“My parents would NEVER let me major in fashion…acting…art…music…etc”
“I would be so worried about having a job!”
“I’ll just get this (insert “important” “legitimate” degree here) and do fashion on the side”
No. Stop. Shut up. You won’t. Let’s make something very very very clear, my major is not your future side job. You cannot just become a fashion designer overnight. Period end of story.
Here’s the thing: I don’t walk up to a pre-med student and tell them how I can’t wait to diagnose and treat their future patients because I’ve seen an episode of House. So why is it okay for people to talk to art students and fashion students like they are somehow lesser and their futures are going to be easy? Because our skills and careers are based on talents and not something empirical and measurable? That’s pretty screwed up if you ask me.
The reality is that fields like fashion or any fine art get a bad reputation because we don’t create leaps and bounds in medicine or new mathematical or scientific discoveries. You’re right, hell there are some days I can barely differentiate a cold from whatever ridiculous disease that Web M.D. tells me I have. But I’m not the one who is saying that I can do your job, you’re saying you can do mine.
That’s the first argument, we don’t contribute to society in a productive way/what we contribute is an easy feat. Well, you’re wrong. Plain and simple. Art has contributed plenty to society. From the earliest depictions of man in cave paintings that serve as direct proof of man’s adventures through early society to novels by Tolstoy to the tv shows that competed for the Emmy’s this weekend, art has the power to teach us history, tell us stories and entertain us. And those stories? They don’t come easy. Those lessons you learned through the power of Veggie Tales, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Magic School Bus? They couldn’t have been told without hours, days, weeks, and even years of failures and fighting back to teach important values and lessons. Art is important, it matters and it isn’t easy.
Another argument I hear is how lucky I am that I don’t have to buy the same books and supplies as “legitimate majors”. Literally what the hell? Where do people hear that? Fun fact: I would kill to just buy books and a laptop. I would love that. But here is what one semester of being a fashion major can look like in dollars and cents:
- Books: $500
- Various standard supplies (pens, pencils, paper, etc): $100
- Sketch Books: $60
- Sewing Machine: minimum $150 for a decent machine
- Lab/Studio fees: $50
- Adobe Suite Subscription: $20
- Notions (bobbins, thread, scissors, etc): $200
- Fabric: $300 - $700
- Total: approximately $1380 to $1780
That is just an estimate. That is all before tuition, rent, and living expenses. Not to mention that for design students who have a senior show, you can expect to drop $1500 or more on creating a professional looking line. I’m not saying that other majors are cheap, but how about we stop assuming that art majors’ wallets aren’t bawling at the mention of every project, shall we?
One of the arguments I hear most often, and it is even a running joke amongst people within the major, is that our major is easy.
“Fashion is easy”
“You’re just here to find a man and get married”
The second one would be great, but let’s be honest, my major isn’t a damn bit easy. No. It really isn’t. Also, your belief that fashion majors, many of whom are women, are just here to settle down is misogynistic and rooted in idiotic patriarchal ideals that women are incapable of being successful without a man to steer them straight. Let’s talk about how my major is not easy, shall we? I use math, science, history and business lessons every day. From patternmaking to determining which fabric I can use based on the chemical treatments it received to knowing how to best utilize past cultures’ costume to revitalize the way we use fashion today.
In addition to all of those points, fashion and fine arts majors have to deal with this little thing called subjectivity. What is subjectivity? At its essence, in this case, it means that basically anything I do can be measured as flexibly or as strictly as someone likes. It means if someone, either a professor or future boss, doesn’t like a color I choose or a finishing technique, it can cost me my grade or my job. Plain and simple. It really can be “One day you’re in, the next you’re out”. No one says that math is easy, but let’s be real, math equations generally have one definitive answer. 2+2 doesn’t magically turn into 105. But with fashion, a stitch can cost designers everything. A pucker can ruin an evening gown. There is no going back and checking your work in fashion sometimes, it can be a very costly mistake that can change your entire world with a prick of a needle or a cut from some scissors.
Finally, I hear that I’m lucky because I get to have fun in my major. You’re right, after the hours of sobbing over stressful projects, the pints of blood I lost from pin and needle pricks, and the number of trees I have killed with failed patterns and sketches, I do get to have fun in my chosen career. I love getting out of bed every day and looking at the dress form in my room with projects that I’m working on or breaking out my sketchbook after I hike through Giant City. I love it and I have a hell of a lot of fun doing it. But if you’re saying I am lucky that I get to have fun every day, then why aren’t you saying the same to yourself? Why aren’t you having fun in your major? Fashion, art, theatre and music aren’t as glamorous as they seem from the outside looking in. It is incredibly hard work and takes more dedication than people realize. You don’t become an internationally recognized fashion designer or artist overnight, just like you don’t get handed a medical license by walking into your first bio class.
So, no, you can’t do my major. You can’t, plain and simple. If you want to be a fashion designer, go to fashion school. Want to be an actor? Audition and get into a theatre program. Want to be an accountant? I guess you probably want to take accounting classes. But start recognizing that just because careers seem glamorous and “easy” from the outside, it isn’t always the case. Stop assuming that you are superior because you are passionate about a traditional career. Because my nontraditional career choice is my passion and it is something that I fight for every day and will fight to advance until the day that I cease to breathe. It isn’t easy to be a doctor, lawyer, accountant, actor, fashion designer, singer, etc. so stay in your lane and I’ll stay in mine.