Friday, April 6, 2012

What Is a Wedding Dress Worth?

Before anyone gets all excited:  I am not in the market for a wedding dress.

However, this girl was (link goes to the video, in case it didn't embed properly). 

She ended up with "Eva" from the Enzoani 2010 Collection

The website's description of the dress is:  Venice lace, modified mermaid silhouette with strapless sweetheart neckline. Organza layered ruched bust with Swarovski crystal applique. Scalloped hemline with detachable train.

The lining/under-fabric was diagnosed as polyester, but the lace would sell at retail for about $150-165/yard, and was fully backed with and sewn to a netting.  It's worth a click on the link (annoying flash website so you have to scroll through to Eva) to see the ruching detail on the bust and the applique.  All in all, a very nice dress and the bride looks beautiful in her photos and videos.

She paid about $2700.  She goes to B&J Fabrics in New York and gets an estimate of about $1200 retail/$600 wholesale for the materials.  The she goes to a dressmaker and gets an estimate of about $200 for the labor (in China, in a factory--not in the US or custom-made).  Adding these up, with some unspecifed allowance for design services and overhead, she decides she's been ripped off.

Now, I am certainly in shock and awe over the prices of retail clothing generally.  $395 pull-on blouses made of polyester!  $695 sack dresses, also polyester!  That's insane, and I don't know how normal people dress themselves--the balance between price and acceptable quality (such as for work) is difficult to find.

I also know that adding the word "wedding" to anything automatically adds a mark up.

But I think this girl's outrage is misplaced.  I don't know what her estimate for overhead was, but I suspect she lowballed it.

First, there's design.  The cut and fit of this are pretty great, and the bodice ruching detail is flattering and intricate.  So you figure it took about six or 10 prototypes to get to the pattern. (This is based on my very amateur understanding from the great Kathleen Fasanella and discounts the fact that they probably have stock patterns for this mermaid silhouette and tweak it each year).

Then the pattern has to be graded to various sizes.

Next comes sourcing the fabric, or getting it custom-milled.

 Then samples have to be made for every bridal salon that carries the line.  I went wedding dress shopping with a friend once.  Those samples are trashed.  So that's just a loss.

She says she went to a bridal store and chose the dress.  Was it the first bridal salon she went to, and the first dress she tried one?  Doubtful.  That's a lot of rent, salary, electric bill, and advertising for her to choose a dress.  Then she called around to other bridal salons until she found the best price.  More rent, salary, electric bill, and advertising money down the drain.

Then she finally bought the dress, and it was (most likely) made to order in China.

I think she did the wrong math.  She added up the wholesale costs ($800) and went from there.  But I think she needed to start from the other direction:  ask how much that dress would have cost as a custom creation from a dressmaker.  $1200 for the materials at retail.  I have no idea what wedding dressmakers cost, but I'm going to aim low at $25/hr.  To develop the pattern, fit muslins, and make the final dress:  what, 100 hours minimum?  So we're well past the retail bargain she got, and I'm pretty sure my estimate for a custom dress is quite low.

The thing about the RTW I linked above is that I could make each piece in about 5 hours.  Even at splurge $20/yard "nice" polyester (is there such a thing?) and valuing my labor at $50/hr, I'd come out ahead.  (Granted, I would start with a pattern--but I purposely chose simple shapes that could be drafted from a block without much time or effort.) She cannot say the same for her dress.

It seems that because she doesn't know what it takes to put that wedding dress into her hands, it can't be worth much.  Now, I don't mean to abuse her.  She seems sincere and intelligent.  But unless you've cooked a fancy meal, you don't know that it's worth so much more than the sum total cost of its ingredients.  And unless you've sewn your own clothes, apparently, you don't know how much they're worth.  And this seems to result in a lack of respect for all the people who made those things happen.  Buying clothes for pennies at places like Forever 21 make this easy--how much can the people behind the clothes be worth if it has made it around the world and into your shopping bag for $12?

What do you think?  What is a wedding dress worth?


Jessim said...

Very nice article! I read it thinking you were going to agree with the assessment that it was overpriced- I was surprised you went the other way.

I think "wedding" marks up just about anything- but making your own would be a huge hassle, and custom would be insanely expensive.

Honestly- if the materials cost $1200 retail, I think paying for the finished product at $2700 sounds completely reasonable. (That's more than I spent for mine though.)

Want to know what a rip off is: a veil! My parents didn't let me see the price tags until they paid for them (yes...I was very lucky they paid). I was FURIOUS. $300 for a piece of tulle with a rolled hem attached to a clip. I could have done that for under $30 in about an hour.

