How to become a Tailor. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Tailor do?
Tailors produce custom-made (‘bespoke’) suits, jackets and coats for men and women. They may create the whole garment or work in a team, which involves each member working on a particular part of the tailoring process.
As a tailor, your work would often focus on making a new item of clothing, which would include:
- agreeing a style and fabric with the customer
- working out how long it will take and the cost of producing the garment
- creating a design (either by adapting an existing pattern or developing a new design)
- producing a pattern, either by hand or using computer aided design
- fitting the garment and marking any alterations.
Clients could also come to you for repairs and alterations to clothing purchased or created elsewhere.
When working with expensive fabrics, you may first of all create a ‘mock-up’ of a garment (called a ‘toile’) using cheaper fabric like calico. Bespoke garments would usually be hand stitched.
You would also spend some of your time researching and gathering design ideas, which could come from clients, magazines, brochures, pattern books, art, exhibitions and fabric samples.
You could work around 40 hours a week, but this can increase depending on deadlines. You may need to work occasional evenings and weekends to carry out customer fittings.
You would be based in a sewing room, which may be attached to a shop or small factory.
How much does a Tailor earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Starting salaries for tailors can be around £14,500 to £17,000 a year.
- With experience, this can rise to between £18,000 and £21,000.
- In high quality bespoke outlets on Savile Row, salaries may rise to around £55,000.
Self-employed tailors set their own rates.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You could start work straight from school and learn on the job from a master tailor. You may be able to arrange this yourself, or it could be part of an Apprenticeship scheme.
The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. To find out more about Apprenticeships, visit the Apprenticeships website.
It could be an advantage when looking for work if you have some relevant skills and there are a number of courses that may help you with this, for example:
- City & Guilds levels 1 to 3 in Creative Techniques in Fashion
- ABC awards in Fashion and Textiles
- BTEC National Certificate or Diploma in Art and Design
- NOCN levels 1 to 3 in Creative Skills.
You may be able to get into the industry through an 18-week pre-apprenticeship course, which is part of the Bespoke Tailoring Apprenticeship Programme offered by Newham College (in partnership with Savile Row Bespoke). This programme is supported by employers, however, the number of opportunities on Savile Row is limited, so competition for places is strong.
- Newham College
Training and Development
You will need to follow an intensive and lengthy programme of on-the-job training, working alongside experienced master tailors, in order to become a skilled bespoke tailor. You could go on to work towards NVQ Level 3 in Bespoke Cutting and Tailoring.
If you are on the four-year Bespoke Tailoring Apprenticeship programme, your training will cover areas such as hand and machine sewing, pattern-cutting and garment construction.
In the manufacturing industry, you may be encouraged to take a course such as the ABC Level Certificate in Manufacturing Sewn Products.
Skills and Knowledge
- pattern-cutting skills
- knowledge of fabric types and their properties
- excellent sewing skills
- an interest in textiles, fashion, design and trends
- creativity and the ability to visualise designs
- the ability to put clients at ease
- a patient and tactful manner
- accuracy and attention to detail
- the ability to maintain concentration, sometimes for long periods
- a smart appearance.
In a larger company you may be able to progress to senior tailor or supervisor. And with experience, you could become self-employed.
Jobs can be advertised in the local and national press, as well as in industry publications such as Drapers (and drapersjobs.com), Textile Month and Textile Horizons.