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So I’m used to sewing for myself but recently a friend of mine asked me to make the bridesmaid dresses for her wedding later this year and i was so excited until she asked the dreaded question; “How much will they cost?”
I was stumped and still am. Apart from the cost of material I have no idea what to tell her? Do I charge by the hour or based on the difficulty of the dress style and fabric being used? If I’m charging by the hour what rate?



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  • 20150117_152733_large

    Jan 7, 2010, 04.36 AMby mlssfshn

    Here my Craig’s List post maybe this will help, but if you still have questions then ask. http://austin.craigslist.org/crs/1540877083.html

    1 Reply
    • Art_movement_large

      Jan 7, 2010, 04.57 AMby goldilox

      Thanks, it does help somewhat

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    Jan 7, 2010, 06.01 AMby mlssfshn

    I developed my pricing by keeping my time with a digital kitchen timer. I’m the only one on my local craig’s list that has a pricing structure. You have to decide what your time is worth and where your skill level lies. Price can vary with experience and clientele. I charge less for production because of the quantity discount and repetitive steps cut down on time.

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    Jan 7, 2010, 10.01 AMby josephina

    I’ve never sold clothing but for jewellry the formula is generally 3x the cost of materials (for tailoring that would include disposables like paper for patterns, and any administrative or postage costs as well as the fabrics and threads used in garment construction). The assumption is that the end product is of a consistent industry standard so, as you become more proficient and production is faster, your hourly profit becomes greater. I’m not sure how well this would work in this circumstance. I know anything I make (with fabric purchased at retail prices), would be very pricey.

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    Jan 7, 2010, 02.44 PMby barbaraagatha

    Hey, i think the advice above is really good, but might be a little to business-like. My advice comes for a very simple fact: i do not have a cothing business, I make things for myself and for friends, good friends, as favours. If you’re not planning on making it into a business and are just doing it as a favor, you need to think a little more plainly.

    I would chose the easiest possible pattern (like the Danielle) and leave it at that. In my experience, friends that know you sew tend to underestimate a lot the effort clothing-making requires, so you need to keep it as easy as possible. (Just recently a friend asked me to make 8 santa hats for a fancy xmas party. The night before she tells me there will be 22 people…and the party is no longer a dinner party but a “lets meet up for drinks”…needless to say, the hats were a gorgeous waste of time).

    I would ask for 40EUR above fabric cost per Danielle. Unfortunately, price is dictated by demand, not by how much your time is worth…

    To be honest..I usually say NO when friends ask me to do stuff for them. If it’s 1 dress, OK, but sometimes they’re pretentious and it becomes a chore, not a favour…

    1 Reply
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      Jan 8, 2010, 02.47 AMby thecuriouskiwi

      I agree, one dress is fine, but several…I almost got roped into doing all of them but if I did that I would never get time to sew for me :)

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    Jan 8, 2010, 02.46 AMby thecuriouskiwi

    Not sure if this helps, it’s on a smaller scale but was for a really good friend so you may find some relevance. My friend asked me to make her bridesmaid dress so I took her out to get the pattern, she bought all the material and notions then she gave me AUD$100 to cover my time. Since it was a one off I felt that a good price. Basically the bride told all the bridesmaids to get their own dresses, as long as they were all yellow (and she set a few other rules to) and they had about $AUD350 to spend so I think my friend pretty much gave me the left over from that. She ended up with the best deal out of all of them, most of the girls choose AUD$400 of the rack dresses that are pretty boring for their cost!

  • African_pix_large

    Jan 8, 2010, 05.12 AMby Ami Taf

    I agree with Barbara, when it comes to sewing for friends and family, I either do it for them free of charge or I charge exactly what I would charge if I were sewing for a stranger. I make no compromise here and I’ve maintained this attitude right from the beginning to spare myself being ‘abused’ in the name of love. What I have learnt is when you’re just starting out, people tend to think they are doing you a favor by asking you to sew for them, so it’s difficult to charge the same amount as someone who has been sewing for 20yrs, even if your work is very professional, some might not appreciate it.

