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Conversational Threads

Dressmaking prices

moira | Posted in General Discussion on

As a home dressmaker who makes mostly bridal and formal wear, I’ve often found that clients are pleasantly surprised at the charge I have made. My family members and close friends conclude that I should charge more – but it’s hard to know what’s reasonable. Currently I’m working at £30 per hour, but I know that I always end up ’rounding down’. I only charge for what I call ‘forward time’ – that is, time during which the garment is progressing positively. So unpicking or re-doing doesn’t count, unless the client wants a change from her original design.

I’m interested in hearing from other UK stitchers for a straight comparison, though of course I’d also love to hear from anyone else.


  1. User avater
    suesewing | | #1

    I live in the USA, but I am exploring the possibility of doing custom sewing.  How did you determine that price, what does it convert to in US dollars, do you have a general price list for doing a garment or do you just state that you work for that amount

    I would appreciate any advise


    1. moira | | #2

      Sue, I've been sewing for years now and somehow have always worked out what seems a fair price for a garment - but this is where so many people have expressed surprise that I haven't asked for more. As I am actually trying to earn, I then figured out how much I could do in an hour and translated that into a slightly higher finished price, divided the time by the number of hours, and then began thinking in terms of price per hour. So for example, I know that a gored special occasion skirt takes me, say, three hours, and that a fair price for that is £90. So, £30 an hour. Where it falls down is where people want a daytime garment rather than a special occasion one. The very same work might go into a dress whether it's white for a wedding or green for a formal - but people will pay far more for the white dress. It doesn't therefore seem fair to me to charge different rates depending on what the garment is for, when there might be the same work and finishing regardless. And working at a price per hour rate means a wedding dress will cost more only if I actually have spent ages on beading or embroidery or whatever, rather than just costing more because it's white or ivory. I really am interested to hear how others work this out.
      Also, what do you do when it's a friend asking you to make? Do you adjust your prices, or as I've been advised, hand them the same pricing guide you use for everyone else? Now that's a hard one!

      1. Teaf5 | | #4

        Definitely charge friends your normal prices; your time is precious, no matter who takes it up!

        Are the people advising you to charge more the ones paying for your time, or are they well-meaning friends who think you could get more?  If it's the former, ask them what they would be willing to pay before you tell them your pricing; if it's the latter, thank them for their interest and ignore their advice.

        A lesson from my econ classes was:  for maximum profit, charge the highest the market will bear.  Determining what the market will bear has to do with supply, demand, competition and consumer perception of value.  When I sewed on consignment, I never could complete that equation, but I did learn to ask the customer first what he/she thought was a fair price before setting my own.  Quite often, they offered far more than I thought I would be able to charge; other times, they offered so low that I knew they wouldn't be satisfied with my rates, even if I cheated myself.

        Please let us know what you decide.

      2. mygaley | | #31

        Hello from Louisiana, USA. I sew wedding and other formal gowns also party dresses and I do charge more for white fabric--it requires special handling. In fact, I do adjust charges up based on degree of difficulty of fabric. This means that a wedding gown and a bridesmaids dress from the same pattern, the wedding gown would cost more. I live in a very small town and am very friendly with most of my customers. I begin by giving them my regular price then if I wish to discount at the time of payment I am free to do so or not. Also I do alterations for senior citizens and Pastors and their families (two groups usually on a limited budget)and it is my pleasure to greatly discount my labor for these. I am currently hemming a wedding gown for a neighbor and I announced up front that I was doing it as a gift--that made 3 out of 3 people happy: the bride, her Mother and me. God bless you Galey

    2. sewingkmulkey | | #3

      The British pound is about double the American dollar so 30 pounds = $60 US per hour.



  2. rodezzy | | #5


    I suggest you go to this website and study it.  You must get paid for what you are worth.  That's why I don't sell stuff.  People don't want to pay me for my time, materials, creativity, and finishing work.

    You are obviously an extremely talented seamtress to only take 3 hours to complete a formal dress.  Only in my dreams.  I'm not saying you should get outrageous like some others, but make it count.


