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I am NOT a seamstress! Are you?

Karen_Vesk | Posted in The Archives on

Do any other sewing professionals go snaky when called clients call them a seamstress? I am a Custom Clothier… or a Custom Clothing Designer… or if that doesn’t roll off the tongue easily enough, I don’t mind being called a Dressmaker, in a pinch. A few acquaintances who are in the same boat have commented about the same pet-peeve to me…

Does it bug you too? If so, how do you address it with clients?


  1. Paula_White | | #1

    I am also not a SEAMSTRESS because I don't get stressed out by seams. And I hate being called a 'sewer' especially in the written form. The local phone book yellow-pages has a section for 'sewer-contractors,' I stay clear of that one even though I do contracted sewing jobs. One year the phone company listed my business under 'Alternators-Automotive' by mistake rather than 'Alterations-clothing'. I wasn't pleased, but the book had to stand as printed.

    I refer to myself as a 'SEWIST', as in artist, dentist, and pianist. This means a professional in that field. My clients often say 'the-lady-that-does-the-sewing' or 'the-sewing-lady.'

    If I had a nickle for everytime that I heard "My mother used to sew", "I bought my wife a really good sewing machine for Christmas, but...", and "I wish I could sew, but..." I would be rich.

    1. DH | | #2

      *Do you have a BIG sign that clearly states what you are? Does your business card clearly state "Sewist?" If not, how can you blame folks, who generally don't know squat about sewing anyway, for using the wrong terminology? Help them. And if they forget.... then growl! LOL! Besides, they've never heard of a "sewist." It ain't in the dictionary. Darlette...

      1. Karen_Vesk | | #3

        *In an effort to avert having to growl at clients, which I find is usually not good for business ;-), my business card clearly states "Dressmaking and Design." My passport calls me a "Custom Clothing Designer."Paula, my least favourite line from a client is, "Well, I used to sew," which means they will expect me to perform liposuction as part of my fee!

        1. Debbie_Michels | | #4

          *Whow! I thought I was the only one on the planet that had to keep my feelings at bay when it comes to this subject. I refer to myself as a tailor. I have it on my business cards, I write it on EVERYTHING that asks what my line of work is. I don't do furniture, I don't do draperys, I will not "re-do" the seats in your car or boat or whatever. I cringe each time I am refered to as a "seamstress" , and politely correct the party. How many "seamstress's" have you come across who own a sewing machine and therefor claim the title? Ever wonder why people "used to sew"?.....maybe the liposuction has something to do with it!

          1. silkscape_ | | #5

            *I don't especially dislike the term "seamstress" though I prefer sewist or dressmaker. Dressmaker is a bit confining for me b/c I do contract sewing and designing. I think sewist may be the most appropriate term for someone who not only sews but is interested in the art and science of sewing today, someone who goes out of their way to do quality, creative sewing.I have certainly had clients ask for outrageous things, even re-upulstering a mobile home. I've had clients tell me "that should be simple! the same woman implied that had she taken home ec in high school she could do it herself. she kept saying "why can't we just?" But mostly, the clients who keep coming back are those who understand what goes into it and don't scoff at my prices. thank goodness for them!

          2. Chris_Knoblock | | #6

            *I used to call myself a dressmaker specializing in bridal alterations and custom bridal gowns. But now, I do call myself a seamstress because what I do now is basicly RTW production sewing only on renaissance clothing. The only skill involved is basic production sewing.Chris

          3. silkscape_ | | #7

            *Chris,I wouldn't say "the only skill involved" b/c you probably got the job b/c you knew what you were doing withy garment production in the first place. That's a skill very few understand, right?

          4. Chris_Knoblock | | #8

            *Dawn. You're right. I did work factory sewing and it is different than custom dressmaking. I do have more creative input in my contract sewing now than I did then. But still, there are no fittings or altering to be done. It's basicly following the pattern.Chris.

          5. Sandra_M._Brown | | #9

            *Does anyone have a problem with using the terms "dressmaker and tailor" on their business cards, fliers, etc. I do tailored clothing as well as fancy gowns and dresses. To me, each term used separately seems to exclude the other. Any thoughts on this?

          6. Karen_Vesk | | #10

            *Sandra, my business cards carry my company name, followed by the words "Dressmaking and Design," then in smaller letters:Special Occasion WearBusiness AttireRe-styling & AlterationsAccessories & GiftsMy flyers are even wider-ranging:Quality custom-made clothingExpertly fitted, fast re-styling & alterationsFabric designs for the homeFrom a selfish point of view, I enjoy the variety and challenge that each new project brings; from my clients' point of view, I bring skills from other disciplines to their finished projects. It's a useful selling point, when you can show them, for example, the dressmaking skills you use when you make slipcovers.For my type of business, using broad-range descriptions has been useful for the diverse of work I enjoy doing. I would find it hard to include all of the projects I have worked on (bridal saris and chi paos, clerical vestments for huge sizes, restoring antique linens, designing and hand-embroidering unique monograms...), but then clients get the idea that you can go "above and beyond" what the corner dry-cleaner offers.

          7. Sandra_M._Brown | | #11

            *Thanks, Karen. I like your ideas. Personally, I hate alterations, but I will do them if the price is right. LOL. A friend's sorority is having a fashion show and my church will soon be having women's day. I am in the process of redesigning my flyers to use as ads in their souvenir booklets. I wanted to give people a better idea of what I do and attract new customers.

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