Tailors and Dressmakers

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects
Openings 5 years to November 2018: <5,000
Median weekly earnings: < $900
Australian Government Department of Employment 2014
Need a new suit, or a dress for the Year 12 ball? Whether the clothes are mass produced or 'tailor made', tailors and dressmakers keep clients dressed in the latest styles.

There are approximately 1,100 people employed as Clothing Trades Workers in South Australia. Employment is mostly full-time with the majority working in the Manufacturing industry. Most persons in this occupation are females with the main age group between 45-54 years.

TAFE SA courses that may be relevant for: Tailors and Dressmakers


  • Dressmakers and tailors make, fit and alter a range of garments, which may include fitting a man's suit, replacing zippers on a skirt or creating an haute couture wedding gown.

    ''When the customer approaches me for a suit, I need to pinpoint what colours, patterns and fabrics will work best with their skin tones and physique. This is something you learn over time and becomes an intuitive process,'' says one industry tailor. Tailors do what their names suggest. They make made-to-measure clothes to fit and suit their clients' individual requirements, taking into consideration factors such as style, fabric and on what occasions the garment will be worn. After consulting with the customer, and showing them fabric samples, the tailor then takes a range of measurements with a tape measure. The pattern is either created or an existing one used, and the garment is cut out. The pieces are then basted (tacked) and sewn together, by hand and/or machine. Before the collars, pockets and trims are sewn on, the tailor must do a fitting with customers to check the fit and make any necessary alterations. Usually there are one or two fittings before the final product is ready.

    Dressmakers are involved in a similar process, usually working from standard patterns that may require alterations to improve the fit or style. Dressmakers are involved in a similar process, usually working from standard patterns that may require alterations to improve the fit or style.

  • Of those currently employed in the clothing industry only 10% have Advanced Diplomas or Diplomas, and 27% have Certificate III or IV. 51% have no post school qualifications. However, to be able to work in the clothing industry as a skilled machinist, pattern maker, pattern cutter or small business owner you will usually need to complete formal qualifications.

    TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Advanced Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Technology. Pathways include the Certificate II & III in Applied Fashion Design and Technology.

    Still unsure? Then try a short course also offered through TAFE SA such as Pattern Making for Beginners or Sewing Your Own Fashion. Check the website for the full list of courses.

  • According to an Industry Training member there is a huge demand for skilled machinists, pattern makers and cutters. ''The trend is towards smaller groups of intelligent companies. A lot of these companies develop patterns or create specifications for offshore production, which is an alternative career path.'' Tailors and dressmakers can also seek work in fashion retail outlets and dry cleaning businesses.

  • Many tailors and dressmakers work in garment factories, where garments are mass produced. Mass production begins with a designed, sample product that is converted into a pattern - usually by a computerised CAD/CAM pattern making system. Once the pattern codes are entered, the markers or pieces of paper drawn to scale and size are 'spat' out from the other end. A factory like this can have as many as 26,000 patterns encoded on the computer. Next, the fabric is laid out on tables with the markers and cut manually, or in some firms, by automated cutting machines. Even the placement of the markers is worked out using computer programs to make sure that there is no wastage of material. The material is then sorted into bundles, ready to be sewn by different machinists and dressmakers, who focus on either zips, collars, polo logos or washing instruction tags. All the pieces are then assembled and the final sewing, such as the overlocking, buttonholing and embroidery is completed.

  • As the industry becomes more automated, many of these sewing stages become taken over by specialised machines. And no wonder! A pocket making machine (placket machine) can make a pocket in six seconds, saving a lot of time when you're having to add 2,500 pockets on shirts a day.

    In the peak bridal time (warmer months) you may be working a 19 hour day and have no social life. What you get out of it is a happy bride and lots of job satisfaction,'' says a bridal couture dressmaker.

    For those dressmakers and tailors who are self employed there are long hours, with little remuneration unless you have an established clientele or a good reputation. Working with machinery can also be physically demanding and repetitive, and you will need good eyesight for the finer, more intricate work. Although design and creativity are important components in the work of a dressmaker or tailor, other skills such as machining and pattern cutting may be utilised more in larger firms. Those working closely with clients need to have great communication skills, having to interpret a client's wishes, whether it's making a suit for a businessman, or liaising with a manager of a hotel chain who wants to clothe hundreds of employees.

  • With the growing trend for people to buy their clothes more cheaply, off the rack, there is a declining demand for the services of a tailor. Many tailors have to branch out in other non traditional clothing areas such as the design and production of uniforms, and do a mix of mass produced garments and tailor made garments.

    For further information, contact:

    Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (NSW/SA/TAS)
    Ground Floor 28 Anglo Rd Campsie NSW 2194
    Ph: (02) 9789 5233
    Fax: (02) 9787 1561
    Email: tcfuansw@tcfua.org.au
    Internet Address: http://www.tcfua.org.au

    Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia Ltd
    Unit 16, 23-25 Gipps St. Collingwood Vic 3066
    Ph: (03) 8680 9400
    Fax: (03) 8680 9499
    Email: info@tfia.com.au
    Internet Address: http://www.tfia.com.au