    1. moira | | #6

      Thanks for that website. It reminded me of some of the info I obtained on a short business course I attended a couple of years ago - but better because this one refers specifically to the dressmaker and her costs and considerations. I was never able to complete that course anyway as I was also doing some teaching, but as that work is not so available these days, I need to be thinking more seriously about earning as a dressmaker. I'll study the website in more depth and see what I can learn.By the way, it was a skirt in 3 hours, not a full dress! No credit where it's not due! You made a fair point about who's giving me the pricing advice. Sometimes - though not always - it is well meaning friends who are not buying my services. How good to be able to discus this with people who have absolutely no personal interest in my problem. Objectivity is a great gift at certain times. Thanks.

      1. dionna | | #7

        I had the same problem with my friends and family but what I do is I give them the same prices I give to others and the other thing you should do is to get a contract or a sales agreement.

      2. rodezzy | | #8

        As I come to this site more and more, I find that the candid and honest discussions are very helpful and insightful.  Our common interests unites us, yet the forum gives us a world wide community with which to test out our ideas and questions.  This affords us a rich source of information that can turn some peoples lives around in sewing and crafting world.  I love it and glad to be of help.

        1. ldm55 | | #9

          I appreciated your comments in the pricing discussion.  I've had a lifelong dream of making my income, or even part of it, from creativity, designing clothes, accessories, and home decor items.  I've sewn for others for payment and people love my work, but I'm so slow, anxious and perfectionistic.  I've had to accept that unless I'm really fast, there's just no profit margin.  It's still frustrating.  It would be great to have more of an ongoing somewhat consistent sewing/craft support network.  I could look around locally.  I'm in Western Massachusetts.  These discussion groups seem a great source for that too.

          1. rodezzy | | #10

            You are welcomed.  I just found a new craft group to check out this month.  It is a non-organizational craft group.  What I mean by "non-organizational" is that it is not a guild, or anything that I will need to pay dues to, commit to projects I don't want to do, or anything of the sort.  It's a group of women who want to be around others with the same interest in all sorts of crafts/sewing/needle art/painting, etc. and want to work on their own projects while visiting and sharing their love of creating. 

            I am getting out of my quilt guild because quilting is not my only focus.  My focus changes and I've had enough quilting on demand right now.  They demand too much of my time and I don't want the pressure.  I've been in for 6 years now and I'm ready to cut the cord.  I had fun, but I got to go.

            So, I'm looking forward to the new group, I can fuel my passions without question.


            Edited 10/1/2007 2:19 pm ET by rodezzy

            Edited 10/1/2007 2:19 pm ET by rodezzy

            Edited 10/1/2007 2:20 pm ET by rodezzy

          2. GailAnn | | #11

            My Dad always used to say, "A change is just as good as a rest."  The older I get, the more I believe he was right.  Gail

          3. solosmocker | | #12

            Some years back I did the same. I guess I just outgrew the quilting group and it was time to cut my cord as well. No regrets there. My first love is creative garment making, whether for adults or children and that did not fit in with the quilt group. I wish I could find a "fiber group" up here where we have retired but any kind of sewist is few and far between. The only ones I have found are quilters and that is just not my thing anymore. I took up the quilting thing when my children were small and getting to a machine was just too difficult. It allowed me to do handwork while they were playing and fit in quite well with my lifestyle. Now life is different and I am early retired with lots of time and a beautiful sewing room to devote to my passion. With the advent of grandchildren this led down the path of sewing for them. So I am back to where my muse has always taken me, creative fashion sewing. I just sure wish I could knit like you!solo

            Edited 10/1/2007 5:55 pm ET by solosmocker

          4. KimK | | #13


            I see from your profile you live in the Adirondacks.  I know that's a big area (I live in Rochester), but if you're close to Burlington you might check out the Sarah Veblen classes offered in Essex Junction at the end of the month:  http://www.sarahveblen.com/schedule.php

            If you can make either one, you might meet some kindred spirits who live close enough to meet with once in a while.  I can't make these, but I'm going to take her interfacings class at PatternReview starting next week.  The interfacing samples she sent are amazing--I had no idea there were so many different types.

            Just a thought!


          5. solosmocker | | #17

            Thanks so much, Kim. I will look into it and really appreciate it. Burlington is about 2 hours from me via the ferry in Plattsburg so doable. I am way way up near the Canadian border. Thanks again.

          6. rodezzy | | #14

            I also said goodbye to bowling this year. 

