A Designer/Seamstress Point of View



I have been holding this in for quite a while, but I am not sure I am doing anyone any favours keeping it all to myself. You might want to grab a drink before you read, you might need it!


Getting the words down on paper for this particular concern is problematic because is causes me quite a lot of unease and discomfort if I am honest, so although I want to send out positive information and messages on this blog this issue stems from my own distress and I know I am not alone as a designer/seamster with these issues to deal with on a daily basis.


I have touched on this issue many times because I believe that everyone should be paid a decent wage for what they do, especially if they are bringing skills and experience to the table. But sadly, when it comes to garments, we are in a world where there is an expectation of anything for a low price bargain, without any concept of what that means to the designer and maker of each piece.


Of course it is a person’s prerogative to choose where they shop from for clothes and of course budget comes into it and I have even written a free article that you can download from the shop if you would like to know a little more about my views and a few facts on this. However, and here it is in naked form, it is very very wrong to go to any artisan, designer, seamstress or anyone providing a professional, personal service and expect them to work for no money it is downright disrespectful.


Let me explain a little further….


On a regular basis I will be contacted by customers who have seen items in a store and will consider that they want to get the garment made and believe that they should be able to get this garment made for less money than they see it in the store.


Let me give you a couple of examples of actual queries.

  • A $15 skirt in store, customer requiring a cheaper option to be made.

  • A two piece formal outfit for less than $100.

  • A couture wedding gown requiring 4-6 weeks of creation with yards and yards and yards of silk, French lace, beading and embroidery for a budget of $2000

Its all relative….


OK you might think those requests don’t seem so bad at all.


I do understand that these customers come in good faith, that the problem lies with being used to getting everything ‘on the cheap’, an element of using common sense and thoughtfulness towards another human being and sadly and perhaps most importantly that there is a lack of knowledge and education about what these garments actually cost to make.


As this I can do something about for here is my main venue to get information out there.


I would like to briefly outline what the true costs of making a garment actually are…


Seamsters/designers typically charge $40-$50 per hour. I can go and get a job tomorrow for three times that income doing something else. I am a trained professional in more than one area of business and bring all that capacity to Threadelicious, my own business. I am doing this because I am passionate about it and want to run my own business. Through lots of blood (yes every day!) sweat, tears and hard work I still have not yet got my business making a profit.


To make a garment regardless of what it is, bikini, shorts, jacket, gown, wedding dress, you need a few ingredients….

  • Years of training and experience helps if you are putting yourself out there as a professional.

  • An initial Design idea, mood boards, time to sketch. Many designs created are never used.

  • Fabric research and buying time, fabric sampling and testing, this never stops

  • Base Template, moulage and sloper creation

  • Pattern Drafting

  • Fittings and Alterations to the pattern

  • Test garments created, sometimes several until a pattern can be settled upon then a pattern is preserved

  • Fabric and haberdashery choosing and purchasing which for good quality in Australia comes at a premium price whether you buy in country or ship it. Good quality fabrics can be $40 - $100 and upward a meter.

  • Fabric preparation requires knowledge of fibres

  • Fabric cutting

  • Garment Construction

  • More fittings

  • Final touches

This adds up to hours and hours, months and years of work, if you go to a designer/seamstress they are already giving you hours and hours of their time for free before they even see you.


When you buy a garment from the store it has been designed and made following a process similar to that above. However there are usually thousands of each item made so that the costs of design can be spread across each item. It is also an off the rack garment so the odds are that it won’t fit you perfectly anyway.


Think of this, when you go to a designer and ask for a one off garment to be made to fit your very individual body, with your taste of style, design, colour and pattern all thrown in for good measure, 100% of the costs of research and design are attributed to that one garment.


Of course extra to these costs are the usual general business cost that all companies have

  • Time for admin, marketing, research and training and so on

  • Other marketing costs, business cards, expos, online advertising, signage, projects

  • Costs for place of work, rent/mortgage, electric, internet, insurance

  • Costs for equipment, computers, furniture, FPOS machines

  • Vehicle cost, fuel, tax, insurance, maintenance

Its also nice to have some left over to spend on a salary for yourself, although self employed there should be enough left for this otherwise there is absolutely no reason to get out of bed!


Ok I hear you say, ‘so do something else then!’


Well don’t think I don’t think about that every day.


But then who is going to provide these services to the community, because when we talk about garment creation, repurposing, mending we are absolutely talking about a community service role. Already there are not enough people out there with these skills mending, altering and making the beautiful clothes and it is not the right way to go. We should be encouraging these skills not shutting them down. We don’t even teach these skills in schools anymore and the schools left that do offer the subject underestimate our kids and get them to make a zip bag or pillow case and although that may be a challenge for some I understand that and making a zip bag and pillow case is actually good fun and I recommend it for anyone, what about everyone else who is capable of so much more! Local community seamstress/designer is now bottom of the pile when it comes to careers!


OK