    Like you I’m still trying to work it out. I still get stumped by that question, lol. Charging $15 an hour makes perfect sense if you own/rent a studio and you have bills, etc, and other overhead costs. But if you’re working from home, I would advice to start small. Give people a reason to come to you. I use the slightly less than average price rule to determine my pricing at the moment.

    For example, if the cheapest available bridesmaid dress in your area goes for say $250, you can start with half of that (+materials) so she’ll feel like she’s getting a good deal with the added advantage of a personal touch. Then if you do a really good job (which I know you will), and she likes it, word will spread. With the next client you can make it for $150, then $200, and so on…

    1 Reply
    • 985f0154fdefdf284531d76b36fbffee7a42548e_large

      Jan 9, 2010, 12.00 AMby katexxxxxx

      You still have overheads when working at home. You need to be able to cover your heating, light, and other things such as sewing machine depreciation and servicing (on a pro rata basis), tax, insurance, etc… for all the hours spent on the project.

      But you also need to factor in your skill level, on both the cutting and sewing side and the fitting side. You need to cover that time as well…

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    Jan 8, 2010, 05.41 AMby Vivat Veritas

    i’ve come across with a similar situation in the past. i charged $75 for a friend who wanted a formal dress. l was fine with it until her friend (a girl that i don’t know) came for a dress for the same dress. i agreed to make it for the same price, but i kept thinking i was under paid. so i think its nice to give a discount to your friend and family, but i would do it for the price you are comfortable with! good luck:)

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    Jan 8, 2010, 11.51 PMby katexxxxxx

    You do it either for love or for money. I know how long a dress will take when I see the style, and I charge a sliding scale based on the hours of work and the type. Machine work (long straight seams) is quick, but handwork (beading, finishing, hems) is slow and takes more skill. Boning takes more skill than ordinary machine work. And you need to add up the time taken for altering the patterns to suit each person, making toiles (and the cost of fabrics and findings for those) and fittings.

    You also need to let the bride pay for all fabrics before you order them. Price them up (and include EVERYTHING you’ll need, such as zips and thread, dress net, lining – the lot!), and do not order until the cheque has cleared into your account. You also need a deposite for your stuff. I charge 30% of the total making up fee. Go and have a look at my How To Get The Best From Your Dressmaker essay, and the sample contract on my website: it’ll help you know what you should both expect. Even with a friend, do no work without a contract. If you are uncomfortable doing this, let her buy the fabrics and give her the making up as her wedding gift from you.

    I am about to start on a wedding dress and three bridesmaids, plus a Mother of the Bride outfit, for a very dear friend. She has insisted on the contract and proper payment. This is being done as a proper business venture, and will go on my tax form as a completed job. This way we know we won’t have any surprises about costs, and it cannot disrupt our friendship.

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    Jan 9, 2010, 12.00 AMby katexxxxxx

    Can you make the dress in four hours? INCLUDING pattern preparation, making a toile, fittings, and completing the dress? If not, this is a completely unrealistic price. Remember, these won’t be factory flung together, but individually fitted, hand-crafted, and hand finished. If you are going to take 10 hours per dress, that means 4 euros an hour – hardly realistic for skilled work. Less than minimum wage…

    2 Replies
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      Jan 9, 2010, 04.09 AMby Ami Taf

      Looking at it from that perspective alone, one comes off ridiculously underpaid, but you have to take geographical factors into consideration and the attitudes of ones potential clients as well. The value people place on hand made goods varies from place to place.

      When one lives in a place where 9 out of 10 people have their clothes hand made rather than store bought (as I do), as a newbie designer, you have to have an edge; this could be the complexity/uniqueness of your designs, or just well made clothes at a less than average market price.

      It’s just a temporary platform to launch oneself off from. As demand increases, you will eventually get to a point where you are free to charge any amount you desire by the hour, and there will still be people queuing up because they’ve come to value the quality of your work.

