What does a dressmaker do?
Dressmakers make a range of garments such as dresses, skirts, trousers and blouses. Some specialise in particular areas, for example bridal wear, children's clothes, lingerie or couture fashion. (Heavier items such as suits and coats are generally made by tailors. See the Tailor profile for information on this).
Dressmakers discuss client requirements and using fabric samples and pattern books, offer advice on which may produce the best results. Once the client has decided on a style, the dressmaker takes measurements, and either adapts an existing pattern or produces a pattern unique to that client. They will work out the cost of the work, based on the fabric and trimmings needed and the amount of time the work is likely to take.
The pattern is used to cut the fabric pieces which are then tacked together for a fitting. For bespoke products, the dressmaker might make a rough sample, using cheaper fabric to check that the design works with the client’s body shape before cutting a more expensive fabric. Several fittings may be needed to ensure a perfect fit.
Minor adjustments may be made before the garment is finally sewn together. Sewing will often be done by machine with intricate work, such as beading or embroidery, finished by hand.
Some dressmakers also offer an alteration and repair service.
Many dressmakers are self-employed, and need to complete accounts and other paperwork.
What's the working environment like for dressmakers?
Dressmakers work 37 to 40 hours a week, including Saturdays. Overtime may be necessary to meet a deadline. Dressmakers work either in a workshop or from home. Some time may be spent visiting clients.
What does it take to become a dressmaker?
To be a dressmaker you should:
have an interest in textiles and fashion
have excellent practical skills
be able to visualise designs and lay out pattern pieces
have an appreciation for detail
be able to deal tactfully with customers
be able to take accurate measurements and make calculations
have good eyesight, and normal colour vision for matching threads to fabrics.
Dressmaker career opportunities
Opportunities exist in a variety of settings: clothing manufacturers, larger high street fashion chains and specialist fashion houses. Limited openings may also exist in costume production for theatre, TV and film. Many dressmakers work for small dressmaking/tailoring companies, and many are self-employed.
Progression routes are limited unless working for a larger company. Promotion options may include supervisory roles or movement into related areas such as buying.
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