Tailors alter, repair and create clothing according to customers’ needs. While some in the field receive formal training, experience on the job is usually the best way to acquire the necessary skills. According to O*Net Online, there were approximately 50,000 tailors, dressmakers and customer sewers in the United States in 2012.
A tailor often alters clothing to fit -- for example, by hemming it or adjusting the seams. First, the customer tries on the item, and the tailor takes measurements to determine what alterations he should make. Sometimes a tailor repairs clothing by patching or sewing rips and holes. When he creates custom clothing, he gives the customer a choice of fabrics. He takes the customer’s measurements and cuts the material using a pre-made pattern or one he designs. He pins the garment together before sewing to check for necessary adjustments. He also gives the customer additional fittings during the construction process to ensure a proper fit.
Qualifications for the Job
Most tailors have a high school diploma or GED. They may receive formal training at high schools, community colleges or vocational schools, where they learn about fabric, clothing design and construction. However, most tailors learn on the job by watching experienced tailors. Tailors need superior finger and hand dexterity and good near vision to stitch accurately and neatly. Creativity and problem-solving abilities help them discover different ways of making or mending garments when difficulties arise. Good communication skills are essential for understanding what clients want and explaining various options.
Typical Working Conditions
Most tailors work standard 40-hour weeks, but they're often required to work nights and weekends to accommodate customers. They usually work in tailor shops, dry-cleaning establishments or clothing stores. Some are self-employed, and many operate out of their homes. The job of tailor can be physically demanding because it requires sitting for long periods, bent over sewing machines or working with needle and thread. This can lead to back and neck strain.
The median hourly wage for tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers was $29,330 annually as of 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the wages of a tailor vary widely with the type of employer. The average annual pay in clothing stores was $30,700, while repair and maintenance shops paid an average of $25,510. Dry cleaners and laundries paid an average of $27,010 yearly, but apparel manufacturers paid $29,080. Department stores had the highest average pay of any industry -- $39,880 annually. The BLS doesn't report the wages of self-employed tailors.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that total employment for tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers will decline 3 percent from 2012 to 2022, compared to an 11 increase on average for all jobs, as reported by O*Net Online. However, upscale stores and clients still have an interest in custom clothing, so tailors may find work with designers who wish to market unique items. In addition, many tailors are expected to retire, so the BLS predicts 5,300 job openings during the decade.