How to Become a Professional Seamstress: Education and Career Roadmap

Aug 17, 2018

If you enjoy sewing, you might consider becoming a professional seamstress. Learn about the education and experience necessary to pursue a career in this field.

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  • 0:00 Becoming a…
  • 0:54 Learn to Sew
  • 1:45 Take Classes & Earn…
  • 3:06 Gain Experience
  • 3:42 Develop a Business Plan
  • 4:35 Continuing Education

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Becoming Professional Seamstress

Degree Level None; courses in sewing/alterations helpful
Degree Field Fashion, sewing
Key Skills Attention to detail, creativity, manual dexterity, customer-service skills, ability to operate and use sewing equipment and tools; portfolio of work
Salary (2015)* $25,830 per year (median salary for dressmakers and sewers)

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

A professional seamstress makes a living by sewing. 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. Seamstresses should have a few key skills, including an attention to detail, creativity, manual dexterity, customer-service skills, and the ability to operate and use sewing equipment and tools. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dressmakers and sewers earned a median annual salary of $25,830 in 2015.

Learn to Sew

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, including 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.

Take Classes and Earn Certification

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.

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.

Certification is not required in this field, 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.

Gain Experience

Novice seamstresses typically work for an experienced professional in order to gain experience with complex sewing techniques and alterations. Apprenticeship opportunities are sometimes available, though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 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 cleaners, or a shop specializing in alterations. Working alongside an established seamstress educates a beginner about operating a small business.

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.

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.

Continuing 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 on fashion trends and sewing technologies.

To sum up, professional seamstresses are not required to have a degree, though taking some courses in sewing and fashion, working under a professional seamstress, and gaining voluntary certification in the field can help them in their careers.

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