From team selection to promotion to themes, I’ve created the full step-by-step guide for planning a college fashion show. It’ll make sure you put on a show nobody ever forgets!
Hey gorgeous! What better way to inspire students to think outside the box than a college fashion show? Fashion may not be taken seriously as a profession by many, but when it comes to fashion shows, students and guests love them at any college. Who doesn’t love some fun at an annual event with music, style and poise? And a fashion show promises just that!
Not only do they allow students to showcase their personal style, but also give them the opportunity to learn how to plan an event. You’ll not only be working with students from different departments of the college, but also planning other parts of the show like lighting, props and what not with third-parties. This type of an activity teaches many skills like time-management, collaboration, negotiation, strategic planning and more.
But that’s not all! College fashion shows are also a great way to bring the campus community together and provide a fun and entertaining event for everyone to enjoy. Plus, they can be a great way to raise funds for a good cause, whether it’s through ticket sales or a clothing sale.
So why not give a college fashion show a try? Not only will it be a blast to host one, but it will also help you push the boundaries of your creativity and management skills. Go ahead and give it a shot – I guarantee it will be a memorable experience for everyone involved.
My Personal Experience
My own experience of hosting a college fashion show is definitely a story worth recounting here – and let me tell you, it was quite the adventure!
First of all, we had to come up with a theme. We tossed around a bunch of ideas, but eventually settled on “Victorian Meets Street Style”. Once we had our theme, we started asking around the college for students to contribute any vintage clothing or accessories (very few had!). We also reached out to local vintage clothing stores and designer friends to see if they’d be interested in collaborating with us.
Next up was selecting the models. We put out a call for entries and many people applied (some were shy but their friends encouraged them!). It was tough to choose, but we eventually settled on a diverse group of models with a range of personal styles they could bring to our runway!
The planning process was intense – we had to coordinate fittings, rehearsals, music and all sorts of logistical details. But somehow, we managed to pull everything together and the show was a huge success! It was a lot of chaos, but it was also loads of fun. If you’re thinking about putting on your own college fashion show, be prepared for a wild ride!
How to Plan a College Fashion Show
So how do you go about planning a successful college fashion show? Here are some steps and ideas I personally recommend:
1. Set the Basics
Firstly, you need to set the basic details like venue, date and duration of the show, so that you can begin your planning.
Setting the Venue
In some cases this may already be set by the annual festival organizers, etc. But if it’s up to you, there can be many creative options, like the courtyard or college terrace for an open-to-sky event, outside the cafeteria, the auditorium or even an outdoor venue.
Setting the Date
For date, it can be the finale event at an annual festival, a post-exam or post-break event, a mid-semester thing, farewell party or graduation party.
College Fashion Show Duration
The duration depends on your theme, but a perfect college fashion show should not be too long. It’ll mainly depend on how many looks you want to showcase. In fashion week, for example, a 20 minute show can showcase upto 80 outfits, but the professional models walk really fast and never turn back.
So it depends on the choreography you’re planning. 20-30 minutes would be great to showcase a college fashion show with 30 or so outfits if you have about 1 minute per model to strut slowly, pose for a photo and turn back.
2. Create a Team
Creating a team of responsible people is the next step. Here are the people you’ll need in your team:
- Fashion Show Manager: The person who’ll handle the planning. They’ll be in-charge of schedule, decisions and delegation. They’ll need to keep a project sheet to list the tasks, set deadlines and follow up. They’ll make sure the fashion show is timed perfectly, everything is planned well from fittings to music to photography.
- Co-ordinator: The person who’ll handle the execution and help the manager to complete tasks. They’ll be at every meeting like fittings, rehearsals to ensure things are running smoothly. They’ll also need to be backstage with the models to ensure they’re entering and exiting the runway at their designated time, and help with last-minute costume issues, if required.
- Treasurer/ Funds In-charge: They’ll keep a track of budget, expenses, payments, reimbursements, etc. They can also source items from local stores, etc.
- Venue In-Charge: This person will select and book the venue, be in-charge of set and decorations, cleanliness, props, and setting up backstage items.
- Costume Manager/ Designer: Someone who will handle costumes, fittings, clothing designs, etc.
