Fashions of the Ages
On our website you will find pricing for all underpinnings - corsets, chemises, corset covers, drawers, petticoats and hoops. Providing pricing for custom made garments is much more complicated because there are so many aspects involved: the style of the attire, complexity of the design, cost of the fabric and materials, number of hours needed to draft a pattern and create the final product and the time frame in which the client needs the order completed just to name a few. It is impossible to accurately determine prices based on these factors without correspondence to allow us to understand exactly what it is you are looking for. We are more than happy to provide you with a quote for any item you are looking for, please contact us with your query.
We frequently are asked how we calculate our prices and have found a wonderful article on The Costumers Guide that we hope will help you understand custom made costume pricing. A special thank you to Maggie, for allowing us to use her article on our website.
The Golden Rule of Three
Sewing and costuming have a lot of rules that are bendable, breakable, or moldable under different circumstances. But in all of costuming there is one golden rule that can never be broken: You can have something cheap, you can have it quick, or you can have quality, but never all three. This rule works for both making costumes yourself or buying costumes from someone else.
So what do we mean by these? First is cheap. Cheap means for a small amount of money. If you have lots of time you can wait for sales and coupons, scour thrift stores and garage sales, and get rock-bottom prices. If you need it cheap and fast, you can always find passable knock-offs of expensive stuff. Next is time. You can either have something now, or you can have it later. If you need something now, for cheap, you will be making it out of available, cheap, low-quality items. Think of pre-made Halloween costumes and how they are only passable resemblances of movie costumes made out of tissue-thin materials. Finally is quality. Quality refers to both the quality of the materials chosen as well as their suitability to the project. For historical costumes quality also refers to the authenticity or "periodness" of the materials used. For reproduction movie, tv and anime costumes, quality can also refer to the accuracy of the materials and how closely they resemble the original costume/outfit. A quick but accurate costume is going to cost A LOT of money because there is not time to search for good bargains; top dollar must be paid for the correct materials. An accurate and cheap costume needs time to research the correct materials and then time to wait for them to go on sale, find low-price substitutes and collect coupons.
In very extreme cases you may have to pick only one and forget the other two. For instance, if you want you costume NOW it will probably be both expensive and inaccurate. The cheapest costume is going to take lots of time and will also make some accuracy sacrifices. Finally, the most accurate costumes were neither quick nor cheap; lots of time was spent researching the correct materials and much money was spent to get them, even on sale correct materials can cost quite a bit of money.
Even when you are looking to buy a costume this rule holds. The seamstress you are buying your costume from must follow the rule, and you're paying for his/her time and work. So be sure to make it clear to them what you want and what is most important.
The Money of Costuming
If you're here you probably recently suffered from custom seamstress sticker shock. Perhaps you are looking to commission a costume or dress for a special event. Maybe you want a corset or outfit made to your special size and body shape. Whatever the reason, you want it to be perfect. However, when you e-mail around you were quoted prices that seemed outrageous! Where do the sewers get off charging that much?
Honestly, sticker shock is common among first-time commissioning clients. In most cases, however, the prices really are justified. This is to help you understand how legitimate stitchers price their creations so that you can understand why they cost so much as well as make you better able to spot a rip off if you encounter one.
First you need to understand that clothing in much of the developed world nowadays is grossly underpriced. Most clothing is sewn in China, where workers are paid an average of $1 a day for their work. Even the lucky few who work in the most elite shops are paid around $5 a day, which is a high standard of living (farm workers make less than $0.80 a day). Even clothes that are made in the United States are done much cheaper than minimum wage. Workers are not paid by the hour, they are instead 'contract workers' who are paid per piece they complete, often $0.10-0.40 per piece. Even with three or four people working on a garment the labor costs are still minimal. Is this legal? No, not in the United States. These low wages, combined with grueling work hours, make up the infamous stitching sweatshops. Yet they still exist, and even prosper, in the garment industry, even in the United States. In fact, the US Department of Labor estimates that over 50% of garment shops in the US are illegal sweatshops. However, there are not enough inspectors and regulators to shut them down, and companies keep hiring for lower and lower prices, encouraging lawbreakers.
So, when you commission a garment what are you paying for? Usually the breakdown is materials and time. You have to pay for all the fabric and tools the stitcher uses to create your outfit, and you have to pay for the time they take to do it. But that's a very generic answer, so we'll breakdown each part.
First, materials. Materials break down into two major categories: disposable and permanent. First, the permanent materials. These are everything the stitchers uses to create your garment that they keep after they're done. Things like sewing machines, scissors, pins, needles, and irons are not included in the garment you are given, but they are all necessary for making that garment. Also included in this price is the cost of the building where they are kept, electricity to run them, and materials and repair to maintain them. It's just like when you go to the dentist: your visit cost includes not only the salary paid to the dentist, but the salary paid to his assistant, receptionist, and janitor as well as the cost of the building, the chair you sat on, the magazine you read and the elevator music you listened to.
Disposable materials are the ones that are used up in your garment. Things like fabric, thread, zippers, snaps and buttons. These must all be purchased by the stitcher, who then passes the costs on to you. Also, these materials are not as cheap as WalMart's materials. They may be the exact same items, but when a stitcher buys four yards of cotton in a fabric store they are paying much more per yard than WalMart did when they bought 8,000 yards for their clothing. Same with the buttons, zippers, snaps and thread: bulk buys get discounts, and you are paying because the stitcher only needs a few.
When talking about the stitcher's time there's more to it than just dollars per hour. The price per hour comes from an assessment of the stitcher's education, experience and skill.
First is education. Yes, you're paying for the education of your stitcher. For example, jobs that require college educations pay more than those that just require high school diplomas. You are paying for how your stitcher learned to sew, the time, effort and expense it cost them, how much they learned and how well they learned to do it. This also doesn't just mean formal education. Stitchers that read books and magazines on their trade, who go to trade shows and browse Internet sites and who keep up with the latest techniques are more likely to know tricks that will make your garment fit better, sew faster, or use less materials.
Second is experience. You're paying for your stitcher to completing your garment correctly and on time. When a project is first started a lot of time is spent figuring out how to do something. When a stitcher is experienced in making something it eliminates this time, saving you the costly per-hour fee. You're also paying for their experience in working with a sewing machine, serger, rotary cutter and any other special materials used in your garment, because the longer you do something the faster you get, and you waste less materials in doing it.
Finally, you are paying for skills. There are many skills associated with sewing. You are paying not only for the stitcher to know how to put a needle through fabric, but how to use the tools associated with sewing and any other special skills the stitcher has. For instance, pattern drafting or draping is a special skill that takes time to learn. A beginner will take a lot of time to make an improperly fitted garment that requires alteration, while an experienced pattern maker will take less time and be more likely to get it right the first time, saving you money. Specific skills such as millinery, corsetry and shoemaking are skills that you pay extra for, because not every stitcher knows how to do them correctly and in a short amount of time.
So, how does this all breakdown? Consider the following example: You commission a stitcher to make a gown that costs $75 in disposable materials and will take 40 hours to complete. Calculating the stitchers hourly rate at a very conservative $10 an hour (which is less than almost any stitcher is willing to work for) the cost of your gown is already $475 - and you haven't include the cost of any permanent materials. Most educated, professional stitchers charge between $18-$30 an hour for their work, and rarely are the disposable materials as minimal as $75 for anything other than the most simple projects. Typically most garments take anywhere from 20-100 hours to completed depending on the complexity and detail of the project.
We hope that this information helps you understand how we calculate our pricing. If you have any additional questions please feel free to contact us.