June 18, 2014

vogue: three years ago and over three hundred K


some child in my life (there are many that i tolerate, all the more easily so, as none are mine) was doing a school drive of some sort, and that was the year i read vogue magazine.  2' aught '11, to be exact.  and i've kept every issue like some mini hoarder.  

yesterday evening, i was gazing at our shelves, wondering which tome to take with me on a free snack hour.  the vogue magazines live with our books, in the sewing section, and i found myself wondering if any of the styles had come back around yet.  this pondering was probably happening at the same time noah veitman's scientific findings were hitting the online pages of the daily mail: by his calculations, if one were to treat the pages of vogue june 2014 like a clothing catalog, it would cost $343,368 to purchase the whole shebang.  

the article gapes at the price, but honestly, i was surprised by the total, i thought it would be way more. my wallet has no earthly idea if the cost of couture has risen LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE HAS in the past three years, but here's what the editorial pages held in one of my favorites: march 2011, the spring fashion issue...


a "grown up brand of glamour" (carolina herrera)


"punk'd" looks of the season (balenciaga & balmain) 


magical ensembles in "the enchanted garden" (tom ford and oscar de la renta)


"the life rhapsodic" bohemian florals (dior, louis vuitton, galliano, chanel)


always david bowie: new rebellious red carpet takes (bottega veneta & gucci)

i could see any of these looks being rocked today, the floral page is in full force, the met punk gala was what, last year?  and come on, that last gucci (forgive the shine, it's actually a jumpsuit).

noah further calculates a median price of $850 per item-- and again, that sounds super low...


OH


GA GAAAAAAAAAAH*

these confections, both alexander mcqueen, are way more than 850 per, that's for sure.  (both mcqueens are listed as "price upon request.")  i'm not necessarily saying it's right that these garments come with such lofty pricetags, i'm not sure what the price tag should be when you are a house of Something Fabulous, complete with minions, like gucci and tom ford and balenciaga.  but listen, people who don't sew, and listen well: DON'T GO GETTING ANY IDEAS.  the cost of a handmade garment is, and should be, pretty high.  

when you're a lone lady, and you calculate the cost of a custom ordered evening gown, avec supplies and hours and fittings and design... wouldn't it have to land in the ballpark of a grand?  really think about it. two weeks of nonstop work, for sure.  that's a weekly wage of $500 before you deduct materials.

not getting into whether you could-or-couldn't make it, let's assume we have all the skills necessary, but no minions: what would you sensibly charge for a gown worthy of vogue?

*can't say i know much about gaga's music.  but i do love that she is 100% in character All The Time, and i want to eat everything she wears.  which i think she would appreciate.

57 comments:

  1. Haha I used to love and hoard my Vogues as well! I stopped reading them when I needed to get on a budget - and also when I started thinking it was normal to spend $600 on a pair of shoes. Now I haven't looked at one in a few years, but I agree with you; I thought the total for the whole magazine was really low. I distinctly remember wondering if the quality has slipped, ha! Off the top of my head, if I were to make a gown, especially like the one Ms. Gaga is wearing, and ESPECIALLY if it's stitched by hand, I think it would at least be worth in the tens of thousands. For sure. (Or am I just used to over-inflated prices?)

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    1. ha! yeah, the september issue killed it for me, i was ready for 100% more fashion, but it was 100% more ads... for super expensive shoes.

      i think we have an eye for over inflated prices, knowing a bit what kind of work goes into it... i could not imagine handstitching those gaga gowns. i'd need a cool million at least.

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    2. WAIT!!!!!....it's not Normal to spend $600 on a pair of shoes??? No Wonder my mother keeps yelling at me. Good thing I got a job, huh? Ummmm....about this stuff, I was charging $15/hr free and clear for garments back in 1980s. I now am around $50.00/hr. This for anything as I could get that working accounting so I KNOW I should get that for artistic craft.

