, , ,

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
Buttons: $10.50
Coat lining & cutting: $90.00
Workshop: $125.00
Total: $1413

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
Buttons: $9.00
Total: $340.25

The blue suit is now up to $1753.25

Let’s add the shirt.

Labor:  $375.00 (estimated)
Fabric: $30.00
Buttons: $3.00
Total: $408

Shoes, hat and stockings:

Shoes: $119
Hat: $125
Stockings: $50
Neckcloth: $18
Glasses: $29.00
Lenses: $30.00
Total Accessories: $371

Grand total, with labor: $2532.25
Grand total without labor: $732.25

This wasn't cheap either.

This wasn’t cheap either.

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.