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What is a Dressmaker?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A dressmaker is a professional who is trained to undertake a range of tasks to create or improve wearable products. Despite the name, this person's work is not limited to the making of dresses. He or she constructs, alters, repairs, or revises any kind of custom clothing for women, including dresses, but extending to include many other areas of clothing, including some that might be quite unexpected from the name.

One of the specialty areas that dressmakers focus on is gowns. Some specialize in making traditional bridal gowns, while others specialize in ones like non-traditional and culturally influenced gowns. Custom gowns, including gowns for people with disabilities, formal gowns, gowns for ballroom dancing, and historical garments are other areas of specialization. For young women, prom and graduation dresses and flower girl dresses are also available.

A dressmaker may also focus on performance wear, including costumes for private use, theater, and dance. Other specialties include undergarments, such as bras and corsets, swimsuits, custom jeans, outerwear like coats, and decorative or ornamental areas such as beading, embroidery, fabric painting, and smocking. Some specialize in pattern creation.

Another direction in which this type of professional may take her or his craft is towards accessories. Some specialize in handbags, while others choose to focus on millinery or hatmaking. Some move even farther from the traditional focus of the profession, and lend their talents to the making of custom apparel for dogs, doll clothes, home furnishings, or clergy robes.

Working with a dressmaker can take several different directions. Some people already have an idea, a pattern, a fabric, or all of these. They may collaborate with the professional and make joint decisions. Other people go to a dressmaker seeking fashion advice and allow themselves to be guided by the professional's expertise. Their are several professional organizations for people in this field, including the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals and the American Sewing Guild.

Those who wish to become a dressmaker should know that there are several paths to take. People can take group or private lessons from an established professional, go on a sewing retreat, or enroll in formal training. Those interested in becoming clothing professionals can attend a school, such as the Couture Sewing School, The Sewing Workshop, and Couture Bridal Sewing School. An apprenticeship is another possible career path.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for Practical Adult Insights, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
By strawCake — On Sep 13, 2011

@KaBoom - I can imagine dressmakers having to deal with some pretty difficult customers! I don't blame your mom for not enjoying that.

That being said, I think when I get married I'm going to utilize a dressmaker. I think having a one of a kind dress for my wedding would be great. I will try to keep calm though!

By KaBoom — On Sep 12, 2011

My mom worked as a dressmaker for awhile before I was born. She was great at it, but she hated it! She told me that the customers were just way too picky.

Since a lot of people go to dressmakers to get dresses for special occasions like wedding, it really puts the pressure on. Especially with brides! They are already stressed out trying to plan a wedding, and my mom told me it wasn't uncommon for them to take it out on the dressmaker-her!

Even though my mom stopped working as a dressmaker before I was born, she kept making clothes. When my sister and I were younger she was always making us matching dresses for special occasions. Also, I've never had to pay to get a pair of pants hemmed!

By OeKc05 — On Sep 12, 2011

My mom is a dressmaker, and this comes in very handy for the rest of the family. We never had to worry about showing up to prom in the same dress as someone else, because ours were totally unique. When my sisters and I got married, we went straight to her to design our wedding gowns.

She even offered to make my elderly dog a sweater. She got to where she could not tolerate the cold weather very well, so my mom made her three sweaters. My dog loves wearing them! She doesn’t shiver and look all sad when she is covered with the extra layer of fur.

By StarJo — On Sep 11, 2011

I went to a dressmaker to have her alter my favorite pair of pants. These pants were special, and I could no longer find any like them in stores, because I had bought them years ago.

They were embroidered with flowers and vines down the legs. They were made of a cotton/polyester blend, and the fabric was a light purple color. I had outgrown them, and though I tried to lose weight, it wasn’t happening. I decided the best option would be to get her to let them out.

Somehow, she managed to make the waist longer. Then, she moved the button over about two inches. I could button them easily, and they were comfortable once more.

By Oceana — On Sep 11, 2011

I got a good deal on my prom dress. My cousin was studying to be a dressmaker, and she was pretty far along in her education. She offered to make my dress so that she could use it as an example of her work.

I told her what color and style I wanted, and she came up with the details. She made me a light blue satin gown. It had a halter top with a sweetheart neckline.

I was impressed by the way she arranged the tucks and folds around the seams to give the dress its shape. It could have easily cost $1,000 in a store, but she made it for $50, since she benefited from it.

By shell4life — On Sep 10, 2011

My cousin is a ballroom dance instructor, and she has to have her costumes made by a dressmaker. Her dresses have to allow her to move about freely, but they also have to be ornate and brightly colored.

She has to have a new dress made for each showcase. I remember the red and gold one she wore last time. The dressmaker made the skirt pleated with short slits, so she could have free range of motion.

Gold sequins started at the waist and extended down the skirt in rows. I know that took a lot of sewing by hand, which is probably why the dress was so pricey. She makes good money, though, so she can afford to have these dresses made professionally.

By Moldova — On Sep 09, 2011

@Sara007- I know that a student dressmaker sewing together your wedding gown would be cheaper than going with someone more experienced, but I would not take a chance on a student making my wedding dress.

I did have a dressmaker create my wedding dress for me based on a magazine picture that I gave her. I cost be $1,300 to have this dress made, but if I had bought it in the store it definitely would have cost me at least $5,000 because it was very ornate.

I definitely think that there is demand for a dressmaker creating these types of designs because it is a much more cost effective route to take because weddings dresses are so expensive. I also think that dressmakers can focus on the prom market and perform alterations for business customers. I can see it being a lucrative business for some.

By Sara007 — On Sep 09, 2011

@manykitties2 = It sounds like your dress turned out really well. It is too bad you didn't try some student dressmakers, as you may have gotten a really good deal. My friend is a fashion student and she has everything, the dressmaker mannequins, a dressmaker sewing machine and can even make custom dressmaker forms when she needs to.

The great thing about student dressmakers is that they can save you a ton of cash, and they are quite skilled. Generally you just have to pay for the price of the materials, and of course some cash for their time. Like in many professions, student dressmakers really want pieces they can add to their portfolios.

By manykitties2 — On Sep 08, 2011

When I got married I went to a wonderful wedding dressmaker for my gown. I looked at oodles of designs that were already in store, but I just couldn't find anything that really matched my preferences. For someone reason, getting a simple and classic dress these days is a real challenge.

I actually ended up going to a bridal dressmaker and sketching out something I wanted. As far as I was concerned my dressmaker was as any designer, and I loved my gown.

It was a bit pricey to have my gown made by a wedding dressmaker, but well worth the expense. I got so many compliments.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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