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  2. I have spent about 15 hours making a simple, but well-fitted, dress using couture techniques. In my day job my salary works out to around $30/hour so that dress would cost someone $500 in labor alone. And that's just a sleeveless bodice with pleated skirt. Add sequins, fabulous fabric or what-have-you and we're definitely into the thousands!

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    1. that makes total sense to me. then we get into what people see as "simple" (when someone says, "i'd like this pattern, but it'd be easy for you to do x-y-z to it, wouldn't it?" i generally run.)

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  3. I charge people 5 pounds an hour, which is just over minimum wage for under 18s because I'm not a pro. Then it'll take as many hours as it takes.

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    1. i just hopped over to your blog. i'm pretty sure you can raise that wage.

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  4. This is why it seems that doing custom sewing would be a challenging way to make a living. I don't think folks understand how much time it takes to find the right fabric and fit things correctly. And thus, I don't think they're willing to pay what it is really worth. - Been following your blog a long time and am so appreciative of how you and other blogging sewists help fuel my creative energy.

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    1. yes, even finding the fabric can take hours!

      i'm seriously stoked to hear that, it's my aim to get people happy in front of a machine :)

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  5. You raised a super important point. If I were to make clothes for money, I would have no idea how much to charge but those Topshop and H&M billboards advertising skirts from £8 and dresses from £15 make me sick. I know it's great for some who can't afford much but it encourages a culture of "disposable clothes" once the season is over. And yeah, I think Gaga's sense of fashion is pretty cool even if crazy but I'm known to like crazy.

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    1. yes, they do bring the expected price point down, don't they... but i tell people they should absolutely go and seek out the dress of their dreams in shops-- hey, you gottta be happy with the price, or you'll hate wearing it, right?

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  6. Easy answer, because I used to do it! Twenty years ago a client would need to spend $800 on an evening gown. Today, if I were doing this again, it would be $3500 minimum. The work involved is phenomenal. A couture gown from most houses is more like $50,000. I think Noah whosit had his maths wrong, or underestimated the cost of the POR outfits!

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    1. it sounds crazy, right? but he added up the costs listed in the back of the magazine. i wonder though, if there were a few "call store for price" listings in there.

      it's very interesting to hear the 20 yr old price, especially as i was feeling sticker shock at adding up costs + time and coming up with a grand.

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  7. If I made something that fabulous, you'd have to pry it out of my cold dead hands. I've had friends say that I should make Elizabethan/Renaissance court gowns and sell them. I just laugh.

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    1. HAHAAAAAAAA!!!!! i love it!!!!

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    2. I so agree with this! If I were making a couture garment, I'm not sure I could give it up when it was finished. Like a surrogate mother, I'd be attached to the love that went into its making.

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  8. People think I make my own clothes because I'm cheap. But they don't realise that fabric is often over $30 a metre, a skirt will cost me maybe $50 to make not including my labour (because it's for me and it's my hobby which I love. Also cheaper than a psychologist) and yes, that makes my skirt more expensive than the $15 piece-of-crap skirt you could have bought in a big box store, except hey, no Bangladeshi children were harmed in the process. And I am not cheap.

    Getting back to the subject, that gaga feather thing would be mega bucks. Surely there are couture techniques used. Also FEATHERS.

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    1. yes, yes to it all, michelle.

      which brings to mind, what's different about sewing for others is it can be less therapeutic and more YOU WANT A ZIPPER WHERE OK I'M GONNA NEED MORE THERAPY.

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    2. Yes yes indeed! I'm a quilter, not a garment maker (but I love your eye candy and turn of phrase, Oona!) and sew for all those reasons. If I wanted cheap blankets for the bed I'd go to Ikea!!

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  9. I would charge $20,000 easily for a similar couture gown. The work involved is intense, and that's before you consider fabrics!

    I think Noah is way wrong on his maths.

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    1. i also wonder if the june issue is thin!! i pulled my june & july issues, they were easily a fifth of the size of march.

