Tailors and Dressmakers
Tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers hold about 24,110 jobs in the United States. Those interested in high fashion should check out haute couture houses such as Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent. These industry giants deal with expensive fabrics and innovative designs. They also cater to a high level of clientele. Be prepared for stiff competition, because such businesses will consider only the most experienced, highly skilled tailors and dressmakers.
Tailors and dressmakers employed at retail department stores make alterations on ready-to-wear clothing sold on the premises. They may perform a small task, such as hemming pants or suit sleeves, or a major project such as custom fitting a wedding dress.
Experienced tailors or dressmakers may start their own businesses by making clothes and taking orders from those who like their work. Capital needed to start such a venture is minimal, since the most important equipment, such as a sewing machine, iron and ironing board, scissors, and notions, are widely available and relatively inexpensive. Shop space will need to be rented, unless it's a home business. Careful planning is needed to prepare for a self-owned tailoring or dressmaking business, and knowledge of bookkeeping, accounting, and inventory is essential. Marketing is also important since the owner of a business must know how to attract customers.
Custom-tailor shops or garment-manufacturing centers sometimes offer apprenticeships to students or recent graduates, which give them a start in the business. As a beginner you may also find work in related jobs, such as a sewer or alterer in a custom-tailoring or dressmaking shop, garment factory, dry-cleaning store, or department store. Apply directly to such companies and shops and monitor local newspaper ads for openings as well. Check with your school's career center for industry information or job leads. Trade schools and colleges that have programs in textiles or fashion often offer their students help with job placement.
Workers in this field usually start by performing simple tasks. As they gain more experience and their skills improve, they may be assigned to more difficult and complicated tasks. However, advancement in the industry is typically somewhat limited. In factories, a production worker might be promoted to the position of line supervisor. Tailors and dressmakers can move to a better shop that offers higher pay or open their own business.
Some workers may find that they have an eye for color and style and an aptitude for design. With further training at an appropriate college, these workers may find a successful career in fashion design and merchandising.
Tips for Entry
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Join UNITE HERE to increase your chances of landing a job and receiving fair pay for your work.
Participate in information interviews with tailors and dressmakers. Ask them for some tips on how to best break into the field.