The Cost of Bespoke & Couture

Many people have misconceptions about the cost of a bespoke, or custom-made, garment. Some people think that the higher price is deliberate in targeting the wealthy and in excluding the rest of us. The truth is that the higher cost is directly related to the amount of labour required to make the garment and the materials used.

Most of the labour involved in making a custom-made garment is spent measuring and fitting a client. Many measurements are needed to generate a properly fitted garment that takes into account the proportion and silhouette of the client. A custom-made pattern for a client must also consider the intended use of the garment; if a woman wants a custom-made dress for an evening involving a lot of dancing, then the garment must be fitted and designed so that the woman can feel beautiful, elegant, and graceful no matter how much dancing she does.

The fitting of a custom-made garment involves making a muslin, or a trial garment, fine tuning the fit on the muslin and then fitting the actual fabric that will be used for the garment. The more skilled the custom clothier, or couturier, the less extensive will be the fitting on the muslin and the actual fabric. Effectively, for every custom-made garment, two garments must be cut out, sewn, and fitted: one in muslin and one in the actual fabric. If the garment is pants of one style or another, then a third garment usually must be cut out, sewn, and fitted because two muslins are often needed to perfect the fit.

The rest of the labour cost comes from the actual cutting and assembly of the actual garment. In the case of haute couture, hand stitching, intricate seaming, contrasting details like topstitching and fabric/colour combinations, and embellishments like beading or embroidery will considerably add to the labour cost. But it is these details which elevate the garment from mundane to the couture level.

Typically, a custom-made garment requires four to six weeks to construct from concept to final finished product. So when you purchase any custom-made garment, it is important to consider how much labour went into making a garment that is perfectly fitted to you.