What Is a Tailor?

We've all heard the term tailor made used to describe something that fits perfectly. Have you ever stopped to wonder where that term came from? Well, wonder no more!

A tailor is a sewing professional that specializes in sewing, repairing, or altering clothes. Clothing is usually altered in order to make it fit better. Hence the term tailor made. There are a number of advantages of enlisting the help of a quality tailor. Clothing that has been altered to fit a person, for instance, is typically much better looking and more comfortable. Another important job of a tailor is garment repair. Having quality garments repaired instead of replacing them when they get torn can typically save a person a bundle of money in the long run.

There are a couple reasons why someone might need the services of a tailor. Some people, for instance, have an extremely hard time finding clothes that fit. Altering more readily available clothing is often easier and less expensive.

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.

Today, an individual can employ the services of a garment a few different ways. Most cities have local tailors, in which a garment can be dropped off and picked up later, after it has been altered. In some instances, however, an individual may need to send his garments away to a tailor. This is usually only necessary if there are no local tailors, or if the alterations that needed to be made require a particular specialty. 

Work Environment

Although many of these professional work on all sorts of garments, a tailor can also choose to work only on a specific type of garment. Wedding tailors, for example, alter or repair wedding apparel, such as bridal gowns and tuxedos, while business wear tailors alter or repair only business apparel, such as trousers and jackets.

Most tailors, however, will perform a variety of different tasks on all different types of garments. A tailor can repair rips and tears on garments flawlessly. Ill-fitting clothing can also be altered by a skilled tailor to make them fit much better. For example, sleeves and hems can be shortened, and sides can be "taken in" to make the garment slightly smaller.

Before a tailor performs any alterations on a garment, he will first usually take several measurements of the person the garment is being made to fit. These measurements are very important, and they must be accurate.

After measuring a client, the fabric is usually pinned together where it needs to be altered. The client will then try on the garment to ensure the alterations are correct and accurate. If necessary, some parts of the garment may need to be re-pinned. The garment is then sewn together where it was pinned.

Education Requirements

A professional tailor must have a very specialized set of skills. Some of these skills include sewing, patternmaking, and fashion design. Earning a degree in sewing or patternmaking is an excellent way to start a tailor career.

If these types of degree programs aren't available, a degree in fashion design is another excellent degree to have when pursuing a tailor degree. Fashion design students often learn several of the skills needed for a tailor career, including sewing and pattern making. These students will also learn a great deal about how garments are put together, which is essential to know when altering garments.

Salary and Job Outlook


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, tailors, dressmakers, and custom sewers made an average salary of $32,150 in 2017. This figure is nothing but a guideline, however, and for many tailors will make either more or less than this amount. Tailors with more experience and skills, for instance, will usually be able to command a higher salary. Also, the demand for tailors in densely populated areas is usually higher than the demand for tailors in rural areas. Therefore, tailors in cities will usually have higher salaries than those in less populated areas, like suburbs and small towns.

Job Outlook

A talented and experienced tailor can often find employment in nearly any town or city. Clothing manufacturers, for instance, might hire tailors to help ensure that the garments that are made fit the majority of people. Retail clothing shops and upscale clothing boutiques also hire tailors, as do fashion designers and patternmakers. Some tailors might also consider opening their own shops.

National data

Average Hourly Wage


Average Annual Wage


Source: National estimates for this occupation

Tailors 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 Tailors

  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

Tailoring Jobs