Lately I’ve been getting lots of questions on why my clothing and approximate costs, when quoting a custom item price, are so high. Although most of the people asking this question are pretty kind and understanding of the time and effort it takes to make a custom piece, there are those few people that say things that get under my skin. For example, in the past week I’ve had two people email me to ask if I’m just trying to rip them off and trying to get rich off of my pieces, and although that would be pretty great, it’s just not what’s happening.
“Why are your pieces so expensive? Are you trying to rip us off!!!”
I currently stay home and work in my home studio (by studio I mean my loft), this has allowed me the opportunity to get my Masters and also work on my Certified Minister credentials all while staying home with my youngest son. Although this is nice, it’s hard to earn a living this way. I really don’t make much, and although many of my followers on Facebook or Instagram see that I have nice things, and assume I’m making all kinds of money from my designs, I’ve worked extremely hard for those things. Everything in my sewing studio, except for my first $100 Brother sewing machine my husband bought me 5 years ago, I paid for myself. My husband did not buy them for me and it didn’t come easy. I got my first dress form with a scholarship I won, my serger came from selling garments I made last spring, and it took me about 6 months to save up for. My Juki Industrial was purchased after I received my biggest scholarship to date and it literally all went to that machine. My latest purchase, my iMac was purchased last year after saving up all the money from garments I’ve custom made, from 5 or 6 small scholarships, and with a couple hundred dollars from a grant. My latest size 8 dress form I won for getting Best Designer of my senior class. So every thing that I purchase or I’ve gotten, I’ve worked hard for and it was all for my business. This also includes all of my other electronics, my iPad for school, my phone, etc… My sugar daddy does not pay for them. Although, my husband will spoil me once in a while with a nice purse, etc.. because he’s just amazing like that, but mostly, we don’t splurge and we aren’t getting rich off my fashion business. Furthermore, when I do make a profit it mostly goes to pay for my student loans or for paying for school. Currently I’m saving money to pay for my fall semester classes. Each is $2800 each and I’m not using loans because I already have enough of those.
“Why are your pieces so expensive? That’s just crazy, you are ripping people off!!”
I currently break even on most of my pieces and I make just enough every month to have some money for buying the fabric and notions for my next project or for investing in another thing for my sewing studio. Other than that, I’m not getting paid. Let me break it down for you. Here is how much time and money it takes to make one piece, the Golden Girl Designer Dress, pictured below, for example.
This dress is a custom piece, meaning that I don’t have a pattern made for each size, I make it at the time of order. So, if you order a size 32 on the site, I contact you and ask you exactly what your measurements are so I can get the more precise fit for your size 32 dress. After all, your paying over $100 for it. Sometimes I have to get on Skype and actually measure you virtually, i.e. I’m telling you exactly where to measure yourself and I write it down as we go. I also talk to the customer about what they want, how long they want the dress, and what colors and fabrics because some people want the dress but in another fabric. This takes about an hour.
“Why are all your clothes so expensive? I could buy that dress at Target for $25!”
Once I get your measurements I pull out my paper and pencils and get to pattern making. This takes about 3 hours, depending on your measurements. I have to make a basic bodice front and back, basic skirt front and back, and then I have to copy those patterns onto another paper so that I can make pattern adjustments, add seam allowance, and cut the pattern into the Golden Girl dress you requested. Once I have these patterns I have to make a trip to the fabric store and buy your fabric. I don’t keep it in stock because I’m just not at that point in my business where I can keep inventory.The closest fabric store, Hancock Fabrics, is about 20 minutes away, and I have to make sure I find the fabric you want or requested. For the Golden Girl dress I have to go to Joann’s, which is 45 minutes away, because that’s the only store that carries it. [If the fabric store doesn’t have it then I’ll have to call my mom in Houston, ask her to go to her Joann’s and ship it to me asap. This would cost me a good $20 at least for shipping and a few days time. Not to mention my mom’s gas.] Going to the fabric store means I have to spend gas to get there and also time. I have to buy the zipper ($3), fabric ($16.99/yd x 3.5 yds of main fabric, and $8.99/yd x 1.5 yds lining, approximately), a new needle ($.40 cents bc I buy a pack of 5 for around $2) for your project, and matching thread ($2). Now I can go home, $64.87 and one fussy 2-year-old later. Why take the baby? Because 1. hubby is working and 2. My sitter charges $10/hr and you already think I charge too much. This trip takes me around 2 1/2 hours if I just go straight to Joann’s. If I go to Hancock’s first and it’s a miss, then it takes me around 3 1/2 hours because then I have to go across town to Joann’s. We’ll go with 2 1/2 hours for the demonstration of this project.
I’ve already put in 6 1/2 hours and I still haven’t started sewing this dress.
“I can’t believe that top is $42! Why would anyone pay for that? You could get that top, but nicer, somewhere else for like $20!” (Ouch!)
