A seamstress can specialize in sewing, tailoring or designing fashion apparel. Individuals who pursue formal education programs related to fashion design will learn everything from alterations to sewing techniques through lectures, projects and internships. Some schools also offer evening or weekend studies to provide schedule flexibility to students, most often at the associate degree level. There are even a few programs available fully online.
Certificate programs have no formal education requirements but may require sewing skills ranging from beginner to intermediate levels. Associate's degree programs require students to have a high school diploma and pass a design test. Applicants may also be required to submit a portfolio.
Seamstress Certificate Program
This one-year program prepares students to work in apparel, fashion, performing arts and seamstress-related careers. Students learn skills in sewing, tailoring and pattern-making, and hands-on clothing construction projects are a typical portion of the curriculum. Students attend courses for up to a year, and can choose from several different concentrations including master seamstress, sewing and clothing design or sewing designations. Common course topics include:
- Professional sewing
- Tailoring and fitting
- Fabric styles and types
Associate's Degree in Fashion Design
Degree-seeking seamstress students can pursue an Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Fine Arts (AFA) or Associate of Science (AS) degree in fashion design. These programs focus on professional design, clothing construction, patternmaking and sewing skills, and they take approximately two years to complete. Practical experiences often include field trips to explore fabrics and top design firms, internships at design studios, guest speakers sharing knowledge of design, fashion shows and study abroad programs. In addition to general education coursework, common fashion classes include:
- Illustration in fashion
- Computer Aided Design
- Apparel design fundamentals
- Fashion marketing and merchandising
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers was $25,830 in May 2014. The BLS also reported that from 2014-2024, there would be 9% decline in employment in the field; most of the demand for these services will come from upscale boutiques and those looking for unique, handmade goods (www.bls.gov).
The median annual wage for fashion designers in May 2015 was $63,670, according to the BLS. The BLS also reported that employment of fashion designers would increase 3% from 2014 to 2024; however, those with relevant education and substantial experience in the fashion industry are expected to have the best job prospects in this highly competitive field.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Many associate's degree programs are designed for students to continue in a bachelor's degree program, usually in fashion design or fashion merchandising. Baccalaureate degree-level studies advance student's skills in fashion construction and design, and usually include business and management related studies. Further education can help with advancement to positions such as retail store manager, merchandiser, stylist, buyer or coordinator. Graduate and doctoral degree programs are also available, and they typically focus on developing a professional portfolio, competing in global markets and advancing knowledge in design principles.
The Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (ASDP) also offers voluntary professional certification for seamstresses. To earn a Master Seamstress Certification, one must complete a 7-part exam and pay a fee. Other professional societies and associations, such as the American Sewing Guild, offer conferences, workshops and seminars in current sewing technologies and sewing instruction.
Aspiring seamstresses can hone their skills by earning an undergraduate certificate. Those who want to gain more advanced design training, as well as a general education, may choose an AAS in Fashion Design program.