Posts Tagged ‘custom


How Much Does it Cost?

This is probably the question I’m asked most frequently. It’s probably the question most dressmakers are asked most frequently. And the short answer, as unsatisfactory as it may be, is “it depends.”

Generally speaking, a custom made garment will cost more than an off-the-rack garment. And generally speaking, it will be considerably better made, will fit you better, and will last longer. There are sometimes exceptions to the rule that custom costs more; some high end designers charge an incredible premium for  their name on the label, and I don’t, so there’s a savings in that. Some things tend to be marked up far more than they need to be when they’re sold in stores – like overpriced veils at bridal salons. But generally speaking, off-the-rack clothes are mass produced, and there’s an economy of scale there that is lost in the world of one-of-a-kind. When I sew a custom garment, I draft a unique pattern specific to the design my client has requested, sized to her precise measurements rather than a “dress size.” I personally help to select the fabrics for her garment, cut them by hand, and sew a garment for her that has never existed before. I devote several hours to the design process, the pattern drafting, the materials shopping, and the muslin fitting, even before beginning work on her actual garment, that off-the-rack clothing manufacturers don’t have to do (or perhaps only have to do once in every thousand or hundred thousand or million garments they churn out). The quality of the garment and of the experience a dressmaker provides are incomparable to buying a garment on a hanger. The price reflects this. Still, how much it costs, depends.

It depends on how complex the design for your garment is. I will draft your pattern, sew a mock-up, fit you, and cut and sew your final garment.  If your garment is, for example, an unlined shift dress made from 3 pieces of fabric cut from 2 pattern pieces, each and every one of these steps is going to take considerably less time than if your garment is an elaborate bridal gown with a fitted bodice, corset style back, full ballgown skirt with over lays and pickups and the like. The last bridal gown I made had 27 unique pattern pieces when all was said and done and took a little over 100 hours to cut and sew (which is in addition to time spent discussing the design with my client, shopping for materials, and thinking about the best approach to constructing her gown). The level of complexity has a big impact on the total price.

It depends on what fabrics you choose. Some fabrics cost considerably more than others and some fabrics require special care to work with. To the best of my ability, I’ll let you know when it’s worth the extra expense – when it will make your garment really fabulous, and when it will make your garment more durable and able to last longer. Sometimes there are a variety of fabrics that are suitable. If you fall in love with the most expensive fabric, the price of your garment will reflect that.

It depends on how much fabric you need. A full length dress requires more yardage than a knee length dress. A ballgown silohuette takes more fabric than a narrow A-line. A gown with multiple layers in the skirt takes more fabric than a dress with a single layer. More fabric costs more because there’s a greater material cost, and also because it takes more time to cut, sew, and hem the extra length.

It depends on how fast you need it. Rush orders cost more, if I’m able to take them on at all. It’s not just because I prefer not to be rushed; they cost me more too, since there are rush fees for any materials I have to order extra quickly, and since my working overtime costs me money in other places (like a babysitter while I hem your dress or pizza for dinner three nights in a week when I’m too busy sewing to cook). Orders placed early on are more cost effective, and usually more fun as well.

So you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into determining the price for a custom garment (it’s not nearly as simple as how much “a bridal gown” costs). When you send me a quote request on my website, I’ll always respond with follow up questions to try to get a clearer understanding of your goals, both for the design of your garment and the budget you’d like me to respect. Please believe, I’m not trying to gain some sort of negotiating upper hand. I’m trying to be sure that as we discuss the design options, I make recommendations that are appropriate for your goals. I don’t want to tempt you with fabrics or design options that are outside your budget any more than I’d want to make suggestions that are contrary to the vision you want to achieve. My passion in this job is to help other women – to help your design become reality, help you create a garment you couldn’t find out there already.

So I’m thrilled to work with you to make your vision fit your budget when it’s possible; I can do all of the following things to help achieve this: I can recommend design elements that fit your budget. I can help you find good values in fabrics and other materials. I can construct your garment well, so that it lasts longer than off-the-rack clothes and is more affordable in the long run. I can make your garment to fit you properly, so that alterations are not needed as an extra expense. And I can take the time to listen to your needs and ensure that the value you have in your custom garment are worth every penny that it costs.

But, there are also compromises I won’t make to reduce the cost of your garment. I won’t use fabrics that are poor quality or ill suited to the design you want. I won’t promise more than I can deliver for the budget and time frame at our disposal. I won’t cut corners on the construction. And, so that I don’t have to, I won’t undercharge for my labor. You are investing in a one-of-a-kind garment that is supposed to be beautiful and unique to you; I’m committed to the quality of my work and won’t compromise where that’s involved.

In the end I know this means that not every prospective client will choose to work with me, and that’s okay. Realistically, it would not be possible for me to accept every garment I’m approached with. Furthermore, I sincerely respect your needs and your budget. So, I will provide you with good honest information to enable you to make an informed decision on whether or not I’m the right dressmaker for you. If you decide that I am, I can assure you it will be worth the cost.


