Seamstresses design, alter, and repair clothing and other made-to-measure garments, especially dresses and female attire. They are employed by clothing retailers, clothing alteration shops, dry cleaners, and garment manufacturing companies, or they may be self-employed.
A Seamstress might be known as a dressmaker or hand sewer. They are often considered the female counterparts of Tailors, however, there’s a slight difference between the two. A Seamstress sews clothes, fabrics, and apparel for a living, while Tailors work at altering clothing and apparel to fit a customer.
Mostly working independently for a range of customers, the sewing skills of a Seamstress must be extremely versatile in order to work with a wide variety of specific designs, pieces of clothing, and patterns. A person in this profession could work in dressmaking, gown design, handbag making, or costume design.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Seamstresses are required to complete.
- Making women’s garments (e.g. dresses, blouses, shirts, pants, skirts, and coats):
- Marking, cutting, and sewing fabric;
- selecting and modifying commercial patterns to customers’ and clothing manufacturers’ specifications and fit;
- being able to draft, drape, and translate designs from concept to delivery;
- being able to imagine how the end garment will look like from the pattern design; and
- making samples out of cheaper fabrics in order to check the design and fit before cutting an expensive fabric.
- Altering and repairing garments as required:
- Sewing hems, fixing tears, mending zippers, and applying buttons; and
- ensuring proper measurements, adjustments, and fittings.
- Working directly with customers:
- Discussing the customer’s requirements;
- advising customers on which combination of fabrics and patterns may give the best results;
- showing the customer fabric samples and pattern books;
- taking measurements; and
- ensuring modifications are done on time for when the customer returns.
- Defining technical specifications for the garments and being knowledgeable about fabrics, patterns, shapes, and colors:
- Selecting and testing different fabrics;
- knowing about pattern-making and fittings, adapting and creating patterns as needed; and
- keeping up-to-date with the latest fashion trends and techniques, as well as finding the best quality fabrics.
- Using equipment such as sewing machines and irons.
- Organizing and maintaining fabrics, trims, and other materials.
- Working out the cost of the work, taking into account the fabric, trimmings, and time needed.
- Making women’s garments.
- Altering and repairing garments.
- Working with different fabrics.
- Estimating costs and materials.
- Creating a network of customers, vendors, and suppliers.
The average Seamstress salary is $37,623 per year or $19 per hour. This is around 1.1 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $26,000 while most experienced workers make up to $53,000. These results are based on 127 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Creativity, along with a strong artistic and fashion sense.
- Interpersonal and communication skills:
- Having outstanding listening skills in order to understand and follow the customer’s requirements;
- displaying strong customer service skills and ensuring strong relationships with customers, vendors, and suppliers; and
- being able to work cohesively with other staff members.
- Organizational and time management skills:
- Being able to work under pressure in a fast-paced environment;
- having time management and prioritization skills in order to satisfy the demand; and
- being highly responsible, reliable, and organized.
- Outstanding manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination; ability to distinguish colors:
- Being proficient in baste stitching, crocheting, hand sewing, petit point, tatting, hemming, alterations, hand beading, and needlepoint; and
- having strong attention to detail.
- Self-motivated and willing to work independently with minimal supervision.
There is no specific entry route to becoming a Seamstress. Generally, being a Seamstress is a skill-based profession, so the ability to sew is usually the only requirement for the job. In certain situations, such as costume design or industrial sewing work, some form of qualification or experience might be required. Courses in dressmaking, fashion, and pattern cutting will help the candidate develop the necessary skills. Furthermore, practice is key while working in this profession. Having a portfolio displaying the candidate’s work is always a good idea.
Making living solely by sewing can be very difficult. Consequently, many Seamstresses incorporate their sewing skills into a specialization, such as dressmaking, wedding gown design, shoe-making, or even sail making.
While most Seamstresses work independently in alteration and custom clothing stores, some work in theaters or factories performing specific duties. It’s also very common for a Seamstress to work with highly specialized garments, such as bulletproof vests or medical correctional devices.
Seamstresses depend solely on their knowledge and experience. They need to know the difference between lining, underlining, and interlining, cutting patterns and pieces, and creating solid seams, in addition to being familiar with all types of fabrics and when to use them, such as wool or flannel, and especially delicate fabrics, like silk or cashmere.