Ministry of Business and Innovation - Occupation Outlook

Occupation Outlook | Main MBIE Site

Tailors and Pattern Makers

Job Prospects

Job Prospects... At a glance

Job prospects for tailors and patternmakers are average for the next few years. Employment has declined for the last few years, but is expected to increase again. Finding a job is not too hard for qualified graduates, but wages can be quite low.

How to become a tailor or patternmaker

What they do

Tailors make, fit, and repair clothing. They work in tailor shops or from home. Most of the work in this industry in New Zealand today involves making high-end suits and formal wear to individual measurements, or making or fitting clothing for special occasions, for example, wedding dresses.

Patternmakers work with directions from designers to create patterns and shapes for tailors and sewers to finish.

Their tasks may include:

  • conferring with customers to determine material, styles and designs of garments
  • interpreting designs, sketches and samples to determine pattern specifications
  • cutting out master patterns
  • laying up and cutting fabric
  • pinning, basting and draping garment parts
  • sewing garments
  • fitting basted garments on customers and marking areas requiring alteration
  • sewing buttonholes, and sewing on buttons, hooks, eyes and press fasteners to finish garments
  • pressing and finishing work.


There is no entry requirement to work as a tailor or patternmaker, but most employers prefer to hire people with qualifications or previous experience.

There are several ways to become qualified in the fashion industry.

One way is to complete an apprenticeship. This is done through Competenz who administers many National Certificates in Clothing Manufacture, at Levels 2, 3 and 4. This includes qualifications specialising in areas such as commercial sewing skills, sewing, and design and patternmaking.

Polytechnics and specialist schools also offer qualifications in clothing and fashion. This includes certificates, diplomas, and bachelor degrees in various aspects of the fashion industry. One example is New Zealand Fashion Tech, which offers certificates in pattern design and fashion technology, as well as diploma in fashion technology.

NZ Fashion Tech:

The New Zealand Apprenticeships scheme is available for anyone over the age of 16, and is subsidised by the government. More information on the scheme is on the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) website.


Cost of study

On the job training

*if completed as an employer-funded apprenticeship there may be no fees for the apprentice

The least expensive way to train as a tailor or patternmaker is to become an apprentice and learn on the job. That way, you can earn while gaining a qualification.

Studying at one of the many polytechnics or specialist schools will generally be more expensive, although some may offer zero tuition schemes. First time students may be eligible for fees-free tertiary education for their first year of study, which will reduce the total cost. For more information about fees-free eligibility, go to

Rents vary from place to place. Estimated market rents by region, city and suburb are available on the MBIE Tenancy Services website.

The StudyLink website provides general budget advice for students, and the Sorted website provides help with detailed budget planning.

Tenancy Services: 

Where to study

The Industry Training Organisation (ITO) that looks after training for tailors and patternmakers is Competenz. Ity arranges apprenticeship training nationwide.

There are institutions offering a relevant qualification in most parts of New Zealand. 


Completed qualifications

The number of students completing qualifications in garment making has been low for the last years, but it is increasing.

Qualification completions chart

Source: Ministry of Education

Income and employment prospects


The annual income for tailors and pattern makers is estimated to be around $35,200. Inexperienced tailors and pattern makers and new apprentices are likely to start out at the minimum wage or the training wage.

Estimated Average Income

Source: MBIE estimates based on Statistics NZ Census and Labour Cost Index

Employment and skill shortages

Tailors and patternmakers’ employment

HistoricProjected Growth
2006 2013 2023 2028
1,413 1,026 1,070 1,170
  -4.5% 0.7% 1.5%

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections. Percentages are compound annual growth rates.
* Growth projections are based on the wider category “Textile, Clothing and Footwear Trades Workers”.

The number of tailors and patternmakers in employment fell drastically from 2006 to 2013. This might be because ordering made-to-measure clothing online became a realistic option to getting one made by a local tailor. The decline in employment is projected to reverse and a steady increase is projected up to 2028.

Employment chart

Source: Statistics NZ Census and MBIE projections

Tailors and patternmakers are not on Immigration New Zealand's skill shortage lists.

Immigration NZ, skill shortage list:

Where to find job vacancies

Tailor and patternmaker vacancies are advertised through public media such as the Trade Me Jobs and Seek websites. Employment in this industry can also be found by proactive job searching.

Trade Me Jobs: 

Career path

Many experienced tailors and patternmakers work freelance or establish their own businesses. This gives flexibility and the potential for higher earnings if the business is successful.

Competenz have more information on career opportunities for tailors and patternmakers.


Related occupations

The following occupations are related roles or alternative titles. Some of the roles may require a higher level of skill than entry tailors and patternmakers.

  • Clothing Cutter
  • Clothing Designer
  • Clothing Marker
  • Clothing Pattern Maker
  • Dressmaker
  • Sewing Machinist
  • Textile Process Operator
  • Upholsterer

Other information


More information on tailors and patternmakers is available on the Careers New Zealand website and through the "Just the Job" video.

Careers New Zealand:
Just the Job video clip: A Career in Fashion


The Australian New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO) is the official classification of occupations in New Zealand.

The occupation of tailors and patternmakers has been coded to the following ANZSCO codes for their purpose of this report:

393211 – Apparel Cutter
393212 – Clothing Patternmaker
393213 – Dressmaker or Tailor
3933 – Upholsterers