For my cotton pieces I throw them in the washer and dryer to preshrink it as soon as I get home. I don’t have to do this but I don’t want to take all this time to make it custom to your size and then have it shrink the first time you wash it, so I go ahead and do it for you. This takes one hour, you’re welcome.
I then have to straighten the 3.5 yards out and iron it all. You know how long it takes you to iron a shirt? Okay, try doing that times 8 shirts. 1 hour later. Knits don’t need this so I won’t add these last 2 hours to this example, but I just wanted to let you know because some people order this dress in a cotton fabric.
I can now lay the fabric on the table and cut out the pieces. This takes 1-1.5 hours. Yesterday I made the top below and it only had 4 pieces to cut out and it took me 30 minutes to cut. The Golden Girl dress has double the pieces if the customer doesn’t want a lining.
Now I have to sew the dress. The Golden Girl dress takes me about 3 hours (at least) to sew. This is if you have decided not to line it and my 2-year-old doesn’t keep interrupting me. Some people want a full lining and that costs me more time and money because I have to pay for 2 more yards of knit polyester lining ($18.00) for the skirt. Don’t even get me started on people who want silk lining but don’t want to pay $30+/yard for it!3 hours later (hopefully) I have to print out an RLD tag and tag your piece, print out an invoice, wrap it, tie it with a bow, and drive to the post office. I have to wait in line, baby and package in hand, and pay for shipping ($12.75 priority mail with tracking # for shipping). I also add another $100 of insurance on the dress which costs me more because priority mail only comes with $50 insurance. So, let’s just say I pay $12 bc usually you pay for shipping. Unless I’ve offered a FREE SHIPPING coupon, in which instance I have to pay $24.75 total. 1 hour later.
Here are the final counts. If you want the Golden Girl Designer Dress as is, it will cost me:
10 1/2 hours of my time and $90.36 to make it. If you want this dress fully lined it will be $108 to make it. If I give you FREE Shipping, it costs me $121.11. My Golden Girl Designer Dress is priced at $110. Severely underpriced.
Technically, this dress should be priced like this:
Cost: $90.36 x 2 for overhead costs: $180.72, then at least 50% of original cost for profit. Which would be a total of: $225.90. This is what it should be priced at, but I don’t. So since I keep the price at $90.36 to make it and I charge $110. That gives me a profit of $19.64. Divide that by the 10 1/2 hours it took to make it then I’m getting paid $1.87/hour.
Sucks doesn’t it?
And yet, I get messages all the time on how my pieces are so overpriced! Truthfully they aren’t and I actually haven’t even added the cost that it takes for the pattern paper roll to make your patterns on, which is usually $55/roll, and only makes only 23 custom patterns for the GG designer dress, or costs me $2.39/dress. I also have to pay for gas, the ink for my printer that I use to print my tags, the card stock paper for the tags, allot for the time it takes to cut my tags into the pretty shape they are, the ribbon and safety pens to attach the tags, the colorful tissue paper I wrap my products in, the logo sticker I also print and use to tape my wrapping paper down, and the ribbon I tie on the packaging. These are all overhead costs that I don’t charge for but should!Photo Credit: My Instagram
“Why are your pieces so expensive? This is crazy! Never buying from your site!”
After this post I am going to sit down with my husband, and business partner, and re-evaluate the prices on my pieces because I feel that my time is valuable and I am seriously underpaid. Those 10.5 hours that I spend making this dress means 10.5 hours I spend away from my children and my husband. If they are with me during the times I go to the fabric store or post office then it’s time that I take away from them or time I take away sitting down and enjoying being with them.
I do this because I love it. I get great pleasure from creating pieces, but it’s hard work and it’s valuable time. So next time you feel like telling me or any other designer how overpriced our stuff is, do your research, or just ask them (nicely) where the costs are coming from. This way you don’t offend someone or their work. I hope that you understand that this post is not meant to complain, but to help you, the customer, understand what we designers do.
So, no, I’m not getting rich off my pieces. If you see them on magazines or in runway shows, it’s because I market my pieces well, which also takes a lot of time. These magazines and runway shows don’t pay me to use them. In fact, I have to pay to ship my items to them. My 15 pieces I shipped to Harvard for their fashion show cost me $108 for shipping there and back! Also, for every magazine article or runway show that said yes to them, there’s 10 others that said no, and lots of emails and phone calls marketing them. If I have a piece at a store, and they aren’t prepurchased, or are commission based only, then they get 30% usually, which means that sometimes I’m not even breaking even.
Being a fashion designer and entrepreneur is hard, especially in the design world. I truly wish all designers and entrepreneurs the best and I hope that everyone who reads this learns a little something about what goes into one piece. Feel free to leave a comment below and please share this post, but give me credit, after all, I just spent 2 hours writing it and didn’t charge you for it 😉
ღ Reyna Lay ღ