How to start a dressmaking business

dressmaking into paying business

Can you use a sewing machine? Many of us were taught to use a machine and make garments at school. My mother was a keen dressmaker so I grew up making my own clothes.

Back in the late sixties, it was a big saving to be able to make trendy fashionable clothes while still at school. It eked out my Saturday job pay and was an enjoyable hobby. I even made my own bridesmaid’s dresses but stopped short of my bridal gown!


What to sew?

Perhaps you’re thinking of starting a business from home and not sure what to do.   If you can sew, why not turn it into a business? Are you a dab hand at altering clothes and making repairs? This is a valuable service that could be advertised via local newspapers, clothing shops and dry cleaners. Do you make soft toys for your children? Good quality, safe and washable toys are always in demand.

Because I am involved in the world of pedigree dogs and dog showing, I sewed raincoats for show dogs for quite a few years. People laugh at the idea of my pink, purple and other bright coloured coats that cover the body and legs of a dog, but it’s an essential piece of kit for the owners of long coated dogs – and look at the size of the customer base!

How many of us make our own curtains, duvet covers and other soft furnishings and have been admired for doing so? We’ve probably been asked to help family and friends with their own curtains. Wouldn’t it be lovely to do this for a living? Think how expensive it is to purchase matching bedding and curtaining for a bay or child’s room, with just a website and attending craft shows you could soon have customers hiring you for your sewing skills.

Approach retail businesses that sell soft furnishings, they are always in need of people who can offer an alteration or making up service. Don’t stop at shows but go to market stalls that sell fabric or online sites that advertise furnishing fabrics.


Bridal service

If, like me you have made dresses or bridal gowns, there is a big gap in the market for bespoke dressmakers who work from home, or visit the clients home for fitting etc. Making bridal gowns and bridesmaid’s dresses is a delightful business to be involved in. The whole environment is a happy one, although you can be dealing with very tense clients!

Keep photographs of all the dresses you make as these will become part of your portfolio. Do ask the client if you intend to a put their image onto your website or use it in an advertisement. Usually this is not a problem with a happy client. A comment from the bride or bride’s mother can also be used in your advertising blurb to show that you have satisfied customers.

Why stop at making dresses, why not hire them as well? Throughout the year there are bridal exhibitions. Visit and see what the brides are interested in. Obviously you cannot compete with the larger companies but a smaller bespoke service is always in demand.

With bridal wear being very costly you may find you can make a very good living working from home and selling beautiful made to measure gowns for a fraction of the cost that are charged by the larger companies.


Work room

Unlike some home based businesses that can be run from the garden shed or the kitchen table, dressmaking does need its own room. Clients need to be able to try on clothes and discuss personal requirements in private. Making gowns and special outfits takes space and fabric should not pick up cooking smells or be close to sticky fingers.

Apart from a sewing machine, you’ll also need a cutting table. This does not need to be expensive, in fact in the past I’ve used a large sheet of MDF placed on my bed for cutting out. I simply slide it behind a wardrobe when I’m not using it.

Few schools teach sewing nowadays, which means that people are not able to make their own curtains or sew a dress for a special occasion. Your skills could end up providing you with a very good living that fits around the family.

Elaine Everest
photo credit: Roxanne Milward via photopin cc


I’m Mary Cummings, a ghostwriter, collaborator and all round word doctor. I help business owners write and publish business books; I'm also passionate about helping creative freelancers find work that they love - their work sweet spot with work on their terms, projects they love and clients who are a dream to work for.

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