Ellen said...

Very thoughtful insights. Like the previous commenter, I was surprised you went the other way, but what you said totally makes sense. I can't help but notice, too, how we undervalue the labor of the folks in China. We have it better than we realize!

liza jane said...

I find that a lot of people who don't sew don't know the real value of their clothes. We do get used to buying cheap, heavily discounted items and forget about how much labor really should cost. It's sad, really. I have a friend (who I love) but is always asking me to make her something so I can 'save her money.' I have to politely explain that she can't afford me :)

And I have to share my wedding dress story-- I bought my dress of the rack. It was a sample that was discontinued (only one little spot on the train and a couple of missing buttons) and it was all SILK. A San Patrick 100% silk dress. I got it for 800 so I feel like I really got a deal. The silk had to cost that much. Man, I love that dress. I want to wear it again ;)

Beth (SunnyGal Studio) said...

great post. I think most people have no idea about the amount of time creating a gown like that takes, and also people do not calculate in the markup at each stage for the merchant to make a profit and stay in business. We could go back to all custom made clothes and then everyone would have fewer items (note the size of closets in older homes) which cost much more. Although they might be made to last.

Beth (SunnyGal Studio) said...

Another thought. Why is it that people happily pay $ 50 or $ 60 for a dinner you can make at home for maybe $ 10 per person, or similar prices for wine, but for clothes people now expect all clothes to be priced at mass market prices. So may thoughts on this great post!

Amanda S. said...

I overhear a woman at JoAnn's commenting to her friend that sewing your own clothes use to be a way of saving money, but not anymore. Well duh! Everything is made overseas now and quality is in the toilet. Sure, that stuff is cheaper, but the fabric is all synthetic and nothing really fits all that well. Unless it's a sack. Or has stretch to it. People definitely have a skewed view on the time and resources it takes to product a piece of quality clothing. And I think most have forgotten what quality really looks like.

niddetissus said...

Thanks for sharing this. I'm kinda shocked that it was on NPR without a discussion of exactly what you brought up.

annie said...

Two things going on here. I hate to say it but if you can afford it (BIG if), then I say pay whatever, even if you go the route of the dressmaker @$25/hr. It is a most special event dreamed of by women from the time they knew what a princess was. I know I will be on the outside of this but I think it is worth what you are willing AND able to pay.

Secondly, my attention was caught by the comment about the polyester blouses and shift dresses. Throughout my (long)life I have always been magnetically drawn to the most expensive item in the dress department. That's why I learned to sew and continue to do so. Sometimes even the expensive stuff is not well-made.

Ngoc said...

Really great post. I've only been sewing for a year now, and friends are always asking me why I'm not selling my stuff. My response is always that "sewing is very time consuming!" If I charged $20/hr for that diaper bag that took me 10hrs, no one would buy the darn thing (even though it's awesome :))

Unknown said...

I totally agree with you! I was very lucky and bought my dress as a sample that didn't need any alterations except taking up the straps a little, and falsies (always falsies). It was a beautiful silk number, fitted with little crystal beading and pearl beading heavy on top and lessening as the beading got lower; perfect for a beach wedding. There was lace around the cathedral train (which I didn't use); just beautiful. I got it for $200. I can barely fill my van's tank of gas twice for that (but that's a entirely different discussion). I too have friends asking for dresses and wanting me to sell stuff. I tell them that sewing for profit is actually not profitable and just making them a dress without fitting it is like buying RTW. It's entirely a labor of love, and for such an elaborate dress I think she got a good deal. It's not like you can hem up that lace if its too long or make a couple tucks in the bodice or pull in the sides.

Anonymous said...

20+ years ago I made my wedding dress for $160, material, notions, beads,trim, etc. It was modeled after a Bill Blass dress retailing for $2500. I was by no means an experienced seamstress. I was experienced enough to create a beautiful gown for one day. By the way, the lace was more than half the cost.
As in other skills, if you take a little time, patience, and even find a mentor, one can accomplish many things

M Kate said...

Here's my veil story: I had a casual hippie outdoor wedding, and made my own dress from an embroidered linen/rayon blend I found in the clearance bin at JoAnn's. I was pretty poor at the time, and it was summer in Wisconsin, so it was the perfect thing. Thanks to a coupon I spent a whopping $30 on fabric. As I waited in line to pay, I heard another bride-to-be gushing to her companion at what a deal she got on her veil that was "only" $150. I smiled all the way home.