            You sew beautifully, but as you saw, I sew for utilitarian reasons and some fashion.  I wore those coats all last year, I was not trying to impress anyone but me, I didn't fuss with linings, sewing clothes is not my passion, but it's fun to do periodically, especially for every day outer wear.  I drive to work every day, so I don't need super warm coats.  I'm passionate about whatever I'm doing at the time, so call me wishy washy, but I've learn to not let people pigeon hole me, people are always turning their noses up when you don't follow what they think is the way you should be, I prescribe to my own sanity and I am much happier.  When people turn their nose up and pooh pooh me because I'm free minded enough to do it the way that makes me happy - I just smile and let that happiness flow over me even more.

            My crocheted coats are warmer in colder weather because they contain wool with other fibers.  I can't wear wool next to my skin, it irritates me.  I'm happy with the substitutes for wool.  My crochet coats that contain wool are always worn with plenty underneath to block me from the wool, and no I'm not going to line them, that's too much like work for me.  I'm not that adventurous nor ambitious.  They are fine like they are.  I'm happy with them as is, and no I don't line my fleece coats because they are warm enough as they are, I can't take too much bundling up, I'm blessed to have a great car and I rarely walk around too far in the winter months.

            More pics:  And that's just water on the applique wall hanging, I tried to iron it before taking the pic and my iron wasn't hot enough and dripped so I stopped and just took the pic


            Edited 10/2/2007 12:48 pm ET by rodezzy

          7. solosmocker | | #18

            Utilitarian? Your work is wonderful and so creative. More great pics and thanks for sharing!

          8. rodezzy | | #19

            Thanks, I'm glad you like them.  Can you give me a critique of the pink faux fur coat.  Now what do you really think?

          9. Ocrafty1 | | #40

            Your quilts are wonderful!  Where is the pink coat? I wanna see, too!


            sorry, gals, for getting off the 'thread.' got back on it on my next post...

            Edited 3/20/2008 11:50 pm ET by Ocrafty1

          10. rodezzy | | #52

            Thanks, the coats are in photo gallery under "coats made last year" I believe.

          11. Ocrafty1 | | #53

            I looked at every photo gallery title...couldn't find it.  Can you post a link?

          12. rodezzy | | #54



          13. Ocrafty1 | | #55

            Gorgeous!  What kind of fabric did you use?

          14. rodezzy | | #56

            I made it year before last and all I remember is a faux fur with embroidery on the face fabric, dry clean only.  I shopped the day after Thanksgiving that year with a friend that crafts and got it for a steal.  It was originally $29.95 per yd. and I got it for about $4 something per yd. with a combination of the sale price and special door buster coupons.  Don't remember all the details, but it was a good sale.  I would have never bought it otherwise, but for that price I could afford to be experimental and daring.

            Edited 3/26/2008 12:01 pm ET by rodezzy

    2. Ocrafty1 | | #61

      Thanks for the link!  It was very informative!! 

      BTW: Was offline for about a month...The computer died, as did my built in oven.  DH decided that we should replace all of the built in cooking appliances...what a nightmare! Everything had to be retrofitted into my 1913 kitchen that had been remodeled in 1970. DH worked on it after work and on weekends.  I had only my grill and an electric skillet to cook with for 5 wks. and it was either too cold or raining to cook out much. We ate out a lot....Darn! :)  His transmission went out in his truck and it was too cold and wet for him to ride his Harley, so he had to take my car to work. Needless to say, I didn't get much sewing done, and am about 2 wks. behind.  It is soooo nice to be able to come here and chat again!


      1. rodezzy | | #62

        Welcome back.  I'm happy for you also, you got all new appliances.  It was worth the inconvenience, right!  giggle.  I hope that everything goes smooth for a while, but life never sits idly by and lets us have a real good time, it has to give us some twists and turns.  We weather the storms though.  Welcome Welcome Welcome.

  3. WandaJ | | #15

    While you are in the UK and I in the US, I still appreciate your bringing up the issue of how much to charge a client, as well as, relatives and friends. I've read in other venues that some snoop shopping may serve well in helping to determine how much to charge. I did that once while living in another city and found that seamstresses were very reluctant to give even a guesstimate on the telephone. Needless to say that I did not have enough nerve to go to their shops and take up their time and perhaps meet them at a local sewing event!  Go for it and see what you can ascertain by telephone, and if it works all the better. Too, you may see if information can be gleaned from an alterationist at a department store, or boutique. Now with the later, that's a good place to start to see what is being charged, along with the designs.

