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Hi With Some Questions

StitchCraft | Posted in General Discussion on

Hi Everyone!

I’m new to Gatherings. My name is Laurel Rudolph and I live in Athens, Georgia.

I recently started up my dressmaking business again and like I’ve read in the other messages, am having trouble with coming up with prices. I’ve gone around to several places that do alterations so I think I have those prices. It’s the dressmaking prices I’m not sure about. I’ve looked on some dressmaking sites and after I pick my jaw off the floor from the prices they charge (not saying they’re not worth it) I think “how can I charge that?”

I made a dress for my daughter yesterday (she bought the pattern, fabric, and cut it out). I’d say it took me about six hours to make the dress. If I charge $30/hr that would mean I would charge someone $180. That’s where I’m having the problems. I know it’s a lost art and very few people sew anymore but who would pay that? Any feedback would be appreciated.

I’m also toying with taking the master’s class from the Sewing and Design Professionals Association. Any thoughts on that?

Happy Sunday! Laurel


  1. gailete | | #1

    People with money who have fitting problems of some sort or want something special. Yes, it is a jaw dropper but do you really want to work for less than McDonalds wages? One of the things with starting a business is planning who your customers will be and how you will market to them. Do you have a specialty of some type that would bring in customers, like tailoring, gown making, ladies business suits, home decor?

    Glad I will never have this problem to think through as my garment making skills aren't good enough to charge for. I only make things for love.


  2. jjgg | | #2


    Are you a member of ASDP?  joining will be the best decision you could make if you want to run a professional dressmaking business.  the support, advice and help you will get will be amazing.

    There is  more to making a dress than just the 6 hrs it takes to cut it out and sew it up, andyes, people will pay $180.00 for a dress

    1. StitchCraft | | #3

      Thanks for the advice. No, I'm not a member but I've thought about it. Sounds like a good investment. L

  3. Teaf5 | | #4

    If you were sewing for someone else, you'd also have to create the pattern, buy the fabric and notions, and do preliminary and final fittings, so $180 would work out to about minimum wage.  Will people pay more than that for a dress? The answer to that has changed dramatically in the last year; many of those who may have afforded it in the past cannot even think about it in the face of current layoffs, pay cuts, investment failures and foreclosures.

    You will also have to deal with the customers' expectations (often completely unrealistic), timeframe (usually too short), and changes (possibly infinite); you'll also need some sort of contract and way ensuring payment.  In addition to the professional association already mentioned, you'll need business, tax, licensing, and legal professional services.  As a small business owner, you'll need to be very, very well-informed and prepared to succeed.

    I agree that a specialty and niche market has a much stronger possibility than a general sewing business.  People won't pay for something they can get in ready-made, even if it is of much higher quality, but they will pay for something they need if they can't get it elsewhere.

    1. SewistKitty | | #5

      There has been much discussion on sewing for others and what to charge. One of the members drew up this contract for her potential customers: http://forums.taunton.com/tp-gaherings/messages?msg=6670.21 Hopefully this link will get you to the contract.

  4. ohiostar | | #6

    Hi Laurel
    I have a few thoughts and if you don't mind I'd like to share them with you. Do you know how much YOUR skills are worth? It is one thing to go out and compare your idea of a wage with what others are charging, but do you have a way to measure that? You estimated that it took about 6 hours to make your daughter a dress. Make a similar garment again, only this time, plug in an electric analog clock set to 12. Everytime you stop working on the process of making this garment, to drink your coffee, go to the bathroom, answer the door or phone, pause and rest to watch a couple of commercials, etc, unplug that clock. When the garment is completely finished, take a look at your time. Is it in line with your estimate? Could you have streamlined your work, or found an easier or more efficient way to work? Are you worth the current rate of 30$ an hour? If you were uncomfortable with a 180$ dress, perhaps it is more an indication of rusty skills.

    The IRS considers a business successful if it makes a profit 3 of 5 years, other wise it is a hobby and the costs are your responsibility. Do yourself a service and evaluate your equipment, your skills, your overhead and price accordingly. As you improve in these areas, raise your prices. Give yourself room to fit into the market. If you charge too low, you'll have more work than you can properly do, and if you charge too high your work will be scrutinized closely.

    Many years ago I was a widowed mother of 3 children under the age of 7, and I needed to work from home. I took a great deal of inspiration from the book of Proverbs, Chap 29. "she works late into the night and knows the value of everything she makes". While I don't remember the exact number to that verse, I know that the entire chapter contains a lot of insight for a SAHM or a retired woman, or a woman who wants to help the family with an income.

    I would really encourage anyone interested in sewing for an income, to do the hard work of finding your own place in the market. There are books on the market and in the library to help you determine what constitutes your costs. And I'll bet it won't be too long before you'll say "Thirty dollars an hour" with your head held high.

  5. Tatsy | | #7

    When Sandra Betzina spoke in Bakersfield a few years ago, she told a story about a friend of hers who had moved to Paris and become a dressmaker. When Sandra found out that her friend was charging an exorbitant amount per garment ($125,000, I think) she asked who in the world would pay that. The friend replied that it didn't matter. She only needed one fool a year.

    Of course, there's something about being a Paris dressmaker.

  6. PASDENOM | | #8

    Go into a high end department store and see what they're charging for well made garments off the rack. Your custom fitted, custom detailed, custom fabric choice garments should cost more.

    You do have to consider what competition there is in your area, which you might do by pricing getting something made by another dressmaker. In my area there are a lot of recent immigrants from countries where they were tailors or dressmakers and they underpay themselves by US standards. When I hear how little friends have paid for complicated alterations I give up any idea of sewing as a business.

  7. krichmond | | #9

    Hi and welcome!


    Just a quick note.  I noticed a spelling error in the webaddress posted by LasVegasKitty25 ('gathering' is missing  its 't') so you will be sent to the main webpage for Taunton Press rather than the specific message.  If you retype the address, you will get to it.   I will try to 'capture' it and resend it, but I'm not exactly a teckkie when it comes to this particular medium.

     I am the original poster of the contract, but it was not created by me.  The credit for this goes to a friend of mine when she went into a sewing business partnership with a notary public.   I believe they co-created the contract as it seems to be the brainchild of an artisan and a lawyer.   She specialized in wedding/bridesmaid dresses and had no shortage of horror stories when it came to dealing with brides, etc.  Anyway, she showed me the contract and she let me have a copy (I was also considering doing a little sewing-for-hire in the future at that point) and I was intrigued by its simplicity, clarity and how well it set up the client/service-provider relationship from the very beginning.   The contract is about 15 years old, so if you decide to adapt it for your needs, you might want to up the $10 cancellation fee.

    Good luck in your endeavours,


  8. krichmond | | #10



    Just me again.  The address is:


  9. Ceeayche | | #11

    Welcome to our happy world!

    Based on the prices that we are getting charged here in the DC area for ready to wear, I think the estimate of $180 is a bargain for a custom made dress.  This is particularly true if it's finished beautifully, fits well and makes me look and feel like a million bucks. 

    Several years ago when I was working on my graduate program overseas, I paid for a Hong Kong tailor to make a wool suit with skirt, pants, and jacket and two white blouses (one cotton the other silk).  I spent around $800 US as a splurge.  I have to tell you I've had outfits come and go, but that basic navy suit is STILL my go to outfit for important meetings and presentations.  It fits beautifully and in retrospect, I wish I'd had two or three done.

    I guess I agree with our other posters, $180 can be a bargain!

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