Your commentary is right on target. I tend to agree that the blogger bride, like many people, doesn't realize what a difference it makes to have something truly custom-made, and what the total "cost of goods sold" really is. Too much Old Navy, etc. being waved in everyone's faces. I avoid that stuff at this point and try to make as much as I can. I appreciate it so much more and it keeps my skills up! When you buy a serger, etc. you ought to use it - it'll depreciate whether you do or not ;-).

a little sewing said...

You nailed it. She doesn't know what she doesn't know.

As far as "adding the word wedding adds a markup", I am not sure about that. As a violinist over the years, I played lots of different gigs; church services, weddings, restaurants and fancy cocktail lounges.
We charged about the same for any gig. But if a bride's mother wanted to hear us play, we would schedule a little audition. If they wanted a special song, we would work it up for them.

I truly enjoyed playing weddings, so this is not intended as a complaint, but I did MORE for brides than I did for other gigs and I did it gratis.

Little Hunting Creek said...

Yes-as you correctly point out, people have no idea of how much it costs to make clothes...or anything anymore. Wedding dresses are also a Veblenesque good which makes it difficult for us to judge value, because there are so many cultural issues attached to them. They aren't just dresses-they're symbols too

Lucia said...

Great post! The more I sew and the more effort I put into the garments I make the more I want to buy only the absolute best materials for them. It takes so much time and effort for me to make something that the crappy polyester from the remnants bin doesn't seem to deserve it. But if you don't sew and are used to paying less than $20 for a garment then you have no sense of what it really should cost. Perhaps one day we'll run out of countries with cheap labor and maybe then we'll see people en masse going back to their sewing machines! Now that would be something :-)

LinB said...

The whole "only going to wear it one time" garment concept creeps me out. I made both of my daughter's prom gowns--cannot even begin to calculate what they would have cost ready-made. Materials for my own wedding gown set me back almost $90 in 1982, which I thought at the time was exorbitant for polyester satin and plastic bead trim. I drafted my own pattern, using Janet Arnold's excellent historical costume books. The dress was a skirt and peplumed blouse, vaguely 1870ish in style. It's served as theatrical costuming several times since -- has to stay white because the dratted fabric won't take dye. (My daughter is too tall and curvaceous to ever wear it at her own wedding, so no need to save it.) I would never buy a gown from a wedding shop because I am too skin-flinty.

Eli said...

I think it's a bit ridiculous, really. If she wanted a cheaper dress, she should have chosen a cheaper dress. Are you really getting "ripped off" if someone charges you a lot of money and you go "this dress is pretty, so yes I will pay nearly $3000 for it."?

A. The quote is lowballed and B. what incentive would there be for pricing these dresses lower, since people are willing to pay the price she did?

T. Sedai said...

I totally agree with your assessment - there are a lot of holes in her argument, and I think all of the numbers quoted were pretty low. It is silly to expect a wedding dress to be priced in the same range as clothes you would buy at Forever 21 or Old Navy. For one thing, a gown takes way more effort and structure to create than a sack dress, tank top, or even jeans. For another thing, a store specializing in wedding gowns won't sell nearly the quantity of goods that a general clothing store would sell, so their products need to be higher priced to account for their retail space, employees, etc. While the wholesale quotes on the fabric might have been accurate, the labor estimates seemed awfully low - and she never really did say what her overhead estimates were.

Also, I can't believe she was so outraged over polyester being used in her gown - almost everything has some polyester in it these days. Really, it seems if you were that interested in the materials of your gown you would check that out before you bought it. And, did she even make a comparison between the average price of polyester gowns and silk gowns?

And, finally, I have to agree with Eli's comment above - she clearly loved the dress, and was willing to make an effort to find it at an "affordable" price after being quoted $3500 initially. If she had wanted to spend less, she should have set a budget and stuck to it. But clearly she was willing to pay $2700 and did, so I don't think she can fairly complain about it afterwards. She clearly got a bargain on that particular dress based on the $800 savings she reported.

And, well, to finally get around to answering the question at hand - what is a wedding dress worth? The honest answer is probably something along the lines of "more than the sum of its parts."

Noile said...

What an intelligent, insightful commentary you've written here, Trena.

I think it's ludicrous to spend that kind of money on a dress that will be worn once, in the first place, but to do so without understanding what is being purchased, and why it costs what it does, is doubly ridiculous.

The economics of retail goods are incredibly poorly understood in this country, to the great detriment of the nation. Spoiled, uneducated brides aren't helping matters any.

McVal said...

Wow. She is being totally ridiculous! There's no way they can churn something like that out without some design costs! If she was trying to save money, she could learn how to sew herself... I'm thinking $200 labor (even in China) is extremely low...
I made my own wedding gown for under $100. I made my daughter in laws for right around $130. No, they weren't as glam as this, but it could have been if we had wanted that sort of thing.
She's a bridezilla...

Beangirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
June said...

I laughed when I read your immediate disclaimer that you were not in the market for a wedding dress. Aw, you know your readers!

I bought my gown (married in '04) at a Wearkstatt sample sale - the gown was pure silk, had couture details (or so it seemed to me), was just beautifully constructed, inside and out. I spent more on that gown than I ever thought I'd spend in my lifetime on a single piece of clothing ($900, iirc, and that's not including cost of travel from Boston to NY, hemming and minor alteration, post-wedding cleaning, and even the dang garment bag). It killed my budget, I was a postdoc at the time earning a postdoc's salary. But strangely, I don't regret it. And, probably, when I think of the effort to design the dress, the cost of the fabric, the effort to sew it, etc, it probably was priced somewhat on the low side. Wearkstatt has closed, but the owner appears to now be designing menswear (

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Trena. This bride just does not know what goes into making, marketing, and selling an article of clothing. I like your comparison to eating at a restaurant vs making a meal at home.

I think $2700 is a reasonable price. If she wanted to make it herself, she would have to spend years getting professional training in dressmaking. Since she presumably chooses to spend her time doing other things than learning dressmaking, she has to pay for others to provide her with their dressmaking service.

Claudine (

Sz said...

Excellent points, and I agree with you completely.

Having made several wedding dresses, my own, and for friends I have always told them that my efforts on the dress was their gift. Period.

Otherwise they could not afford the custom creation they were getting. Not the muslins or the fabric or all the handwork that goes into a wedding dress.

Gypsy Love said...

I love the point you make about how expensive RTW is. IDK maybe im cheap, but even when i go to places like ann taylor loft hoping to get some decent work clothing,I gasp at the fact they want 60-80 for a polyester shell.

Alison Cummins said...

It's worth what anything is worth. Whatever the market will bear.

Jen said...

Bless this girl's heart, but...In addition to your points, there's also the cost of shopping for and obtaining materials (negotiation with the sellers, shipping). The time designing the dress—the cost of hiring the designers—the prototypes. The overhead of the factory and everything in it. Then throw everything you mention into the mix. There's so much more than just materials! And, yes, the (fitted!) dress was made to order. This is not Old Navy or Penney's. Also, advertising in bridal magazines is really pricey—and Yellow Pages and even online ads, websites, and listings for bridal shops are not free. Booths at bridal fairs aren't free.

If you open a bakery and sell your cupcakes at cost, you will not last long at all. But as Noile and a few others have said, very few people understand economics of this nature. Alas.

bleenie said...

Interesting post; I have to agree with Eli above that if she wanted a cheaper dress, she should have shopped for one. Wedding dresses are priced according to brand, and Enzoani is considered higher-end. No one picks up a Louis Vuitton bag and says, is this really $4,000worth of leather??

That being said, I am surprised that it was polyester for a $3,000 dress; typically the high-end dresses are silk. I chose a mid-range dress that retailed for about $1,000; it was probably more elaborately made than her dress but without the fancy label. Mine was a synthetic fabric and I loved it. Afterwards it was filthy from being dragged on the ground, so I just dunked it in the bathtub with some detergent and it came out like new-- try that with silk!

She could also resell it to recoup some of her costs.

Summer Flies said...

I don't have time to read all the comments today but I will as this is a pet hate of mine. I have NO idea how people pay the exorbitant prices for the most simple of designs and things even I could knock out in a couple of hours. I just don't get the basic of someone working for a week to buy a shift for $400.
I made my sister's wedding dress 23 years ago, a knock off of a Melbourne designer (way before I knew what a knock off was) and it was a very simple design and with a beautiful crepe backed satin that cost me $120. There was no muslin no real fitting (there wasn't time and she fit into a standard size 12 pretty well). But it took hours.
There will be a revolution in China and other poorly paid countries in the future however long it takes. Those of us who sew, either a bit sloppy like me or really detailed and 'proper' like many, we will be ahead. I don't feel guilty for wearing my clothes but I do when I buy something cheap. How can KMart sell a pair of jeans for A$10 without exploiting someone - sewist, fabric merchants etc?

Faye Lewis said...

Very interesting observation. I'm glad that I sew.

toomanypastimes said...

As a consumer you have a choice: either buy it or don't buy it. She choose to buy the wedding dress. I had a low budget wedding. I found a dress I loved in a discount store way on sale for $160. I bought it.

