A seamstress can have a few different job titles, including tailor, dressmaker, and hand sewer. Often working independently for a range of clients, the sewing skills of a seamstress must be versatile in order to work with a wide variety of specific designs and patterns.
A seamstress is a person who works with textiles and clothing. Sewing skills are required for much of the work, but design, fabrication and even metal casting can come into play. While many seamstresses work independently in alteration and custom clothing shops with many different clients, some perform specific duties in theaters or factories. A seamstress' skills are versatile, so a person in this profession could work in dressmaking, gown design, handbag making or costume design.
|Required Education||On-the-job training; certificate programs available|
|Required Skills||Ability to sew|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||-9% (for tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers); -10% (for hand sewers)|
|Median Salary (2015)||$25,830 (for tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers)*; $23,640 (for hand sewers)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
A seamstress needs to master special skills and acquire knowledge of how to make and mend clothing. They have to do alterations, sew hems, fix tears, mend zippers and apply buttons. It's common for a seamstress to work with a tailor shop on a job-by-job basis or with other businesses that deal with clothing, such as dry cleaning shops that offer sewing services. Seamstresses might also work with highly specialized garments, such as bulletproof vests or medical correctional devices.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
Opportunities are available to work full- or part-time with a business or on a client-by-client basis. However, it can be difficult to make a living solely by sewing. Many people incorporate their sewing skills into a specialization, such as dressmaking, wedding gown design, shoemaking or even sail making. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2015, the median yearly wage for tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers was $25,830 (www.bls.gov). This job field was expected to decline 9% from 2014-2024. Jobs for hand sewers were projected to decrease 10% during the same time.
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Being a seamstress is a skill-based profession in most cases, so all a person needs to become a seamstress is the ability to sew. In certain situations, like costume design or industrial sewing work, some form of qualification or experience might be required. Courses in sewing and seamstress certification are available, but these are not strictly necessary. Practice is key when looking for work as a seamstress. When possible, preserving a portfolio of work is a good idea.
Knowledge and experience are essential for a seamstress. Individuals need to know the difference between lining, underlining and interlining, in addition to being familiar with all the possible fabrics and when to use them. Knowing about cutting patterns and pieces, and creating solid seams that are well hidden are also required. A seamstress needs to know how to prevent wrinkling, extend the wear of a garment, work with wool or flannel and handle delicate fabrics, like silk or cashmere.
Coursework in a program to become a seamstress may include pattern-making, specialty fabrics, industrial operations and machine work. In many cases, these courses must be sought out individually because they are not part of a single unified program. Learning how to adequately complete each of these tasks is more important than where the tasks are learned, so looking into community colleges, trade schools and apprenticeships is a good idea.
In addition to making alterations, a seamstress hems fabric, repairs tears and zippers, and adds buttons to garments. Although often self-employed, a seamstress might find work in a shop offering sewing services, such as those sometimes found at a dry cleaning store.