Custom Clothing

The Real Cost of Cheap Clothing

What does that $14 shirt really cost? Info graphic.
What does that $14 shirt really cost?

photo and price breakdown courtesy of macleans.ca (click the photo for more details)

This breakdown of the cost of an average shirt really shows some of the major problems with the clothing industry. Specifically, why almost all ready-to-wear clothing is horribly unethical in several ways. Let’s break it down:

Treating workers like machines…

The people who make these shirts are paid $0.12 per hour. Now, this particular example is from Bangladesh; some countries, like China, have wages that are much higher – double, even – at $0.24 an hour, or more! And they get the privilege of working 10-14 hours per day, for a whopping monthly income that gets as high as… $250. PER MONTH. For working crazy long hours in crowded factories with major air and noise pollution. And then there are the folks who make the fabric (see below about what that means) who are spending their days inhaling all kinds of chemicals for the same great pay in similarly horrifying places.

…results in low quality workmanship…

Because when you are expected to meet a quota, it is all about SPEED. So the stitch length is longer, which means it’s more likely to come loose while you’re wearing or washing it. I’m sure you all have as many shirts as I do with hems that are pulling out?

…and to keep the prices low, they use the cheapest material around – PETROLEUM. Ahem, I mean Polyester. So it’s great for the environment.

Did you know that polyester is made from petroleum and coal? And, in order to produce it, you start with an acid and alcohol chemical reaction to make a melted plastic puddle, which is stretched into ribbons and dried. And then cut into chips and dried some more. And then melted again and forced through tiny holes to form strands which can be knit or woven into fabric.

And you love wearing it, don’t you? (No. No, you don’t.)

Also, because it’s made of plastic, it doesn’t breathe when you wear it. So when you get hot and sweat, the heat and moisture are trapped between the garment and your body, making it more prone to permanent odors and pit stains and you more prone to discomfort while wearing it. And if you’re cold, it forms a barrier between your skin and whatever heat source you may use to try to warm up.

Natural fibers (cotton, linen, silk, hemp) on the other hand are breathable – meaning heat and moisture can escape when you get warm, and can get in when you are cold.

WHAT IF CRAFTY BROADS MADE THIS SHIRT?

Well, first, we don’t have the economies of scale that mass producers do – so our suggestion would be lobbying to bring good manufacturing jobs back to the USA. But for the sake of this blog post, let’s see what it would cost to make it here. We’re going to assume that we already have a pattern, and that our workers take 2 hours to make the shirt, since we don’t have an assembly line factory or machines that cut the fabric for us. Here’s how it breaks down:

$50.00 – Labor: 2 hours @ $25/hour – our current labor rate
$10.00 – Materials: 1 yard of 100% organic cotton or hemp fabric and a few buttons
$ 0.00 – Factory Overhead: included in our labor rate
$ 0.00 – Factory Margin: None, we don’t mark things up
$ 0.00 – Shipping: None, we don’t outsource our labor
$ 0.00 – Agent: None, no outsourcing of labor means we don’t need someone to find a factory for us
$ 0.00 – Retail Markup: None, you buy directly from us

TOTAL COST TO CONSUMER: $60.00

You could extrapolate with some assumptions – perhaps a US factory with special equipment could make it in just one hour, and paying at least minimum wage* (currently $8.25 in Illinois) could perhaps reduce the labor to $25 or so, including its overhead and markup. And with economies of scale, the material cost could probably be reduced by a dollar or two, bringing the wholesale cost to around $33. If we assume the same 60% markup by the retailer, that would bring the total to $52.80.

*We’d argue that sewing is skilled labor, and should be compensated at a higher rate because it can’t be done by just anyone. Furthermore, the minimum wage is not really a living wage and desperately needs… a raise.

So… in summary, yes, it would cost quite a bit more than we are used to paying to have ethically made clothing. It would mean a return to a time when we bought a much lower volume of much better quality garments. It would mean that we’d wear the same clothing over and over, instead of having a new outfit for every day of the month. It would mean taking better care of our clothes – using gentler cycles, hang-drying more things, and even hand washing from time to time.

What do you think? Is it worth the higher price to have ethically made, better quality garments? Will you start making that change in your wardrobe?

