I keep coming back to this question, and the honest truth is, there is no good answer.  “It depends,” is the best I can muster.  And here’s why:

If you are like me, and you are absolutely cheapskate mentality when it comes to buying clothes, then it can be cheaper to buy something from Wally-World.  A great example: I bought a size 20 (rtw), knit maxi-dress at Wally-World for $13.96 on sale.  There is no way I could have bought the fabric retail to make a home-made version for that price, not when you are hard pressed to find decent fabric under $9.00 a yard these days.  Now, had I the fabric already in my stash, or taken apart something else to upcycle the fabric, then sure, I could have done it for the price of the pattern.  Except, oh my, patterns can be easily $11-20.00! IF you don’t buy them on sale.  And the local fabric stores rotate through their $1.99 or 5 for $10.00 sales about every other month.  Even online the Big 4 pattern companies will drop their prices down to ~$3/pattern.  Like any good cheapskate, it’s about waiting out the best deals.

But, if you buy your fabric retail, your pattern retail, and your notions retail…then you can be looking at quite the price tag (in my opinion).  An example of this is the current project Sheri and I are working on.  The fabric was not on sale, $43.00 (not including tax – luckily free shipping).  The pattern I got on sale, but still was $6.95.  The zipper, lining, and interfacing came to $18.47 (including tax).  So we are looking at $68.42 BEFORE any labor costs are associated with the finished project.  I would never pay nearly $70.00 for a dress.  I am that cheap.

Sheri, on the other hand, has excellent taste, fashion sense, and a keen eye for quality.  She would invest in a dress that she would love, would wear frequently and would last a long time.  I know she’d be looking for a coupon code for the website, but I have a feeling that she wouldn’t hesitate to buy a dress that met all her criteria but came with a $70 price tag.  My friend Marisa, who also has incredible style and taste, just spent $90 on a dress…that originally retailed for $950.00 (She is the queen of sales!).

I don’t know how some of the vendors on Etsy do it.  Here’s a non-clothing example.  I made a walker bag for a friend of mine recovering from spinal surgery.  I used fabric from my stash, but still included it in the estimate of cost.  It came to nearly $50 in materials, not including labor (took me three days on and off working on this bag).  On Etsy I found the same walker bags (probably made with the same Simplicity pattern) for sale for $35-$40.00.  I was floored.  They are giving the bags away, unless they are getting their fabric wholesale.  Which is a whole ‘nother discussion.

When I was going through a particularly lean stretch between paychecks one month, and one of the kids who was staying with me needed pants, we hit the stash and for the cost of an $1.99 pattern from Hancocks, churned out three new adorable pairs of pants and one pair of shorts.  If I had had to buy the fabric, it probably would have been cheaper to hit up Wally-World or Goodwill.

Anyway – So yeah, it depends.  It’s a very subjective thing.  How cheap are you to begin with?  What would you consider expensive for an item of clothing?  Do you shop the sales, and would you continue to do so with the materials that go into constructing your own garments?  And most importantly, how much do you count for your own labor? Ten dollars an hour? Twenty? Don’t say nothing! You absolutely must consider your labor into the cost of the garments your produce.

I’m not trying to turn you away from sewing your own clothes, merely get you thinking about why you do sew your own clothes.  I’ll try to include some frugal tips here and there in my posts as well.  And Sheri will keep me from venturing too far into the void where I’m wearing bread bags for shoes.

Happy Plus Sized Sewing!