How to Become a Professional Tailor in 5 Steps

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

What Do Tailors Do?

Tailors create, repair and modify pieces of clothing to fit their clientele. Tailors know how to place a garment on a client and study it for optimum fitting. They alter clothing items to fit the client better, but they also sew garments from scratch using needle and thread or a sewing machine. They can measure, mark and adjust hems and seams for alteration. Tailors who own their own shops must also have basic business management knowledge, such as how to use bookkeeping software and handle client transactions. Since a large part of a successful tailor business is gaining clientele, tailors should also be good at interpersonal communication.

Look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Education Required High school diploma; apprenticeships and certificate programs available
Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Key Skills Sewing by hand or machine, measuring, attention to detail, hand-eye coordination, communication, technical ability, basic math
Job Growth (2014-2024)-9% (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 Is a Tailor?

A tailor is a skilled craftsperson who repairs damaged clothing and makes alterations in clothing to better fit individual body types. Tailors also design and make new clothing. Measuring customers, recommending sizes based on those measurements, drawing patterns, operating a sewing machine or working a needle and thread are among the other tasks you can expect to perform as a tailor. In some jobs, you might interact with customers as a salesperson. According to O*NET Online, there are no formal degree requirements to become a professional tailor.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

Many high schools offer classes relevant to tailors, including fashion design, hand sewing and industrial power sewing. You can learn fabric types, basic and advanced stitch types, pattern sewing and sewing machine operation. You'll also need to develop your basic math skills because tailors work with measurements. Art courses can help you develop an eye for design, style and color.

Step 2: Work an Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship to become a tailor may be available in your state. The US Department of Labor has a program that registers apprenticeships, and it gives prospective apprentices access to more than 1,000 career areas. Some states may have program requirements including how many hours you should apprentice before officially being labeled as a tailor.

Step 3: Take College Courses

Community colleges and technical schools offer a range of beginner, intermediate and advanced courses in sewing and fashion design that you can apply to tailoring. Basic construction, patterns, fabrics, custom finishes, detailing and fit are among the topics you'll study. In most classes, you'll spend a majority of you time practicing sewing techniques. If you have a college degree or some college training, you'll have a better chance of advancing to supervisory positions if you work for a major retailer or clothing manufacturer.

Step 4: Develop Social Skills

Because customer interaction is an essential part of your job if you work for a clothing retailer, strong communication and interpersonal skills are essential. Customers need to feel as comfortable as possible when you're taking their measurements. You'll need to earn their confidence in your judgment when providing fashion advice or recommending particular items of clothing they could buy.

Step 5: Choose a Work Environment

O*NOTE Online reported that roughly 40,500 people in the U.S. worked as tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers in 2014. If you work as a tailor, your leading employers are clothing stores, dry cleaning and laundry services, apparel manufacturers and department stores. An as option, you could start your own business.

The advantage of working for someone is that you won't have to manage or market the business, although your earnings will be limited. If you're in business for yourself, you'll have to devote time to performing clerical and administrative tasks, establishing a professional reputation and developing a clientele. But, your earning potential will be directly determined by your financial success.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you like sewing and altering garments for a client base, you may also consider a career as a dressmaker or custom sewer. For both occupations, you need little more than a high school diploma and training in order to begin working. As a dressmaker, you may want to start working for a company such as a department store or a theater before opening your own dressmaking business. As a custom sewer, you may want to gain skill and experience working for other custom sewers before launching out on your own. In both careers, you will need good hand-eye coordination and sewing skills in order to compete with others in the same field.

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