Previously I wrote about “saving” money by sewing….whether it’s possible, or even important. Having an Etsy shop, I get requests to sew garments on a regular basis, and pricing them can be a challenge. Most of the time my customers have an idea of something they can’t find anywhere, and it’s fun to create that vision. For example I’m working on a “Hamilton” costume right now, but it’s for Halloween not theater, so it doesn’t need to be heirloom-quality, but it still takes a LOT of fabric and quite a bit of time. For sure I’ll be “losing” money making it, yet it inspires me and that’s worth something.
Unfortunately I often get requests to copy something already available. Last night I received such a request, accompanied by this photo:
The customer’s sister-in-law found this dress at “a vintage fair”, and she wanted the same dress for her own flower-girl. So I had a choice:
- A: Accept the challenge! Obviously it’s a hand-crocheted bodice, and I can crochet (I can NOT knit!). Looks like a simple silhouette, although that’s a lot of chiffon, and hemming chiffon takes forever. In my head this would be a $100 to $200 dress, depending on how fast I could crochet, even at minimum wage.
- B: Look for the dress online and see if it’s readily available, and if so then give away the sale.
A 10-minute search showed that the exact dress is available at this Etsy shop and this one, also from this Ebay store and this one, and also from this wedding site. Therefore it’s fairly clear that it’s mass-produced, and sure enough it’s from this importer. Open that last link in a new window and you’ll see it’s a $15 wholesale dress.
Fifteen dollars, with free shipping from China. For 3 to 4 yards of “chiffon”, several hours of hand-crochet, and sewing the actual dress, plus steaming, finishing, packing. I realize the government in China subsidizes shipping, whereas I have to pay USPS around $6 just to ship within the U.S.. I can’t purchase fabric for under $1 a yard and I’m not about to crochet for pennies. At a closer look, that dress isn’t even hemmed, it’s most likely nylon tricot, and I wouldn’t send out a non-hemmed dress.
Do I let a potential customer know that the dress isn’t vintage, and it’s not handmade? How else can I explain that I can’t take the sale?
What would you do?