Who wants to make me some clothes?
May 31, 2010 3:16 PM   Subscribe

How much could or should I expect to pay for the following service (and does this even exist): I walk up to someone and hand them a skirt and some fabric. I say "Please do the following: Rip up the skirt and make it into a pattern. Make one skirt." How much for 3-4-more skirts? What if it was a simple sundress?

I know YANMSeamstress but I don't even have a ballpark estimate. I would just like to know
A: if it's possible and if so where can I get in touch with this person
B:if it would roughly be more expensive or less expensive than buying a new skirt (which might be around $60? Then again, who knows if they'll ever make a decently priced skirt or dress longer than knee length ever again...this may be my only hope?)

I live in Chicago and would prefer to do it in person because I would like to use my existing clothes as patterns although if some online person had stellar recommendations I guess that could work too.

What do you think, fashion mavens of metafilter?
posted by amethysts to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
A. Etsy!
B. May also depend on the fabric, which you'd probably want to pick out/buy yourself anyhow
posted by xo at 3:33 PM on May 31, 2010

I would definitely want to buy the fabric myself.. I LOVE shopping for fabric but since I'm terrible at sewing I rarely have a legitimate reason to.

I would just like to hold off a flood of "Nth-ing Etsy" if possible unless you have specific recommendations of individuals who have made clothing for you this way.
posted by amethysts at 3:38 PM on May 31, 2010

This can be done, although I can't point you to anyone specific in Chicago. You should expect this to be considerably more expensive than a single store purchased skirt, although if you had 4 skirts made and averaged the price, it may be comparable.
posted by slow graffiti at 3:41 PM on May 31, 2010

If there's a specific fabric store that you like, you might want to ask there. Especially if it's a small one, they're likely to know if any of their regular customers are professionals, and could hook you up with someone pretty easily.

Alternatively, I know that SAIC has a fashion design program. Maybe a student there could help you out?
posted by dizziest at 3:42 PM on May 31, 2010

I can confidently speak to one part of your question: it's certainly possible to make patterns from existing clothing. Anyone with solid sewing and pattern-using/making experience should be able to do it for you. Depending how simple the skirt/sundress is, you probably won't even have to take it apart. If you have a picture I can show it to the person I know who does this (not local to you, unfortunately) and get her opinion about the difficulty level.

I can semi-confidently recommend this because I know people who do this on the side (but have never done it myself, so grain of salt time.)

Perhaps ask everyone you know if THEY know someone who sews a lot, then negotiate with them, letting them know that you want to spend the same amount or less than you would spend in a store (including fabric). Make sure you're realistic, though--if they end up doing 6 hours of work, giving them $40 is a little crazy, even if they agree to it, so a time estimate is important so you know what is fair to pay. Encourage them to call if for whatever reason they need more time, and offer to compensate them a little bit extra. Don't let the items hang out at their house forever, gently insist that they block out time for the work and have a specific date and time for you to come over and pick it up. Pay the bulk of their fee when you have the finished product in hand. If you can go look at their sewing room, do, that way you'll know if they let their cats pee in there or if it smells like smoke or if they're crazy disorganized.

There is also the option of going to a professional tailor or seamstress who comes well-recommended. I have never done this so I can't tell you what a pro would charge. If you do, ask around for recommendations. Maybe female attorneys, they have to wear suits all the time; my mother was always hanging around seamstresses. Don't take the first quote you get as gospel.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:39 PM on May 31, 2010

I've been looking for a local seamstress (not your area) and I'm having a lot of trouble finding anyone who will sew something from scratch. I'm finding lots of people who will tailor, but nobody who will start from scratch. YMMV.

Fifteen years ago I knew a lady who would sew prom and choir dresses for girls at my High School. She charged between $10-$20 an hour depending on how hard the project was. Dealing with silk, satin, and stretchy materials were harder to work with so she charged more. The hourly wage was in addition to the cost of material. This is just my anecdotal experience, so I don't know if it's normal or not.

I think Etsy or the design student are going to be your best bets.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:41 PM on May 31, 2010

It will take longer to make the pattern and be sure of the fit (by making and fitting a muslin, perhaps) than it will to make subsequent garments. Another consideration is the way your chosen fabric handles and "drapes" might be very different from the original garment so the results might not be as pleasing. I think if you could find a skillful and talented student who would work with you to achieve the clothes you're looking for, you might be able to negotiate a reasonable price that is not too much higher than ready-made clothes but the exercise should be collaboration of the budding designer's talent and skill with your taste. You are paying for talent and skill but also consider, 2 hours for pattern, 2 hours to cut and sew a muslin, 1 hour to fit and mark, 2 hours to cut and sew a garment, 2 hours to fit, hang the hem, press and finish. It's a full day's work if the fabric and notions are right going in, 5 for the pattern/fitting phase and 4 for the skirt. Subsequent skirts, maybe 4 hours work. I'd base my estimate on calculations like this.
posted by Anitanola at 4:45 PM on May 31, 2010 [2 favorites]

Check out the PACC for a professional clothier/seamstress/dressmaker near you. You may find business cards for seamstresses at your local fabric shop. I would check out Vogue Fabrics which has a store in Chicago (but the main branch is in Evanston.)
posted by vespabelle at 5:09 PM on May 31, 2010 [1 favorite]

My immediate thought was the International Academy of Design & Technology, in the Apparel Center. I had some alterations done by one of their students years ago, who has since gone on to become a really top-notch designer (and I own several of his suits). I would think you could call their general number to get hooked up with a student who could do precisely what you want. After all, what student would turn down a paying gig that is precisely in their field?

