What Is Dressmaking?

As its name suggests, it refers to the assembly of specific types of dress, or clothing items, particularly women’s clothing.

Dressmaking is an age old profession that dates back thousands of years. Some historians would even argue that the history of dressmaking goes back as far as the invention of the needles. Once woven fabrics, like linen and silk, became the norm, dressmaking as a career became very popular and commonplace. Many dressmakers would cater mostly to wealthy aristocrats who, creating clothing based on illustrations of the latest styles.

Traditionally, dressmaking was a career for women. Along with writing and painting, it was deemed to be a socially acceptable and proper way for women to earn a living wage.

Today, however, dressmaking is an acceptable career for both women and men alike. Modern dressmakers might make a variety of different types of clothing, from elegant gowns to business suits.

Work Environment

As mentioned above, a dressmaker makes and sews clothing. Although the term dressmaker might imply that these professionals make only dresses, this is a misconception. The word dress traditionally referred to all types of clothing. While modern dressmakers will still make women’s dresses, the might also make other types of clothing as well, including skirts, skirts, and pants.

Some dressmakers specialize in making specific types of clothing, like wedding apparel, for instance. Other dressmakers might specialize in altering existing pieces of clothing in order to make them fit better or look different.

Dressmakers must have a number of specialized skills. Sewing skills are essential in order to pursue a career in dressmaking. Because measurements play a large part in garment making, math and measuring skills are also essential. Communication skills are also a must.

Dressmakers often work closely with clients in order to create custom or tailored pieces. This generally involves choosing a particular style or pattern, as well as several fittings. Before and during the creation process, a dressmaker will often measure the client’s body several times. A dressmaker will also usually have the client try on the custom piece several times during the creation process to help ensure a perfect fit.

Before a garment can be made, a specific type of fabric must also be chosen. The type of fabric chosen will usually be partly based on the wants and needs of the client, and partly based on the type of fabric that is best for making the garments.

To create a custom piece of clothing, a dressmaker has two options. First, she may create a garment from an already existing pattern. Most dressmakers have access to several different patterns, but some clients may even bring their own pattern to a dressmaker. A very skilled dressmaker might also be able to design a garment and create a pattern to make it. This generally involves patternmaking skills as well as sewing skills.

Education Requirements

Aspiring dressmakers should at least complete their high school education. Other than that, there are no real specific education requirements for this career.

A college degree, however, can help aspiring dressmakers fine tune their skills. Some colleges and universities offer courses in apparel maintenance, sewing, and dressmaking particularly. A fashion design degree is another acceptable degree for individuals who wish to pursue a dressmaking career.

Some individuals who wish to pursue a career in dressmaking may also be able to secure an apprenticeship. A dressmaking apprenticeship involves aspiring dressmakers working alongside skilled and established dressmakers, which allows them to hone their skills and gain experience at the same time.

Salary and Job Outlook


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a dressmaker in 2010 was roughly $28,360. An annual salary for a dressmaker will vary, however, depending on a number of things. For instance, professionals who live in larger cities will often have the opportunity to make much more, because there is more demand for custom garments.


With a degree in dressmaking, you will often be able to secure employment in several different types of businesses. Retail stores, clothing boutiques, garment manufacturers, and dry cleaning businesses often hire dressmakers. Some established fashion designers also hire dressmakers as well. Instead of working for other businesses, you can also establish your own business. With your own dressmaking business, you will be able to choose which clients you work with and which types of garments that you make. You will be it complete control of your own career.

National data

Average Hourly Wage


Average Annual Wage


Source: National estimates for this occupation

Dressmakers Salaries by Industry


Performing Arts Companies


Department Stores


Apparel, Piece Goods, and Notions Merchant Wholesalers


Traveler Accommodation


Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses

Source: BLS OES - Industry Profile
Mean Hourly Wage Mean Annual Wage

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Dressmakers

  1. San Rafael, CA
  2. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
  3. San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA
  4. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
  5. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA
  6. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL
  7. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ
  8. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  9. Kansas City, MO-KS
  10. Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury Town, MA-NH NECTA Division
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics OES

Helpful Resources

Dressmaker Jobs