particular business focuses on clothes, it doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging. In fact, I barely even work with actual articles of clothing. Fashion merchandising focuses on the process of making clothes and textiles, as well as how to build a brand and a successful business. Classes such as chemistry, product development, finance and a ton of other business classes come into play for our well-rounded curriculum (aka hours upon hours of late-night studying). Don’t discount me just because one minuscule part of my job will one day end up on a sale rack. 3. “You must dress nice every day!” Of course, I enjoy strutting down the street to class in a nice outfit, but when it’s 9 am on a Friday and I just woke up from a long night, you better believe you will see me walking in leggings and the biggest sweatshirt in my arsenal. Business majors don’t walk around in suits all day, and biology majors aren’t strolling campus in lab coats and goggles, so why should we? Fashion is my career, not the air I breathe 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 4. “What’s your dream job? A manager at the mall?” The beauty of my major is I can literally do whatever I want with it. You name it, and I most likely took a class on it. There is so much freedom to try new things and figure out my niche in this crazy industry by trying new internships and taking a wide variety of classes. I have the ability to go into a career of publication, to create clothing in product development and to run my own clothing company. So no, there is more to my major than just working at the damn mall. 5. “Anyone can make it in that industry.” Getting into the fashion industry is not only extremely difficult and competitive, but you need a thick skin and a willingness to start from the bottom. A requirement for our major is to participate in internships. The industry is all about connections and working your way up to the top. When Elle Woods wanted to become a lawyer, think of how many people laughed in her face and told her no way. Clearly, her fashion merchandising degree came in handy when dealing with people who constantly shut down her ideas and thought she was too unconventional. And guess what? Those are the qualities it takes to even remotely consider entering into our crazy world of clothes. So, the next time you scoff at the thought of fashion merchandise majors, take a page from Miranda Priestly’s book and remember her wise words: It’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.