The (false) Value of Clothes

I find myself in constant frustration regarding the prices of handmade garments. Mostly, I’m frustrated by the general lack of understanding of their value. It’s no secret that we have cheap clothes now and that it’s ruining the market for custom or handmade one-offs. So I’d like to address this.

Consider that the minimum wage in the US is $7.25. That’s federal. It’s different, too, depending on where you live. I’m in New Mexico, so that’s $7.50/hour. So, I don’t have an army of workers making 100+ units of a single dress. This is mass production, and the combination of output as well as foreign labor wages, makes mass produced clothing less expensive.

I’m just one girl, and I can only do so much. But when I make a dress, I do everything from the tracing or drafting of my pattern, cutting, construction, details, and finishing. I even package my garments when they’re shipped to my customer. At my fastest, I could make a simple men’s western shirt in about 5 hours. Add in time for cutting, and it’s more like 6 hours. If I’m paying myself minimum wage, that’s $45 for just my time. Materials for that shirt, which is about 2.5 yards of regular fabric at $4/yd and another 1 yard of contrast at $9, plus tax (and sometimes shipping) . . . materials alone then would be anywhere from $22 – $28. For one shirt.

I’d like to then sell that shirt for $65-75 dollars. That’s still if I’m paying myself NM minimum wage, I copy, cut, and sew as fast as I can, and buy the bare minimum of materials. Do you see where this is going?

you sew right make it for $50

Clothing manufacturing has been outsourced and exploited for decades now, and it’s driven the price of clothing down to where home sewing can’t compete. The only way we can compete is by marketing our garments as special, unique, and custom. It should have value as a unique item that doesn’t have thousands of copies being worn on other people’s bodies.

The sad thing is that Etsy has been infiltrated by sellers that are more than likely dishonest about their “handmade” label to the garment they sell.

 

 

Some examples

Rockabilly Dress

Shop: LadyMayraClothing

This dress is selling for 49.90. I’m sorry, but that’s just not right.

It’s also labeled as “Gothic” and “Lolita” in the same line as “Rockabilly” which has nothing to do with Lolita or NeoVictorian fashion.

Also, it’s being sold from Bangkok, Thailand. I’m really not sure how they can conceivably sell this dress for under $50, if it’s apparently handmade by one person. I don’t believe this for a second. OR maybe their cost of living is much lower than ours. The picture looks commercial, though, and the quality looks mass produced. They claim to have more than 10. All of their dresses look mass produced, and are priced generally the same.

This is falsely listed as “handmade” in the way that we’re familiar with it. And it has hundreds of favorites.

Blouse from China

Dress from chinaA chiffon blouse like this for $40??

Oh, look, it’s from China. This skirt for $40 too?

The lace and the ruffles take time to ruffle and apply. The chiffon needs to have a finished edge, which also takes time. Look at the pintucks, for goodness sake. $40?

This same Etsy shop is selling another chiffon blouse, with pintucks and lace, for $30! This is just unfair, and the only thing I can do is point it out and hope people agree with me about the true cost of clothing. Especially special niche fashions like Lolita.

So is it suddenly okay for TaoBao Lolita sellers to sell on Etsy, a website that is meant to be a hub to buy unique and truly handmade items?

Oh, also, for a limited time, if you read my blog, you can get 20% off at my store! Just type in the code cybermonday20 when you check out on Etsy. This offer is only good until December 1, so hurry! And thanks for reading!

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