- Accessories Designer/ Costume Assistant
- Choreographer/ Rehearsals Manager
- Lighting In-charge
- Camera & Videography, Editing
- DJ/ Music In-Charge
- Hair & Makeup
- Promotion & Sales: They’ll be in charge of creating the web page of the show, flyers, posters, etc. and spreading the word about the show. They’ll also invite guests, sell tickets, and work with the treasurer to find sponsors. They will make sure the expenses are earned back.
- Social Media Manager: They’ll create a Twitter handle, create Instagram stories, broadcast the live show, co-ordinate with the photographer to select images and create interesting stories for social media coverage of the show, tag models and team members, etc.
- Event Manager (optional): They’ll work on co-ordinating other aspects of the event like refreshments, post-show activities, performance, etc.
Of course, you may not have such a large team. That’s okay – the same few people may be in charge of more than one of these responsibilities.
3. Select a Theme
There are cliché themes that everyone under the sun goes for, like beach, vintage, ethnic and nature, so steer clear of those. Unless you’re really on a tight deadline!
Brainstorm ideas with your team to shortlist some creative themes for your college fashion show. You can mix two themes for a unique factor. Some really new ideas can be:
- Heavy Cargo
- 80s – The Age of Video Games
- Burlesque meets Retro Modesty
- Wednesday Horror Chic
- Paris meets Ethnic
- Ballet X Cyberpunk
- 90s Couture X Street Style Nostalgia
- DIY 00s Nostalgia
- Met Gala but Bosslady
- Tropical Paradise
- Retro Corporate Glam
- “During the Apocalypse” Couture
- Virtual Chic/ Metaverse
- Space Barbie
- Prep School X 80s Rock
- Renaissance X Street Style
- Earth Recycle or Avant Garde Earth
- Non-Fabric Fashion: Tech, paper, recycled plastic materials for DIY outfits, creative fashion concepts, 3d printed or other materials.
Shortlist 2-4 interesting themes that you can discuss with the designer and finalize.
3. Select Student Designers
For your college fashion show’s costume in-charge, inviting student designers would be a great idea. A student design showcase would be addition to a resume, and a great way to collaborate with creative individuals on the campus. In fact, you could even invite student designers from other colleges, like a fashion school near you.
So how to find some seriously stylish student designers in your college fashion show? First, send out a call for submissions. Get the word out about your fashion show through a flyer, social media or college email list and invite interested students to submit their work samples and ideas for consideration.
You’ll need to decide on the requirements for submissions, such as aesthetic guidelines, number of looks, the types of allowed materials or themes shortlisted. This will help students submit relevant entries. Once you have the submissions, you can review them on the basis of quality, originality and of course, adherence to the themes shortlisted.
You can also choose a group of designers with different styles to create a diverse show. It’ll keep things interesting and give more people to be a part of the show. The show co-ordinator will be in charge of communication like the timeline, fittings, and budget, so that everything runs smoothly.
You can also invite other team members to apply in the same way, like the social media manager, a DJ and photographer. Finally, help them prepare for the show in whatever way they need. After all, the more prepared they are, the better the show will be!
4. Set the Budget
Budget is one of the most important among my college fashion show tips, because it’ll make sure nobody has to pay an unexpected amount of money out of pocket.
The best way to determine the budget is to list out all expenses. The budget will depend on the scope of the show, and how many items are outsourced. For example, will you be purchasing only costumes or accessories too? Will the choreographer and cameraman be a student or an outsider? Will you hire models or get student models? Decide on these details, such as the number of looks, show duration, and any special features or performances.
Be sure to allocate funds for each category of expenses such as set décor, lighting, costumes, props, etc. and try to anticipate any unexpected costs that may come up. You can add 5% miscellaneous expenses to the budget for these.
While planning the college fashion show, you’ll want to carefully track expenses to ensure that you stay within budget. Make any necessary adjustments and track the same with your team mates too. You may need to cut costs in certain areas or look for additional sources of funding if the budget is not sufficient.
