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What does a Tailor do?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A tailor creates suits to custom fit clients. These sewing professionals must have a strong understanding of fabrics, patterns, and stitching techniques, as well as mastery of both machine and hand sewing. They may specialize in either men’s or ladies' clothing.

Tailors work in many different locations, such as their own shop, a retail clothing store, or for a clothing manufacturer. It's possible for those who make clothing for manufacturers to get promoted to a fashion designer if they show talent for design. One working in retail often custom fits ready-to-wear suits for customers, while those who own their own shops typically make clothing for clients.

After discussing the client's clothing and fitting needs and deciding on the fabric for a handmade garment, the tailor making a custom suit first measures the client and designs a pattern. He or she may create original patterns or adjust a ready made pattern to fit the measurements of each customer. When the pattern pieces are cut out of the chosen fabric, the expert constructs the main parts of the garment by stitching them together with loose hand sewing called basting stitches.

The client then tries the rough garment on while the tailor makes fitting adjustments using pins or tailor's chalk, which is hand-held and is usually triangular or square in shape. The edges are used to make lines or marks to indicate where the fabric should be sewn or cut. Tailors must sew the garment before the chalk is rubbed off as it's not made to be permanent. To complete the garment, the sewing expert adds collars, pockets, and fasteners such as snaps, zippers, or buttons.

Tailors often make suits and dress clothes for people who need difficult to find sizes, such as those who are very tall or very short. Larger sized or very small sized people may also need or want custom-made clothes if they have difficulty finding enough ready-to-wear pieces in their size in retail stores. Some professionals work in the entertainment industry, making costumes for theaters or television and film production companies. Those who work in larger shops often have assistants to help with pattern making, measuring customers, stitching, and other tasks.

Many tailors and assistants start as alterationists working in dry cleaning shops or retail stores. Alterationists do tasks such as hemming trousers to adjust the length and taking in or letting out the waist area of pants and skirts to adjust the fit. They may also replace broken zippers in garments or shorten or lengthen jacket sleeves.

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Discussion Comments
By anon326459 — On Mar 21, 2013

I tailor almost all my dresses, especially my pants and the zip part. It fits me nicely and it was only about $50 dollars.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Sep 13, 2012

My dad buys custom tailored shirts. It seems like an extravagant expense to me but he swears by them.

Me, I just buy them off the rack. I am not so concerned about my appearance that I have to have a perfectly fitting shirt. I would rather use my time, money and mental energy on other things.

By BAU79 — On Sep 12, 2012

A good tailor can work wonders. I had never been to one until I bought my first really nice suit. I wanted to get it tailored and I couldn't believe how well it fit when I got it back.

Frankly, I looked great in it. I felt completely confident when I had that suit on because it was like it had been made just for me. You wouldn't think a tailor could do so much but they really can.

By Illych — On May 14, 2011

I became interested in tailoring after I started to alter my own clothes for the exact same reason @redstaR suggested. Unfortunately it seems like tailors are in short supply nowadays with many of the best ones working in or coming from Hong Kong or Thailand. You could probably make a decent living as a tailor in New York, though. I didn't check to see if dry cleaning shops were offering any jobs though, so I might try that.

By redstaR — On May 12, 2011

Personally I've had better experiences with local tailors than tailors that operate out of retail stores or clothing manufacturers. I've never had anything made specifically for myself though, mainly just alterations. If you have an awkward body shape I'd highly recommend it; it's much cheaper to have your clothes fitted than to simply buy new ones. I'm definitely a proponent of "dressing for your body shape". Remember, if you dress good you feel good!

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