How to Become a Professional Seamstress: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a professional seamstress. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in sewing.

Do I Want to Be a Professional Seamstress?

Professional seamstresses are skilled sewers who specialize in performing alterations, garment repair and custom tailoring for women's garments, such as dresses, blouses or suits. Seamstresses typically work in local shops, department stores and dry cleaning establishments, although some choose to work from home. This career is built on referrals, so it is important for seamstresses to build a strong client base.

Job Requirements

Professional seamstresses may learn their skills on the job by working with experienced seamstresses or by taking alteration and sewing classes. These professionals should develop a portfolio of their best work and may want to earn optional certification. The following table outlines common requirements to become a professional seamstress:

Common Requirements
Degree Level No degree is required, but courses in sewing and clothing alteration*
Degree Field Fashion**, sewing***
Key Skills Attention to detail, creativity, manual dexterity, customer-service skills*
Technical Skills Ability to operate and use sewing equipment and tools*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **San Diego Continuing Education, ***Washtenaw Community College

Step 1: Learn How to Sew and Use Sewing Tools

Learning how to sew is a vital first step that seamstresses must take in order to pursue this career path. There are a variety of ways that this goal can be achieved. For instance, many seamstresses begin their education through books to learn basic sewing techniques and strategies. Alternatively, aspiring seamstresses can take advantage of free resources on the internet, such as videos, downloadable patterns and tutorials, or attend beginner-level sewing classes at a local community center.

Aspiring professional seamstresses must be able to identify and use a variety of sewing tools. Measuring tapes, rulers, sergers, trimming shears, needles, seam rippers and sewing machines are several tools that seamstresses use on a regular basis. Aspiring seamstresses can benefit from learning how to sew both by hand and with a machine, so candidates should practice using tools that correspond to both methods.

Step 2: Consider Taking Advanced Sewing Courses

In order to perform complex tasks, such as pattern-making, garment construction, fitting and alteration, it is best to find a community college or vocational program that offers advanced sewing and textile courses. Enrollment in formal training can help an aspiring seamstress learn important concepts, such as fabric choice, pattern selection, professional sewing, contemporary sewing and more. Typically, completion of one of these programs will result in a diploma or certificate, which may help an aspiring seamstress stand out in the industry.

Success Tips

  • Develop a portfolio. In order to find employment, it is essential for an aspiring seamstress to have a portfolio showcasing his or her talents and best work. The portfolio can contain photographs of clothing items that he or she has altered, as well as samples of original pieces he or she has constructed. Professional seamstresses can begin compiling their portfolios while attending school and continue developing them throughout their careers.

Step 3: Consider Voluntary Certification

Certification is not required in this profession, but voluntary certifications exist for seamstresses interested in standing out in the field. The Association of Sewing and Design Professionals offers the Master Sewing and Design Professional certification, which evaluates applicants for competency in seven major categories. The certification covers knowledge of advanced sewing techniques and concepts, such as texture, proportion, fit and professional practices.

Step 4: Work With Experienced Seamstresses

Professional seamstresses just starting out in the industry typically work under more experienced seamstresses to broaden their knowledge of complex sewing techniques and alterations. Apprenticeship opportunities are sometimes available, though the BLS reports that such opportunities are rare. Seamstresses may be able to find employment as an assistant seamstress in a small business environment, such as in a department store, bridal boutique, dry cleaner's or a business specializing in alterations. Working alongside experienced seamstresses can also help a beginner learn how to operate a small business, get experience in customer service and learn how to be an independent professional seamstress.

Step 5: Develop a Business Plan

After gaining relevant work experience, seamstresses may choose to start their own businesses. A self-employed seamstress may choose to deal in all sorts of custom creations and alterations, or may choose to pursue a specialized niche such as bridal gown alterations or creating dresses and costumes for pageants. Seamstresses who start their own businesses will need to focus on creating marketing campaigns, attracting clientele and dealing with budgetary concerns in order to make their businesses thrive.

Success Tip

  • Join a professional organization. Professional seamstresses can benefit from obtaining membership in an organization, such as the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (ASDP). Professional organizations can provide a number of resources, including business advice, networking opportunities, vendor discounts, annual challenges and competitions, client referrals and continuing education options.

Step 6: Continue Education

Seamstresses have the ability to continue their education throughout their careers through classes, trade shows, workshops, competitions and conventions. Continuing education is required if a seamstress wants to renew his or her Master Sewing and Design Professional certification annually. Continuing education can help a seamstress stay current in fashion trends and sewing technologies.

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