Seamstress Job Description
Seamstresses design, alter, and repair articles of clothing; some also fashion accessories such as purses and hats. Most work in small- to mid-sized shops, but some work for fashion designers or clothing manufacturers. Seamstresses may choose to work full or part time, and many depend on another job to earn income. The field is ideal for anyone with excellent sewing skills and an eye for design.
Seamstress Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities required of a seamstress vary by employer, but there are some common tasks the vast majority of seamstresses carry out. In general, they’re expected to do the following:
Fit, Repair, and Alter Clothing
It is the job of the seamstress to take a customer’s measurements to fit, repair, or alter clothing to their specifications. While doing this, the seamstress must pay close attention to the type of fabric and the general construction of the garment they are working on.
Many seamstresses are responsible for constructing garments to the customer’s specifications. They must first estimate how much time and effort is needed to create the garment, and once this is done, they determine how much to charge.
Before any alterations can be made, seamstresses must carefully measure their customers. To do this, they use tape measures and other tools to ensure their measurements are correct. They may measure the width of a person’s chest, hips, and waist, as well as the length of their inseam.
There are numerous types of fabrics and patterns in the world, and fortunately, seamstresses have in-depth knowledge of many of them. When a customer needs an alteration or a garment, the seamstress shares this knowledge to help clients better understand their own needs.
Maintain Sewing Equipment
Seamstresses use a variety of sewing machines and other items to perform their job. If these machines do not work properly, they have no way of making alterations. For this reason, seamstresses must perform routine maintenance on their sewing machines.
Seamstress Skills and Qualifications
The skills needed to become a seamstress vary by company and location. In general, strong sewing skills and a vivid imagination are required. Prospective seamstresses do not need a college degree to enter the field, but employers do look for individuals with the following abilities and qualifications:
- Sewing – as previously mentioned, seamstresses must possess exceptional sewing skills if they wish to succeed. These skills can be self-taught or learned in a course
- Design and fashion knowledge – seamstresses should have a basic understanding of design and fashion principles. They must know how to choose fabrics, accessories, and patterns
- Basic math skills – to work as a seamstress, individuals must know how to accurately measure, add, and subtract
- Creativity – seamstresses often advise customers about fabrics and patterns, and they must have the ability to visualize how a garment will look before it is finished. They must also be capable of choosing the appropriate garment parts
- Interpersonal skills – seamstresses often work one-on-one with their clients, so they must have excellent written and verbal communication skills. They must also be capable of communicating effectively with coworkers and superiors
Tools of the Trade
Seamstresses often utilize the following tools while working:
- Sewing machines (popular brands include Singer, Brother, and Janome)
- Sewing patterns and fabric
- Needles, thread, scissors, and measuring tapes
Seamstress Education and Training
The majority of seamstresses have at least a high school diploma or GED, but a select few do not. To further their careers and improve their skills, some seamstresses take courses in fashion design or dressmaking, but even this is not a requirement. A significant number of seamstresses are self-taught, but in modern times, many enroll in apprenticeships to gain the knowledge and skills they need to work in the industry. These individuals work directly with more experienced seamstresses, who share their knowledge with them. Some on-the-job training may be offered to new seamstresses with little to no experience.
Seamstress Salary and Outlook
For many individuals, it can be difficult to make a living solely as a seamstress. According to Glassdoor, the annual median income for a seamstress is $23,540. Seamstresses in the top 10th percentile earn more than $31,000 annually, while those in the bottom 10th percentile earn less than $18,000. Those who work in the fashion design industry earn the highest salaries and are most likely to receive benefits such as health insurance and paid vacation.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment rate for seamstresses is expected to increase by 7.5 percent through 2026. This is only slightly higher than the national average of 7 percent for all professions. This modest increase is attributed to the outsourcing of seamstress jobs by many clothing manufacturers and designers.
Would you like to earn a living as a seamstress? Take a look at the following career resources to learn more about the field:
Association of Sewing and Design Professionals – as its name suggests, ASDP was established with sewing and design professionals in mind. The organization provides a variety of educational resources to its members, and there are local chapters across the United States and Canada
The Savvy Seamstress: An Illustrated Guide to Customizing Your Favorite Patterns – anyone interested in working as a seamstress should give this book a look. Concise and packed with countless helpful illustrations, The Savvy Seamstress shows readers how to transform even the dullest garment patterns into beautiful custom creations. It caters to readers with both basic and advanced sewing skills
The Sewing Machine Accessory Bible – the result of a partnership between Wendy Gardiner and Lorna Knight, The Sewing Machine Accessory Bible teaches readers how to get the most out of their sewing machines. It provides an in-depth overview of feet attachments and an easy-to-read guide that helps seamstresses choose the right thread, needle, and fabric every time
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