Price of Fashion

The Price of Fashion

As a tailor for film and television, I often work with a lot of really high-end designer clothing. Sometimes I look at a price tag on something I’m in the process of taking apart and think, “That’s an awful lot of money for an article of clothing.” As a person who spends a lot of time taking things apart and putting them back together, I’ve got a pretty good idea of long it takes to make things. I wholeheartedly believe in paying tailors, pattern makers, and the like a respectable wage (as I’ve said before it is very skilled labor and deserves to be paid just as much as you would pay a plumber or someone to fix your car).

However, we all know that most mass produced clothing is made in factories where the workers aren’t getting much more than minimum wage (if they’re lucky). But what about the really expensive, designer stuff? Is it worth the extra money? Is it justified?

To a certain point, I think it is. If a brand uses high quality fabrics and notions, some of the extra cost makes sense. I try and think about how long it would take me to make a certain thing like, for example, a pair of pants. Not including patterning or cutting and if I were sewing at a pretty brisk pace and had made a bunch more of the exact same pants before, I’d say it’d take me anywhere from two to four hours (depending on how many pockets, if there’s top stitching anywhere, if they have a lining, and so on.) If a person working in a factory actually made a reasonable wage, that would certainly put the price point of those pants at somewhere between $80.00 and $200.00. You’d also need to factor in the time needed to cut out the pants, and pattern them, as well as the design process. So maybe then, you’d end up with a $150.00 to $400.00 pair of pants. Fairly reasonable, I’d say. It’s when you get up into the $1,000.00 range for a single pair of pants that I start to wonder.

I get that, when it comes to designer clothing, much of what you’re paying for is the name, or the design. And I’m ok with that but, is that label really worth $600.00 or more?

Again, I think it depends.

Boris Bidjan Saberi

I’ve done quite a few alterations lately on Boris Bidjan Saberi men’s clothing. I just shortened the sleeves on one of his suit jackets. The jacket is very well made and the fabrics of a really high quality. The ‘buttons’ are cool metal cufflinks – real metal, not plastic. The label says the jacket was handcrafted in Spain. A big part of Boris apparel is that each piece is supposedly a ‘one-off’, which means it’s unique and no one will have exactly the same one as you. That’s pretty cool, I think. The suit jackets are priced starting at around $1,100.00. This price seems quite reasonable to me if it really is a handcrafted garment (which it certainly seems to be).


'hand crafted in spain'

‘Hand crafted in spain’.

metal cuff link style buttons

Metal cuff link style buttons.

What would you pay?

I guess my point in all of this is that there are some clothing brands and designers that may very well be ‘worth’ the high price, especially if their manufacturing processes align with your own ideas of ethics and sustainable businesses. If you care about these kinds of things, it is important to do your own research and make your own decisions (as it is with most things in life, I suppose).

There’s an interesting fashion show event happening this week called Wear Your Values. The event, on September 14th, will showcase 15 ethical fashion clothing brands and portray the life cycle of a garment to show how, when, and where human rights abuses take place in apparel manufacturing. There will also be a film on a day in the life of a garment worker. The show is presented by the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual conference hosted by the Human Rights Foundation and Remake, a group of fashion enthusiasts that strive to inspire consumers to research the brands they buy (something I think is really important).

If you happen to be in New York City, try and go check out this event yourself.

Sewing Myths and Sewing Myth Myths

Sewing Myths and Sewing Myth Myths

This week, I decided I’d write a bit about popular sewing myths. I have my own list but thought I’d do a quick Google search to see what others had written about the subject. This brought me to a few sewing myth lists that I found rather odd, and not at all myth-like – meaning I thought the myths were myths. Do you follow me?

I’m going to start with some things I do believe are myths, and then get the myth myths part.

Myth 1: quilting direction

It’s ok to quilt some rows up and some rows down when quilting a garment.

Not true. There will be less possibility of bubbling or puffing if you quilt all the rows in the same direction. Overall, the whole garment will look better.

Myth 2: smaller underlining

The underlining should be smaller than the fashion fabric, especially on a jacket.

Not always true. It really depends on the fabrics being used. Hair canvas should be slightly smaller to prevent buckling but it will also restrict the give or stretch of a fabric it is joined with. Many tailors cut their canvas on the bias to prevent this.

Myth 3: cutting selvage edge

Always cut off the selvage edge.

Not true. If you think the selvage will shrink, clip the edges so it will lie flat. Otherwise, there is no need to cut it off.

Myth 4: basting stitches

Stitch next to basting stitches when sewing a basted seam lines.

Not true. If you do have the need to baste seams together, always sew right on top of the basted lines for accuracy.

Myth 5: necklines

Machine stay stitch necklines to prevent stretching.

Another, more accurate way to prevent any stretching in your necklines (and arms eyes) is to leave a whole bunch of seam allowance until you’ve done your stay stitching.

Another, more accurate way to prevent any stretching in your necklines (and arms eyes) is to leave a whole bunch of seam allowance until you’ve done your stay stitching.

Not always true. You can also hand baste your seam line, also called thread tracing. If you do machine stitch your necklines, take special care not to stretch the fabric as you sew. Another, more accurate way to prevent any stretching in your necklines (and arms eyes) is to leave a whole bunch of seam allowance until you’ve done your stay stitching. When it comes to necklines, I usually cut a straight line from shoulder seam to shoulder, leaving all the extra fabric there. If I’m bias binding the neck edge, I attach my bias without trimming anything away too. This prevents any possibility of the neckline stretching.

Myth 6: top = waistline

The top of your pants or skirt is your waistline.

Very often not true. Your waistline is where your body is the smallest, most times an inch or so above your navel. This is why, often, when you measure a pair of pants that is sized as a 27, the waistband of the pants measures more than 27.

And now, for a few sewing myth myths.

Myth myth 1: $ewing cost too much

Sewing is too expensive.

This really depends on how you look at. Sewing is not necessarily expensive but it isn’t cheap either. Especially, most especially, if you are taking into account your time. I earn my living by sewing. And my years of experience and knowledge aren’t cheap. Sewing is a skill. I always ask people what they pay their car mechanic or plumber an hour. Often, it’s somewhere in the 60 to 100 dollar and hour range. If you don’t want to pay that amount of money, you figure out how to do it yourself. The same goes for sewing.

If you’re making something for yourself or as a gift out of love then it could possibly be cheaper than buying the same thing. But remember, nice high-end fabric and supplies are not cheap, nor should they be. If you want cheap, buy clothing made in Malaysia or Bangladesh sold at Old Navy or someplace like that.

Myth myth 2: sewing is the hardest

Sewing is too hard.

Well isn’t not exactly easy, either. To sew really well takes practice. I find it incredibly annoying when someone says something like, “It’s just an easy alteration, it won’t take long.” If you don’t sew, how do you know? And if you do sew, you should know that sometimes you open a thing up to do what should be an easy alteration and find you’ve just taken the lid off a proverbial can of worms.

Myth myth 3: sewing super powers

Sewers have special creative talents.

I believe everyone, if they put their mind to it, can learn how to sew. But saying that sewers (I actually hate that word) do not have special creative talent is ridiculous. I think I’ve said this before, but really good tailors and pattern makers know the language of fabric. I don’t know how else to put it. And that, is indeed, a special talent.