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Conversational Threads

Price to make a bridesmaid dress

mlga730 | Posted in General Discussion on

Could someone tell me the what you are charging to make for a very simple bridesmaid dress in silk duponni?


  1. sewingkmulkey | | #1

    Twenty years ago when I was sewing lots of bridesmaid's dresses I charged a minimum of $80 for a simple dress.  When you consider the time involved in making muslims and at least 2 or 3 fittings the price, even then, was very reasonable.  Please don't under estimate you time and talents!


  2. mlga730 | | #2

     I want to be fair in light of the economy and to myself as a business person.




    1. ohiostar | | #6

      A fair question: How much are you worth? How much are your skills costing you? How much time do you need to do a proper job? Have you worked with this person before? Do you have her measurements and a working sloper for her? If she isn't going to pay more than 100$ than she should go to Davids. If she has fitting issues, than she is used to paying for some kind of sewing services to get a decent looking garment. Don't short change yourself because of the economy. Better to make the dress as a gift than to sell your work cheaply. Silk workmanship is worth it's price.

    2. gailete | | #28

      >>I want to be fair in light of the economy and to myself as a business person.<<

      I realize that this may sound silly and I don't sew for pay, but what does the economy have to do with the price you charge? Whether the economy is good or bad, if someone wants a custom made dress, they should be prepared to pay for it. Even the Bible says a laborer is worthy of his (her) hire. Just because our economy is shaky at this point is no reason for someone to expect you to give them a discount or for you to think you need to discount yourself. Believe it or not, there are still lots of folks with lots of dollars out there.

      As a self employed person you need to be charging AT LEAST $30/hour. Don't forget that has to cover your overhead (mortgage/rent, utilities, etc) and the taxes and social security you have to pay Uncle Sam at the end of the year. I would be more inclined to charge $40-50+ depending on your area.

      When you go into business you have to start how you mean to end. In other words, if you want to be the discount custom sewer, then charge as little as you can get by with...you will probably get plenty of customers and wear yourself to a frazzle. Or you can decide you are going to be the top of the line custom seamstress and your customers know that you will be charging what you are worth and will be willing to pay for it. Will you get as many customers as when you charge lower prices? Maybe, maybe not, but one well paid dress will net you much more than trying to crank out 3 to get the same amount of money, but will be taking 3 times the time, etc.

      This is just some business philosophy that we all need to think about when becoming self-employed, especially we women. For far too long we have been taught to under value ourselves, and give the shirt off our backs, but that doesn't make you much profit. If you show your customers that you value your time (and theirs) and that you value your talents, they will respect you more than going and giggling behind your back about what a great deal they got as everyone else would have charged way more.


      1. mlga730 | | #29

        Thank you all for all the suggestions and thoughts.


      2. KharminJ | | #30

        Oh, Gail! What perfect timing - and thank you for the Bible quote! Even though it's not *my* Holy Book, it resonates in so many ways, and it will definitely resonate with customers. I will use that as a lever to help get me over the "I do this easily and well, therefore I should give it away" road-block that I so often face."Under-valuing" your own knowledge and experience is SO-O-O easy to do, and so counter-productive. We've all seen the "It would cost $100,000 to hire outsiders to do all the work a Wife does for her family" quote - "sewing" was probably not even included in that figure!Bright Blessings, all!Kharmin

        1. SewistKitty | | #31

          I remember that there was a similar discussion a few months ago about getting 1/3 of the money up front, 1/3 after first fitting or close to that time and the rest before the dress was handed over to protect the sewer.
          Do not sell yourself short! You are making a custom fitted dress not an off-the-rack one. You are using difficult fabric and really making two separate garments i.e. lining and dress as well as attaching the interlining initially. You will not be respected if you sew for less than you are worth. I have turned down clients because they try to bargain with me and I have a firm price. As others have suggested draw up a price list before you start.
          There is also a sewing a garment contract somewhere in the archives which would be helpful to see. I may be able to find it.

