How to Become a Professional Tailor in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for professional tailors. Get the facts about education requirements, salary, job outlook and skills to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Fashion Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Tailors create, repair and modify pieces of clothing to fit their clientele. Read on to discover more about what a tailor does, and find out the steps needed to become one yourself.

Education Required High school diploma; apprenticeships available
Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Key Skills Attention to detail, hand-eye coordination, communication, technical ability
Job Growth (2012-2022)-2% (for all tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers)*
Median Salary (2013) $25,590 (for all tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a Tailor?

A tailor is a skilled craftsperson who repairs damaged clothing and makes alterations in clothing to better fit individual body types. Tailors also design and make new clothing. Measuring customers, recommending sizes based on those measurements, drawing patterns, operating a sewing machine or working a needle and thread are among the other tasks you can expect to perform as a tailor. In some jobs, you might interact with customers as a salesperson. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are no formal degree requirements to become a professional tailor (www.bls.gov).

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

Many high schools offer classes relevant to tailors, including fashion design, hand sewing and industrial power sewing. You can learn fabric types, basic and advanced stitch types, pattern sewing and sewing machine operation. You'll also need to develop your basic math skills because tailors work with measurements. Art courses can help you develop an eye for design, style and color.

Step 2: Work an Apprenticeship

According to O*Net Online, some states offer apprenticeship programs for alteration tailors, custom tailors and shop tailors (www.onetonline.org). The program for alteration tailors consists of about 4,000 hours of work, while custom and shop tailor apprenticeships must complete about 8,000 hours. In these programs, you'll be assigned simple tasks at first and progressively take on more complicated work as you demonstrate competence.

Step 3: Take College Courses

Community colleges and technical schools offer a range of beginner, intermediate and advanced courses in sewing and fashion design that you can apply to tailoring. Basic construction, patterns, fabrics, custom finishes, detailing and fit are among the topics you'll study. In most classes, you'll spend a majority of you time practicing sewing techniques. If you have a college degree or some college training you'll have a better chance of advancing to supervisory positions if you work for a major retailer or clothing manufacturer.

Step 4: Develop Social Skills

Because customer interaction is an essential part of your job if you work for a clothing retailer, strong communication and interpersonal skills are essential. Customers need to feel as comfortable as possible when you're taking their measurements. You'll need to earn their confidence in your judgment when providing fashion advice or recommending particular items of clothing they could buy.

Step 5: Choose a Work Environment

The BLS reported 21,400 people in the U.S. worked as tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers in 2013. If you work as a tailor, your leading employers are clothing stores, dry cleaning and laundry services, apparel manufacturers and department stores. An as option, you could start your own business.

The advantage of working for someone is that you won't have to manage or market the business, although your earnings will be limited. If you're in business for yourself, you'll have to devote time to performing clerical and administrative tasks, establishing a professional reputation and developing a clientele. But, your earning potential will be directly determined by your financial success.

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