    I'd like more input on this subject from others who are in the business of garment construction.

    1. Tangent | | #16

      re- what to charge....   the reason you wouldn't get many prices over the phone, is that the seamstress wants to see what you want done.  She doesn't want to give you a price and then be surprised by a project that is way bigger than your description led her to believe.

      Going to a shop where alterations are done, and getting their prices, might be easiest, unless you actually visit a seamstress who's willing to talk about pricing.  Some are probably worried that you just want to undercut their prices and take business away from them.


      1. Sewdance | | #27

        You are so right about pricing over the phone! I don't give prices over the phone (except maybe stating my minimums). According to the caller it's always a "simple" dress, jacket, whatever. Or- my particular favorite- "It's so expensive to buy in the store so I'd like to have it made". Comparing RTW to custom made clothing is like comparing apples to eggplants. I find I spend a fair amount of time with a caller educating them about what custom work really is. As someone mentioned earlier - I'd rather not waste studio consultation time with someone who is unlikely to become a client.

        Edited 10/6/2007 9:36 am ET by Sewdance

        1. jjgg | | #28

          Someone on this list once mentioned she had a client (potential client?) that said, after she was given a price for a custom garment "Oh, I thought home made would be cheaper!" To which the person replied "Yes, perhaps home made would be cheaper, but I'm a professional, I don't' do home made"I love this line, and I think about it every time someone balks at my prices. Remember, when you walk in a store, if you don't like the price on something, you just walk away and find something cheaper. Our customer has this option as well.But you're right too, its always "just a simple wedding dress" Sure - custom drafted pattern out of $500.00/yd venetian lace! I just say there is never anything simple about a wedding dress.

        2. Tangent | | #29

          What is a fair price for something "simple"....   like shorten a pair of jeans? 

           I would have the customer pre-wash the jeans before bringing them, to take care of whatever shrinkage was going to happen, then they put them on and wear their usual shoes.  With a full-length mirror to look at, we would arrive at the desired length of the finished hem, and I put a safety-pin there to mark it.  Now the jeans get laid out flat on the ironing-board, pressed a bit if needed to make them lie flat and even, then I cut both legs to the length needed.  I fold up and pin and press the new hem length, then sew it on the machine, and press the finished hem.  For this I charge $10.oo. 

          Some people say "that's too much", and they are welcome to take the work to someone else.  Others say "nice work" and are repeat customers. 

          If they just want a pair of thrift-store jeans banged off and don't care what it looks like, maybe they should invest in a tube of Speed-Sew glue.  Even charging this customer $2 would not be cheap enough, they want it done free.

          It certainly does depend on who's the customer, and what sort of spending habits they have, as mentioned in an earlier reply. I was living in a small resort town and many of my customers were referred to me by a ladies-wear shop. Most of them were a pleasure to work for. 

          It's the more complicated jobs that are hard to price, like shorten the cuffs on a suit jacket.  Sounds simple, til you have to rebuild the placket higher up, (without the extra fabric in the seam) and do the lining as well, and then a mirror-image of it on the other sleeve.

          It helps if the customer has some idea of what's involved in sewing, but can't or (doesn't want to) tackle the job themselves.

          1. moira | | #32

            Strangely enough, I find people are willing to pay higher prices for alterations. I suppose what they've already spent on the garment isn't worth it if it doesn't fit, and so they have to pay for the alteration, but I charge twice what you do for hemming jeans and people still say 'Is that all?' I used to charge so much less, but repeatedly customers were clearly willing to pay more.

          2. Crazy K | | #33

            I don't do alterations or dressmaking.  When I do on a rare occasion sew for a person other than kids or grandkids, it is strictly a gift situation.  I've been reading this thread with interest, however, because I am interested in human nature!! ha

            Does not the locale play a big roll in how people perceive what you charge?  Small towns -vs- large metro areas and even different areas of the world.  Just as the cost of living differs from one region to the next...........

            Just thinking out loud here.........

