Be a Dressmaker: Education and Career Roadmap
Research the requirements to become a dressmaker. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in dressmaking.
Do I Want to Be a Dressmaker?
Dressmakers, also known as custom sewers, are apparel workers who make or alter women's clothes. Dressmakers may be capable of making original designs or creating copies of fashions from photographs. They may be self employed, or they may work for clothing manufacturers and use pattern-making skills. Those who are self employed might spend considerable time locating new assignments and clients.
While no formal training is required to get started in this career, a certificate or associate's degree in a related field may expand a dressmaker's career opportunities and improve his or her job outlook. They might also learn their skills through an apprenticeship. The following table outlines common requirements to become a dressmaker:
|Degree Level||High school diploma; a certificate or associate's degree may be beneficial*|
|Degree Fields||Fashion design, textiles, sewing or a related field**|
|Experience||An apprenticeship can supplement or replace formal education and provide necessary training**; some positions require 1-2 years of experience***|
|Key Skills||Attention to detail and customer service skills**, time management skills*|
|Technical Skills||Finger dexterity, fine motor skills, ability to operate and use sewing equipment, knowledge of design techniques*|
|Additional Requirements||Employers may test applicants' knowledge of needlepoint and the metric system***|
Sources: *O*Net Online, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ***Monster.com job postings (November 2012)
Step 1: Learn the Basic Skills
Aspiring dressmakers must be able to operate a sewing machine, as well as sew by hand. Additionally, dressmakers must learn the proper use of a variety of sewing tools, including measuring tapes, cutting tools and sergers. Other skills include using patterns as a guide to cut and fit garments, lining, hemming and buttonholes. Sewing classes can cover these fundamentals and may be available in informal settings, such as community centers, or through local fabric and craft stores for a small fee. These individual classes can cover a wide range of subjects, from how to sew a little black dress to using floral print designs.
- Join a professional organization. Some professional organizations offer resources that can help aspiring dressmakers learn the skills they need to succeed in this career. For example, the American Sewing Guild offers classes, workshops and sewing events to its members.
Step 2: Earn a Certificate or Degree
Those who already have basic sewing skills can obtain a certificate as a seamstress by taking non-degree courses through a local community college. Programs can span about eight weeks, and students can learn advanced skills and concepts, including jean construction, dress design, contemporary tailoring and form/draping.
Those who wish to be a dressmaker or possibly work in other facets of the fashion world might want to earn a 2-year Associate of Applied Science or a 4-year Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design. Skills taught in these programs include detailing, marketing, pattern making and computer-aided design (CAD).
- Participate in extracurricular activities. Fashion design degree programs often offer numerous opportunities for real-world experience in the fashion industry. Students might attend fashion shows, work on dress design projects for actual clients or study abroad in fashion-oriented cities like Paris.
Step 3: Gain Work Experience
Dressmakers may apply for work with clothing manufacturers, department stores or bridal boutiques. In some cases, dressmakers may be able to find apprenticeship opportunities working alongside experienced professionals to further hone their skills, although the BLS reported that such opportunities were rare.
- Continue your education. Though it is not required, dressmakers can benefit from learning new skills throughout their careers. For example, the Custom Tailors and Designers Association (CTDA) offers advanced courses in business and marketing.
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