      I guess at the end of the day it’s about getting a good feel around untill you find what’s best for you.

    • 20150117_152733_large

      Jan 9, 2010, 05.03 AMby mlssfshn

      Here are 2 examples of patterns I did recently and what I charged labor only. I did not make a muslin and on the more expensive piece I lengthened the hem.
      Butterick 4989 view A $35
      Butterick 5216 view C $70

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    Jan 9, 2010, 04.09 AMby allygally

    I made a bridesmaid’s gown and was supposed to have been paid $175 for it, and the materials were provided. I never got paid, which was a bummer. I also designed a nursery set for someone, and charged $12 an hour for it, and that worked out. I estimated the number of hours that it would take me, and was pretty close to the estimate. I figured that if I was over, I would eat the amount of time I was over. I have found that among the people who don’t sew, some of them will find the end result amazing and be thrilled, others don’t quite comprehend the level of expertise and time that must go into a good quality project. As of late, I have decided that I need to spend more time sewing for myself, so I have turned down several requests from friends to make things for them. My sewing time is so limited that I end up with all of my projects on the backburner and only other people’s items get finished.

    Edited to add: I have a contract with a section for written estimates included that I use. It makes things very clear.

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    Jan 9, 2010, 12.01 PMby katexxxxxx

    his is the sort of price I charge:

    http://www.simplicity.com/images/product/large/3727.jpg Bodice and skirt: £450 Underpinnings: Smock £60 Drawers: £60 Hooped petticoat with extra strong hoops: £150 Corset: £300 (this one: http://burdastyle-5.s3.amazonaws.com/project_images/assets/000/052/685/0514b2791900889f2d385af30a68bea9562df03d_large.jpg?1249003220)

    And you have all the fabrics. boning, etc to find on top of that…

    Or, for making up something like this, which is hand beaded, £450: http://www.diceyhome.free-online.co.uk/KatePages/Sewing_Projects/Anya/dressing_janneane.htm

    On the other hand, I did make three of these up for £25 each plus another $15 for all the fabric! http://www.simplicity.com/images/product/large/6352.jpg

    And I’ve just costed these up:

    http://www.simplicity.com/images/product/large/3878.jpg £350 plus fabrics (Total about £550)

    http://www.simplicity.com/images/product/large/5561.jpg (view B, no bolero): £350 plus fabrics (Total about £650)

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    Jan 9, 2010, 04.15 PMby oscarthegrouch108

    i’l add my 2 cents, though everyone else covered the basics.

    when i started sewing for others, i used a hourly rate. i would keep track of time, times it by the per hour wage (i don’t remember what that was now), and rounded up to the nearest dollar (i was paid by cash mostly, so change was a frustration). if the person felt that the price was too low for the quality of work they might tip me, but that was rare to be honest. i think people were turned off by the hourly thing because they had no way of knowing if i was being honest.

    then i switched to a “by piece” method. i set up a little table of “basic” prices (basic pull on top was x amount, basic (elastic/drawsting) pants were x, formals started at x), then tacked on money for “extras” (like a difficult pattern, floor length, alterations to the pattern style, difficult materials, etc). anytime there was a fitting, they were charged at least $20. this seams to go over well, especially because you can give them an itemized list of what makes up the total cost. the problem i (and many others) ran into, was that many people are not willing to pay for your time and expertise. this is why i stopped taking sewing work, especially from strangers. now i sew for family as gifts, or i make something in a few popular sizes for my etsy shop and leave it at that.

    what i would do in your shoes? depending on how close you are with the bride, i would do this for free as her wedding present. if you’re not that close (or it seems tacky), tell her that you need to pick out the pattern and see the shapes of the girls first. that way you know how difficult it will be to make and fit. if she’s looking for a ballpark figure, $100-$200 per dress is what i would say.

    good luck, and keep us posted!

