What is a Tailor?

Also known as: Custom Tailor, Professional Tailor, Seamster, Suit Alterer.

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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What does a Tailor do?

Tailors typically do the following:

  • Measure clients to ensure that clothing will fit properly
  • Cut and measure fabric according to the pattern or design
  • Mark garments to note where alterations are necessary
  • Open seams to hem garments and to make other alterations
  • Sew clothing by hand, using a needle and thread or with sewing machines
  • Fit clothing on customers to determine if additional alterations are necessary.

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 and hand sewer 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.

How to become a Tailor

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.

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Further Reading

  • The Young Master Tailor: Brioni For A New Generation

    When he was 27, Di Febo became Brioni's youngest-ever Master Tailor, a distinction that's currently held by four men worldwide, all of whom live just outside Rome, where the brand was founded in 1945.

  • Men Of The Cloth

    A documentary on Italian master tailors.

  • A Man’s Guide To Clothing Alterations

    When you find a tailor that you like, one who understands your needs and does quality work…..build that relationship because it is worth more than gold.

  • Alter Your Life With A Tailor Career

    Despite what some may believe, a tailor does not specifically cater to men and their clothes. A tailor will usually alter or repair both men’s and women’s clothes. Some tailors, however, may prefer to work solely with one or the other.

  • What Does A Tailor Do?

    A tailor creates suits to custom fit clients. These sewing professionals must have a strong understanding of fabrics, patterns, and stitching techniques, as well as mastery of both machine and hand sewing. They may specialize in either men’s or ladies' clothing.

  • A Tailor's Salary

    Tailors repair or modify articles of clothing for clients, either by hand or with machines.

  • Tailor

    A tailor is a person who makes, repairs, or alters clothing professionally, especially suits and men's clothing.

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