Is sewing your own clothes really cheaper?

I’ve been sewing for a long time now, about ten years. I enjoy it a lot and I’m not half bad at it! I’ve expanded my skills enough to the point that I basically expect to sew all of my own clothes. I haven’t bought new clothes since December of 2015, although I have bought a few used things since then. But does sewing your own clothes really save you money? I tracked the costs of a dress I made this weekend.

I’m always freezing cold at work and with the recent snow we’ve gotten I was thinking about making a winter dress. I had my eye on M7016 for a while now and I decided to pick it up plus some fabric and make a weekend project of it.

I needed the pattern, fabric and matching thread, since I wanted to finish the hems with a dual needle and wanted a really close colour match rather than using some of the thread I’ve already got.

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I looked at the seasonal fabrics that Fabricland has got in but I was turned off by the $24/m prices. I’d need at least 2m for this dress and I chose to shop at Fabricland rather than my preferred local fabric shop because I was hoping for a deal on fabric. I headed to the clearance section where I picked up 2.25m of this lovely stuff for about $7.80/m. I paid membership prices for the pattern and thread as they happened to be having a sale on right now that doubled the regular membership discount. With the discount the pattern cost me $8.99 and the thread $1.13 for a total of about $27.67 +/- a small amount of taxes. I did not need to buy any other tools or supplies (I skipped the interfacing that the pattern called for). I have a great set up in my sewing room with a good sewing machine and all the scissors, tools, and space to work efficiently.

Speaking of working efficiently, I also tracked how much time it took me to put together this is a relatively simple dress and it was spot on about 4 hours from start to finish. I didn’t rush particularly nor really go slow but I did trace off my size of the pattern rather than cutting it out of the tissue which took a few extra minutes. This keeps the pattern whole and lets me reuse it again and again. I also traced between sizes and cut a medium for the hips and skirt and a small everywhere else.

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Luckily sewing is a lot of fun for me and serves as my main form of entertainment. So with that being said I’m not going to add the “cost” of my time in my calculations. When I sew for other people it’s usually way less fun so I charge an hourly rate depending on how challenging the project is. There is likely some wear and tear costs on my machine, needles and scissors and such. So let’s round costs up to an even $30.

Could I buy a winter dress like this for $30? Having not shopped in a while I’m really not sure if there’s anything similar to this in stores but I bet you could get a cheap knit dress from one of the many fast fashion retailers out there for about $30. I doubt the quality and fit would be similar though. Plus there’s the time it takes to go shopping, try on, and select a dress. The likelihood that I’d end up buying something I didn’t really need while out shopping is pretty high as well. Malls are dangerous territory for the savvy budgeter! Could I get a custom fit dress where I got to pick the fabric and adjust it the way I wanted for $30? Probably not!

As with many things that I choose to DIY, it’s not cheaper than the cheapest option out there but it is cheaper than the organic/boutique/designer equivalents out there. Sewing my own clothes does let me stretch my dollars and invest in wardrobe pieces that will last.

Despite the time and investment needed, I’m going to call this one a win for the budget sewist!

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