In 1900, sewing was a leading occupation for women breadwinners, with 559,804 working as seamstresses, dressmakers and milliners in the U.S. Advances in equipment have reduced the need for this many hands. In 2013, the country employed 21,400 female and male tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers, who earned a median salary of $25,590, or $12.30 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of these, the lowest 10 percent earned $17,880, or $8.60 per hour, while the highest 10 percent made $46,130, or $22.18 per hour.
Highest Paying Industries
Department stores offer the highest mean salaries for sewing professionals, at $39,880 annually, or $19.17 per hour, according to the BLS as of May 2013. Next, are merchant wholesalers of apparel, piece goods and notions, who pay a mean $37,600 or $18.08 per hour, followed by management of companies and enterprises, at $34,700 or $16.68 per hour. Traveler accommodation pays a mean $33,600 or $16.16 per hour and amusement parks and arcades pay $32,410 or $15.58 per hour.
Salaries for seamstresses working for themselves vary widely, depending on their local market, experience and abilities. Some charge by the job, while others by the hour. Either way, the amount they earn typically ranges between $10 to $25 an hour. Seamstresses who are limited to simple patterns and straight seams usually charge around $10 to $15 an hour, while those who can complete more complex tasks, such as moving darts and adding professional-quality buttonholes and zippers, charge around $20 to $25 an hour.