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  10. Whoa dude! That's a lotta cash... but you're right, it doesn't sound like enough! Dude, what do you charge for blood, sweat, and tears? Cause there'd be a lot of all three if I stitched up couture gowns!

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    1. i dunno man, but if you put those bodily fluids INTO the gown, you could probably charge more.

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  11. I have made people stuff, but if people asked me to make them stuff, I generally say no

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    1. ah, that quandary. there's a few peeps i want to make stuff for, but i worry that it will open the floodgates for further requests...

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  12. I've worked as a menswear tailor. Many moons ago of course. Life has changed, economy crashed world wide... but... back then a custom made tailored suit price started where i live from 800$. That was the cheapest. And there were many men and gentlemen who could afford it.
    Now when thats my past life and I make most of tailoring in my free time...people make eyes when I dare to ask 250+ materials for a woolen winter coat.
    I mean...that shit aint easy to make. It takes time and a lot of sweat to make a coat.
    I guess my point is you might get paid less rhan your work is worth. At least here, in former Soviet Union territories

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    1. wow. the cost of living and the desire to spend does seem to be getting tighter, for much of the world... i could easily see forking over well over that amount for a tailored suit.

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    2. Aunty, I am a full-time seamstress here in the US and people look at me cross-eyed when I say a full re-lining of a winter coat will be $125. Hello? it takes about 4 hours every time, plus the trip to the store, plus the materials. I spend most of my time fighting poorly made off the rack suits from large discount retailers. Le Sigh. I think the world needs a MAJOR course in economics.

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  13. I don't know if I think enough of my sewing skills to charge that much! If I had YOUR skills hells ya I would be chargin a tun! Couture means a fair wage for everyone involved, so the costs are understandably very high. I am pretty sure that Paris couturiers have their own union, Union- the Nationale Artisanale de la Couture et des Activités Connexes and you have to apprentice to learn your craft.

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    1. ah but the fun is in the daydreaming!!! i'm going to daydream that i'm part of the union de la Couture. THAT WOULD BE AMAZING.

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  14. Ha ha! This is perfect timing! I just had the wife of one of my husband's friends ask me to make her a blouse because "the local tailor charges too much" (he charges $72 SGD) and I was like "no way!". I don't think I'm the best seamstress in the world, but the idea of being paid half that for aaaalllll that work seems a little crazy! I do love making clothes for people though, but only as presents so far... And, yes, those clothes don't seem all that expensive when you consider all the work - you are TOTALLY right!

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  15. Great post! Great comments! I actually read your post earlier and have since been in my own little world, {you have your planet; I have my little world} imagining my me-made on the pages, no make that the cover, of Vogue magazine. And definitely a March or September issue. One of my best friends buys all the top fashion magazines' March and September issues. Apparently, these are the golden months...spring and fall fashion...and let's be honest, Vogue magazine's ads are just as inspiring as their print content! In all seriousness, or at least as serious as one can be when daydreaming...my rates would run about 120.00 an hour...and the clock would start ticking from the moment I agreed to make the dress. I think I spend more time pinning down an idea, never mind pinning down a pattern. And then there's choosing the fabrics, linings, interfacings...heck, I can easily spend at least an hour looking for the perfect buttons. The number of hours? Errp...let's say sixty hours. That's $7,200.00 + the cost of materials. And lux fabric, it would surely be. So, maybe $1,000.00 for fabric and notions? That's a cool $8,200.00. Sounds like a lot, but I'd totally be worth it!

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    1. it would be worth it for the right wage, wouldn't it?? and i like when you start the clock-- people don't realize how much planning goes into it before a single cut is made.

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  16. I don't think people who don't sew realise just how much fabric can go into something like this. I am making a dress for my daughter to wear to my sisters wedding, she is 5 and so far it's consumed 7 meters with lining and tulle. Even a simple dress only needs to be bias cut and it'll be hogging fabric like nobody's business.

