Or, They’re Clothes, not Costumes.
This past weekend, I had a conversation with a friend about requests to borrow “costumes” we’ve made, sometimes for school children to wear, sometimes for movies, and sometimes for parties. We generally say no: these are hand-sewn clothes, and the replacement cost would be ridiculous– plus, we like them and wear them.
I hand sew because I get better control, but also because there were no sewing machines in the 18th and early 19th centuries. To get a garment right, you have to hand sew it, and that’s expensive. I took the time once to figure out what a set of clothes for the Young Giant cost– much to my dismay, and eventually, to his, as I became even more insistent that the garments be treated with respect.
Last year, I sent the Young Mr off to Battle Road in a new suit, and the whole business of what he was wearing was quite expensive. Using $25/hour as a base for labor, here’s how the kid’s Battle Road suit breaks down:
Coat Labor: $1125 (estimated)
Coat fabric: $62.50
Coat lining & cutting: $90.00
Let that one sink in for a while, will you? The 16-year-old boy ran around in a $1400 coat. Oh, and the breeches. Here they are.
Breeches labor: $300 (estimated)
Breeches fabric: $31.25
The blue suit is now up to $1753.25
Let’s add the shirt.
Labor: $375.00 (estimated)
Shoes, hat and stockings:
Total Accessories: $371
Grand total, with labor: $2532.25
Grand total without labor: $732.25
So think about this the next time you attend an event with a lot of well-made garments: you are standing amid a lot of labor and love.
Sewing is a fairly simple enterprise (you’re pushing thread in and out of fabric, after all), but it takes practice to develop fine skills and speed. A well-made garment will never be cheap. The best investment you can make in your wardrobe is to invest in your skill set, and learn to sew.