Few things bother me more than the statement, "You charge HOW much for that!?", right after I have told someone how much I charge for custom sewing. It is like a slap in the face. Like telling me I am crazy. It is like saying that I am not worth it, neither my skills nor my time.
Well, let me tell YOU! I am worth it.
Over the past 20+ years I have been developing my skills as a seamstress. I started as a kid designing clothes for my dolls and barbies. As a teen I started making quilts and dresses and clothes for myself. By the time I was 16 I was making my prom dresses and dresses for my friends too. I designed and constructed my first bridal party, 5 custom dresses, when I was 17 years old. I studied Fashion Design in college and worked in Fabric stores, Bridal Shops, Tux shops and the Nordstroms tailoring department. My Junior year in college I was asked by my professors to be a lead on the team hired by an outside company to design and produce a new line of clothing. That company offered me a continuing job but I turned it down to be a stay-at-home mom. I spent the next 15 years sewing out of my home making bridal gowns, prom dresses, christening gowns, home dec, tailoring, and pattern design for small manufacturing starts up. I sew a LOT and I like to read about sewing and practice new tricks for sewing and to take classes about sewing. I have spent a lot of time and I continue to spend a lot of time increasing my skills as a seamstress.
I spend a lot of time consulting with you to make sure that we both share the same vision, to make sure that you are getting exactly what you pay for. I spend a lot time making patterns and altering patterns to your exact style and size requirements. I spend a lot of time prepping your material washing if necessary, ironing if necessary. I spend a lot of time cutting out the fabric precisely making sure prints and designs match up, that grain is precise. I spend a lot of time basting and interfacing and edge stitching and trimming and clipping and pressing and doing all sorts of things that you cannot see all because it will fit and look better on you when it is done. And if it isn't quite right I do a lot of unpicking and fixing and restitching. I take my time with you for one two or three fittings or more, whatever is necessary to make sure you are happy. And when I say a lot of time I don't mean I slowly do it because I don't know what I am doing. I mean I take the time necessary to make sure both you and I will be happy with the end result. I don't cut corners.
And if that wasn't enough I also spend a lot of money on my very nice machines and supplies that make the work all possible, that makes it look professional. I have to get these machines serviced regularly to keep them in top shape. I have to replace machines when I wear the old ones out. I have to run to the fabric store every now and then to pick up more thread, beeswax, needles, scissors, snaps, STUFF that I need to get your stuff done. I have to pay for the gasoline to do that and the car to do that and the electricity to run the machines and lights and irons and steamers and the water to wash the fabric and the phone-- because I have to call you on the phone so we can set up a time to meet. Or you have to call me to make another change to your design. I field questions from people who don't ever come to me for work. I consult and volunteer time on community projects like the elementary school theater programs or disadvantaged girls who need prom dresses. I have business paperwork to keep track of. I have to file taxes.
And you tell me that I am charging too much?! If anything I am charging way too little. I am doing that because I LOVE to sew. You know what would make me love it even more? Getting paid a decent wage to do it.
What do you think is a fair wage for a skilled seamstress with 20 years of experience? $7/hour the same as a McDonalds worker? $10/hr the same as a construction worker apprentice? $20/hour the same as a substitute teacher? Should I make as much as an academic adviser or a mechanic or a dental hygienist or a piano teacher?
Because that shirt that I said $25 for will take me at least 2.5 hours to meet with you, measure you, prep your pattern and your fabric, cut it out, stitch it together, call you and have you try it on.
And you said, "You charge HOW much for that?! How about $10." with a totally straight face.
Tell you what. Go make it yourself.