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  17. My husband and I had a discussion about this last night, after YET ANOTHER person asked me to make something for them, assuming it would be CHEAPER than buying said thing in a store. I'm always baffled by how little my time and skills are valued by non-sewers. The other day someone told me she balked at paying $20 to have a lined dress hemmed at the tailor (I think she was angling to ask me to take on the task). I was like, "Girl, I wouldn't change the thread in my machine for less than $20!"

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    1. Suzanne, I hear you! I have friends who ask me if I can hem their pants and whatnot. I can't imagine anything more boring I could possibly do with my precious sewing time. I want to create! Not hem! The other thing I hear a lot is, "Oh, you sew? Could you teach me how to use my sewing machine?" Sure, I'll read your sewing machine manual.

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    2. "i wouldn't change the thread" HAAAAA!!!

      minor alterations are mind numbing.

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    3. Beautiful, beautiful comments going on here! We so rock.

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  18. People haven't got a clue how time-consuming it is to make a garment properly. They figure the $15 they pay for a t-shirt at a store is a fair comparison. But yeah, factoring in time and materials for a decent dress, at least $1000 if you want to make enough money to be able to support yourself and/or a family.

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  19. While I don't know the answer to the question of how much we would charge for our handmade creations, I do know this: I got into sewing because I thought it would be cheap, and it most definitely is not. I spend as much on fabric sometimes as I would on purchasing a store-bought garment. And of course, when time is factored in, it becomes even more expensive. Not complaining, though, it's worth it if you're doing it for the pride of wearing something you made, and the fulfillment of hours spent learning a skill instead of watching TV.

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  20. The only GaGa I would eat would be the side of beef! Wish it had been refrigerated.

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    1. that brings up odorous questions... how long *did* she wear that meat dress???

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  21. I spent under $700 on materials for my wedding dress and spend 10 weeks making it (not full time, but still) I think the materials, quality and labor would definitely put it into the $$$$ category for retail and I'm not even suggesting it was anywhere near couture level.

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  22. One thing to keep in mind; the garment industry - like the shoe industry has become more like the car industry. There are a lot less hands on and more machinists. If you look at the machines in the opening pages used to add a cuff to a shirt on the duerkopp adler web page (https://www.duerkopp-adler.com/en/index.html) notice they are not truly sewing any longer but assembly line work. These machines are found in India, China and various other places where clothing is mass produced. Most times, the women and children that are working these machines are paid pennies. I realized that when I was a teenager in the 80s and priced a pair of pants I made at $75 (5 hours at $15/hr) and the KMart near me had pants for $20. Handmade is less and less common. I appreciate blogs like this one because it keeps the craft in mind and lets me know that despite not having home-ec classes or mothers not teaching their daughters how to sew - people are still doing this. Thank you all.

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    1. you're most welcome, and thank you for those thoughts!

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  23. yeah, i totally horde magazines too. i have almost every issue of the now defunct Domino magazine, and i've moved with them. twice. anyway, now you've inspired me to go look through them again!

    i love that you asked this question and it's been fun reading the many responses. a few years ago i started thinking about how much fun it would be to open a little atelier, do some tailoring and some custom work. but as you've nicely pointed out here, each time i ran the numbers i came away thinking there'd just be no way to make it all work out financially. even as i gasp at the prices people are willing to pay for serged seams and polyester at Barneys, i think it could be a very hard sell to get them to pay two or three times as much for a similar, if far better quality, handcrafted garment. now people who are in the market for couture dresses... i don't know, i guess they'd be better able to pay $50-75 an hour i'd need to ask in order to make some semblance of a living at that. but where do you find these people? or how do they find you? and how often, really, can one expect to get one of these two-week-long couture dress assignments? well, it's fun to think about at any rate! :)

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  24. Clearly he just added the prices he could find in the magazine (RTW). A couture "tailleur Chanel" is already 30 000€ (40 000$), so imagine this dress with all the feathers hand sewn one by one...

