Dressmaking and Design Program - Online | Penn Foster Career School

Dressmaking and Design Program

Why Penn Foster Career School?

  • Regionally & Nationally Accredited
  • Self-Paced
  • Supportive
  • Low monthly payments

Program Overview

Take your first step toward a rewarding career in fashion as a clothing designer or dressmaker with Penn Foster Career School's Dressmaking and Design courses. In as little as seven months, you can learn skills that can help you turn your fashion ideas into beautiful and polished pieces designed for the runway. And, students in our dress making courses are also eligible to receive discounts on sewing machines, sewing notions, and other related supplies through Sewing Machines Plus.com.*

Online courses in this Career Diploma program cover basic and advanced topics of dressmaking and design, and your final project involves creating a garment. You will receive learning aids, hands-on practical exercises which you can use to build your professional portfolio, and access to an extensive online video library to help you master the techniques in your lessons.

Curriculum Details

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

The program goal for Penn Foster's Dressmaking and Design program is to prepare students to create professional-grade garments from customized patterns using hand- and machine-sewing techniques in order to work as a dressmaker.

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Identify basic sewing tools and how they're properly used to cut, pin, press, and hand-sew knits and woven fabrics.
  • Recognize the parts of a standard sewing machine and techniques for its threading, use, and proper maintenance.
  • Identify the characteristics and properties of common fabrics and the fibers from which they're made, including details on care, cleaning, and how to handle these fabrics when sewing.
  • Estimate the amount of fabric needed for a garment and handle, press, and tack fabric properly while constructing the garment.
  • Choose and correctly use various styles of seams, pockets, necklines, sleeves, and shoulder pads for a garment based on the garment's style and intended wear.
  • Choose and construct flourishes such as collars, fasteners, cuffs, buttonholes, waist finishes, and interfacing for a garment based on the garment's style and intended wear.
  • Recognize different body types and the colors, lengths, silhouettes, and styles used to create a finished product that will flatter the wearer's individual shape.
  • Comprehend the components and construction techniques for specialty garments related to maternity wear, infants' and children's clothes, nighttime wear, and undergarments.
  • Identify types of and uses for decorative elements such as hand-sewn embroidery, ruffles, pleats, and decorative fastenings.
  • Measure a wearer in order to choose the right size pattern for a project, alter a pattern to fit the individual's shape and preferences, transfer the pattern to the chosen fabric, and continue to alter for proper fit as the garment is constructed.
  • Comprehend the basic principles of draping fabric in order to create decorative flourishes, enhance the fit of skirts and bodices, and sew a variety of sleeve styles.
  • Recognize the details of successfully managing a home business, including how to purchase professional sewing items, appropriately register a home as a place of business, price finished products, and use good customer service as a marketing strategy.

Unit 1

Starting Your Program

Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program.


  • Understand how to use your Student Portal.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
Introduction to Sewing

Build your foundation for success by learning how to best approach the study of sewing.


  • Discover the terms, tools, and equipment used for cutting, sewing, and pressing.
  • Produce a variety of basic seams.
  • Explore several types of temporary and permanent stitching techniques.
  • Learn the basics of taking body measurements, buying and preparing patterns, and making simple alterations.
Additional Unit Material

Learning Aid: Binder

Unit 2

The Sewing Machine

In this course, discover the various parts of a typical sewing machine and explore the functions of several machine attachments.


  • Thread the upper and lower parts of a sewing machine.
  • Describe how to create a stitch.
  • Set the correct timing and tension to ensure accurate stitches.
  • Care for and maintain your sewing machine.
Practical Exercise 1

Practice the skills you’ve learned by completing optional learning activities. Compile your projects into the binder you received earlier in your program to create a professional portfolio of your work. Then, take and submit the exam at the end of this exercise.

Unit 3

Fibers and Fabrics

Now you’re ready to explore one of the most important topics in your program—fabrics.


  • Identify the various types and properties of fabrics and learn how to best work with them.
  • Develop skills for handling hard-to-work-with fabrics.
  • Describe how to properly care for garments.
Basic Dressmaking Processes

In this lesson, learn the basic dressmaking processes to meet your customers’ needs and create beautiful garments.


  • Select and prepare fabrics.
  • Layout, cut, and mark fabrics.
  • Tack together cut fabric pieces for a fitting.
  • Construct and apply the finishing touches to your first garment.
Practical Exercise 2

Practice the skills you’ve learned by completing optional learning activities. Add these projects to the binder sent to you earlier in the program to continue building your professional portfolio. Then, take and submit the exam at the end of this exercise.