            Crazy K

          3. lifelongsewer | | #34

            For anyone involved in custom sewing as a living, you need to check out the Professional Association of Custom Clothiers! I am a sewing teacher, but I have benefited from being a member.
            Kay E. the Sewing Muse in Los Angeles

          4. Tangent | | #35

            I didn't start out intending to do repairs & alterations for customers, I was doing what needed doing for my own family, then a few friends, and one day  someone asked how much I'd charge to do something, and it sort of happened.  Then I met a shop owner who was looking for someone to do alterations, but on her own time, not at the shop.  Between that and people telling each other, I was kept busy.

            The smallish town I was in, had a lot of retired people, tourists and workers. The workers were seldom my customers, they had to be careful with their income.  The tourists were sometimes in a hurry and willing to offer a bonus for getting their stuff done first.  The locals were often repeat customers, happy to find someone to do the work, and apparently satisfied with the quality. There were only a few ladies in town who did sewing for hire, and not all of them were available when needed, so this boosted my customer list too.

            Now I'm in a city, and there are several shops that offer alteration services. Not much need for an at-home seamstress here, especially an unkown newcomer. I might eventually do some for-hire sewing again, but for now I'm back to just doing my own stuff. I considered working at a shop, but I don't do well under pressure....   ;-)

            The prices I charged were what I thought was reasonable for both me and the customer.  I still don't know what the other ladies charged to do the same work!  A few times I was told I hadn't charged enough, and sometimes they thought it was too much, but mostly we got along fine.

            I think your location does have a lot to do with what you charge, but it's especially what sort of customers you get. If it's the mechanic who's got a rip in his coveralls and just needs the hole closed securely, it's not the same pricing as the society lady's silk blouse that needs the shoulders lowered....

            Edited 10/8/2007 2:12 pm by Tangent

          5. Tangent | | #37

            Hi Moira,  I charge different prices according to what is to be done, and try to guess what is reasonable.  Sometimes I underestimate how long it will take and wind up working for very low wages.  Sometimes I give a person a break and charge less because I know they can't afford much.  And sometimes I get a bonus, which is a happy surprise.

            After awhile the prices sort of fell into a pattern, and I based my "pricelist" on that.

          6. moira | | #38

            Hi TangentYes, even though I have what I call a Price Guide to give to clients, I actually do a lot of what you do - and indeed, that's a good part of how the price guide was formulated. It's kind of nice to be able to retain some flexibility, isn't it? I'm reassured to know that I'm not the only one working this way! I got two bonuses in the last two weeks - that was lovely, but not common. Several people have expected me to have charged more, but it's unusual for them to follow their comment with such a kind action. It actually made me examine my own attitude, and encouraged me to see how important it is to really let people who have done something for me, know how much I value their time or skill.

          7. sewchris703 | | #44

            Some of my best clients are sewers who don't want to do it themselves.  They don't balk at the price but they do expect quality work.  And know what can and can't be done.


          8. Tangent | | #45

            That still leaves the question of how much to charge, is it by the hour, and do you include time spent re-doing parts of the project, or is it a flat price for the job?  I think a lot of us are just guessing at what a "fair" price is.

            I agree about the clients who understand what it is they are asking for.

          9. sewchris703 | | #48

            The prices include all fittings, my salary (I'm an employee not contract worker), shop costs,  time it takes to do the alterations and my experience and expertise.  For example, hemming can take over 16 hours of sewing plus fittings-- minimum of 3 fittings:  1st fitting--pinning the hem; 2nd fitting:  the hem is hand basted (beads removed and not sewn back on yet, lace hand basted on) to double check the length; 3rd/final fitting:  the hem is finished, including all lace and beadwork sewn on.  Most hems (with horsehair but without lace or beadwork) takes 8-10 hours of sewing which works out to about $20-$25 an hour.   If I tell the bride that her hem will cost $220 (for example) and I end up doing 4 fittings and redoing the hem basting several times, the cost doesn't go up.  After 10 years, I've gotten pretty good at pricing each gown.  I look at how many layers there are, are the beads sewn to the lace trim only or are they sewn to the satin?, is there horsehair and how is it sewn to the hem (sometimes hems with horsehair needs to be sewn 3 x), is the hem sewn be hand, etc. and base the shop price accordingly.   I do keep in mind how long it takes me to do an alteration.  If a style comes out and a particular alteration takes longer on that style because of how it's made, I price according.


