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The price of Fashion

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

I love to sew. I do. It's a bit like painting, it looks easy, but there are many, many hours of required skill that go into each gown.

Design, meeting a client, measurements, drafting a pattern, making a toile (sample gown usually in calico), meeting the client again for a fitting (this can take up to 6 fittings, an hour each time). Modifying the pattern to a perfect fit, cutting actual fabric (this can be up to 6 layers of fabric, lining, interlining, shape-well, iron on vilene, cups, boning, dress, silk organza for support....) and how to apply them correctly.

Then it's on to the finishings, beading embroidery, hemming, and buttons.

Followed by accessories like jewellery (will claws that hold crystals in place snag the silk...), veiling (short, long, full, lace...)

And last, it's styling.

How to wear your hair at the event requires a lot of thought into how the hairdresser can attach the veil to a low bun and can the veil be removed later.

Even bridal bouquets are considered silk will watermark, and the ends of the bouquet need to be dry.

There are always variables; clients won't have their shoes at the start, making hemming impossible until they do, not having the correct underwear or forgetting it at an appointment.

(Especially if the bra is padded or if we need to check the visibility of underwear through the fabric, especially for silk bias-cut gowns).

Then there are expectations; most dresses are not made for doing aerobics in, you may have to stand a lot, you can't recline in a boned gown, the move-ability (many, many layers require a bit of walking skill, yeah sure, I could do a hem above your toe line, but gee it's going to be a bit of an unpleasant looking dress). It's usually the very 1st time a woman has worn a gown like this, so some skill and practice are required from the wearer.

Have you ever wondered why some brides wear more than one gown?

One is the dream dress (for glamour and photos and the other is the get-around and dance dress) they always start with the big glam gown and change to a slim, sleek dress.

Cutting is a skill; you can't cheat, and the fabric has to be cut on grain and all one way. Or you'll end up with dark and light sheens for each panel; when they get joined, it will be very obvious and look like it's made from different fabrics. The same goes for buying fabric in one panel; the correct amount must be calculated before ordering. If it's wrong, I can buy more material, but if it wasn't in the same dye lot, there could be a slight difference in sheen or tone.

And after all that, the client will usually lose weight in the last week before a wedding or special occasion. I have never had anyone put on weight. I've learnt from experience always to make a gown slightly tighter and not to hand over a finished gown at the last minute.

It stresses the client and me out.

There is an element of transformation that happens to a client in a glamorous gown; the gown tells a story, and often the wearer is free to become someone else for a day; it's very liberating and provides a sense of escapism. Just think about drag queens, Cosplay outfits, fantasy dress parties or games that require you to dress up in character.

I love to use silk; it has a beautiful sheen and is light but costly. Polyesters can look a bit like silk but are heavy, not just a bit heavy but heavy; you'll be exhausted by the end of the night.

Detailed gowns can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months, longer if the client is busy or travels a lot.

The average Australian full-time weekly wage in 2020 is $1463 (retail trade, cafe, accommodation, admin... I'm not talking about anything that requires a lot of skill or higher education)

Three weeks $4389

Four weeks $5852

12 weeks $17,556

And that's not including materials, fabrics, haberdashery, book-keeping, accounting, utilities, wages...

I used to start work at 7 am and didn't finish until 11 pm but had breaks in-between, afternoon sista (usually an hour to make dinner and lunch and try and fit in exercise 3 or 4 times a week mainly to keep my hands, wrists and body strong and to de-stress).

So please appreciate a qualified designer, dressmaker and other creative professionals.

Floribunda Designed by Luisa Manea 3 weeks, 20 per cent machine sewn, 80 per cent hand sewn.

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