Louise’s Yellow and Lace Tea-Length Wedding Dress

Louise dress on bookshelf_small

Photo © iluvphoto

Concept

Louise came to us looking for something unique and a little bit funky that would nevertheless say “This is the bride!” She wanted something tea-length with a full-skirt and sleeves – and she didn’t want it to be white. That would be a pretty tall order in your average bridal shop, which is why she came to us!

An artist and crafter herself, she was excited to collaborate with us to create something new and special – and so were we. We came up with a couple ideas for her, including the option of designing our own printed fabric for the dress! When we met to go over the designs, she came with her own sketch too, and between the three of us, we settled on a yellow dress with a full lace overlay.

Work-in-Progress & Challenges

We tried a new technique with the mockup and lining on this dress and it proved to be much more effort than it was worth. So, although it turned out well in the end, we will not be repeating that one. Lace always has its own challenges – since it can be quite expensive, we wanted to get the fit absolutely perfect before buying or cutting it. Louise was a great sport through several fittings as we made sure everything was in its proper place, and that those tricky sleeves fit just right!

Somewhere along the way, the groom got so jealous of the custom garment process that he decided to go out and have a custom suit made for himself too!!

Finished Garment

During one of our later fittings, Louise asked us to incorporate some material from her grandmother’s wedding gown into her dress somehow, and left us free reign as to how exactly that should be accomplished. We’d been talking about her hand-crafted wedding details, and she showed us a photo of the custom silk screen she’d made for her welcome bags – an outline of the state of Illinois with their names and wedding date in the middle. We decided to mirror that with an embroidered version (in blue thread, for that ubiquitous  “something”) inside the lining of her skirt. We all got pretty emotional at the reveal.

A patch of her grandmother's wedding dress, hand-embroidered with blue thread

A patch of her grandmother’s wedding dress, hand-embroidered with blue thread. Photo © iluvphoto

We were also able to incorporate some of her grandmother’s dress as the ivory leaves behind the flower on her custom birdcage veil; along with her yellow dress, she planned to wear teal shoes and this headpiece brings all those colors together.

Louise's veil, complete with fabric from her grandmother's dress

Louise’s veil, complete with fabric from her grandmother’s dress

As is often the case, we were glad to have finished this project, but also rather sad to see it leave our shop. In the end, though, we were so happy to see Louise beaming as she wore it on her wedding day!

Photo © iluvphoto

Photo © iluvphoto

Congratulations Louise & Michael! It was truly our pleasure making this dress with you!!

Photo © iluvphoto

Photo © iluvphoto

Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are used with permission. They are not available for reposting or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Alison’s Custom Beaded Blue Silk Dupioni Mother-of-the-Bride Dress

Let’s just say this post is a throwback Thursday deal, since we made this dress nearly two years ago…

Alison wanted something lovely to wear to her daughter’s wedding, and she wanted it to be in a similar style to Hayley’s 50’s-inspired wedding dress. She wanted something that would suit the mother-of-the-bride but also be wearable for other special events. We settled on a retro-style dress with 3/4-length sleeves, a v-neck, and a true tea-length hem.

Concept sketch for Alison's dress

Concept sketch for Alison’s dress

Though Alison was initially leaning towards a color in the red family, when we spotted this beautiful blue beaded silk dupioni, we just knew in our guts that it was exactly what she wanted – and it was!

Alison and daughter Hayley, whose dress we also made, at her wedding

Alison and her daughter, whose wedding dress we also made

We are happy to report that we ran into Alison a year after the wedding – wearing her beautiful dress at the 2013 Jeff Awards!

Alison with a friend at the 2013 Jeff Awards

Alison with a friend at the 2013 Jeff Awards

We couldn’t be more pleased with how this dress turned out!

