Custom Tailor: Career Summary, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for custom tailors. Get the facts about salary, employment outlook and education requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Fashion Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Custom Tailor?

Tailors are professional sewers that clients can go to and have clothing fitted or altered. They take measurements, sew with needles and thread or a sewing machine and take out seems. Using their artistic talent, tailors utilize tools such as shears, chalk pencil holders and seam creasers to create one-of-a-kind garments. Learn about some of the education options to become a custom tailor, including programs offered by colleges and training programs offered by private companies. If you review the table below, you can also learn about potential earnings and the job outlook.

Education Required None required; technical certificates, associate's degrees or bachelor's degrees are available, training programs offered by private companies
Education Field of Study Fashion design, sewing, textiles
Key Skills Problem-solving, creativity, attention to detail, time management
Job Growth (2014-2024) -2% (for all tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers)*
Median Salary (2015) $25,830 (for all tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Custom Tailor?

In this role, you'd design custom-made clothing for customers or make alterations and repairs to items from their existing wardrobe. Your duties during a design project might include creating preliminary sketches of clothing ideas for customer feedback and approval; measuring customers' arms, legs and torso for correct proportions; and marking, cutting and stitching fabric. Making alterations might entail having customers wear specific garments to study the quality of the overall fit, removing existing stitches and re-sewing seams to expand or contract the garment's proportions. When repairing a garment, you'd study its defects, sew minor tears shut if possible or replace damaged sections with fabric of equivalent type, color and pattern.

Where Could I Work?

Clothing stores, drycleaners, laundry services, apparel manufacturers and department stores are among your prospective employers. You could also consider opening your own store. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't provide figures for tailors alone, but about 19,980 individuals held jobs in the larger category for tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Most were self-employed. Per the BLS, from 2014-2024, employment was projected to decline two percent. Demand for customer-made clothing was expected to hold steady at the high end of the market and among individuals seeking unique clothing items, but such demand has been declining in other segments. The medial annual salary of tailors, dressmakers and custom tailors as of May 2015 was $25,830, according to the bureau.

What Education or Training Is Available?

You have several ways of learning the custom tailoring trade. Some high schools offer classes that teach you how to sew fabric and make alterations. Several community and technical colleges offer certificate programs in tailoring. Many associate's and bachelor's degree programs in fashion design include classes in tailoring. Certificate programs teach you basic, intermediate and advanced stitching methods, pattern drawing and textiles. Associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs cover the same material and also merchandising, display and computer-aided design.

The Customer Tailors and Designers Association (CTDA) offers a 7-course master custom designer program if you're a member. Courses cover measuring, fitting, styling and fabrics. However, courses are held only during design shows and CTDA meetings.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

With the decline in career opportunities for tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers, those interested in the profession of a custom tailoring may want to consider other career options. One option would be to become a fashion designer, which is more involved in designing clothes via computer programs prior to creating and showing prototypes they make. Many fashion designers hold a bachelor's degree, but some begin as an intern or an assistant. If hands-on work is what draws you to tailoring you may be interested in a career as a jeweler. These professionals handle many types of precious metals and stones and are responsible for repairing, selling and appraising jewels, along with creating personalized pieces for customers.

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