What Is the Average Salary of a Dressmaker?

A dressmaker creates hand-sewn apparel for customers, including bridal and evening gowns. Many also craft other types of custom clothing and offer alteration services. Read on to find out about average salaries for this career, including the factors that affect your earnings. Schools offering Fashion Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

As of May 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that around 21,150 Americans were employed as tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers. A dressmaker may own a small business or work part time on a contract basis. Some find additional employment making costumes for performing arts groups or providing alterations for department stores. The BLS expects the employment numbers of tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers to rise 7.1% from 2016-2026.

Important Facts About Dressmakers

On-the-Job Training One to two years
Key Skills Coordination, time management, critical thinking, close listening, clear oration
Work Environment Specialty clothing stores, bridal shops, haberdasheries, dry cleaners, alteration shops
Similar Occupations Fashion designer, seamstress, sewing machine operator, upholsterer, alterations specialist
Median Annual Salary $31,000 (Tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Average Salary Overview

Due to increasing competition from large-scale apparel manufacturers that use automated processes and offshore workers, pay for dressmakers is relatively low. According to the BLS, the national average salary of tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers in May 2018 was $34,330 per year, or about $16.50 an hour. The highest-paid ten percent earned $53,990 or more, while the lowest-paid ten percent earned $20,720 or less annually.

Salary by Industry

In May 2018, the BLS reported that clothing stores employed the highest number of tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers, and the average wage for this industry was $34,610. Dry cleaning and laundry services paid an average wage of $29,130, while personal and household goods repair and maintenance companies paid an average wage of $31,390. The industries with the highest average pay at that time included performing arts companies ($50,440); general merchandise stores ($47,970); and apparel, piece goods and notions merchant wholesalers ($41,660).

Salary by Location

According to May 2018 data by the BLS, the highest concentration of tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers were in California, Texas, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. These states had mean annual earnings of $43,200, $28,870, $39,700, $35,130 and $35,740, respectively. California and New York were also among the states with the highest average pay at that time. The highest average wages were also in the District of Columbia ($44,810), Arizona ($40,830) and Minnesota ($45,060). Professionals working in some states made below-average wages of $24,320-$29,170. These areas included Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida.

Career Advancement

Dressmakers may increase their earning potential by providing services related to dressmaking, like tailoring and patternmaking. The BLS reports that apparel patternmakers, who use designers' drawings to create fabric sections that are sewn together to produce the final product, earned an average wage of $23.65 per hour or $49,180 a year as of 2018. In addition, you may increase your earnings by gaining experience. In May 2019, PayScale.com showed that tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers made a median salary of $32,000 with 20 years of experience or more.

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