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Tailor and seamstress are two different job titles that are often used interchangeably. Many of the requirements of the two occupations overlap, but there are several differences between the tasks performed by each.
The term “seamstress” specifically refers to a female. The term for the male counterpart to a seamstress is "seamster." The term “tailor” is gender neutral.
According to "Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary," a seamstress is a “woman whose occupation is sewing.” A tailor is “a person whose occupation is making or altering outer garments.”
The work of a seamstress (or seamster) involves using patterns, cutting fabric and hand, machine or both types of sewing. Seamstresses may construct and sew all kinds of garments, accessories, upholstery and miscellaneous other products. Tailors generally make, alter and custom-fit garments only. Tailors specialize in formal wear and garments for special occasions like weddings.
Seamstresses and tailors both find employment in textile factories, dry-cleaning establishments offering repairs and alterations, clothing stores and various departments of apparel manufacturing companies. Many tailors and seamstresses offer their services to the public for custom work.
Qualifications and Training
To pursue a career as a seamstress or tailor, you usually need a high school diploma and basic sewing experience. Much of the training for both careers is on the job, although courses and qualifications in sewing and tailoring are offered at many fashion schools and colleges.
A writer of diverse interests, Joanne Thomas has penned pieces about road trips for Hyundai, children's craft projects for Disney and wine cocktails for Robert Mondavi. She has lived on three continents and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is co-owner and editor of a weekly newspaper. Thomas holds a BSc in politics from the University of Bristol, England.