How to Become a Professional Seamstress: Education and Career Roadmap

Professional seamstresses are skilled sewers who specialize in performing alterations, garment repair and custom tailoring to 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.

Should I Become a Professional Seamstress?

A seamstress' career relies on referrals, so it's important to build a strong client base. Professional seamstresses learn their skills on the job by working with experienced professionals or by taking alteration and sewing classes. For this profession, you should develop a portfolio of your best work and consider earning optional certification.

Career Requirements

Degree LevelNo degree is required, but courses in sewing and clothing alteration is helpful
Degree FieldFashion, sewing
Key SkillsAttention to detail, creativity, manual dexterity, customer-service skills, ability to operate and use sewing equipment and tools
Salary (2015)$29,871 per year (Median salary)

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 seamstresses must take in order to pursue this career path. There are a variety of ways to achieve this goal. For instance, many seamstresses begin their education by reading books in order 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-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. In addition, it's beneficial to know how to sew both by hand and with a machine.

Step 2: Consider Taking Advanced Sewing Courses

In order to perform complex tasks, it's best to find a community college or vocational program that offers advanced sewing and textile courses which teach pattern making, garment construction, and fitting and alteration. Enrollment in formal training helps an aspiring seamstress with concepts regarding fabric choice, pattern selection, professional sewing and contemporary sewing. Completion of one of these programs results in a diploma or certificate, which shows qualification for employment.

Success Tips:

  • Develop a portfolio. To find employment, it's essential for aspiring seamstresses to have a portfolio showcasing their talent and best work. The portfolio should contain photographs of altered clothing items or constructed original pieces. Professional seamstresses can begin compiling their portfolios while attending school, and should add samples to them throughout their careers.

Step 3: Consider Voluntary Certification

Certification is not required, 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 program covers advanced sewing techniques and concepts such as texture, proportion, fit and professional practices.

Step 4: Work With Experienced Seamstresses

Novice seamstresses typically work for an experienced professional in order to gain experience about 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 like a department store, bridal boutique, dry cleaner's or a shop specializing in alterations. Working alongside an established seamstress educates a beginner about operating a small business.

Step 5: Develop a Business Plan

After gaining relevant work experience, seamstresses may choose to start their own businesses. A self-employed seamstress may decide to deal in all sorts of custom creations and alterations, or may opt to pursue a specialized niche such as bridal gown alterations, or creating dresses and costumes for pageants. Successful Seamstresses who start their own businesses focus on creating marketing campaigns, attracting clientele, and maintaining a budget.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional organization. Professional seamstresses benefit from obtaining membership in an organization, such as the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (ASDP). Professional organizations 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. By continuing their education seamstresses stay current about fashion trends and sewing technologies.

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