What's the Difference Between a Seamstress and a Tailor?

Seamstresses and tailors both work in the textile industry. Their jobs entail sewing, mending and altering clothes and garments made from various fabrics. There is a slight difference between the two, but both occupations will often have the same duties and responsibilities. Continue reading to learn more. Schools offering Fashion Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Definition of Seamstress and Tailor

There is a very fine line between what a seamstress does and what a tailor does. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups both job titles together under textiles and apparel occupations (www.bls.gov). Generally, a seamstress sews clothes, fabrics and apparel for a living. A tailor works at altering clothing and apparel to fit a client/customer. They can make clothes as well and might be tasked with hemming and mending. Usually, a tailor will work more with suits and coats and even fancy dresses such as ball gowns.

As a seamstress or tailor, you can work for local dry cleaners, laundromats and alteration establishments. You could also open your own enterprise or even work out of your home. The BLS notes that other opportunities might exist in department stores that have alterations departments.

Important Facts About Tailors, Dressmakers, and Custom Sewers

Median Salary (2014) $31,000
Entry-level Education Less than high school
Job Outlook (2016-2026) -10%
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties and Skills

Because the BLS doesn't offer a large amount of information regarding what job duties are expected and what skills are necessary to work as a seamstress or tailor, 2015 job postings for Tailors/Seamstresses on Monster.com shed a bit more light on duties within these professions.

Customer service is a key factor when working in this type of environment, because customers will come in to spend money on their garments; for example, they might need to have something altered, pressed or sewed. You would be responsible for marking the fabric that needs to be altered or sewed, use equipment such as sewing machines and irons, work at a fast pace and know the difference between fabrics.

Employers may require applicants to have good motor skills, manual dexterity and vision as well as experience with embroidery or industrial sewing machines. Proficiency in the following areas might be necessary:

  • Baste stitching
  • Crocheting
  • Hand sewing
  • Petit point
  • Tatting
  • Hemming
  • Alterations
  • Hand beading
  • Needlepoint

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