Alison twirling in her full skirt at Hayley & Scott's wedding

Alison twirling in her full skirt at Hayley & Scott’s wedding

Photos courtesy of Alison Vesely. Used with permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are not available for reproduction, redistribution, or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Personal Projects Update

Okay, so a while back I posted a list of personal sewing projects that I wanted to complete… someday. And then, a slightly more recent while back, I posted an update. And now, here is an update to the update! So, here is the list, less the things that were completed as of the last update:

  • Jacket to wear over (completed!) corset – I have blueish purple silk dupioni for this, and superb inspiration for the style. UPDATE: Not even remotely started. Continue to think about it from time to time, mainly when I open the fabric cabinet and drool over dupioni.
  • Alterations to a dress I made a few years ago but now hate, to turn it into a simple skirt (with pockets!) to complete the above ensemble. UPDATE: I have actually spent about five minutes thinking about this one – does that count? Pretty much decided not to ever do this. Would rather start from scratch and make a new skirt because I just know so much more about all relevant sewing techniques now. However, may still do this only because I will never find this fabric again and I love it.
  • Corset for Julia that she has been begging me to make for the last two years. UPDATE: Uh uh. Not done. Reasonably certain I have not even thought about it since I posted the last update… sorry love!

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  • New pajama pants. Mine all have holes. (Lots of them, in unfortunate places.) I have awesome Flinstones-esque dark teal with black tiger stripe fabric. They will be so much fun to wear. UPDATE: Not at all done. But the growing number and size of holes in my pajama pants has moved this to the top of the priority list. DONE DONE DONE DONE DONE! Aren’t they amazing/terrible?? I love them. I have a whole coordinating pajama outfit now.
  • The aforementioned Great T-Shirt Project of 2010. You guys, in 2010 we bought 30 pounds of jersey so that we could both expand our sad, sad collection of ill-fitting t-shirts. (I have a long torso, so basically every t-shirt ever manufactured shows an inch or two of stomach, which I’d prefer stayed out of sight and warm.) UPDATE: Let’s jut admit there is no way this will happen before 2013 2014.
  • I have silky, stretchy, clingy, shiny teal fabric for a drape-y dress shirt. UPDATE: I still have it! It’s still folded neatly among all the other pretty things in our fabric stash… untouched.
  • I am determined to never purchase jeans again and start making my own, because there are no pants in the universe that fit me properly. (And the ones I have are dangerously close to being to worn to wear in public.) UPDATE: I still believe this firmly. It may even happen soon-ish. SO DONE! And working on a second pair! And on patterns, generally, so custom jeans can be offered to YOU! Pictures will be forthcoming when I write a whole post about them!
  • On that note, I need some dressier-than-jeans but not as fancy as wedding attire to wear to my clients’ rehearsals. As well as some more wedding attire to wear to their weddings. I know I’m getting sick of my same two outfits, and if you started looking at photos of me on fancy occasions, you’d be sick of them too. UPDATE: Zero progress. I have bought some fabrics and imagined some ideas.
  • I also have two pairs of corduroy pants in progress that need finishing. UPDATE: These remain untouched, but now that I have a functional jeans pattern, there is a decent chance of the pair I didn’t start cutting yet getting made soon.
  • And cranberry corduroy for a winter skirt. UPDATE: I thought about it last week because fall is here and this would be a great time to wear it. You know, if it had been designed/sewn already. I did this a while ago! Maybe a year? And I have been wearing it all the time. I will probably make another one or two in different fabrics.
  • Make my own swimsuit for the summer! (Long torso is a big problem in this department as well.) UPDATE: Maybe next this year.

And there you have it. I have crossed one personal project off the list since May, and that pretty much only happened because I had a really good deadline.

 

And the Winners Are…

Thanks for joining us at the Finally Forever Wedding Expo!

Without further ado, we’d like  to announce the giveaway winners:

Congratulations to Samuel Green! He and his future spouse have won their choice of a Budget Strategy Session, registration for two to our Wedding Planning 101 Workshop, or having the design fee waived on a Custom Wedding Garment. They’ve also won free admission to The Planning Party on April 1st.

Three additional couples have won admission to The Planning Party – Congratulations to:
Angela & Nicole Bolding
Stephen Lutes
Maribel Arroyo

We had a wonderful time meeting all of you, and we hope you got some great ideas and resources to plan a fantastic wedding! Don’t forget about our Marriage Equality Discount, valid for all wedding planning services booked by March 31st for weddings taking place in 2014.

What is this Planning Party thing?