        3. sewchris703 | | #43

          I tell clients that the rule of thumb is that custom usually equals the cost of rtw plus the cost of altering.  But you do get what you pay for--a one of a kind outfit that was made for them.


          1. Sewdance | | #47

            Next question- when you say "RTW +alterations"- what RTW price point are you basing that on? Fine designer garments (Nieman Marcus, for example) or a mid-to-lower end of RTW (Penny's/Sears?? I have had callers tell me they saw such-and-such dress at Penney's but they don't want to spend that much. I try not to laugh out loud.I used to take the time to (attempt) to educate them about custom apparel services and how it works but not so much anymore. Anne

          2. sewchris703 | | #49

            Since I work in a bridal shop, that's rtw prices for a bridal gown.  An Alfred Angelo gown that sells for about $600 in a bridal shop with alteration charges of $300-$400 (hem, shoulders, adding cups, sideseams/zipper, and bustle) will cost about $1000 custom made using similar fabrics/laces.  That cost includes a custom drafted pattern and all fittings, even if the bride gains or loses weight.  However, the cost does change if she changes the style of the gown during the process. 


          3. Tangent | | #50

            Regarding making mass-produced items (such as shopping bags) at home.... I have been asked many times why I don't make this or that and sell it.

            When you figure the cost of buying the supplies retail, the space needed to set up a 'production line', the time spent trying to sew as many as possible as fast as possible, the fun is gone.  And there's no profit, because chances are, you'll find the same thing at Wal-Mart for half the price, or less.

            Making a custom garment or heavily-altered garment is much the same. You can not do it as cost-effectively as the factory it came from.  Sometimes you can explain this, and sometimes they never quite understand.

            One customer found a lovely outfit at the thrift store for $10. By the time the alterations were done on the jacket, skirt, and pants (all lined), she could have bought the set new in her size.  But she was a rare one, she liked that set and was happy with the results, and didn't complain about the cost.

          4. mainestitcher | | #51

            I wanted a dress to wear to dance outings. I found several candidates at Macy's, on sale for about $100. By the time I found and purchased attractive material and had it shipped to me, the material alone would have cost that much. (Ugly material can be had for a bit less)I now work at a bridal shop. If I had to buy all the different fabrics that go into a dress, and notions too, it would cost more than the dress off the rack.And that's at full price. Two weeks ago, A bride walked in and purchased a discontinued "designer" gown for $99. Even with a bunch of alterations, the price would have been quite reasonable.

          5. damascusannie | | #57

            When our daughter got married this past fall, she asked if I wanted to save a few bucks and do the alterations on her RTW wedding dress myself. All she needed done was hemming up and bustling, but with an elaborate overskirt/train, underskirt, lining, crinoline, more lining I said, " NO WAY!" I was MORE than happy to shell out an extra $150 to have the professionals do the job and I thought the alterations were cheap at the price. I have a custom quilting business, done on treadle sewing machines for a niche market of sewing machine collectors who piece their quilts on antique sewing machines and want them finished that way as well. I charge $15/hour for quilting and I was much happier working on a quilt for 10 hours than I would have been working on that dress. I demonstrate machine quilting on my treadles around my area and invariably some old farmer will ask me what I charge for patching overalls. They nearly faint when I tell them $20 per knee. "I could buy a new pair for that!", they say in tones of outrage. "And that's what I recommend that you go and do," I reply. "I'd rather be quilting so you have to pay me a lot to patch instead!"

          6. Tangent | | #58

            Hey girl, it sounds like you got an overdose of common sense!!   Good for you!!!

            I think using the treadle machines as you do is great, keeping the skill alive.  If you ever had to live without electricity you'd probably be just fine.  BTW, your quilts look grorgeous!  Thanks for the link.

          7. damascusannie | | #59

            Thanks--I don't know if it's common-sense or just selfishness. I don't have enough time to quilt as it is and I'm sure not going to waste it doing things I hate if I don't have to! I love my old machines and they are amazingly versatile as anyone who's ever examined clothing from the turn-of-the-century will admit. It is fun to be able to sew on the rare occasions that the power goes out, except that I lose the ability to press. I have a couple of sad irons but since the woodstove's downstairs and my studio is upstairs, that's not a very practical solution either and I'm afraid to use the kerosene-fueled iron, that just looks like a way to blow myself to kingdom come!Thanks for the nice remark about my quilts. One of these days I've got to get a new digital camera and update the albums a bit.