          1. SewistKitty | | #32

            I just found the sewing for others contract used by krichmond. It was posted on 5/18/2007 and is post no. 6670.21. Look in the "search messages" at the bottom of the posts and type in garment contracts or sewing contracts. You should be able to see this contract.
            Hope this helps.

            Edited 6/12/2009 12:26 am ET by LasVegasKitty25

          2. andsewon | | #37

            Hi, I just tried to find the garment contracts in "search messages" box and nothing came up. Am I doing something wrong. Thanks

          3. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #38


            Here is, PERHAPS, the Sales Agreement being discussed. I hope this is helpful to you.

          4. SewistKitty | | #39

            Thanks for doing the link correctly for me. As you can see I am struggling with linking articles.

          5. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #40

            No problem. It's always a pleasure to help any way I can.

          6. ljb2115 | | #41

            Thanks for the link.  Its already copied and right now laying on the kitchen table! Its very comprehensive and should take any surprises out of customer relations.

      3. sewchris703 | | #33

        If we don't value ourselves then how can we expect our clients to value us? At the bridal shop where I work, when my boss retires, there is no one to become my assistant. Not only is sewing not valued, it's no longer taught. And the pattern companies aren't helping when they product patterns that not only don't fit but the instructions are poorly written and claim that a garment can be sewn in an hour.Chris

        1. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #34

          I have been fortunate in that I have been able to tour a large dressmaking factory and a Canadian designer's RTW work rooms. It is a whole 'nuther world there. There is no way a home enterprise can come close to competing on price point on factory made garments. There are machines that make specific jobs quicker and easier. It is line production from layout to final pressing. The whole process is designed for efficiency and speed. Even the garments are designed and patterns are drafted with factory construction methods in mind.
          Home sewing, and custom dressmaking are more the methods of a couture house. Custom fitted, and hand finishing. Clients must understand that a custom made dress is just that-CUSTOM. Not cheaper, Better. Better fitting, better construction. We need to use language that reflects that when talking to clients. We need to talk about our work as if it is something extra special, which it is. Cathy

        2. jjgg | | #35

          Not only are the patterns poorly fitting, but often the patterns are so poorly made that the seam lines don't match up.

          1. Stillsewing | | #36

            Amen to that!!!!

      4. olivia williams | | #53

        thank you for your post

  3. andsewon | | #3

    It probably depends on what is involved with your bridemaid. Does she need a muslin or will she fit rather easy. I do alot of custom work and have a dress form that I use for fitting the garment to my clients measurements. I would probably charge around $95+ because silk duiponi ravels terrible and you should serge the raw edges before sewing.

    1. Sewdance | | #4

      Wow! A BM dress, in silk duppioni, for $95.00. Can you make this in 3-4 hours including consultation and fittings??

      1. mlga730 | | #5

        I can't make this dress in 3-4 hours --- not with the level of detail I put in.

        I just hope to be fair to myself.

        1. ljb2115 | | #7

          Have you given any quotes?  I am semi-retired from the business, but it helps to have a written list posted with prices, which will include the option of charging more for difficult fabrics, more fittings and weight gain/loss during the process.  You need to consider all factors when quoting and give everything in writing.  The Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (formerly Professional Association of Custom Clothiers) has guidelines for its members to follow so they are not harrased or bothered by customers wanting something for nothing.  Your prices are far too low for the time you are investing.  This person could not purchase a dress for the price you listed in your prior message.

          To quote you - you must be fair to yourself. This will eliminate any bothersome customers who complain about the prices.  If someone will make it cheaper, send the customer to that person.

  4. Teaf5 | | #8

    Considering that most bridesmaid dresses are made of synthetic fabrics and are mass produced but still cost at least $100- $200, I would imagine that a custom made silk dress should start at about $300 plus the cost of the fabric.Many people think that having someone "run this up" at home is a cheaper way to go, but it's actually far more expensive. Unless you have a lot of experience charging for and collecting on your efforts, a bridesmaid dress is a risky and likely not very profitable venture. Even if it's for a dear friend or loved one whom you can trust, you face a lot of risks in the project: what happens if she stains it or gets it dirty while trying it on, what happens if she gains or loses weight, what if the bride changes her mind or doesn't like it, etc.?