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    Jan 9, 2010, 06.09 PMby katexxxxxx

    By the project certainly lets the customer know what the final outcome will be. I tend to estimate so many hours for fittings, so many for pattern work, so many for the toile, so many for the sewing, so many for finishing, so many for beading and embellishment. The simpler stuff goes out at between £12 and £15 an hour, beading and stuff at £20-£25 an hour.

  • Art_movement_large

    Jan 9, 2010, 08.28 PMby goldilox

    Your comments have all been helpful. Taking all these things into consideration, looking at what other finished products cost and doing the conversions to my currency I came to a price I know was reasonable but yes I find that people are not will to pay for your time and because she’s a friend I discounted it somewhat. She still found it quite expensive and I had to explain to her why it costs that amount. This is the first time I’m actually doing a job for someone and I would not to do it for free because these dress are gonna take a lot time (with meeting the girls and making sure they fit properly) and I work a 9-5 so my time is split between weekends and nights and whatever other things i have to do. I will definitely keep you posted, be on the lookout for pics and thanx again ladies

    1 Reply
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      Jan 9, 2010, 10.59 PMby katexxxxxx

      Enjoy the process. And don’t work on them late into the night when you are tired! That way lies errors…

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    Jan 20, 2010, 05.51 PMby fashionista2407

    I usually add up the cost of the all the notions, fabric, thread that you will use or purchase then I decipher how much I wanna charge an hour after that (per clothing item). My sewing buddies and I usually go by that. But you can do it by every 30 mintues or how many days. Hope it helps

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    Jan 20, 2010, 09.29 PMby Rikki Cade Battle

    i know its diffrent but as part of my textiles Alevels we have to do the costing for the product, and we we get the total cost of materials used X3 (for waidges, bills ect and proffit) thow if its for your friend then you can probely charge 2x as i presume you will be making from home not from a factery and so there wont be an increase in bills (i wouldent have thourt)

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    Jan 26, 2010, 09.12 AMby charlana41

    I do bridal work as well as custom and alterations. I rarely charge less than $20/hour US for any of my work. When it comes to custom work that 20/hour is on top of materials cost. As a professional seamstress in the US this is the cheapest I can afford to charge to pay the bills, ( machine repair, thread and materials plus basic needs.)

    1 Reply
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      Jan 26, 2010, 06.11 PMby mlssfshn

      Same here but I charge $15 per hour to teach. Though now I’m starting to realize I spend my time preparing for class and probably should be charing more.

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    Jan 26, 2010, 04.14 PMby gedwoods

    This is a fascinating discussion on a topic I’ve long wondered about. I was approached once by a complete stranger to make something, and it was easy to turn her down as I was still a rank novice (although flattered by the suggestion). In my case, I love making clothes for women, but am myself of the masculine persuasion :), so I am very pro-active and over the past two years I’ve approached almost all my women friends and acquaintances to develop projects for them. Most offer to pay for the fabric and materials, and when the latter is quite expensive, I go along with this – it is a way for me to cut down on my costs. So for all of these situations, I offer my time free of charge as a learning experience for me. However, I have been wondering about what to do if I am asked to make something, and I am playing with the idea of retiring from my day job and taking up sewing and design work full time as a supplement to my pension, so the issue of “what to charge” is of interest to me.

    I think what strikes me most strongly about the issue of pricing is what goes with it. If I am doing a dress “for free” or just for the cost of the fabric and supplies, then I do the dress to my satisfaction (well, it has to fit properly, of course, and look good, and fit with my friend’s general desires, otherwise I consider I haven’t done the job right and I am not satisfied). But if I’m charging for my time, even a little, then I believe the client has the right to expect that the work be done to her (or his) satisfaction, not primarily mine. This is a very different situation, and one that typically involves some additional time and effort, and, well, responsibility. I would need to structure the process more and solicit more feedback on what was being done to ensure the final product met the requirements of my client (i.e. some “quality control”). So even for a relatively modest fee, the engagement is considerably greater, and argues for a fee that “covers” this extra responsibility. My two cents worth.

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