It occurred to me recently, when I was looking at supplies I needed to buy for sewing, just how quickly the money adds up with a hobby like this. The problem with sewing is that many people don’t realize what goes into it if they don’t sew.
Not always just thread and fabric
There are times when simple garments really do require nothing more than fabric and thread — and sometimes fairly inexpensive ones, at that. Many times, however, there are many more supplies and parts involved. Take corsets, for example: you have different layers of fabrics, stiffening hardware like boning and busks, grommets, and lacing. Some corsets are heavily boned, which means they require a lot more boning, and they usually use different kinds of boning made for specific areas of the corset. Some grommets are better than others. What about cutting your own boning and having a good grommet-setter? Those tools cost money, even if they are a one-time purchase. Sometimes you have to order many of these things since they’re not always available around the corner at your local fabric or craft store.
The other thing about sewing is if you want something to look great, you need to invest in better materials. As I mentioned above, this doesn’t just mean fabric itself — the hardware and notions also make a difference.
Some people want costumes that look just like a costume used in a movie. Again, the person sewing the garment has to look for fabrics that are an exact match or as close as they can get. You usually have to pay a pretty hefty price to get some of those really nice fabrics, too. In fact, most fabrics that are really nice and rich-looking usually cost a lot more.
Other reasons higher-priced costumes and garments look nice is not scrimping on layers or fabrics. If a costume requires fullness in the skirt, not only are there possibly hoops supporting it, but there are usually a couple of petticoats or layers of fabrics used to help the skirt look correct. Billowing folds and trailing, draping rich fabrics look that way because enough yardage was purchased to achieve the look. Add any extra trims or ornamentation, and there is even more time and money involved.
Time is money
Artisans definitely earn their money for the time and skill they put into garments. There are of course varying levels of detail, from basic to incredibly detailed, but they still had to work on it. There are many times I’ve been amazed to see just how much has gone into some of the costumes I’ve seen made by friends.
Some even sew by hand and rarely use a sewing machine. This not only adds authenticity to some garments (such as re-enacting), but it also adds to time spent. Some hand-embroider, or hand-bead. The options for customizing a garment to purchase can be amazing, but it can also take a lot of time.
Why I’ll never sew for money
I am incredibly impressed with those who make a living doing this, or even just extra money on the side with a few commissions. Honestly, I don’t ever see myself doing anything like it. I don’t work quickly enough (I’m still learning), and I don’t want the added stress. Plus, I have enough ideas and plans to keep me busy for a very long time. I just don’t see myself being able to squeeze in even more sewing to do.
Respect and patience
Those who sew or create items like sewing, leather-working, etc. deserve respect and they deserve patience. They’re not running to a store and buying a garment instantly — they’re creating something completely from scratch for someone.
Check out their FAQs and communicate with them about what you need, but try to understand what you’re asking for. If you’re wanting something that looks great and is very complicated, it’s going to cost a lot. (It’s not uncommon for many of the top costume-makers to charge into the $1,000’s for a custom costume.)
People don’t wear things like that every day for a reason. Not only are clothes like bustle gowns with trains and tons of draped overskirts a bit much for our usual day-to-day activities, there is a lot of yardage and time and supplies put into a garment that is a one-of-a-kind creation.