Sewers and tailors sew, join, reinforce, or finish clothing or other items. They may create new pieces of clothing from patterns and designs or alter existing garments to fit customers better. They work for textile and apparel manufacturers, department stores, and drycleaners. Many are self-employed.
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Tailors typically do the following:
Tailors can specialize in alterations or in sewing custom garments. Those who do alterations ensure that clothes fit customers properly. They make changes to garments, such as hemming pants to make them shorter or taking in seams to make clothing smaller.
Some specialize in a certain type of garment, such as bridal gowns. Others specialize in a particular type of material, such as fur. Fur tailors may restyle older clothing, add a fur collar to a coat or a dress, or sew the inner lining of a garment to the inside of fur skin by hand.
Some tailors work with designers or customers to create new garments. They take orders from customers and help them select fabric and colors. When working with a designer, tailors help translate designs into finished pieces of clothing. For example, a couture dressmaker may work with a fashion designer to create exclusive custom-fitted clothing.
In addition to working with clothing, sewers may produce other items, such as textiles and quilts. Hand weavers produce custom-made textiles, such as placemats, napkins, and pillowcases. Hand quilters produce a bed cover or display item, traditionally composed of two layers of fabric.
Some tailors own their business. In these cases, they may do management and administrative tasks, such as managing the business’s finances and taking orders.
Generally, employers do not have any formal education requirements for positions as a sewer or tailor. Some tailors take classes to learn how to sew and alter clothing, but there are few formal programs to teach students how to become a tailor. Those interested in becoming a sewer or tailor are often trained while working in a tailor shop. Some are trained through apprenticeships, in which they are hired by a tailor and receive training to help them develop the skills necessary to work as a tailor. However, formal apprenticeships are difficult to find. Most of those interested in becoming tailors find employment working with a tailor and are trained informally on the job.
Tailors work for textile and apparel manufacturers, department stores, and drycleaners. They work full time. Some work nights and weekends to accommodate customers’ schedules. About 44% are self-employed. Self-employed workers may need to work longer hours to run their business and complete customer orders.
The median annual wage of tailors $12.77 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $8.48, and the top 10% earned more than $20.21.