Thursday, July 19, 2012

What is a seamstress worth?

This is not in response to anything- I just figured that some of you may want to know what goes into all this sewing stuff, so you understand what I do better as well as the pricing for most of the stuff I make.

The basic price guide for most seamstresses for how much to charge someone is materials cost plus $X an hour multiplied by how many hours it will take.

M + ($10 x 6) = ?

Most seamstresses charge between $10 - $25 an hour depending on their skill level and location. They shouldn't pay themselves less then minimum wage, just like you wouldn't take a job that paid you almost nothing.

Fabric prices are a broad range- simple cotton can be cheap- but custom printed fabric can be $27 a yard and beautiful silk or custom order fabric can be $70- $100 a yard (think bridal fabric). Now for the dresses I make- I generally need 3 yards. So before I even calculate the labor cost- I already have $50 usually in fabric cost, without the cost of lace, thread, elastic, buttons etc. I have spent over $50 on lace and buttons for commissions before!

Now- I am going to say that from start to finish dresses can take somewhere around 10 hours to make (sometimes less, sometimes more). But that's a good average.

According to the formula- a middle of the road lolita dress would cost, in math terms,

$75 (materials)+ ($10 x 10) = $175

That is the minimum pay for a seamstress- most experienced seamstresses I know charge $20 an hour.

$75 + ($20 x 10) = $275

So in all reality, I should be charging the same price as most brands for the dresses I put out, and this would be the same formula regardless of style- same formula for costumes, for regular dresses, for whatever.

It used to be much easier and cheaper to make your own clothes- long ago when clothes were more expensive. As time has gone by- and machines have made the production of clothes cheaper and easier- it is no longer cheaper to hand make your clothes. It is considerably more expensive. It can be cheaper sometimes, but usually it's not.

I charge considerably less than I really should and I get lectured for it a lot by other seamstresses. In lolita, not many will pay that much for a custom dress because brand is so much more expensive. But in all actuality, it's brand that is over priced for machine made items. You're paying for the label, not necessarily the quality. Lolita does often retain value, so there is that- but I hate generalizations made on lolita seamstresses that we over charge because lolita is expensive, when in reality, all hand made custom clothing is expensive.

I just thought I would throw this out there for those of you who had no clue how seamstresses come up with prices. Putting a whole lot of work into something and then realizing you only paid yourself $3 an hour- is a terrible and often really frustrating and upsetting mistake. It's not one you should make, or force others to make on your behalf. People should be paid what they are worth.

Edit- it's also important to keep track of all this stuff for taxes, with a small business you pay taxes to state and sometimes (in my case anyway) your city every month (or the months where you sell at conventions)- and if you keep all your receipts and keep track of your uses you can write all that stuff off on your taxes.

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