Unit 4

Decorative Features

Learn how to tackle more complicated and interesting features to enhance your garments.


  • Prepare openings in fabrics at necklines, side seams, skirts, and sleeves.
  • Select and install zippers.
  • Construct and attach several types of collars and cuffs.
  • Finish a garment at the waist.
  • Attach various types of fasteners, such as hooks and eyes, snaps, and trouser clips.
Advanced Dressmaking Techniques

Build on your knowledge by learning advanced dressmaking techniques.


  • Choose flattering styles and fabrics.
  • Strengthen and finish corners, slashes, and points.
  • Join and finish curved edges, pointed edges, and overlaid seams in a variety of ways.
  • Construct and attach patch, seam, and cut pockets.
  • Form and stitch pleats.
  • Select and use interfacings, linings, and backings.
  • Make coats, jackets, and trousers.
  • Create a variety of sleeve types.
  • Learn how to work on a bias and how to work with weighting, shoulder pads, strap holders, and boning.
Practical Exercise 3

Practice the skills you’ve learned by completing optional learning activities. Add these projects to the binder sent to you earlier in the program to continue building your professional portfolio. Then, take and submit the exam at the end of this exercise.

Additional Unit Material

Learning Aid: Pattern

Unit 5

Line and Design in Fashion

Successful designers know how to manipulate the principles of design—balance, proportion and scale, rhythm, emphasis, and unity—to create the most flattering looks.


  • Describe the visual effects of various types of lines and silhouettes in garment design.
  • Judge whether garments are successfully and practically designed.
  • Use optical illusion techniques in your garments to draw attention away from certain areas of the body.
Miscellaneous Garments

Learn how to construct specialized garments.


  • Sew maternity wear, infant clothes, toddlers’ and children’s wear, nightwear, and underwear.
  • Use specialized seams for underwear, infant clothes, and other fine fabrics.
  • Work with lace.
Practical Exercise 4

Read an assignment in your supplement, Always in Style, and then practice the skills you’ve learned by completing optional learning activities. Add these projects to your binder to continue building your professional portfolio. Then, take and submit the exam at the end of this exercise.

Additional Unit Material

Supplement: Always in Style

Unit 6


Embroidery is a highly specialized skill, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an embroidery expert after completing this lesson.


  • Describe the uses, tools, materials, threads, stitches, and designs of embroidery.
  • Create embroidery stitches by hand and with a sewing machine.
  • Transfer embroidery designs from paper to fabric.
  • Join seams with special stitches.
  • Learn the basics of smocking and quilting.
Garment Decoration

This course is designed to teach you various garment decorative-finish techniques.


  • Create scallops, ruffles, godets, fringing, shirring, tucks, pleating, and topstitched seams.
  • Explore various types of evening wear decorations, such as beads and sequins.
  • Prepare and use rouleau, piping, bows, braid, and ribbon.
  • Make belts, loops, and arrowheads.
  • Create custom designed fasteners, such as covered buttons, Chinese ball buttons, link buttons, and frogs.
Pattern Alteration

A perfect fit starts with a pattern that has been altered to match the body of the person for whom you’re sewing.


  • Choose, trim, mark, and measure a basic commercial pattern.
  • Create a chart showing your measurements.
  • Alter the following elements as needed: (1) bodice darts, length, shoulders, armholes, and bust; (2) sleeve head, length, and width; and (3) skirt length, front, sides, and back.
  • Test your altered patterns and transfer your alterations to heavy paper for future use.
Practical Exercise 5

Practice the skills you’ve learned by completing optional learning activities. Add these projects to your binder to continue building your professional portfolio. Then, take and submit the exam at the end of this exercise.

Additional Unit Material

Learning Aid: Pattern

Unit 7

Alterations and Fitting

In this course, learn how to look at and adjust the garment on a three-dimensional figure with all of its individual contours.


  • Use techniques for properly fitting shoulders, necklines, armholes, bodies of garments, sleeves, and skirts.
  • Use a basic pattern to create varied dress styles.
Drafting Patterns from Basic Patterns

In this course, learn how to draft garment designs from your basic pattern.


  • Describe the general procedure, equipment, tools, and supplies for flat designing.
  • Design garment bodices, necklines, collars, sleeves, and skirts.
  • Design one-piece dresses, nightgowns, slips, infant yoke dresses, and matinee jackets.
Designing by Draping

Draping is the process of creating original designs directly in fabric instead of using paper patterns. This technique teaches dressmakers the relationship among fabric, figure, and fashion in a way that no other method can.


