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anastasi | Posted in General Discussion on

I have a question about what to charge for making samples of bridesmaids dresses.

How do I charge? Would this be by the seam, by the pattern piece? How much for boning? Would there be an extra charge for any hand finishing?

I’ve done work for other designers, who either had a flat rate for items, or an hourly rate. I just want all my options


  1. suesew | | #1

    I would charge by the hour. Until you work with a particular fabric you can't really know what you are getting into. Doing it by the seam or the piece doesn't really allow for the detail (time) that some pieces require.

  2. Ocrafty1 | | #2

    Lucky you, to have found a designer to sew for!  Do you do it from your home, or in their shop?  

    I think I'd charge by the hour in your situation. I make wedding gowns and formals for individual clients, but where I live, in IN, no one want to pay for the skills that I have and the time that it takes.  They think that anything "home sewn" should be less expensive than what they could buy in a shop.  I find out what they want and find a similar gown in a shop, then charge competitively. If they supply all of the materials, notions, etc., I deduct that from the cost of the gown; if not, I deduct what I paid for them. If I charged $10/hr for my services, they'd scream to the heavens!  I figure I'm worth at least that...if I hem 5 pair of jeans in an hr. and charge $8/pair ($40/hr) they think that's wonderful; but try to charge $10/hr for a gown and they think they're being robbed. 

    Good Luck...and let us know what you decide and how it goes.

    1. gowngirl | | #3

      I think people are the same where ever you are, ocrafty1. People are too used to products sewn in India and China where people get paid cents per day, and that's what we professionals are compared to. For people who don't sew, they don't understand the training and years it takes to become accomplished at all it entails. I get the same thing- people send a photo of a dress that's already been made (and designed by someone who paid for the cost to produce and market the dress just for them) and then they want to recreate it for a fraction of the retail price.  I'm really not complaining, I just think people don't understand. 

  3. KathleenFasanella | | #4

    Good samplemakers are hard to find, imo. There's a lot of work I'm not taking on because I don't have anyone. There's a gap in expectations. It's not that professionals don't want to pay for it, it's a disconnect between what a designer or pattern maker wants done vs what a (even skilled) home sewer does and how they do it. Good examples are installing zippers and even welt pockets. There's better methods with superior results than traditional home methods of basting seams etc. Then there's the issue of equipment. It's not so much that industrials are faster, it's that the stitch quality and pressure is much better (thread weight is important too; home machines use lighter weight thread). Many items made at home look home-made because of stitch quality.The pay for a professional grade industrial sample maker employee is $10-$15 per hour. Freelancing, if you're good, is about $25 an hour. Often, a flat rate is established based on the time it takes for their existing or a previous sample maker to complete a garment. For example, our sample maker took about 2.5 hours to sew a completely lined sportcoat so a flat rate would be based on that. Assuming the samplemaker's wage was $15 an hour, that'd be $37.50. However, the actual cost of the employee, is another 25% of that wage (admin, taxes etc). If you're a self employed person, you have to tack that on too, just as your employer would have to absorb it if you worked for them as a fulltime employee. So, you could negotiate upwards to include the 25% cost to employ. Based on $37.50, that's almost $10. So, in the case of this theoretical sportcoat, the range of flat rate negotiation would be $47.50 (samplemaker wage +25%) to $62.50 ($25 p/h X 2.5 hours). Now, if you don't sew this quickly or lack some practice with given processes, you won't make as much hourly until you get good at it. It's in your best interests to learn as much as you can so you can sew faster and better. If it takes you 8 hours to sew a sportcoat (it takes me a little over 3 hrs, but I've heard some home sewers say it takes them 3 days!) you won't make as much. Then again, this is assuming these are good patterns. Home patterns take forever to sew so these aren't a good point of comparison. If the designer has given you a crappy pattern, it's not *your* fault. They have to pay the penalty of higher sewing costs. Obviously, they need to pay more for a better pattern maker (many new designers make their own, heh). Considering the possibility of the above, I'd never quote a flat rate on a first job with a new client. Never. If it's a crappy pattern, you have no control over it, so why should you subsidize their previous cheapening out of the process?PS. I'm still looking for a good freelance coat samplemaker with experience and industrial equipment. Great patterns guaranteed.

    1. anastasi | | #5

      Thanks everyone. I'll have to reply to this ad with an hourly rate. I've done piecework before (corsets for $100 each), as well as custom corsetry and dresses. I'll just have to see what kinds of patterns are provided (these are for bridesmaids dresses), as well as the need for boning.

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