    And, if I had the skills to make one of these gowns, I would charge exactly the same prices as these "maisons" (ok, maybe a bit less, because my name's not Lagerfeld). I'm quite sure the "petites mains" are not paid much more than necessary. So maybe my fare per hour would be minimal wage x1.5.

    You're not robbed of your money with this kind of work. You have to pay for the designer's work, and about 10 seamstresses for somewhere between 150 and 800 hours of work, plus often specially made materials.

    Where it's not fair, is with RTW.
    3 years ago, I was in a manufactory (here, the last remaining only make high end RTW). At the time the factory was making python printed silk shirts. A team of 8 would make about 7 shirts an hour (a bit less if you added fabric cutting, button sewing and quality control, made by other teams). The manufactory charged between 68$ and 95$ for a shirt depending on the difficulty. Well, the end of the story is this : I searched the retail price on internet, and it was about 10 times that.
    Now I'll let you divide by ten (surely much less for no-name clothes) the prices of the clothes you see in stores (or in Vogue)...

    So my conclusion is, we can't really fight with RTW, fare wise. There's only custom clothing left to earn a fair wage. The only problem, as stated several times above, is the lack of people ready /able to put these amounts in a garment (when you're a nobody).
    And I make people pay (friends included) for a hem. I don't ask them to do their job for free either.

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    1. i can't see how that team of eight was paid for their time!

      i've been trying to think of a go-to response for free alterations requests-- "sure, if you'd like to (insert their job here) for free in exchange" ?

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  25. Wonderful post, really love reading all the comments and points of view. Thanks

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  26. Makes me think of the stupid articles that come out every Christmas, This Is How Much It Would Cost to Buy Gifts Based on "The Twelve Days of Christmas." It's mildly interesting, but only barely mildly interesting, to consider what it would cost to buy everything on an admittedly exclusive list of rare and marvelous things. It is painful to be reminded in mathematical terms that the dreams you are drinking in when you view the lovely things in Vogue magazine will never, never, never be yours, under any circumstance, because you -- dear reader -- are such a poor and dirty slob that you'll never have that much money. I've hoarded Threads magazines since the mid 1980s. I much preferred them to Vogue then, and still prefer the old Threads to current Vogue. They're both full of dreams, but Threads teaches you how to attain a few of the dreams by and for yourself.

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  27. I heard somewhere those "price on request" gowns were never manufactured, and thus never sold, so they don't have a price attached. They were created for the runway, used by the magazine, and are one of a kind. There's no way their potential price was included.

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    1. ooo that's interesting-- if i were gaga, though, i'd buy.

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  28. I had my wedding dress made in 1995 by a graduate of the local sewing program. She charged $10/hour ... it cost $300 to have a plainish wedding dress (no lace, no sparkles, but headache inducing fitting) made. We provided all fabric.

    Assuming I could make one of those Gaga dresses... well. Yeah. That's a lot of cash, dahlings.

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  29. I've just started making a corded petticoat. The sort of thing they wore before cage crinolines were invented in the 1850s. I've observed that pinning and sewing one row of cord takes me about half an hour. And I think there will have to be at least 60 rows. So, yeah... if I were to charge myself 100 CZK an hour, as I did for my cleaning and housekeeping services, and include material and all the finishing, of course, I'm looking at an undergarment that's about 4000 CZK (nearly 200 USD, Google tells me). Which is something many people - including me - probably could not afford to pay for a whole ensemble...
    You deceptively simple thing, corded petticoat you. They say women were happy to switch to cage crinolines because they saved on heavy layers of petticoats, but I suspect this was just as good a reason as that. Imagine handsewing that thing!

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  30. The simple answer here is: if you get a fabulous gown from me, I must really love you.

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i thankya truly for taking the time to comment, i love a good conversation-- and hope you know my thanks are always implied if not always written!