Silk Dupioni little black dress

My most recent project was this great little black dress for a repeat local client (who previously had me make this and this). The dress was inspired by a number she tried on at the mall which was very flattering but too short, sleevless, and with a lower neckline than she wanted. Cue the dressmaker. 🙂

Hillary wanted a nice crisp fabric for this dress, so the fitted bodice and pleated skirt would hold a nice shape. We reviewed a number of swatches and settled on a beautiful Dupioni Silk in a beautiful, subtle black-on-charcoal two toned color. We picked a lightweight black Habotai silk for the lining, and an invisible zipper for the back closure.

The dress has a square neckline, fitted bodice, three quarter sleeves, and a pleated below-knee-length skirt with corner pockets. The belt shown here is removable, and I made two others (in blue taffeta and purple Dupioni) so Hillary can mix things up when she’s feeling colorful.

This was an awesome project to work on… one of the rare treats where the stars align and things fall into place the right way the first time. The notable graining in the fabric lines up perfectly along the bodice darts. The neckline lays flat, crisp, and square and sits just exactly below her collarbone to frame her shoulders and face perfectly. The sleeve and skirt hems are straight with even stitching. The invisible zipper is invisible. All the details that ought to be right on a custom garment, are.

But more important than my own delight in the outcome, Hillary was thrilled. The dress fits great and is just what she wanted. (And doesn’t she look fantastic?)


Another Christmas Gift

Quick post today, as I’m pleasantly exhausted from a long day playing with my Girly. The following pics are of a custom skirt and top that I made for another loved one for Christmas. The skirt is a rayon batik fabric, cut into a very full and flouncy 2 1/2 circle skirt! The top is made from a nylon stretch fabric, hand dyed royal blue to match the skirt.


Hillary’s Design

One of my local clients for whom I made a dress previously, using a commercial pattern she loved, returned to have me bring to life a design idea of her own. I *love* these sorts of projects, the opportunity to create something truly unique, and to help a client who would otherwise be unable to realize their vision. Hillary described her idea to me in depth, we talked back and forth about the fabrics to use and the best way to construct it, and then I sketched out what I pictured from her description. I set about pattern drafting, draping, and bringing a muslin mock-up into being so that we could check the fit and fine tune the design. And then, at last, the final product!

The custom ensemble consists of a mermaid shaped skirt made of black matte satin. It’s fully lined, with layers of petticoat netting at the bottom to hold the shape of the skirt. On the outside, three tiers of satin ruffles cascade down, with a little hint of black and white paisley charmeuse peeking out of the middle ruffle. The jacket is also made of black matte satin, with black charmeuse and paisley charmeuse ruffles at the sleeve hems and neckline. The jacket body is extremely fitted, and has several pieces of boning to help hold its dramatic shape. 

The finishing touch – those buttons! Hillary brought a dozen different buttons over to hold up to the nearly-finished jacket so we could pick the perfect pair. And aren’t they FABULOUS? Really just the right finishing touch! And, the whole thing looks amazing on Hillary – a perfect fit both for her figure and her self!


Satin and Lace Bridal Gown

This beautiful gown was custom made for an Etsy client who was married a few months ago. The design was heavily influenced by an inspiration photo she found. It’s a strapless white satin gown with a short train, with an open front lace jacket that ties on with a chiffon sash onto which I hand sewed the beautiful broach you see pictured. This one was a lot of fun to make. My best wishes to the bride and groom!

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Teal Elegance

This gown was custom designed for a client with a beautiful, dramatic hourglass figure for a formal event this autumn. She has a very difficult time finding clothing that flatters her figures, as most gowns that fit her bust and hips are far too loose for her narrow waist, making her look shapeless and larger than she is. She wanted a design that accentuated her waistline, and expressed an interest in a one-shoulder strap. I sent her sketches of several ideas, and the gown below was her favorite.

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The Girl Back Home

VirginiaFlowerDetailMy friend’s husband joined the army recently and he’s been away in Basic Training for the past couple of months. She hasn’t seen him at all, and has only gotten to speak to him a couple of times for brief intervals – about 15 minutes in the past two and a half months!

This coming week he graduates from Basic and she’ll get to visit him before he starts AIT. She asked me to make a new dress for her to wear when they go out, something beautiful and flattering to her newly-pregnant shape, something summery and comfortable. This is the custom dress I created. It has princess seams with godets below the hip for a full, swingy skirt. I cut it a little roomier than her current waist measurement, but with a tie back, so that she can adjust the fit depending on how much her figure changed between taking the measurements and seeing her husband. The hem falls just below knee length, and the sleeveless bodice should be comfortably cool in the summer heat.

Have a Happy Fourth of July everyone! My sincere thanks goes to all those fighting for our freedom, and for all the wives and children back home whose sacrifices are just as important.

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April 2019
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