A tailor is a person whose occupation is to sew and scissor menswear style jackets and the skirts or trousers that go with them.
Although the term dates to the thirteenth century, tailor took on its modern sense in the late eighteenth century, and now refers to makers of men's and women's suits, coats, trousers, and similar garments, usually of wool, linen, or silk.
The term refers to a set of specific hand and machine sewing and pressing techniques that are unique to the construction of traditional jackets. Retailers of tailored suits often take their services internationally, travelling to various cities, allowing the client to be measured locally.
Traditional tailoring is called bespoke tailoring in the United Kingdom, where the heart of the trade is in London's Savile Row, and custom tailoring in the United States and Hong Kong. This is unlike made to measure which uses pre existing patterns.
A bespoke garment or suit is completely original and unique to each customer.
Famous fictional tailors include the tailor in The Emperor's New Clothes and The Brave Little Tailor. A more recent title is John Le Carre's The Tailor of Panama.
Sewing Professional is the most general term for those who make their living by sewing, teaching, writing about sewing, or retailing sewing supplies. They may work out of their home, a studio, or retail shop, and may work part-time or full-time. They may be any or all or the following sub-specialties:
- A Custom Clothier makes custom garments one at a time, to order, to meet an individual customer's needs and preferences.
- A Custom Dressmaker specializes in women's custom apparel, including day dresses, careerwear, suits, evening or bridal wear, sportswear, or lingerie.
- A Tailor makes custom menswear-style jackets and the trousers or skirts that go with them, for men or women.
- An Alterations Specialist, or Alterationist adjusts the fit of completed garments, usually ready-to-wear, or restyles them. Note that while all tailors can do alterations, by no means can all alterationists do tailoring. (Some alterationists call themselves "custom tailors": those who order suits from them are typically surprised by the product of their work.)
- Designers think up combinations of line, proportion, color, and texture for intended garments. They may or may not have sewing or patternmaking skills, and may only sketch or conceptualize garments. They need to work with people who know how to actually construct the garment, or else the sketch will remain a sketch.
- Patternmakers flat draft the shapes and sizes of the numerous pieces of a garment by hand using paper and measuring tools or by computer using AutoCAD based software, or by draping muslin on a dressform. The resulting pattern pieces must comprise the intended design of the garment and they must fit the intended wearer.
- A Wardrobe Consultant, Fashion Advisor, or stylist recommends styles and colors that are flattering for a client. They are often employed by actresses and others who wear haute couture clothes.
- A Seamstress is someone who sews seams, or in other words, a machine operator in a factory who may not have the skills to make garments from scratch or to fit them on a real body. This term is not a synonym for dressmaker. Seamstress is an old euphemism for prostitute.
“Tailor” as a surname
The profession's denomination, "Tailor", is a popular surname in many languages: Taylor (English), Schneider (German), Szabó (Hungarian), Sastre (Spanish), Krawiec (Kravitz) (Polish), Portnoy (Russian), Krejčí (Czech), Darji (Hindi/Urdu).
In the movie Meeting Venus (written and directed by István Szabó), many of the characters are surnamed "tailor" in different languages.
- Deckert, Barbara: Sewing for Plus Sizes: Design, Fit and Construction for Ample Apparel, Taunton, 1999, Appendix B: How to Find, Select, and Work With a Custom Clothier, pp. 142-143.