    1. mlga730 | | #9

      Thanks everyone for comments.

      I will take all of this information into consideration.


      1. Sewdance | | #10

        Please let us know what you decide to do.

  5. sewchris703 | | #11

    Along with what everyone else said, I'd call around to dressmakers and bridal shops in your area to get an idea. But be prepared to go in person with a picture of the dress and a sample of fabric. A reputable dressmaker won't quote over the phone. Here the going rate for a silk bridesmaid dress would run to $300, depending. A polyester satin gown starts around $150-$200. But it all depends on the style of the gown--does it have boning, what kind, will it need to be interlined as well as lined, what is the lining made out of, what kind of zipper--invisible, lapped, hand-picked? These are some of the questions you need to ask and the answers will be reflected in your price. As well as your time, including measuring, altering the pattern, fittings, etc.

    1. mlga730 | | #12

      I looked at ready to wear dresses very close to the dress to be made.

      The retail varied from $99 on sale to $245.

      I decided to charge $125+ to make the dress which does not include fabric and notions.


      1. jjgg | | #13

        what is the style of this dress? For $125.00 I hope it is very very simple, unlined, basic no embellishments.
        Undercutting prices (or just plain pricing yourself too low) makes it very difficult for the rest of us to charge a decent wage. But then again, you generally get what you pay for. If someone wants my quality, they pay my prices. If someone want's 'homemade' they can pay 'homemade' prices.

        Edited 6/10/2009 10:35 am ET by jjgg

        1. mlga730 | | #14

          This dress will be underlined and lined; has no embellishments; it's a 50's style dress with a plain bodice and unpressed pleated skirt. I plan to make a muslin and have at least 4 fittings.

          I do very high quality work ( mixture of hand and machine) and I take into consideration the fabric used for the garment, the treatments that I will use in handling the fabric in order to acheive the final outcome of the garment. I really don't think that I am price cutting other seamstress. I would think that other seamstresses would price their work accordingly and for the what their market will bear.

          Do you mind telling me how much you would charge for this dress?


          1. ljb2115 | | #15

            Dear friend.....Your price is way too low unless.....you live in a depressed area and are a friend of the bride or groom and will count this as your wedding gift.  Please do not sell yourself short, you are doing far too much work for such a paltry amount of money.  If you do all this work for the price you have quoted to the Forum, you will be making lined, underlined dresses forever and making $.27/hr. 

            This is from a seamstress (professional) who learned the hard way forty years ago.

          2. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #16

            This price would have been appropriate, 25 yrs ago...
            You need to cost your labour just as other trades do, by the hour. Set an hourly wage, based on overheads, plus what you need to earn to live on. Estimate the actual time you would spend working on the garment. Rule of thumb when I started, yrs ago was minimum 2 to 3 times the regular cost of fabrics and notions. Even that cost is often low now. Low cost fabrics with a lot of detail should cost more. Keep in mind you are a highly skilled tradesperson. You have skills and abilities that must be paid for fairly. You have experience, tools, and training to pay for. You are allowed to put yourself in the same class as a carpenter, cabinetmaker, plumber, etc. Cathy

          3. jjgg | | #17

            Underlining, lining, fashion fabric, muslin - you are cutting out the same pattern 4 times, sewing it 4 times ( muslin, apply underlining to fashion fabric, sew up, sew lining, put it all together)
            Pleats - pinning to make sure they hang right and then basting in place.sewing the bodice to the skirt, sleeves? strapless? boning? 4 fittings, and is it a slippery silk that will require a lot of hand basting? or something more stable that will just need pins. Is it a silk satin that you have to really really careful about pins? How full is the skirt (length of hemming the skirt and the lining) zippers? down the back?I would charge a lot more than $125.00Give yourself a decent living wage for a highly skilled dressmaker, say about #30.00/hr or more - your plumber probably charges $80.00/hr. Hair dresser $40.00 for a cut that takes only 30 min or less.each fitting will take 30 min to one hr, how long will it take you to cut our each fabric? that includes laying out the fabric and fussing with the grain to get it straight.This gal is getting a CUSTOM FITTED dress, she needs to pay.
            If someone handed me the pattern and said "make this up" straight from the pattern, I might charge about $125.00, that's if the fabric was easy to handle. slippery stuff - more.