5. Plan Funding & Invite Sponsors
Now that you have the budget, the next step is to identify the sources of funding. This could include sponsorships, ticket sales, clothing sales and any other fundraising efforts. Plan how much money you can realistically expect to raise from each source. Here are some ways to finance your fashion show:
Plan a Benefit Fashion Show
You can also partner with a charity or non-profit organization and donate a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales to support their cause. If it’s a fundraiser, guests will be happy to pay for tickets, and even give donations.
Plan a Collaborative Show
You could partner with local businesses or designers, who can send samples that can be used as costumes and accessories. They can also sponsor the props, lighting, etc.
To find designers that could be partnered with, you’ll want to contact them by phone, social media or email. Explain the show, theme, and how much coverage you can provide their business in terms of advertisement. For example, social media exposure or a large guest list could entice them.
If not a charity, then it’s a good idea to get some event sponsors like fashion brands or other local businesses who can fund the show. In return, they can display their advertorial banners at the venue, or advertise their brand on your college website or in the show’s social media coverage.
Some college fashion shows are restricted to college students and teachers only. Some let you invite a plus one or students’ families. However, ticket sales can help you finance the whole show and even make a profit, especially if you invite outside guests. To increase ticket sales, you’ll need to promote your college fashion show on social media, through online or newspaper ads.
A Larger Event
Planning a whole day’s event can also boost ticket sales, as people want to pay for an outing with more entertaining options and not just the show. Keep reading for more ideas on this.
6. Select Models
Selecting models for a college fashion show can be a tough job, but worry not – since you’ll soon find many applicants! The look of the models should generally fit the theme, but it’s also good to select a diverse group, such as a mix of body types, skin tones, heights, and gender identities.
You can invite model applicants the same way as you invite student designers. Once you have your pool of potential models, have a selection day where you finalize them, in agreement with the designer. Then it’s time to start thinking about the lineup, which model should wear which clothes and walk in what order. This is where things can get really creative! Of course, you might want to consider factors like skin tone, body type, and overall aesthetic when deciding which model should wear which outfit.
7. Create a Scheduled Checklist
Well, if you’re planning any event, you need a project planning timeline with a lot of deadlines. Both for yourself and others involved in it. You can create the project timeline on a notebook, or use Excel, Google Sheets or just the notes app on your iPad. The project planner will include deadlines for costumes, dates for fittings, rehearsals. Also add line items including other tasks you have already delegated such as lighting, stage décor, etc.
First list down all the tasks you need to get done, and then next to them, add columns for responsible party, deadline, status and notes. These tasks will include:
- Create design brief
- Call for designers
- Designer submission deadline
- Finalize designer
- Finalize theme
- Costume designs & moodboards
- Costume finalization including clothes, accessories, makeup, hair, shoes
- Call for models
- Model selections
- Finalize model lineup
- 1st rehearsal
- Final rehearsal
- Book a venue
- Book lighting
- Set design deadline
- Call for photographer/videographer/editor
- Photographer submission deadline
- Finalize photographer
- Source props
- Call for DJ
- Finalize DJ
- Music selection/ finalize music
- Set rehearsal (lighting, sound, props, camera – combine with final model rehearsal)
- Rack and hangers for costumes
- Racks or shelves for accessories
- Hair accessories, pins, etc.
- Styling tools like hair dryer, makeup brushes, etc.
- Finalize placement of items by checking sockets for dryers & changing rooms, bathrooms
Event Management (optional):
- Finalize sponsors
- Finalize collaborators
- Guest list
- Ticket pricing & design
- Banner, flyers & online promotional materials
- Finalize caterer/ refreshments
- Venue inspection
- Fashion show website
- Social media promotions
- Clothing auction/sale
- Post-show performance/activity
8. Plan Activities Around the Show
You can include other activities around the show, which may or may not be fashion related. These can increase interest in the show and foster networking within the college. These activities could include:
A Stage Performance
You can plan a dance performance, such as ballet, that is planned either before or after the show, or happens side by side, merged artistically into the show.
A Clothing Sale or Resale
Pair the fashion show with a vintage clothing sale, where students and guests can shop for unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. For this you’ll need to source the clothing for sale, either from a vendor or a sponsor.
You can also plan a resale where students donate their clothing which is then resold. We all have clothing that’s never been worn or hardly worn, and such a resale can be an interesting take on our fast fashion choices and their environmental impact.
