A seamstress makes her living with needle and thread, performing alterations and repairing clothing for customers in dry cleaning establishments, department stores that offer alterations, or in a bridal shop. Sewing can be done by hand, by machine, or with the aid of a computer, for work such as patternmaking. To successfully perform the job of a seamstress requires good hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity skills, and the ability to perform the same tasks for a long period of time.
A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required for employment as a seamstress, but some employers prefer applicants with previous experience. An associate degree program in fashion design at a vocational school or community college, gives students an overview of the skills that are necessary to become a seamstress. Subjects may include Introduction to Fashion Design, History of Clothing, and Clothing Selection. Classes are often taught by professionals in the fashion industry, and some intensive degree programs can be completed in 18 months.
Students enrolled in an associate degree program in fashion design receive hands on experience with measuring, sewing, and properly tailoring a garment, pattern drafting, and working with delicate fabrics such as cashmere and silk, as well as sturdier fabrics such as wool and cotton. Some associate degree programs require students to complete supervised work experience in the fashion apparel field. Although some employers will provide on the job training, applicants applying for a job as a seamstress, have a better chance of employment after completing their training.
A seamstress that has a basic knowledge of computers and electronics can increase their chances of employment, as machinery in the industry continues to become more complex. Some employers like to cross-train their employees, so a worker who has the ability to work in different areas, and can work as part of a team, will be an asset to the company.
A seamstress has the option of working full-time or part-time, and can work for a business, be self-employed, or work on a client-by-client basis. People continually require clothing alterations and repairs, so there will always be jobs for a qualified seamstress. However, it’s very difficult to earn a living solely by sewing, so a seamstress can specialize in a specific area, such as dressmaking, bridal gown design or shoe repair. As of October 2010, a seamstress who makes her living by performing clothing alterations and repairs can earn an average annual salary of $22,000.