And seconding Vogue Fabric. The people there know everything.
posted by DrGail at 5:12 PM on May 31, 2010

I know a woman who did this for a friend, using a very simple pair of his pants as a pattern- patch pockets and a drawstring waist, using non-stretchy, easy-to-sew fabric. The uncomplicated nature of the pattern and fabric kept her labour costs pretty low; as I recall it took her less than 3 hours. She charged him $40 labour, plus fabric costs, and the pants looked great- he was really happy with them. She wasn't near Chicago, unfortunately.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 5:23 PM on May 31, 2010

Student is going to be the way to go, unless you luck up and find a seamstress/tailor that is not going to bill out at $25-30/hour or more for pattern drafting. This is not like getting your pants hemmed at $7 a pop or whatever people charge at the drycleaners' anymore. For the drycleaner, alterations are an add-on service; they aren't charging you what someone who does alterations ONLY will charge (although pants hemming is a bad example because it's so simple). Pattern drafting and true seamstress work is an art and a skill.

Doing a cursory search of Etsy for Pattern Drafting, there are clearly quite a few people who do this kind of thing on there. An Alchemy Request would be the way to do it if you want someone on Etsy to do this for you.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:25 PM on May 31, 2010

I work at a small town fabric shop that also provides alterations (not in your area). We do provide custom sewing like you're looking for, so you can look for alterations places that might provide the same. They often employ seamstresses with skills far beyond mere alterations. However you can expect to pay $20-$40/hr (we charge $35). Anitanola's estimate of hours worked is accurate except we don't make muslins, so instead of 9 hours for the first garment, you're looking at 7-ish. So right there you're up to $245. Not including the fabric. If you went to someone working out of their house you can expect to pay $15-$30/hr, depending on their skill level. Students will be cheapest, and likely to underestimate the work involved, so you might be able to get a low quote. Then bully them into honouring it.
Etsy will not be cheap unless the product is cheap (true for most instances, I suppose.)
Also, when buying fabric buy the same composition and weave, or close to it. (ex. 100% cotton twill can't be remade with polyester satin)
Good luck!
posted by Miss Mitz at 5:39 PM on May 31, 2010 [4 favorites]

Unless you get a student to do it, or someone who really only sews as a hobby, this is going to cost you more than buying a relatively inexpensive skirt in a store. Think about the economies of it -- the skirt in the store was probably cut by a machine, out of fabric bought at a massive wholesale discount, and sewn by someone in China or India. You'd be paying retail on the fabric and North American wages on the labour, which would include re-drafting the pattern and cutting the fabric by hand.

If you can't find the clothing you're looking for, it's definitely a viable option, and there are definitely places that can and will do this for you, but it's not likely going to be an inexpensive alternative to shopping.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:42 PM on May 31, 2010

You might want to contact local community theatres and speak with their costume departments. Many will have students/interns who wouldn't mind making a buck or two on the side (community theatre pays a pittance normally). They should also have some experience making clothing from scratch.
posted by CoffeeDregs at 5:43 PM on May 31, 2010

There's always mail-order tailoring, like this company in India. You might have to choose fabric from their inventory, though.
posted by Sallyfur at 5:38 AM on June 1, 2010

I see now that this will be a huge, expensive project. My dream would be that one of these design schools would open a little shop where students could work and I could just bring them my stuff, instead of going back and forth with emails and meetings at coffee shops and flaking out. Ah well, I will keep all of this in mind, thank you.
posted by amethysts at 9:03 AM on June 1, 2010

If you're really attached to these patterns, maybe you could try taking a community ed course in sewing in order to learn how to do this for yourself.
posted by galadriel at 10:51 AM on June 1, 2010

Alas, I'm awfully lazy.. plus no room for a work room.
posted by amethysts at 10:56 AM on June 1, 2010

I actually just did this but for a dress - it wasn't overly complicated, the seamstress was a friend so I didn't actually pay, but we costed it out around $400 if she weren't. It took a good 10 - 12 hours all up (drafting from the existing dress, cutting, piecing, sewing) and she's damn good at what she does so she'd be $40 an hour. I sewed the buttons on at home and did the elastic but she did pretty much everything else. Now we've got the pattern made it won't be some much of an issue (and a simple skirt is a very different beast) but it's a hefty undertaking.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:21 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

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