Does Handmade Cost Less Than Store Bought?

I get asked this question all the time: Do handmade clothes cost less than store-bought clothes? The question is always asked in this order because most people assume that the answer is yes and that saving money is the main reason I make my own clothes. But, my answer is no and yes (in that order) and my reason is very different.

My answer is first no because when asking this question, most people are comparing the handmade clothes to the everyday trends they see at fast fashion retailers. The clothes I make do not cost less than those items because those items are priced unbelievably low due to the way they are mass-produced and made in countries with lower labor costs (more on that in a later blog post). When priced out per piece, the cost of making one item will almost always cost more than the price of making one hundred thousand items. The fabrics used and quality of these items is also a lower standard than what I choose to use in my handmade clothing. Most fast fashion fabrics are plastic based, polyester is often the main material used, and the finishing is usually done with a surger and the seams left visible. When choosing fabrics for my handmade items I usually avoid polyester based fabrics (yes, they are usually cheaper, but polyester is honestly uncomfortable especially in the heat of LA because it does not breathe). When making my own clothes I have the opportunity to make the inside of the clothing as beautiful as the outside by using a variety of seam finishes, linings, and facings. So no, my handmade clothes are not less expensive than fast fashion store-bought clothes, but they are a higher quality than those clothes.

My answer is also yes because the quality that I aim for im my handmade clothes is similar to that of high fashion designers whose pieces are often hundreds of dollars. While my skill is not currently anywhere close to the detailed work of the seamstresses who work for those designers, they are the ones I aspire to learn from and be like. I seek to work with fabrics and materials similar to what they use, and I like to spend a long, slow time on each piece I make to ensure that it is the best that it can be. My inspiration and development as a sewer and designer comes from this higher runway of fashion, and yes, my handmade items cost far less than these designer items.

The last part of my answer to this question is that money is not a central factor in why I make my own clothes. I am not trying to save money or lavishly spend more money than I need to (but, oh the temptations are real especially when those runways come out in September!!). I make my own clothes because I love the process of seeing a blank sheet literally take form and become something new and beautiful and useable. I love the challenge of constantly pushing and sharpening my skills to the next level. I love that making my own clothes gives me the opportunity to make something unique that is only mine. I make my own clothes because I have a deep love for exploring what it means to communicate who I am through what I wear. What do your clothes communicate about you?