          4. ohiostar | | #18

            Please, do yourself a favor and find out how much you are worth
            (price your skills, your overhead, your time. Asking us what we would charge and then charging what you are comfortable with, is selling yourself short,and judging your labor prices with what is in the marketplace is not a good comparison. They made hundreds of those dresses and therefore the costs are divided by hundreds. You are one laborer and your costs are higher but the trade off is a one-of-a-kind garment and fit. Like I said before, if you don't want to do the work to charge fairly for yourself, then do the work as a gift. Otherwise, you will be doing wedding dresses for 150$ because somebody else got a dress for next to nothing and told everyone they knew. Working from home should not be a sweatshop. The job is worth 300$.

          5. Sewdance | | #19

            I would say AT LEAST $300.00-actually that's not really enough for the amount of work involved. As one poster pointed out, underpricing hurts all of us in the business. I, too, learned quickly to adjust my prices to reflect what other skilled trades were making. Also, bear in mind that there is absolutely NO relationship between the cost of RTW and the cost of custom made clothing.Ask your hairdresser to cut, color, and style your hair for $4.00 and see what kind of response you get!

            Edited 6/10/2009 5:06 pm ET by Sewdance

          6. ljb2115 | | #20

            I was commenting to a friend this afternoon about this discussion.  She agrees with the majority that if you sell yourself short - you will never climb into a working wage.  I know this is hard to conquer if you live in a small area where everyone knows you.  Case in point.....my brother who is widowed had some denims repaired and the seamstress charged him $1.00.  Of course he was happy; but when I told him I would have charged him at least $15.00 he nearly dropped the phone.  (I would never charge my brother, but you get my point.)

          7. mlga730 | | #21

            Thank you ladies for all of your the input.

            I get it -- don't sell myself short when setting prices.

            Will I get any work?????



          8. ljb2115 | | #22

            Yes, you will.  You will have a reputation to uphold and you will be in demand!

            Best wishes and good luck!

          9. mainestitcher | | #26

            "Thank you ladies for all of your the input.I get it -- don't sell myself short when setting prices.Will I get any work?????"That depends on the economy in your area. And what you're willing to set as a price for yourself.I work for $ outside the home because folks around here have been taught to expect seamstresses to work for minimum wage. If I charged minimum wage, I'd "take home" about half of that.I'm not so anxious to be self-employed that I'll work for $4 an hour.The dresses in the store where I work are made in China. They are well-made, too, with underlining and lining, and boning where needed. Alterations aren't included, and there is the occasional case of alts costing as much as the dress. This is frustrating to the customer. One alternative would be to have the dresses made to order by a seamstress: this may cost less than the price of the dress plus the alterations. The other maids will be paying for custom dresses when they don't need them.The other pitfall of custom is this: customer must pay for the finished dress, whether the style is becoming or not. A dress may be well-made and perfectly fitted, and still not camouflage the flaws, real or imagined, in the wearer's figure. In this day and age, people expect a money-back guarantee on everything.

            Edited 6/11/2009 10:41 am ET by mainestitcher

          10. ohiostar | | #27

            Here is an idea. If you decide that you will sew something, get an electric clock. Set the clock at 12 and begin to work. Whenever you need to stop to talk on the phone, get coffee, go to the bathroom, or stop for the day, unplug the clock. When the job is completed you will know just how much actual time you spent on the project. You will also know if that 6 or 8 hours you spent on the "clock" took you two or three days. In the 70's I was a SAHM who did alterations. I used this method, and found that it took an hour to shorten pants. I charged 3.50$. How the ladies howled, because someone had taught them that shortening pants should only cost .50$ It cost that much to wind the bobbin with the appropriate thread, set up the machine and I included that in the cost of my charge. I got business and other alterations as well. The mall was charging more. I didn't sell myself short, but I didn't have the mall store's overhead. I did however have a machine that cost money, and every few years I needed a new one, I had pins and needles, and thread to buy, scissors that no one could touch....and on and on. Your wages should pay for more than the groceries if you are a serious seamstress. A sewing reputation is a valuable thing, guard it well and you will always have work.