If you are stressed out with wedding planning and you need a little bit of expert help and/or a big glass of wine, then it might be just the party for you! The Planning Party is a casual get together where couples are invited to ask us absolutely anything about planning their weddings. We’ll be featuring a different vendor each month to talk about their specialty and answer questions as well. At our inaugural Party on Tuesday April 1st, our guest will be Emilia Schobeiri of Emilia Jane Photography. (You may remember her lovely photos of Sarah’s wedding dress and winter coat or James and Liz’s wedding.) And, of course, refreshments will be provided. Follow the link above to register or get more information.

Kate | Custom Pink Silk Dupioni Wedding Gown

Concept

When you’re over 6′ tall, it can be pretty difficult to find anything that fits off the rack. If you’re on the hunt for a wedding gown, you’d like to have straps, you don’t want a pouffy princess ballgown, and you don’t even want it to be white, it’s damn near impossible. And that’s why Kate came to see us.

She was looking for something classy and fitted through the torso with a trumpet flare at the bottom. She wanted her dress to have lots of texture to it. Of the design options we presented, Kate’s top choice was our “starburst” design, featuring seamed panels of fabric angling outwards in all directions from a central point of the dress.

Concept Sketch for Kate's Wedding Dress © Crafty Broads

Concept Sketch for Kate’s Wedding Dress © Crafty Broads

Work-in-Progress & Challenges

We often use padding to make a dress form into the same shape as a client so that we can drape our design on it; however there are some limitations. While you can add material to make a dress form wider, there’s no good way to make one taller in any area except the legs. And though many tall people are tall because they have super long legs, Kate is tall in every aspect – long legs, long torso, she is even long from shoulder to bustline. So for this project we chose to use a flat-patterning method – taking Kate’s exact measurements and using a computer and a lot of very specific math to create a paper patter that we could work from. It worked out very well and needed surprisingly little adjustment at our mockup fitting.

Seamed bodice in progress, as seen on a not-quite-proportional dress form! Photo © Crafty Broads

Seamed bodice in progress, as seen on a not-quite-proportional dress form! Photo © Crafty Broads

Finished Garment

We selected silk dupioni for the seamed portion of the dress from the knees up, and a 4-ply silk crepe to create a flowing skirt on the bottom, both in a blushy pink shade. This was our first time working with the silk crepe, and it was delightful to cut and sew. It has a nice medium weight to it, which made the whole garment hang nicely. The seamed dupioni portion of the dress created a lot of visual texture, and turned out beautifully!

Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are reposted here with the photographer’s permission. They are not available for reproduction, redistribution, or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Join us at the Finally Forever wedding expo!

We are thrilled that marriage equality has finally come to Illinois, and even more so that a recent ruling has put the new law into immediate effect.

Finally Forever wedding expo

Please join us in celebrating and get started planning your wedding at the Finally Forever wedding show this Sunday, March 9th! The Chicago Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce is bringing together all kinds of vendors, including us, to help you get started on planning your big day. DJs will be spinning, caterers will be giving out samples, and we’re told the wine will be flowing! Over at the Crafty Broads table, we’ll be giving away a free budget strategy session to one lucky couple – so stop by and chat with us!

This event is FREE and open to ALL couples, because equality is for everyone. Click here to register.

Hayley | Custom 1950s-Style Wedding Dress

Concept

Hayley came to us in search of a full-skirted, fifties-style knee-length dress, and we pretty quickly settle on idea of a structured dress in silk dupioni with a shelf bust in glossy silk charmeuse.

Concept sketch for Hayley's 1950s-style wedding dress

Concept sketch for Hayley’s 1950s-style wedding dress

Work-in-Progress & Challenges

This was our first time making a shelf bust, and we really had a learning curve on it. The charmeuse was fussy and didn’t like to be pleated. We went through a good bit of trial and error to get it just right. Other than that, it was a fairly straightforward garment. Silk dupioni is a dream to work with, and we found a lovely lightweight silk to line it with too!

Final version of the bust shelf! Photo © Crafty Broads

Final version of the bust shelf! Photo © Crafty Broads

Finished Garment

Hayley decided on a gorgeous color for her dress – somewhere in between gold an ivory. The difference in texture between the dupioni (main body of the dress) and the charmeuse (in the ruched bust section) creates a striking contrast, even though the two fabrics are the same color.

Doesn’t Hayley look stunning? We absolutely loved how her dress turned out! Congratulations Hayley and Scott!

Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are used with permission. They are not available for reposting or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.