I loved my dress and wore it once and 21 years later it is in my closet in a plastic bag. I've never regretted my choice. But if I had, no one held a gun to me and said buy this dress.

Jne4sl said...

The more I think about it the more aggravating I find the story. Sure it's fun to find out what the raw materials and labor of a given dress would be but you're completely right, that's only half the cost. She completely dismisses the costs you mention and the figures she does secure are just anecdotal--I don't think either interviewee looks comfortable guessing at the cost of the dress. Then her economic run down is silly. She in no way justifies that it's a situation of asymmetric information or really any different from any other clothing purchase. Also signalling is an economic theory that works to counter asymmetric information. Sure every bride's dress "signals" something but that is the regular English usage of the word, not economics. An example closer to the economist's meaning would be she doesn't trust the bridal shop's description of the dresses so she finds some quality of gowns which isn't necessarily important to her but which nonetheless tells her something about the quality. E.g. the machine application of the lace looks just fine but does signal this is a mass produced product.

I agree with your assessment of the other costs that go into a dress. I don't see how buying a wedding dress is somehow not a free market, she thinks that dress should cost $1500, if she's right, something similar should be readily available for $1500 and it may well be but for some reason she chose the $2700 dress. Maybe that company's marketing is superior or their style or fit is superior. This is what she's paying for and it surely came at a significant cost to the manufacturer.

In sewing I know I can sometimes make something for less and I can usually make something fit better but I do have a better appreciation for the subtlety of clothing design. I may try to knock off a look but if the proportions are even a little wrong mine can be a wader. I'm sure this is reflection of both the skill of the professional designer as well as the number of iterations their designs go through before they are presented for sale. For a special occasion, I'd have no problem paying for a professionally designed item.

Nancy K said...

So very true. There was a piece on a high end tailor in NYC and they broke the cost down with fabric being a very small part of the cost even using high end Italian wool which can retail as high as her lace was estimated to cost. People who don't make things don't seem to value the time or talents of people who do. They have really no conception of what it takes to get that dress to market.

Alison Cummins said...

It's even easier. Work backwards.

If something retails at $1.00, the wholesale was typically $0.40 to $0.50. Because the costs of running a bridal boutique are high (the customer is not paying simply for the dress but also for a significant amount of service) we'll go with $0.40.

The manufacturer's costs (materials and CMT, or cut, make and trim plus design, sales samples and hangtags) might be half that, or $0.20. The other $0.20 will cover overhead and profit (could be $0.19 overhead, $0.01 profit). Shipping and brokerage comes in there too somewhere.

This is a rough calculation for *anything* you buy at retail, including socks and t-shirts. Nobody's necessarily making money hand-over-fist here. They just need to run their respective businesses and make a living like anyone does.

Anyway, that means that the basic costs required to produce a saleable item of clothing are about 20% of the retail price. In bridal it might be significantly less, I don't know.

If she paid $2,700 for her dress that would ordinarily mean that the basic costs of making the item could be expected to be about $540, significantly less than the $800 she estimated. That's completely fair, and if she's going to get upset about the fact that people are making a living making her dress and making it available to her, then she should get upset that the people making her $3 underpants are also making a living because materials and CMT for that item only amount to $0.75.

badmomgoodmom said...

I did some snoop shopping today and am really glad that I sew and knit. The stuff I like has really nice materials, fit and finish, and I have an atypical figure. It's hard to buy it at any price. I do a combo of buying designer bridge for new stuff and making and thrifting the rest.

I think the Slate piece is a poorly researched puff piece masquerading as journalism. I'd expect if of Jezebel, but not of Slate.

I wrote about my wedding dress and cost breakdown at LHC's blog earlier today. See her take and the comments.

Someone told me that a small diamond means you got married young. Yup, I accidentally married my best friend when I was 20. I was hell bent on a career and it was a shock when I became a young married.

For our 20th anniversary, he promised to buy me a diamond eternity band. But, when I went shopping and thought about what that money represented, I told him what I really wanted was a family African safari. So that's what we did. We had so much fun.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that this is simply a case of buyer's remorse. The poor girl probably got so caught up in all the excitement of the wedding that she didn’t think through having to pay for her dress. Think about it: when someone gets married everyone is encouraging them to find the “dress of their dreams” for their “perfect day” that they’ll “remember for a lifetime.” No one is reminding them that it’s not the dress they wear that matters as much as the person they marry. Nor does anyone remind prospective brides that the day will be over quickly, and unless they spend wisely the bills will keep right on coming. This poor girl probably has made one payment too many on her “perfect dress” and is now doing what she sees as a service to warn other prospective brides about seriously considering the consequences first.