          11. Ocrafty1 | | #45

            Just came across this post, having just returned from our Harley trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia....

            I haven't read all of the responses...but I've been doing custom sewing and alterations for over 30 yrs. and have recently raised my charges to reflect my SKILLS & KNOWLEDGE!!!!!  I've had it with clients who want a professional garment for $4/hr!  If they want something cheap, they can go to the local bridal shop.  I do a professional job, and there aren't that many of us that have the skills to do this anymore.  If a gal came to me and wanted a silk dupioni gown, it would cost her at least $250 for my time and skills.  She'd have to pay for the fabric, notions, etc.  and that's if I don't have to make a muslin.

             I also get half the $$ at the time they bring the fabric and they don't get the garment until I get the rest of the CASH.  Since I work from home, I've learned the hard way that some clients have a tendency to stop payment on personal checks, after they have their garment.  I only take checks from clients that I have had for quite a while.  I even had one FORMER client, who owned her own business, stop payment on a check after she'd told me she loved the work I'd done. Not only that...she actually had the nerve to call another client who she was friends with, and tell her that I didn't know what I was doing and not to have me make the wedding gown for her friend and her matron of honor gown!  I was not only our the $$ for the garment....I had to pay a fee at my bank!!!!!  BEWARE of anything but cash.

            Echoing what others said...don't sell yourself short!  Get what you're worth.  You'll earn every cent!  People will come and the word will get around.  I'm not trying very hard at this point to do a lot...too much other stuff to do; but I already have 3 grandmother of the bride gowns to do between now and Oct. and had 2 prospective clients contact me last night.  Will keep me  busy enough through the summer.  I recommend printing your own business cards and putting them in local businesses.  You'll be surprised at how many calls you get!


          12. ohiostar | | #46

            I had this happen early in my career, and then she tried to convince the other customer to renege on her custom made jacket. These were Bank tellers! I was very careful about sizing up the client after that. Not to say that I haven't been taken in other aspects of sewing, but I also notice that "stiffers" get "stiffed" themselves and then I have to work on not gloating! It's never pleasant for anyone. But you get what you pay for isn't always about value of the dollar.

          13. sewchris703 | | #24

            Close to $300. That would include 30 minutes to measure the girl; 30 minutes to alter the pattern; 60 minutes to cut out all the fabrics. The gown itself would probably take up to 5 hours to sew. Add in 3 fittings at 1 hour each. That works out to an hourly wage of $30 an hour. Add in 3-5 hours to make the muslin and fit it to the body bringing it down to $20 an hour. If your hours work out about the same, you're only making about $8.34 an hour, barely minimum wage in CA.I have cut my prices as a gift to the bride, the daughter of dh's coworker. I charged $75 for a bias cut polyester dress with a drape instead of $150. Labor only. The girls bought the fabric, notions, and patterns. They were able to save money by buying the fabric all in one piece and I only needed 2 patterns to get all the sizes I needed. Chris

          14. mlga730 | | #25

            Thanks for the information!


      2. sewchris703 | | #23

        You forgot to add alterations charges to the retail price of the gowns. Very few bridesmaids can buy their gowns and not have something altered. At the very least have it hemmed. Average alterations charges a bridesmaid can be expected to pay here in San Diego is anywhere from $35-55 for just a hem up to $100 for more extensive alterations. How long will it take you make the dresses? You are selling yourself cheap at that price. Estimating 30 minutes to measure the girl, 30 minutes to alter the pattern to fit her measurements, 30-60 minutes to cut out the dress, that doesn't leave much time for sewing and fitting. Not if you want to earn what your skills are worth.

