Tailors repair damaged clothing and make alterations to garments to suit the measurements of each individual client. They sew by hand or using machinery, employing different techniques depending on the location of stitching, fabric weight and other factors.
Some tailors may also make custom garments using a design or pattern requested by the customer, or their own design. In the past, tailors only designed or altered men's clothing, but many tailors now work on any type of garment.
- Consult with clients on clothing repairs or adjustments needed
- Fit and evaluate garments on customers to assess necessary alterations
- Measure parts of garment, such as sleeve length, and mark or pin-fold alteration lines
- Record needed alterations and attach instructions to garments
- Use seam rippers or razor blades to remove stitches from clothing to be altered
- Sew garments accordingly, using appropriately sized needle and thread by hand or using sewing machine
- Take up or let down hems, let out, or take in seams to improve fit
- Maintain proper draping and proportions as garments are altered
- Make style changes per customer request, such as tapering pant legs or narrowing lapels
- Repair or replace defective clothing features such as buttons, linings, pockets or zippers
- Confer with customers on style, fabric and type of garment to be made-to-order
- Estimate price of garment based on time, materials, fabric and number of fittings
- Measure clients for requested garments, using tape measures, and record measurements
- Use knowledge of garment design, construction, styling and fabric to create or adapt designs for clothing
- Adapt or design patterns to fit style and customer measurements
- Attach patterns of garment parts in appropriate direction on fabric and cut along outlines
- Assemble garment parts with basting stitches by hand or using a sewing machine
- Fit, alter and finish made-to measure clothing according to patternmaker and customer specifications
- Press garments using hand irons or pressing machines
Skills and qualities
Tailors typically begin in a training or apprentice role. Gathering experience and expertise can help you move on to roles with more responsibility. Additional education and certification can also assist you in landing more challenging jobs at large retailers, fashion houses and manufacturers.
Coursework in business administration can assist tailors who go on to own their own establishments. Work as a tailor also provides a solid background for other more lucrative roles in fashion, including textile designer, garment technologist and fashion designer.
Nights and weekends occasionally
Most tailors work full time during business hours. Those in retail may work evening or weekend hours for the convenience of customers. Tailors can be employed by a variety of establishments including drycleaners, department stores, manufacturers, fashion houses, and theatre and film organisations. Some own their own shops offering both alterations and custom clothing services.
Work as a tailor can require extended periods of time seated at a sewing machine or doing detailed work by hand. Tailors may suffer eye strain and repetitive stress injuries. Appropriate lighting, regular breaks and ergonomic workstations can help alleviate these issues.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Qualifications and training
Related coursework or certification
Most tailoring jobs only require a high school diploma, with training provided on the job. Some companies offer apprenticeship opportunities, where aspiring tailors receive extensive training under the supervision of an experienced tailor. Tailors can also take applicable courses in sewing and fashion design, including a focus on patterns, fabrics, detailing and fit. You may choose to get an associate degree at a community college or vocational school, or a fashion degree from a four-year institution.
There are also certification opportunities to prove your skills and enhance your résumé. Two organizations that provide prestigious certifications are the Custom Tailors & Designers Association (CTDA) and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
SourcesBureau of Labor Statistics Custom Tailors & Designers Association (CTDA) Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) O*NET Online Oxford Martin School
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022