It should also serve as a warning to all of us not pressure prospective brides into trying to have the perfect ceremony (that they might not be able to afford) and instead to encouraging them to focus on building the most important relationship of their lives instead. Nadine in NC

ChristineB said...

I completely agree with Anonymous above...while watching the beginning of the piece, all I was thinking about was how much cash was blown on something that lasted maybe 4-6 hours. The venue looked spectacular (and not cheap, I'm sure!) and I'll bet the reception cost a ton as well - all told, probably more than enough to pay off student loans, credit card debt or put towards a down payment on a house.

Marie-Christine said...

Young and ignorant just about sums it up.. Obviously she did pay it, and is only having buyer's remorse after the event (combined with wedding hangover). And I don't think less than 50% markup is at all unreasonable either. But the young seem to be as disconnected from what ends up on their back as from what ends up in their stomach, more even.

Personally I'd go the homemade route, but my mom got married twice, both times in homemade dresses, so there's precedent :-). But this poor girl sounds like she couldn't even hem her own pants..

Marita said...

Great article, loved reading it and loved reading most of the comments. too.
That dress is gorgeous and suits her fine....

but I think she was right, it was overpriced, take the beading f.e. there was a very small area of it (and what was the quality of them ?), the fabric was not expensive for the company and the labor which I presume would be "slaves" in china don't get their fare share of this dress's price, so somebody is stashing money away with this.

Wedding stuff is more expensive than normal clothing, not necessarily any more time consuming to make, just label it that way and roll in the cash.

.... and we shouldn't compare the price she bought it with but the original price that was set for this gown it was almost 4000 dollars wasn't it? I think that price tag should not include polyester.
Making a prototype and tweaking and using it for years, should actually lower the price of it in every use.

Is there ever going to be time that polyester is stopped milling, because it's s..t. and should not be used for clothes, I would never make anybody a wedding gown using poly.

There's a lot of "high-end" stuff sold for too much, because materials are cheap for those who buy them massively, most of clothes, shoes and bags are made in poor countries with very little or no human rights, animal rights and practically are made by slaves, so the cost of making the RTW, high-end or low-end is pretty much the same, it's only the material that makes the difference and companies are making huge profits producing poorly made stuff and this occurs in high-end RTW too. There is one word that describes today's population and the word is greed, people think that it's ok to ask any price of anything if somebody is fool enough to pay and some people seem to think that they are entitled to have anything just because they can afford it, without any consideration of the sacrifice it causes to others, nature and animals. I sometimes think that modern people have no moral at all. OK I got carried away, sorry about that but it pisses me of that nowadays money is our GOD.

Lynn said...

I think that she did try to find out the real value of the dress. She asked both a fabric expert and a construction expert what they thought the value should be--they both said between $1200-$1500. Those people were both "in the business." To me it was persuasive that there was a significant "wedding mark up."

Unknown said...

I'm so glad I made my own. And it was all silk fabric and was still cheaper than that polyester dress

I think it turned out pretty good! Plus I can forever boast that I made my own wedding dress hehe

Summer said...

What a whiny brat, and a terribly done story. She chose to buy an expensive dress. She loves the dress. Then two people outside the bridal industry give her lowball quotes and she's pissy?

Also, polyester is a great choice for a wedding gown, especially as _lining_!. High quality poly looks great, washes well, stands up to wear, and is sturdy. I scrubbed the dirt off the hem of my poly satin dress after wear and it looked good as new.

meredithp said...

This sounds like some sort of grad student video project to me. She had a destination wedding, apparently, so other prices were no object. As other posters have said, she's got wedding hangover, and this is the only tangible thing she has to blame. She bought it and was happy with it until it was time for grad school homework. ;-)

Mae said...

My daughter saw a gorgeous gown that would be perfect for her graduation formal, apart from the $1400 price tag. I copied it. Two muslins, then the dress, then six weeks sewing on sequins. By the time it was finished, $1400 was looking like a bargain.

MySummerTouch said...

The cost of making a design and pattern for the dress, sewing labor, fabric and the cost of selling it in a store, shipping should be divided between several dresses or even more than several dresses of this type. I doubt that she bought one -of a kind- dress. The company that makes bridal gowns work as H&M, just they make fewer number of clothing and have higher prices.
But you're right that she forgot to add ALL expences.

Brenda said...

She's a spoiled cry baby. My mother made my first wedding dress and spent hours sewing on sequins and lace and pearls while hiding in the walk in closet with no makeup on! She was making sure it didn't get soiled before wearing. It was beautiful and very inexpensive. Her time and talent were priceless! For the second wedding I rented a dress for $45.00 and I loved it!