          8. GailAnn | | #60

            When I owned a custom dressmaking business, I too, would get customers who would tell me, "But I can buy it cheaper at Jones (the local KC department store of the day)"  I'd just say, "Yes, why don't you just do that then?" Gail

    2. moira | | #20

      Thanks Wanda for bringing this thread back into line. I was getting notifications about the pricing discussion but the posts had wandered in their content! I think that dressmakers don't like to give prices on the phone, though if I do, it's always with the proviso that when I know what they really want the price may change.Someone earlier had suggested asking the client what she'd be prepared to pay, but I feel you'd then have the same problem in reverse - it would seem unethical to change the amount I'd thought was fair just because she was prepared to pay more. At the minute I'm finding that I'm giving my price as £30 per hour which is acceptable to enough clients for me to have plenty of work coming in, but at the same time I know when I've been slow at working, so I adjust the price to allow for that at the end. I suppose that's not much help to anyone else, but I have a feel for what's reasonable for me and for the client, based on past experience, and recently had my first ever suggestion that I was expensive, though the client also said that my work was of a very high standard. I think I can live with that! I'm still very interested in others' comments.

      Edited 10/3/2007 2:41 pm ET by moira

      1. GailAnn | | #21

        Expensive, but high standard of work.  Yes!  That's a fine compliment. Gail

        1. WandaJ | | #22

          I agree that 'expensive but high standard of work' is a compliment. Keep doing what you are doing if it works for you, however, you may want to consider adding small increments to the pricing of your work. Then, when the price is what some may consider out-of-line, you can always rely on quality.

          Having said that, upon the recommendation of a client that was willing to pay whatever I asked to have her clothes made (where are more of these clients??!!), she suggested that since my work was good and meticulous that there are people out there willing to pay the price, and for the others I may not even want to consider spending time with them beyond the telephone (believe me when I say that that is exactly what I did and until this day I can successfully talk people out of wanting me to sew for them!).

          Now, one may ask what kind of money did this client pay. An example is almost $500 for a custom made 2-pc black wool crepe dress and jacket that was underlined, lined, consisted of a lot of couture like hand-sewing and bound buttonholes on the jacket, along with 3 fittings and 1 session of measurements.

          Is that a lot. No, in my book she got what she paid for and had it made to wear to one of the country's largest owner of women's wear...think NY, LV, CA, Aspen, and Europe, along with headquarters in Cols., Oh, which was at his and his wife's home very near the later city.

          It won't take a rocket scientist to figure out whose home and circle it was fit to be worn to!! Think lingerie, silk, cashmere....

          Edited 10/3/2007 4:42 pm ET by WandaJ

          1. moira | | #24

            Thanks for those, Wanda and Gowngirl. I think your price sounds reasonable, Wanda, if I think in terms of $2 to £1. So that would have been £250 here. Just to compare, I asked £240 for the following outfit, which took me 9 hours plus fitting time, but I rounded it down to 8 hours because a higher price sounded too much: a boned bustier bodice, underlined and lined, and an 8-gore skirt, also lined. A lot of the time was spent in matching both horizontally and vertically, as the fabric was covered in a spotty design which required careful cutting and matching of every pair of dots on every seam. It is a problem, though, isn't it? Locality certainly has a bearing, and also some people positively want to pay a higher price as that confirms the specialist nature of the garment.Edited 10/4/2007 5:53 am ET by moira

            Edited 10/4/2007 5:54 am ET by moira

          2. jjgg | | #25

            >>>>which took me 9 hours plus fitting time, but I rounded it down to 8 hours because a higher price sounded too much: <<<Now, do you think your plumber / electrician / beautician (you put the profession in here) would 'round down' the amount of labor it took to do his /her work because the price was too high?Now, I have negotiated a price with a plumber once only because I knew he was way overcharging me, and I got it for the price I wanted - unstop a drain, I knew what I had paid someone else last year for the same thing. So I was going to throw this new plumber out the door unless he came down o the price. - and that is the customers option, to find someone cheaper. If you are really desperate for the business its a difficult situation, but you should stick to your price and not be embarrassed about it.