Pet Peeves: That Gap in the Back of Your Waistband

A long, LONG time ago… (we all know by now that I am terrible at keeping up with writing things on this here blog, don’t we?) some fabulous people contributed their hard-earned funds to help us open up our shop, and we offered some perks in return. One of them was a chance to tell us about their pet peeve related to mass-produced clothing. So today, we’re hearing from Trisha (who is shaving her head for St. Baldrick’s this year, go give some money to fund cancer research if you can!)

The Pet Peeve

So here is what Trisha wants to know: What is up with the gap in the back of all the waistbands?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that there’s a good chance everyone reading this knows exactly what Trisha is talking about. I know I do. In case you don’t, here’s what happens: You go shopping for some pants. Or a skirt, it happens there too. You try on a pair. It seems like it would fit your waist perfectly, if only you could get it over your hips… which is not ever gonna happen. So you pick the next size larger. Sweet! It fits your hips perfectly! But now that you’ve got them zipped up, there is a huge gap at the center back. But you buy them anyway, because what choice do you have? And you wear them, and right after you pull them out of the dryer they are fabulous for about 5 minutes and then you find yourself with a terrible case of plumber’s crack. What’s worse is that you may even find you can successfully take them on and off without unzipping or even unbuttoning. This does not bode well for keeping your ass covered.

Why It Exists

The reason for this gap, along with numerous other fit issues, is the way mass-produced garments are designed. For each design, they have what is called a fit model. This is a person who’s job it is to have the garment tested on them. They do this in just one size (6, generally, I believe) and of course the keyword is model – which means they are likely to be tall and skinny and generally not too curvy. And that is the key problem for this issue. A not-so-curvy person doesn’t have a big difference in her waist vs. hip measurements; but most of us have a sizable increase from waist to hip. So when they take that fairly un-curvy pattern and then make it into other sizes (called “grading”), it doesn’t get curvier… it just gets proportionally wider. This is a mistake, if you ask me. (And everyone else who isn’t shaped like a tree trunk.)

What Can You Do About It?

WELL. Somehow we should all band together and demand that designers and clothing manufacturers start considering the bodies of actual people when they come up with these things. But given the likelihood of that happening, let’s talk practical solutions:

  1. Have them altered. Honestly, this is kind of your only option. You can learn how to do it yourself (it’s pretty easy) or you can have it done professionally. It should take someone who knows what they’re doing about an hour, and shouldn’t be terribly expensive. Ask your local tailor and then factor in the cost when you’re picking out your next pair.
  2. Custom jeans! Made from scratch to your measurements. Obviously, this is a more costly option… but it may be worth it, especially if your jeans get a lot of wear. Most mass-produced versions have stretch in them, even if they aren’t marketed that way, and the elastic wears out really fast, much faster than strong, sturdy denim. Perhaps you’ve noticed how they seem to get holes much faster than they did 15 years ago, before stretch denim existed? With a custom pair, you can request non-stretch denim, reinforcement in the areas that you personally wear through the fastest, and as a bonus, they will also be hemmed the right length.

Questions? Rants? Speak up in the comments!

Julia’s Custom Veil with Heirloom Lace Amulets

Julia's Custom Wedding Veil with Heirloom Lace Amulets

Tottleben_Howland-WED-0013

Julia brought us 39 exquisite lace amulets that were made by women in a Guatemalan village in 1946 for her grandmother’s wedding. She wanted them to be an integral part of the design of a custom, elbow-length ivory veil, but also needed them to be easily removable for future generations to incorporate into their own weddings one day.

We decided to use their circular shape to create a scallop edging around the bottom and lower sides of the veil. The veil itself was made from soft and ethereal ivory silk chiffon. We think it turned out pretty well!

Tottleben_Howland-WED-0237

I’m sort of at a loss for what else to say about this project. We LOVE period garments, as you know doubt are aware, and working with these little pieces of history was delightful. I am certain they will look as lovely on each woman in Julia’s family who dons them one day as they did on her.

Congratulations Julia and Jon!

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All photos were taken by Ashley Therese Photography and are reposted here with the photographer’s permission. Photos in this and all posts are protected by copyright, and are are not available for reproduction, redistribution or any other purpose without written authorization from the photographer.