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Custom Tailor and Dressmaker Job Description, Career as a Custom Tailor and Dressmaker, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: High school plus training

Salary: Median—$10.79 per hour

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Custom tailors and dressmakers make clothing according to the needs and requests of their customers. Custom tailors work on tailored or shaped garments, such as coats and suits for men or women. Custom dressmakers usually work on women's garments, such as dresses and blouses. Most custom tailors and dressmakers work in small shops. Many have their own businesses. A few work from their homes.

Custom tailors and dressmakers first help their customers choose the kind and color of fabric they want and the style of the garment to be made. Custom tailors and dressmakers need to know all about the different kinds of fabrics and the latest styles. Sometimes they stock fabric in their shops. Otherwise they get it from another store or use fabric that the customer supplies.

Custom tailors and dressmakers take a customer's measurements and note any special figure considerations. They may work with a ready-made pattern or make one of their own. They place the pattern pieces on the fabric. Then they cut the fabric with shears along the pattern outlines. Custom tailors and dressmakers pin or baste the garment pieces together before doing the final sewing by hand or machine. They often use padding and stiff fabrics to add body and shape to the garment. They press the garment several times to shape it properly. The customer may try the garment on one or two times while it is being made to make sure that it fits properly. The custom tailor or dressmaker finishes the garment by hemming it, sewing on buttons and trim, and giving it a final pressing.

Some custom tailors and dressmakers specialize in one kind of garment, such as coats or wedding gowns. Others may perform one function, such as fitting clothing. They may also supervise other workers. Custom tailors and dressmakers sometimes repair or alter garments for their customers.

There are other people who do tailoring and sewing but who are not custom tailors or dressmakers. These people are known by a variety of names, such as shop tailor, alteration tailor, alterer, busheler, sewer, or mender. They work in clothing factories, in clothing or department stores, or in dry cleaning plants. They often do repairs or make alterations to factory-made clothing, or they may sew one specific part of a garment. For example, they may pad lapels or set in collars.

Education and Training Requirements

Custom tailors and dressmakers should have a high school education. However, retailers often place more emphasis on a person's previous experience in apparel manufacture, design, or alterations when making hiring decisions. In high school it is helpful to take courses in tailoring and sewing, art, design, and business. Sewing clothing for oneself or for family members and friends will help to improve skills. Prospective tailors and dressmakers can continue training at a trade school or two-year college. They can also get on-the-job training in a custom tailoring or dressmaking shop, in a garment factory, or in a clothing or department store. There are some formal apprenticeship programs for tailors.

Getting the Job

Some custom dressmakers start their own businesses right away by making their own clothes and then taking orders from those who like their work. Some may have to work at related jobs for a few years, however, before becoming a custom tailor or dressmaker. For example, interested individuals may start as a sewer or alterer in a custom tailoring or dressmaking shop, in a garment factory, or in a clothing or department store. Candidates can apply directly to these firms for a job. They can also register with the placement office of their trade school or college. Custom tailoring and dressmaking jobs are sometimes found through the newspaper classifieds or by searching job banks on the Internet. State and private employment agencies may also be helpful in finding a job.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

After custom tailors and dressmakers have gained enough experience and skill, they can apply to better shops. They can also become supervisors of other workers or open their own businesses.

Employment for custom tailors and dressmakers is highly competitive and expected to decline through the year 2014. More people are buying imports and factory-made clothing, which lessens the need for tailoring. Consumers also prefer to buy new clothes, rather than alter or repair old ones. There will be some jobs, however, to replace custom tailors and dressmakers who leave the field.

Working Conditions

Custom tailors and dressmakers usually work in shops that are pleasant and well lighted. In many shops employees work forty to forty-eight hours a week. This sometimes includes Saturdays. Those who are union members often work thirty-five to forty hours a week. Custom tailors and dressmakers who have their own businesses often work longer hours. Sometimes they must rush to get orders ready on time. Spring and fall are usually the busiest times. Some custom tailors and dressmakers work part time.

Custom tailors and dressmakers do much of their work sitting down. They must have good eyesight and work well with their hands. Successful custom tailors and dressmakers have a good sense of fit, color, and style. They should like detailed work. They must also be able to deal with customers who may be hard to please.

Where to Go for More Information

Custom Tailors and Designers Association
The Talley Management Group Inc.
19 Mantua Rd.
Mt. Royal, NJ 08061
(856) 423-1621

275 7th Ave.
New York, NY 10001-6708
(212) 265-7000

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings for custom tailors and dressmakers vary widely, depending on experience, skill, and location. The median hourly wage is $10.79, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers for large employers may receive benefits that include child care and merchandise discounts. self-employed custom tailors and dressmakers and those who work for small shops usually provide their own benefits.

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