Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why Clothes on Etsy Are So Expensive

In our world of capitalism, personal thinking processes that reveal the reasoning behind questions like this one are slowly fading away. It is too easy to get roped into the fast paced convenience of the current state of consumerism, and forget about what goes into making something by your own hand. In the world of fashion, we only see a final, mediocre and generalized product sprung from cheap labor and marketed to way too many people at once. It has become almost impossible to understand what a one-person designer/tailor goes through to make one item of clothing by hand anymore.

First off, as any artist knows, the cost of supplies to create is outrageous. You'd assume if you're going to make anything yourself, it would reasonably be cheaper. But no, not in a million years. Musicians pay the cost of small, used cars to obtain instruments, and digital designers have to worry about computers that can handle mass loads of memory and cannot rely on just any old, cheap pc. As a seamstress and designer, I have to worry about paying anywhere from 7 to 23 dollars per yard of fabric if I want something that's going to hang comfortably on a woman's body when designing a simple sundress. Now if you want to go around in a dress that fits and feels like a garbage bag, well I could easily pop into Walmart and go to the discount section. But that's still going to run me 4 bucks a yard.. and it takes a good 3 to 4 to make something for a small to medium body type. And used fabric has wear & stretch, and will fall apart too easily. Then there's the upkeep on my machine, thread, needles that break periodically, finishing tapes, lace, iron and ironing board, cutting equipment, drafting paper, rulers, dress form, pre-wash and and crinkle set costs (I pay for laundry use)... you get the idea.

So from here, we set out to design our product. I'm going to use a woman's dress as an example. First we have to get what's in our heads out on paper, so we draw it. When it first comes out, it looks totally unlike we thought it would, so we draw it again another way. And we keep on and keep on until we come up with something someone would actually wear. This takes more than just thinking of a design. It takes thinking of how the inside of it is going to feel on the skin, how to flatter a normal body type instead of assuming everyone looks like a model, how it's going to move when they move, and what kind of fabric is going to work for however we want it draping the body. Next.. geometry.

Now we look at the design and transfer it to a two-dimensional paper pattern. We measure and we use a dress form. Since a woman's body curves all over, we have to actually take the paper and transfer it then onto fabric, then place it on a form to watch and see how it covers it. Adjustments are then made, and we apply this back to the paper to come up with a working pattern. And since all body types are different, we have to use our intuition and just know where to leave extra room to make up for those possible differences. And when we have finally established this working pattern, we are ready for our labor stage.

This requires sewing as well as troubleshooting the machine as we go. We can encounter anything from bad feed to busted needles to improper tension depending on the fabric type and weight. And since this is a personally designed pattern, we make more adjustments as we go along. It is never so cut and dry.

When we've finally gotten our dress finished, we then worry about marketing it. We beg friends with photography experience to help us establish a photo that makes someone want what we've spent our blood, sweat and tears making (Literally.. I've sewn right through my fingers before). The photos have to be clear, show the way the dress hangs on all sides, the background can't look sketchy, and the model has to be comfortable in it. We then move on to paying fees for listings on places like etsy and doing a lot of general social networking to let everyone know the dress exists.

Is it over? Hell no. Once we sell the dress, we have to keep our customers happy. Remember, no one is the same size. So they've got a number of days to return it for alterations or to return it for good if they don't like it at all. Now, we are finally done.

So, how do you charge for all this? You charge for supplies, which end up kind of high considering the material used must be in top quality condition. Then you consider the time it took to make it. Design, draft, labor, marketing and alterations.. takes about a week to do it right instead of just throwing something together that's going to fall apart the first time it gets washed. So if you see someone selling a hand made dress for $70.00, they're probably actually making a profit of 20-30 bucks.

We can't all afford to go buy hand made clothing that often. But once in a blue moon, it's nice to have something original and well made in the closet. Think of it as purchasing a luxury. The same old, tired saying applies here; "You get what you pay for".