Seamstress rates are $20 to $50 per hour, on average, depending on their experience and the type of garment and fabric they are working with. Some charge by the piece, with a set range of fees for designing, sewing, alterations, and mending. Most charge a fitting fee every time you come in for a fitting and a separate pressing fee when the garment is finished.
Designing and creating a dress from scratch is more costly than having a dress hemmed or altered. Formal dresses like ball gowns or wedding dresses have added costs for specialized detailed work. Leather and lace are more difficult to hide stitching and require more time, increasing costs. Seamstresses charge by the hour or by the panel for curtains, with higher rates for thick or stretchy fabrics that are more difficult to work with.
Tipping your seamstress or seamster is not a standard practice. If they go above and beyond by squeezing you in when you were late for a fitting or rushing the alterations without charging a rush fee, then offering a gratuity of 15% to 20% is a good way to acknowledge their efforts.
A seamstress or seamster is a sewing professional who primarily makes clothes using a design or pattern. They also repair garments and make alterations to clothing. A seamstress works on all types of garments including men's and women's clothing and non-clothing items like curtains and pillows.
A tailor is a professional who primarily alters clothing for a customer. They hem and mend garments but can sometimes make clothes using a design or pattern. A tailor tends to work more with men's suits and coats but may also work on women's pieces including fancy dresses and ball gowns.
Both seamstresses, seamsters, and tailors work in dry cleaners, alteration establishments, and high-end fashion stores. In a bridal boutique, you are likely to work with a seamstress. In a men's suit store, you are more likely to work with a tailor.
Most clothing can be altered by a skilled sewer. The easier the alteration, the less it will cost. Some easy alterations include shortening sleeves, replacing cuffs or collars, shortening hems, and taking in the waist.
Some more difficult and costly alterations include adjusting arm holes, removing pleats, and lengthening pants. Some alterations are so nearly impossible to make that they aren't worth the cost including expanding shoulder width, lengthening sleeves, or altering jacket lengths and lapels.
Yes, in most cases a seamstress can add one or more sizes to a dress by adding a fringe fabric on each side. The design may have to be altered to make the different fabrics work together, but a skilled sewer can usually come up with a creative solution.
Making a dress smaller is easier and cheaper since the fabric is already there. There is a limit to how many sizes a sewer can take off a garment without losing the entire shape. A skilled seamstress will discuss options for redesigning the garment to make it work when taking off more than a few sizes.
Don't wait until the last minute to book a seamstress. During busy periods it could be several days before a seamstress can get you in for a consultation and fitting appointment. Then, a few more days before they can make the alterations. Rush orders tend to result in high surcharges.
For bridal gowns, it is recommended to schedule your first appointment with the seamstress 3 to 4 months before the wedding. Most wedding dresses require two or three fittings, depending on how complicated or custom the alterations are.
Choosing a seamstress doesn't have to be intimidating. There are plenty of experienced seamstresses and seamsters to choose from on Fash.com. Here are some guidelines to help you narrow down your choices:
A professional seamstress or seamster is knowledgeable about their craft and should be willing and able to answer all of your questions. When choosing a seamstress, be sure to ask these important questions:
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