Custom Tailor Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a custom tailor career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a custom tailor is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Custom Tailor Career

Custom tailors repair, alter and create clothing. Although you won't need much formal training or education for this career, jobs may be scarce due to very little change in employment for workers in this area. You should consider the pros and cons of becoming a custom tailor to determine if pursuing this career is right for you.

Pros of a Custom Tailor Career
Many tailors have a high school diploma or less*
Most custom tailors are trained on the job by supervisors*
Tailors can become self-employed or open their own custom tailor shop*
Creative job that allows you to work with your hands*

Cons of a Custom Tailor Career
Employment in the industry is projected to see slight decline (-2% between 2012 and 2022)*
Poor working conditions and potential hazards working with sewing machines*
Relatively low wages (average of $29,330 in 2013)*
Work may be physically demanding, such as standing for several hours at a time*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Summary

Custom tailors often work at dry-cleaners, department stores, clothing boutiques or local tailor's shops. Much of their work involves measuring clients and altering apparel to fit their dimensions. Your work may also include repairing torn or damaged clothing. Some custom tailors make unique clothing for costumes or special events, such as school proms and weddings.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

Employment for tailors is predicted to see a slight decline between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This may be due to the dwindling demand for custom clothing; however, the BLS also noted that prospects should be good for custom tailors with experience. The BLS reported that the average salary for tailors, custom sewers and dressmakers was $29,330 in 2013.

Training and Work Requirements

Often, you'll receive on-the-job training to help you learn basic sewing skills. Many tailors gain their experience by taking sewing classes in high school or through vocational training. You may pick up your alteration skills by observing experienced tailors, or through a more formal apprenticeship. You should keep current on clothing styles, so that you're able to alter clothes to meet current consumer trends.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers are looking for talented and experienced tailors with excellent customer service skills. Many employers expect tailors to be able to both hand sew and work with sewing machines. Open positions tend to be in department stores and clothing boutiques. Here are some sample postings from the March 2012 job boards:

  • A New Jersey department store was looking for an alterations tailor to fit and alter garments. The tailor would need to be able to maintain a sewing machine and record personal productivity.
  • In California, a men's apparel retailer advertised for a tailor with a minimum of 1-2 years experience and a high school diploma or equivalent. Job requirements included basic math, computer and interpersonal skills.
  • A men's clothing retailer stated that it was looking to fill several tailor positions in multiple states. Job duties included making garments, ensuring the proper fit and answering customer questions regarding the clothing.
  • A Georgia bridal gown company wanted a master tailor to head up the bridal and special occasion gown-altering department. Specific skills included the ability to sew seams, hems and bustles. The business welcomed design school students with tailoring skills.
  • A clothing and textile department store in California advertised for a bilingual tailor with five or more years of experience in the field.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

While job growth may be slow, there are certain skills and training that can help make you stand out to potential employers. Many employers look for employees with knowledge of fabrics, clothing construction and design. You can develop this knowledge through certificate programs in areas like ladies tailoring, fashion design and contemporary tailoring. You can also join professional organizations to develop additional sewing skills and network, such as the American Sewing Guild.

Alternative Careers

Fashion Designer

Fashion designers study fashion trends and create clothes that are purchased by consumers. Similar to custom tailor positions, you would not need a formal education to pursue this career and you could expect little to no change in employment between 2012 and 2022. However, the salary potential is significantly higher, which the BLS reported was an average of $73,570 in 2013.

Jeweler

Jewelers create and adjust jewelry, such as rings, necklaces and bracelets. This skilled trade requires some training and education, which can be developed at a technical or vocational school. Although the BLS predicted that this career would see a ten percent decline in employment between 2012 and 2022, the average salary was $40,000 in 2013, which was also higher than the average for custom tailors.

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