How Can I Become a Dressmaker?

Research what it takes to become a dressmaker. Learn about education requirements, certification and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Fashion Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Dressmaker?

Dressmakers design and create clothing. They make dresses, skirts, gowns, women's pants and more. They also repair clothing and alter pieces for a more exact fit. Occasionally, they may update and modernize a vintage piece for a client. They often begin by designing or choosing a pattern and taking measurements from their client. Dressmakers use the patterns to cut fabric and material they have selected, and then sew it together by hand or using a sewing machine. They must bear in mind their client's budget and style when selecting patterns and materials. Dressmakers may also advise clients how to properly care for different pieces of clothing and materials to help them last longer. Take a look at the chart below for a quick overview of this profession.

Degree Required No degree required
Training Required Moderate on-the-job training
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% decline (for tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers)
Median Salary (2015)* $25,830 (for tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Education Do I Need to Become a Dressmaker?

It is not necessary to have a college degree or formal training to become a dressmaker; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that some dressmakers may master sewing, patternmaking and related dressmaking skills through high school classes (www.bls.gov). The agency also reported though, that formal training or related education beyond the high school level can make a big difference in landing a job and career advancement.

Postsecondary education options vary widely and are commonly offered through fashion design and merchandising or related academic departments at colleges or universities. You could earn a certificate of achievement, postsecondary certificate, 2-year associate degree or 4-year bachelor's degree in fields like dressmaking, fashion apparel production, apparel design and development or fashion design.

What Would I Study in School?

Common courses you might take include the study of textiles, dressmaking, flat pattern design, construction, draping, tailoring and alterations. You could also learn fashion collection development, computer-aided design and illustration. Programs in dressmaking may include specialized coursework in subjects like custom dress forms, French pattern drafting and couture dressmaking. Some programs include a small business focus to meet the needs of students who seek to build their own business in addition to honing creative and production skills, and you may be able to take classes in subjects like writing a business plan.

Can I Earn Professional Certification?

The Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (ASDP) offers a voluntary Master Sewing and Design Professional Master Certification Program that you can pursue once you're able to demonstrate a significant and advanced level of skill (www.paccprofessionals.org'). You may complete a 7-module evaluation program that covers fabric, design, fashion illustration, fit, garment construction, pattern development and professional practices through online testing and submission of sample work, including a business plan.

Once you've earned your certification, you'll need to complete continuing education in dressmaking and related skills through conference attendance, enrollment in classes or workshops, teaching classes or entering competitions. Continuing education must be completed annually in order to maintain your Master Sewing and Design Professional (MSDP) certification.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A related career in the fashion industry that does not require any formal education is that of a model. Models pose in clothing or with various products that a designer or retailer wishes to sell. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers and floral designers are also related careers, but require a high school diploma or equivalent. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers create various pieces of jewelry to sell. They also repair broken pieces. Floral designers create beautiful floral displays for their customers. They may use real or fake flowers and accent their work with ribbons and other accessories.

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