High-Tea/ Food Stalls
If you’re not serving refreshments before or during the show, food stalls are a great idea to earn some money at the event. Or host a tea party with buffet snacks or a stall of cookies. Be creative with these, make sure you plan whatever’s popular and in demand.
You can auction the best items from the show, where the proceeds go to charity, or even a date with a few of the models!
A Fashion-Related Activity
This could be in theme with your show, or like a workshop for guests, whose entry is included with the VIP ticket. Think a DIY jacket decoration workshop or a jewelry workshop where people are given materials like wood, beads, etc. and tools for carving, cutting, etc.
Mind you, these activities could require more planning, which will get difficult to manage for yourself with classes and homework. So plan them only if you have a larger team, so that there’s a separate person who can handle each event. Sure, some of it sounds like a lot of work, but these extra-curricular activities help you develop entrepreneurial skills.
9. Promote the Show
What’s the point of throwing a party that no one attends? None! So how to promote a college fashion show to attract a large audience? Let’s look at all the aspects:
Create a Killer Event Page
You can create a page on your college website to update students and guests about the event. Include all the important details, such as:
- Any special guests or performances
- Any special cause like a charity, eco-friendly fashion, etc.
- Any post-show activity planned
- Ticket price what that includes, like refreshments (if they’ll be served)
- Dress code for guests, if any
Be sure to include a eye-catching pic or graphic to help it stand out.
Create & Spread Promotional Material
Spread the word by using flyers, posters, and postings on the college bulletin board.
Social Media Promotions
The manager (you) and other team mates can also spread the word on Instagram, Twitter or whichever social media you use. You can also request the college newsletter editor to mention the event in the upcoming newsletter. Or set up an event page on Facebook or another social media platform to promote the event. You can include a catchy tagline or slogan to grab people’s attention.
Offer Discounts & Other Perks
Consider offering incentives to encourage people to attend the show, such as discounted tickets for groups or special perks for VIP attendees. You can also invite a special guest or performer to generate buzz around the show.
Partner with Local Businesses
Look for local businesses that align with the theme or aesthetic of the show and see if they’d be interested in promoting the event in exchange for some promotional opportunities. These could be sustainable fashion brands, local newspapers that you can invite to cover the show, etc.
Utilize Your Network
Don’t be shy about reaching out to your friends, family, and classmates to help spread the word about the fashion show. The more people you can get talking about the event, the better!
Think outside the box when it comes to promoting your college fashion show. Visit different departments or classes around the college to make announcements. You could host a pre-show party, offer exclusive behind-the-scenes content on socials, host a campus fashion day, or even hold a student fashion-themed contest to get people talking!
10. Have a Rehearsal
A rehearsal is important before a college fashion show because it helps the management team, and especially the models, to get a feel for the flow and timing of the show. It also gives everyone an opportunity to iron out any kinks and make any necessary adjustments to the order of the outfits or the lighting and music cues. Plus, it’s just plain fun to get dressed up and walk down an imaginary runway with your friends!
So work with the choreographer to finalize the style of walking, timing, etc. Rehearse the choreography at least twice before the show, and at least once with the final costumes and music.
So guys, there you have it – the guide for planning a college fashion show. Hope it helps you and your team put on a memorable and fab event! I’d love to know what you planned, so comment your experiences below. And tag me in your Instagram pics of the show @shilpaahujadotcom and I’ll surely double-tap!
Shilpa Ahuja the editor-in-chief of ShilpaAhuja.com, which she founded with the goal of inspiring confidence in the modern working woman through fashion. Other than defining the direction of the magazine, she also writes about fashion & beauty trend forecasts, industry analysis, and opinions.
Shilpa’s work has been published in the University of Fashion blog and Jet Airways magazine. She is also an artist, illustrator and cartoonist. She is also the creator of Audrey O., a comic series that represents the lifestyle of millennial women. She enjoys creative writing and world travel. Her art has been exhibited at Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Aroma Hotel, Chandigarh and been published in Chandigarh Times.
Originally from Chandigarh, Shilpa also has a degree in architecture and has worked in interior project management. She is also the author of the book “Designing a Chinese Cultural Center in India”. Shilpa has a Masters in Design Studies degree from Harvard University.
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