How to Become a Seamstress in 5 Steps
Seamstresses, also called garment workers, tailors, dressmakers and sewers, are apparel and textile workers who create or update clothing. A high school diploma may not be necessary for getting a job in the field, but employment and advancement usually require formal training and experience. Schools offering Fashion Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Step 1: Research Seamstress Career Duties and Education
Seamstresses may design, make, alter, fit or repair garments. As a seamstress, you may work for department stores, the bridal industry, large hotel chains needing a steady supply of uniforms, dry cleaners and alterations shops. You could also find a job working with designers, constructing patterns based on designer sketches, or for clothing manufacturers. Most of seamstress work is done by machine; some of the work, however, such as patternmaking, is now performed with the aid of computers. Hand-sewing skills are also necessary.
While it is possible to be hired at the entry level without a high school diploma, many seamstresses hone their skills during high school and community college courses, and employers may prefer that you have formal training. An employer hiring a seamstress at the entry level may look for hand-eye coordination and an ability to perform repetitive tasks for long periods. Sewing machine operators who work for manufacturers generally start with simple tasks, learning under the supervision of more experienced employees. Some employers request that you know the following skills:
- Cutting fabric from patterns
- Clothing construction
- Hand stitching
- Hand beading
- Operating sergers
- Using foot sewing machines
- Running industrial sewing machines
- Embroidering using machines
- Converting measurements using the metric system
Step 2: Learn the Trade
Tailoring garments is a precise skill set, usually acquired in high school home economics classes or in a trade school program. Foreign labor has greatly increased competition for available jobs, so seamstress workers must be knowledgeable about fabric, design, construction and patternmaking. You may have a better chance of getting hired if you can demonstrate formal training.
Some examples of programs available include certificate and short training programs in professional sewing, apparel alternations and ladies clothing tailoring. You could also enroll in a master seamstress certificate program. Courses that you may take include textiles, pattern drafting, draping, basic sewing, serger sewing, alterations, computer embroidery and theatrical costume creation. You can learn how to sew pockets, zippers, buttonholes, collars and decorative items as well as tailor pants, shirts, vests, jackets, skirts and dresses. Some programs teach you how to work with specialty fabrics, like velvet, lace and silk, and you may learn about proper materials used for creating lingerie and swimwear. Some programs require no prior skills, though others (like master seamstress programs) require intermediate sewing and alterations skills.
Step 3: Acquire Computer Skills
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that textile and apparel workers employed by manufacturers and dress designers who make patterns can benefit by learning computer and electronics basics. The textile industry is already highly automated, but it will continue to increase output and pare down the need for workers by using computer-aided fabric-marking, cutting, sewing and pressing machines.
Step 4: Develop Business Management Skills
Manufacturing jobs in the textile industry are clustered in just a few states, and about half of the tailors, dressmakers and sewers working in the U.S. today are self-employed, according to the BLS. It's important for the self-employed and those who want to open businesses to acquire management, marketing and customer-relations skills; these can be honed in community college classes.
Step 5: Advance in the Field
Production workers who operate sewing machines may advance to first-line supervisors with postsecondary training and previous work experience. Dressmakers and tailors who own shops must keep abreast of changes in fashions and learn about advances in computer-aided patternmaking and the most cost-effective sources for fabrics.
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