  • Describe the principles, fabrics, styles, and equipment used for draping.
  • Use a dress form or human figure as the foundation for clothing construction.
  • Mark details such as seam lines, pleats, and darts.
  • Create bodices, sleeves, collars, skirts, and slips directly on the fabric draped on a figure or dress form.
Practical Exercise 6

Practice the skills you’ve learned by completing learning activities. Add these projects to your binder to continue building your professional portfolio. Only one of your learning activities is mandatory. You must complete this learning activity to prepare for, take, and submit the exam at the end of this exercise.

Additional Unit Materials


  • Dressmaking Glossary
  • Sewing as a Home Business
  • One Piece of Fabric
  • Sewing Basics
  • Fabric Remix: Repurpose and Redecorate
Final Project

Create an entire garment and submit it for evaluation.

Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 7® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, and an email account to participate in and complete your program.

We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Microsoft, Windows, and Windows XP are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Apple, Mac, and OS X are trademarks of Apple, Inc registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

Sample Lesson

To view a Dressmaking and Design sample lesson, click here.

Dressmaking and Design Program Details

In the Penn Foster Career School online Dressmaking and Design courses, you'll cover topics such as:

Dressmaking and Design Student Discount Programs

National Sewing Circle and National Quilters Circle Video Resources
Students enrolled in the Dressmaking and Design courses are eligible for discounted rates for both the National Sewing Circle and National Quilters Circle premium online video sites for helpful tips, techniques, and project ideas. These video resource sites can serve as a supplement to your Penn Foster program, but are not required to complete your course. Learn more about these offers here.

Student Discounts with Sewing Machines Plus

Students enrolled in the online Dressmaking and Design Program can receive student discounts on www.SewingMachinesPlus.com. Discounts are available immediately after you enroll. Receive 10% off select sewing machines, 5% off all other sewing machines and 15% off all sewing notions and supplies.*

State Licensing Information

Licensing and/or certification requirements for jobs in this field are not the same in every state and may include educational, testing, and/or experiential requirements beyond those offered by your Penn Foster Program. You should contact the state professional licensing board or similar regulatory body in the state(s) where you plan to work to determine their requirements before enrolling in your Program. Please click here for contact information for state licensing/regulatory boards and certain industry licensing information.

online dressmaking design classes

Dressmakers design and tailor clothing for clients. They understand how to create designs, choose fabrics, use a sewing machine, and alter old clothing. Here are a few qualities that talented dressmakers and designers have in common:

  • Detail oriented: It’s important to have a sharp eye and check things twice.
  • Creative: To design clothing you often need to think outside of the box.
  • Self-motivated: You often work independently and with non-traditional hours.
  • Organized: You coordinate with many different clients and distributors at one time.

I had some sewing skills already, and considered myself a pretty knowledgeable sewer. But I learned so much from this program. And I wanted to acquire new skills like designing from draping, and I was thrilled when I got to this section. I would encourage everyone to take a program through Penn Foster. I took this program hoping to learn a little bit, but I learned a lot!! I see myself taking more programs in the future.

- Donna L., Dressmaking and Design Graduate

Penn Foster is a great school with amazing people who always help and work with you through ANY situation. I experienced a fire in my home, and Penn Foster was there for me to cope through the situation. Thank you, and I will be doing another program soon.

- Claudia D., Penn Foster Graduate

Your program includes:

  • Customized payment plans with 0% interest
  • Learning aids including patterns, Dressmaking Glossary, Always in Style, Sewing as a Home Business, Easy Guide to Serging, and Sewing Basics
  • Student discounts with Sewing Machines Plus.com¹
  • Goal-setting and progress-tracking tools
  • Instructional support from our experienced faculty
  • Access 24/7 to Penn Foster’s online community, plus immediate membership in the Dressmaking and Design academic group
  • Your personalized online student homepage and learning portal
  • Additional resources such as our online library and career guidance from Career Cruising

What is involved in the final project for the Dressmaking and Design Career Diploma Program?

The final project involves making a garment that is suitable for your body type (or the person you are making it for). You will learn all the skills needed to complete the project during the program.

Is basic pattern design included in the Dressmaking and Design Program?

Yes, basic pattern design is included in the Draping by Design segment of the program.

More FAQs >

¹ These offers do not include software and furniture. Notions are items like thread, needles, scissors, presser feet, pins, and pincushions.

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