Mikhaela Reid said...

"Whiny brat"? "Spoiled cry baby"? Why are so many commenters hating on this girl? Just because unlike us she doesn't sew and doesn't have a detailed background in this stuff?

So I'm going to be a bit contrarian and defend this girl and her (admittedly somewhat flawed) muck-raking attempt. I'm all for accountability and transparency! I think the modern wedding industry is a bunch of overblown nonsense and I love seeing it skewered.

I loved her videos of herself riding the subway and her bike in the wedding dress, and she's right that the whole wedding industry builds up mystique around things and then marks them up sky-high--that concept of asymmetric knowledge is right-on. Anything with the word "wedding" associated generally costs twice or more as the exact same item (say an evening dress or cake or invitations or photographs or whatever) as much as a nearly identical item in non-wedding colors. And maybe that's overhead--design, and having to pay for fancy salons and staff and ads in wedding magazines and whatnot. And maybe some of that is just "we can charge more because we can because people pay more for wedding stuff because we've built up a silly mystique over it." Because a lot of these wedding dress "designs" barely change from dress to dress--the details are just minor variations to a handful of boring silhouettes, over and over and over.

She really did try to do her homework by going and asking some experts what the materials and labor really cost -- is it her fault that she isn't an experienced sewist herself? Come on, guys. Does it even make sense that one of the stores she went to adding an extra $800 to the price, just cuz?

Personally, I went to many, many wedding dress shops and found the experience lacking and silly. I even tried on used wedding dresses and found I just couldn't stomach $1,200 for a gown with a tattered and dirty hem. (I unfortunately couldn't find a vintage wedding dress that fit my measurements, either).

So I ended up buying a too-large second-hand RTW sweetheart-necklined cream lace and silk Tadashi cocktail dress on eBay for $100, and spent $200 for a professional seamstress to alter it to fit perfectly. My mom made a turquoise sash and she also made a lovely piece of hair jewelry. I do think the lining was probably polyester, but so be it.

So come on, people--let's stop the bashing. Trena, you make excellent points, but I'm still not convinced that she got her money's worth.

Joy said...

Very interesting. I don't think she can really be "ripped off" if she willingly paid for what she got, even if it "could have" been made cheaper. But she (and commenters) have good points about unfair (read: greedy) mark-up on one side of the spectrum and cheap labor on the other.
Unless you make something yourself, the only way to get something well-made and cheap is via an unequal system. Luxury can exist only alongside masses of poor to shoulder the burden. In more equal economies, it's rarer to see the luxurious lifestyles. Think Downton Abbey. Is there such a thing "fair trade" clothing?

Vegan said...

OMG, don't get me started! I was just talking today with a friend of mine who is an artist, and telling her she's got to charge more for a certain piece to make it worth her time. People have no idea how much time, skill and work goes into handmade, custom pieces.

SEWN said...

Great post and I loved reading all the comments. I agreed with everything you said. Well done!

Elizabeth Made This said...

I never expected to feel so passionately about the ethical side of the women on the other side of those cheapo garments, but sewing for myself has certainly changed my perspective. There is something that chills me to my bones about walking into F21 and seeing a jacket--a darn cute motorcycle jacket for like $20 (even with discounted fabric, my last jacket's materials came in at about $40). I mean I guess it's good that those people can be employed in some manner, but I don't feel right about throwing them a few pennies so some company can make millions and my American self can be cute and in style. Oy. End rant.

I think this bride's underestimate is just another example of how out of touch we are as modern people with a lot of goods and how much it really takes to make them. I can't say that I would have reacted differently--shoot, I bought my gown consigned all total after I got it altered and cleaned maybe $300. I understand wanting a good bargain, but I wish bargain hunters would remember the people on the other side of those bargains.

Malady said...

My MIL made my wedding dress for me.

I picked several elements from dresses that l liked. We bought a Simplicity pattern that had the basic lines, and she drafted in the rest (clever woman!).

We purchased good quality fabrics, silk, chiffon, lace, satin.

In all, it cost just under $400 - but obviously that doesn't count her labour.

I loved my dress. It is a unique thing of beauty that fits me like a glove and made me feel like a princess.

I am absolutely blessed to have had a sewist in my life prepared to give me that gift of her time and her talent.

I do think that if I was buying off the rack, I would have had to pay upwards of $2000 for my dress.

Interestingly, if you look at second hand wedding dresses, they go for next to nothing. I think it says something about our society that we aren't prepared to wear second hand or hand me down dresses anymore.