          3. moira | | #26

            I'm rebuked! You're right of course. My problem was (there's always an excuse!) that this was a friend and I was already having an internal battle about taking money from her in the first place! But I was kind of pleased with myself that I NEARLY managed to stick to my pricing guide!Each time makes me stronger though. Thanks for the ticking-off!

          4. gowngirl | | #30

            The bottom line is this: Charge what doing the work is worth to you. If you like what you are doing, the customers are satisfied, you get repeat customers, and the money you are getting now is worth it to you, then stick with what you are doing. You know the saying, if it isn't broken then don't fix it. Tell customers that you like to keep your prices reasonable, but that you happily accept tips, then perhaps they will voluntarily pay you more! No one would complain about that. If by chance you're considering a change in price, ask customers that express surprise at the price what they were expecting to pay. Such questions like would they be a repeat customer should you raise your prices will get to the bottom of what they are thinking. Good luck!

      2. DonnaCouture | | #39

        Hi there.....I use to work in alterations at a high end retail store not long ago.  We did not quote prices over the phone in addition to sight unseen right in our departments.  Here's why:  people who do not sew, sometime think it's easy or fast...They do not see what lies beneath.  Fully lined, boning, narrow hems, etc.   It sometimes takes more time to take an item apart, than to put it together.

        Don't box yourself in, and then find out you made an unrealistic commitment.

        Hope this is somewhat helpful to someone.



        1. Ocrafty1 | | #41

          I took several of the gowns I'd made for my daughters (several yrs. ago) to a local craft show last week, as well as photos of others I've made. I'm wanting to get back into custom sewing. One lady came to me and wanted " a gown like that one, but without the white stuff and lace....I already have the pink fabric." It was a 'Cinderella style' gown (the kind that needs a crinoline) that had a blue satin bodice and skirt overlay, over a white taffeta underlay that had 6 rows of white gathered 8 " wide lace. When I told her that I would charge at least $150, she was outraged. I explained that it had boning in the bodice, was lined and would require a lining in the 'overskirt' if she wanted one without the 'white.' She said she didn't want 'all that stuff done to it.'  I explained that the gown needed that 'stuff' and I wouldn't make any gown that wasn't up to my specifications.  She was furious, and told me that she'd find someone else to do a "home sewn job at a lower price."  I told her that I was a professional, and didn't do 'home sewn jobs', and wished her well.  She came back about 15 min. later and asked for my card.  I'm glad I told her I'd charge "at least" $150....it will probably be more....she'll be a difficult client...if I take the job...LOL.

          I always tell clients who want a quick estimate, that I can't give them a definite price without seeing the fabric first. I'm certain she didn't have any lining fabric....she said she saw the fabric and bought it. I'm not even sure if she has enough.  That's why I never give an exact price until I know what I'm getting into.  My price list has base prices....that also says " and up"...and they usually are.


          1. jjgg | | #42

            Good for you Deb, and I just love that line "I don't do home sewing, I'm a professional"People just don't have any idea what it takes. I had a MOB contact me, her comment on the phone was "and my mother was a very good dressmaker" that comment worried me until I met her, she had a great respect for and a very good understanding of what it takes to make a gown.Good luck with the client.

        2. Tangent | | #46

          "Don't box yourself in, and then find out you made an unrealistic commitment"


          That's good advice,  I wish I could remember to follow it!!

  4. gowngirl | | #23

    I am also in the USA. The prices that can be charged vary by location even within my own state (Oregon), and there are huge differences. Where I am, people are very stingy and in general don't want to pay much for the creative work I do, whereas when I have inquiries from out of state (such as California), they wonder why I'm so cheap and may dismiss me thinking there must be something wrong with my workmanship. In general if you live in a large city, you can charge higher prices, whereas if you live in a small town, high prices will get you no customers, doesn't matter how good you are. If you can't compare to your local competitors to gage prices, look at the median and income range for your area. Who is your target customer? Visit the bridal shops and find out what the going prices are for comparible items. Moira, perhaps your prices are too low. I know I couldn't charge $60 and get away with it here...

  5. dionna | | #36

    Another thing that would be helpful is to get a deposit before you start any garment in my own experience I have learned to do this from anyone family or friends this will help keep your business on track

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