This Is a Real Job: Doll Clothing Fashion Designer

If you always wanted to be a fashion designer, consider designing clothing on a smaller scale. The wild and wacky job of designing fashions for toy dolls is big business.

Big toy makers such as Mattel and Hasbro hire doll fashion designers with the same credentials as many getting their start in the human fashion design industry. A bachelor’s degree in design and the technical skills to create 2-D sketches and 3-D models are as necessary on the small scale as they are on the large scale.

Upstart Business Journal profiled doll fashion designer Kim Culmone, who spends her days discussing current fashion and clothing designs with her staff, then walking around the design room floor, analyzing fabric swatches presented by designers who watch trends and bring in new possibilities, such as colored denim or eyelet materials.

Culmone often works 12-hour days, including a working lunch full of meetings with people who design “Barbie” products. She’s well paid for her efforts; Culmone lets on that doll clothing designers may make as much as six figures, which is sometimes a better salary than those who design for life-size, real human consumers. Starting salary for human fashions may be a paltry $60,000, and you have to work with larger amounts of fabric.

And who knows where a job designing doll clothing may take you. US News reports that Jason Wu started designing clothing, hair, and makeup for dolls at Integrity Toys when he was still in high school. His career took an interesting set of twists and turns, and at the tender age of 26, he became famous for designing Michelle Obama’s ivory inaugural gown. Wu was quoted as saying that had he not started with dolls and gotten into human fashion design sooner, his designs would have lacked maturity. He seems to have learned a lot and developed his clothing and fashion design sensibilities while designing clothing for dolls.

If you like fashion design, remember to consider the possibility of designing clothing on all scales.

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