Why does my seamstress charge so much?

Whoops, forgot I had this in draft ages ago. Anyways, I figured I would get it out before the new Danse Libre season starts.

Most (aka, everyone else) in Danse Libre has a local seamstress make their Victorian dress. I wanted to keep a log of what I have spent on my dress, to help others in the group understand where costs are coming from.

If you recall, here is the finished product:

12 viennese


  • Fabric – 10 yards silk taffeta for $139. Note this is an astonishingly good price for silk taffeta, as I got lucky and caught a sale at fabricmartfabrics.com for 30% off (in the color I wanted no less. This is normally impossible). And my fabric shows that it is not the highest quality silk taffeta, as it has a number of slubs. (Next time, I’ll pay the $22 for silk from Renaissance Fabrics). A seamstress may be able to get a bulk deal on fabric, but expect to pay around $20 a yard for a quality silk.
  • Polyester thread – 3 spools for $3. (I also caught a sale at Joann for this thread)
  • Silk quilters thread – $11.94
  • Silk sewing thread + silk ribbon plus shipping – $12.47
  • Skirt base fabric cotton broadlcoth – 3.5 yards for $3 a yard (maybe? This was from Joann and I’m sure I had a coupon) – $10.50
  • 2 packs Hooks and bars – $6

Things already in my stash, so not counting the cost:

  • Yards of muslin (I must have gone through at least 4-5 yards in mockups)
  • Plastic cable ties for boning
  • Cotton tape for boning channels
  • Cotton yarn for cord-gathering and piping

Also not including other garment costs – corset, chemise (which I still haven’t made ahem) stockings, hairpiece, but those certainly add up.

That is easily $200+ dollars just in materials for just the dress. Now, if you add in an hourly rate due to a professional, it’s not surprising that a dress will cost minimum $600. A dress like mine could easily end up being around $1000, given all the extra hand details I included (overcasting stitches, whipping down piping, cartridge pleating, hours and hours of tracing and cutting the skirt scallops).

Unsurprisingly, you get what you pay for for custom clothes. Which is why I learned how to sew in the first place!

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