A dressmaker makes, repairs and alters dresses, skirts, jeans, pants and other pieces of clothing. You read that right: As a dressmaker, you won’t be confined to just dresses. You’ll be making other clothing pieces, primarily for female clients, as well.
One of the areas where you could focus on is making gowns. You could make bridal gowns and dresses for flower girls and bridesmaids. You can also focus on making gowns for other occasions like graduations, proms and formal dinners. You may also specialize in making costumes for theatrical productions. You could also make underwear like brassieres or swimsuits and bikinis. You could also opt to specialize in making coats and jackets.
Dressmakers don’t necessarily have to make clothes from scratch. You may be asked to alter some garments so that they will look more current or fashionable. At other times, you may also have to make minor changes to a garment in order to make it fit a client better.
An important part of your job as a dressmaker is meeting with clients to determine what their needs are. You will take measurements and give them advice regarding colors and fabrics. You will then make a pattern, cut the pieces and sew them together to make the final product. In many cases, you’ll be sewing pieces from the many existing patterns you already have. You may have to try the unfinished garment on the client several times while the work is in progress to ensure that it fits perfectly.
Choosing the right fabric is an essential part of your job because the design and durability of a particular piece of clothing will depend on the right textile. You will take the client’s needs, the garment design and the client’s budget into consideration in determining the fabric to use.
Having an eye for style and detail is an important trait that all dressmakers need to possess, especially if clients want you to make a piece of clothing that they have conceptualized but don’t know how to execute. You also need to put a premium on accuracy since the measurements you take and apply to the actual work will matter greatly on whether the client will be satisfied with the final product. You also need to have the technical skills necessary to come up with quality work. Your technical expertise should not only cover the fabric that you sew using machines but with the finishing touches like beadwork, trimmings and embroidery that you need to do by hand.
Why Become A Dressmaker
If you are passionate about gowns and women’s clothing, a career as a dressmaker will give you the opportunity to work in a career you love. Nothing could be more fulfilling for those who are so inclined than to see a pattern getting transformed into a real wearable piece right under your very hands. Whatever occasion you are making a wearer’s dress for, you know that the garment you produce will give her the confidence she needs. That is part of the satisfaction you derive from this occupation. Dressmakers don’t earn a lucrative income so money is not a primary motivation to get into this profession. However, if you have the entrepreneurial spirit, you will be able to open your own dress shop which could translate to higher income.
Dressmaker Work Environment
Dressmakers work in companies operating in the personal and household goods repair and maintenance industry. They are also employed in apparel manufacturing firms, dry cleaning and laundry services companies, textile product mills and clothing stores. Others work in department stores and traveler accommodation industries. Some of them own their dress shops.
Salaried dressmakers typically work fulltime during regular hours while those who own their shops have the flexibility to decide when to work. Dress shop owners, however, may have to work longer hours, including weekends, evenings and even holidays, to meet customer orders. Some travel may be involved if clients wish to be fitted in their homes.
The Occupational Employment and Wages report of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wage of dressmakers, tailors and custom sewers is $25,590. The lowest paid workers earned about $17,880 while the highest paid received $46,130. The top paying industries for dressmakers are the department stores which gave a mean annual wage of $39,880 to dressmakers as well as apparel, piece goods and notions merchant wholesalers which paid them $37,600.
Some states pay dressmakers more than other states. The top paying states for this occupation are New York where their mean annual wage is $38,610; District of Columbia ($37,450); Pennsylvania ($34,840); Oregon ($33,880) and California ($33,600).
Dressmaker Career Outlook
Government data suggests that the job outlook for dressmakers isn’t rosy. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a three percent decline in the employment rate of tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers in the period covering 2012 to 2022. This is due to the lesser demand of garment workers brought about by more sophisticated technology. The outsourcing of garment workers is also a contributory factor to the decline. However, skilled and experienced dressmakers will still be able to find opportunities in exclusive luxury shops where clients order expensive and customized dresses and outfits.
Many dressmakers enter the profession with only a high school diploma and obtain their training from senior dressmakers on the job. They may start by assisting experienced dressmakers and making simple patterns and cuts before proceeding with more complicated designs.
However, those who are interested in securing employment in high-end dress shops or establishing their own business will benefit from getting a degree in dressmaking or fashion design. These programs, offered in colleges and universities, teach students courses in sewing, pattern-making and apparel maintenance. An advantage with enrolling in a program is that it provides students the chance to engage in a dressmaking apprenticeship that would allow them to learn the skills of the trade from an experienced dressmaker and enable them to get real-world experience as well.