Tailors make garments to customers' specifications. They follow the process through from start to finish and their tasks include: helping the customer choose the right fabric and style of garment; taking the customer's measurements; and developing a design for the garment or modifying an existing design.

A tailor may draw an individual pattern or alter a standard pattern to fit the customer, then cut and assemble the garment. The customer is then called for a fitting and the garment is put on and the tailor marks areas requiring alterations. The alterations are then done, zippers inserted, button-holes made and buttons sewn on, plus any decorative features.

Many tailors specialise in alteration work, as there is a demand for this service in retail stores and dry-cleaners, which offer alterations as part of their service.

Those that work in clothing factories need to acquire the necessary technical knowledge in all phases of clothing production.

Personal Requirements

  • interested in clothing design, style, colour and fashion
  • good sewing skills
  • able to communicate with people
  • patient
  • good eyesight

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • Grade 8 Certificate for in-service training.
  • Grade 10 Certificate or higher qualification for training at a technical college or fashion house.
  • Preference is given to people with a National Senior Certificate.

What to Study

Various courses in clothing production are offered at technical and private colleges.

Clothing Industry Training Board: A range of short courses is offered to meet the training requirements of the clothing industry.

Many factories have their own training centres, where beginner tailors are taught how to perform each task with minimal finger, arm and body movement. Prospective tailors need to pass an entrance test set by the Training Board.


  • large tailor shops (manufacturing garments for up-market or specialised boutiques)
  • larger retail stores (ready-to-wear garments need to be adjusted to fit customers)
  • clothing factories
  • self-employment, set up own tailor shop

Further Information

South African Institute for Entrepreneurship
Collingwood Place
11 Drake Street
Observatory, 7925
Tel: (021) 447-2023

Getting Started

  • arrange to visit your nearest CITB regional office and speak to the principal of the training centre
  • try sewing clothes for yourself or friends
  • arrange to speak to tailors about this type of career and watch them at work

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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