1630s suit completed, but costly

That was such a fast turnaround for such a complicated suit! The client loved it though and that's what makes it all worth it. Its been a week since the suit was shipped and my hands are only now, beginning to recover.

Something that is painfully clear after this particular suit is that I need to pay more attention to bid quotes and stick to them. For as much joy as I had and as much as this project stretched my abilities (and those of the assistant I hired to help me get it stitched in time), I vastly underestimated the number of labor days and that really chewed up my profit margin. Its hard to make a living doing this if I keep missing the mark on the budget. I only charged my client what we had agreed upon, but the total cost of the suit was nowhere near what I asked for.

I adore my client...this has nothing to do with him. I'm not actually going to tell you what he paid...that's private. But I will tell how much this suit should have cost. I want to be clear, This has everything to do with my own lack of forethought about pricing my work. I tend to default to pricing by the GARMENT. I often subconsciously underestimate the labor hours so they will say yes to my bid (its just because I have always wanted people to like me...its not rational). This is where I get into trouble. I usually think of doublet pricing out at around 1k and breeches at about 6-800 and a jacket around 1k. But the reality is that it all costs MUCH more than that and it always has. I've just never moved over to pricing properly.

The doublet took up the lion's share of the labor hours clocking in at 5 total days labor.
1 Day of Labor = $450.00. This is LOW for a person with as many decades of practice as I have in my hands. Skilled labor of my level SHOULD be around 800-1k, per day. But no one seems to be able to pay that because everyone thinks clothes should be cheap (that is a totally different topic...not even going to start down that path).

So...With 5 days of labor in the doublet at a rate of 450.00/day the doublet SHOULD have cost

The breeches took 2 days of labor and so should cost $900.00

The Cassock took 3 days of labor and should have cost $1350.00

In total, the suit's 10 days of LABOR costs $4500.00...note, materials are not yet included

The various fabrics that were used were grouped together into a single line item of $500.00

Added to that is the cost of the buttons and buttonholes. I put them as a separate item because they are so costly, I like to keep track of large line items like that. They cost slightly less than the fabrics, coming in at around 400.00.

So now we have:
Labor: 4500.00
Fabrics: 500.00
Buttons and Buttonholes: 400.00
Shipping: 250.00

For a grand total of: $5650.00

Now...remember that businesses which sell a product ALSO have to factor in a profit margin...that is nowhere to be seen in these numbers. But it is required if I want to keep paying the rent on my studio, and for the internet, and to maintain my health (yes, hand sewing a garment in a very short time is incredibly physically demanding). A typical markup is about double the cost of manufacture. And YES...this still applies to businesses making custom clothing. So...don't freak out. I know I did. But also, keep in mind, every suit I make is a WORK OF ART. Not a cheap facsimile of something historical.

A final total, with profit margin, would have been $11,300.00

This actually holds up to scrutiny if you compare to the markup on very high end clothing being sold in the market today (just look at some of the clothing sold at Barney's NY). A fine suit, made in a 1st world country, by highly trained people can run between 6k and 10k. And that is a modern suit which is relatively fast to make by comparison, uses fewer complicated skills and most typically is ONLY two pieces -- A jacket and trousers.

Our work requires many extra years of training to do well. Our work is perceived as "costume" though and for that reason, it never seems to be "worthy" of a full price tag. Its such a sadness and this is the reason why its always difficult for me to choose to turn away other work in the film and TV industry instead of just focusing on The Modern Maker full-time.

I'm tremendously proud of the suit that I sent to my client. It really hits all the marks for me and is one of the best suits I've yet made. But pride in my work will not keep the power on in the studio. Something has to change or there is no logical reason to continue to make custom clothing. I should just continue to write about it and teach others, but selling custom suits is folly unless the numbers are higher.


Allan Gnagy3 Comments