Meagan said...

This whole culture of disposable clothing bugs me to no end. I try not to sew for other people because when I tell them how much it would actually cost for me to make things for them their mouths drop open. I have even had some people say that I shouldn’t get so cocky about my abilities and that even high end designers don’t charge that much. I don’t think that what I am quoting is ridiculous in fact I always base my cost estimates on just above minimum wage, but when you are looking at 10-15 hours for a fitted dress at $10 an hour, plus costs of materials you are looking at $ 150 minimum. People just seem to think that spending $40 on a dress is normal. I only sew for a few people now and it’s always for trade, then at least I know they are putting equivalent work into it. For one lady I made an evening dress for her and she traded me 10 home cooked frozen dinners for two. Another lady I traded a pair of custom pants and a silk shirt for her to paint my living room (she suggested it because she was a commercial building painter), this worked out so perfectly I think I am going to offer her a new piece of clothing to paint my new place. I think that trade works best for me, I also think that it brings people together into a cooperative community, I have skills in one area you have skills in another, let’s trade and make both our lives easier/more fun. My most favorite trade by far was 2 jersey mock wrap dresses in exchange for all the La Mia Boutiques she could find on her trip to Italy. Not only did I get several issues but she also took fashion style pictures in beautiful locations that I could add to my portfolio. She was strutting though Milan wearing one of my dresses and an Italian lady asked to buy it off her, my ego grew just a little bit that day (she didn’t sell it but she did give her my card and now I am working out a trade with her).
When I was getting married I was on a shoestring budget because I was still in college. My total budget for the wedding was $1500, including my dress and my hubbys tux. Well I am a notorious bargain hunter but I knew that I would either have to buy second hand or shop on ebay. I tried on a few dresses at a local store and I knew that mermaid would be the style for me. I then found the exact dress on ebay for a quarter of the price. I bought the dress from her for $300CAD and then had some alterations done with a fabulous tailor, who gave me a screaming deal, all in I paid $475CAD. Even though I sewed myself I did not feel comfortable with that much lace. I loved my tailor so much that I sent her a big bouquet of flowers and have sent at least 20 brides her way.
People need to realize that you get what you pay for; you want your clothes to look good for more than one wear you need to spend more than $20.

Anonymous said...

I ordered a custom made wedding gown in 2000. It was made of 100% silk and had Italian lace. It cost 2000 and it was one of, or, the least expensive dress. It was made in Nova Scotia by a custom wedding designer. The price of her dress is what it is, as the saying goes. She could easily found a less expensive dress. They sell dress made of polyester for $100 dollars my little sister who is engaged says. It would be a rip off if there was no option but to spend that kind of cash on a dress, but there are lots of options, and she decided she wanted exactly what she wanted. It is after the fact that the bride looks at this dress that cost thousands of dollars and now only takes up space in the closet that it seems like a waste. I know I loved my dress but it is hard having 2k in my closet, knowing it is only good for the day I have enough sewing skills to do something with it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for pointing out what effort and time goes into structured, designed clothes! I sew, and made a few Victorian-style steel-boned corsets. These were heavy-duty, with 3 layers of fabric and over 20 individual pieces. It would take me a solid 30 hours to make, and the boning was expensive and hard to find, and materials cost £50 easily. A girl (who would think nothing of spending £500 on a pair of shoes) asked me to make her one, and when I told her it was cost her £100, she balked. I considered making my own wedding dress, but was doing a PhD at the time, so didn't have the time to invest in making one that was the standard I wanted to wear. I bought one from, funnily enough, the featured designer, and it cost me £1000. I loved it on the day, still love it now, and still think it was a bargain. The construction in that dress is incredible - several layers of fabric, in-built corset, corded lace (appliqued, not just lacy fabric), >30 covered buttons (just covering that many buttons and then sewing the loops for them would take days for me), beaded appliques...on the day I felt amazing, and I catch my breath every time I see a photo from the day. I could not have made THAT dress more cheaply, and I defy anyone else to (especially not if I'd billed my time, too). There were lots of dresses at the same price point that I could have made, mind you! I mostly felt bad for the proprietors of the shops where I had spent >40 hours of their (often 1 to 1) time, and not bought a dress there. Expensive doesn't always mean well-made, but if you appreciate the cost of skill, design, and fabrics, and understand how these work together, you should be able to know when you're buying something that's "worth it". If you don't care about these things, that's fine, but don't denigrate people who put a value on the time that the people who made the fabrics, the patterns, the designs, sewed the dress and ran the shop that sold it to you put in.

Debra Lynn said...
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