  6. lou19 | | #42

    I have made bridal wear in the UK for over 20 years.

    My advise is find out what other dressmakers in your area charge. You can only charge more than them if you offer an extra service.

    Do NOT give your customers your making up costs and add patterns, threads, zips etc as extras.  Customers have no idea what these items cost and will be dismayed when they get the bill. You will also give bills for £228.67 etc. Much better to charge £230  or £225 including  all items.


    It is soul destroying for a customer to say "did you really use £3 of thread" or " I never realised the patterns cost THAT much"  Fitting also take longer when they are choosing between a 22p button and 29p buttons.

    Of course you can say "I always use silk lining which cost £5 a metre" but that is shop price........you buy yours wholesale . Ditto zips and thread.

    Because every dress and customer is different some dresses are a breeze and a pleasure to make. Other dresses seem more hard work.

    If I am buying fabric I take 60% deposit. If the client supplies fabric I take 40%. The rest is payable on completion.

    My other advise is look professional. Label your hangers. Buy proper bridal bags. Have a  order book to write down orders. Write down both a wedding date and a "to be finished " date.





    1. mlga730 | | #43

      Thank you for your help.

      You stated that you were in business 20 years ago, are you still sewing for the public today?


      1. lou19 | | #44

        Sorry if this wasn't clear .

        Started business over 20 years ago. Yes, still sewing. Wedding dresses.And bridal evening and vintage dress alterations 

  7. Majormomma | | #47

    I have found that I tend to underprice my work and end up working far too hard and long for the money when doing custom sewing.  I end up delaying other jobs (that pay better for the time) and undergoing a lot of stress.  Slowly I've been learning my lesson and have been raising my prices.  I recently had someone approach me to sew five BM dresses (all in different sizes), which were long, unlined, and sleeveless.  I gritted my teeth and quoted a price of $80 ea, which I felt was about $20 too low for the time/fitting involved.  When I called the customer, it was obvious she didn't want to pay that much and so I told her to give me a call once she thought it over.  I was relieved to not have to do the job!

    Trust me, when you work for too little, you lose money on other projects you could be doing and you end up resenting working for too little money.  Never work on any project that you aren't happy about doing!  And never work on anything that won't pay you a decent wage!  Always remember that proficient sewing skills are a rare commodity these days, which makes them valuable and in demand.  Pay yourself like the professional you are!

    If you raise your prices appropriately, you can only hope you will lose business!  Just think, if you double your current prices and lose half of your customers, you will earn the same money and do half the work!  When you lose half of your customers, you lose the ones who are more concerned about price than quality.  Most of my customers never ask my prices and never blink an eye when I present them with the bill.

    I recently started doing some alterations for a nearby bridal shop.  The shop had been sending all of their alterations to a couple of different ladies in a town 45 miles away.  They were ruining the dresses - the work was unbelievably awful!  I charge at least twice and perhaps 3X as much to do the work, but my work is good and I haven't ruined anything.  No one has balked at paying what I charge.  The shop's owner is thrilled to have someone who can do good work.  Her reputation was being hurt by the bad work the other alterationists were doing.

    Edited 6/29/2009 3:23 pm ET by Majormomma

    1. mlga730 | | #48

      Thanks everyone for your very helpful advice.

      Does anyone have a pricing guide that could be used to determine what to charge for making a dress, blouse, pants, or suits?

      Let me know.



      1. mainestitcher | | #49

        I don't recall where I saw it, maybe on this forum.One professional had three price scales: one for making garments exactly according to pattern, a second for fitted garments, and a third for very high-quality couture garments.All three types were priced by assigning a dollar amount multiplied by the number of pattern pieces in the garment.

        1. mlga730 | | #50


  8. ParisWish | | #51

    You may get this done under $80 at http://www.pariswish.com/

  9. ryan88 | | #52

    I think it also depends on what goes with your bridemaid.


    Bullet Force

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