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5 Tips for Starting a Dressmaking Business


Have you always enjoyed sewing as a hobby and want to start your own dressmaking business? If so, you will be pleased to know that you can turn your passion into a lucrative business venture. A generation or two ago, almost every woman could at least perform minor alterations in her home. However, fewer women are doing their own sewing nowadays, and need the services of a professional dressmaker. These 5 tips should put you the right path to starting your own dressmaking business:

1. Take Dressmaking Courses

If you are unsure of your skills, or need a brush up, take dressmaking courses. These are readily available online, or through your local community college continuing education department. You will learn how to:

  • draft your own patterns
  • mark, cut and tack fabric for a perfect fit
  • identify different fibers and fabrics and their appropriate care
  • professionally cut and finish a garment
  • alter clothes

These courses provide a wealth of information and networking for any dressmaker looking to expand her skills.

2. Do Your Paperwork

Before you operate any business out of your home, you may have to obtain permits and add to your homeowner's insurance. Your state may require a license, or may need for you to obtain a number so you can charge sales tax. Your best bet is to check with your local small business association, or even inquire at your local library about requirements for running a small business out of your home.

3. Identify and Target Your Clients

Are you most comfortable doing simple alterations, or do you want to create wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses? Do you live near a military base, where uniform alterations and name tapes are in high demand? Would you like to work with performers, dancers, or artists? Decide what kind of work interests you most, and begin to build your business plan around that decision.

4. Assess Your Equipment

Can you start with the sewing machine you have, or will you need a heavy-duty machine to handle your jobs? Do you have a serger/overlock machine? Dressmaking dummies? You can start small and expand as your business grows, but you will need reliable basic equipment to get going. Once you have identified your needs, find suppliers and retailers you want to buy from, now and in the future--and don't be afraid to ask for a discount.

5. Create a Workspace

You will need to have your supplies and materials close at hand, but also enough space to lay out a pattern. You'll need an area that's basically off-limits from the rest of the family--that space should also be ready for potential clients to come in and try on clothes.

By educating yourself and planning carefully, you can avoid many of the pitfalls of starting your own dressmaking business from your home. These tips will get you started, but eventually it's your own talent and drive that will make your business a success!


Sarah Baker is a documentary filmmaker and writer currently living in New Bern, NC. Her first book, Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, will be published December 2009. Read more about her.

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