The True Cost of Sewing Your Own Clothes

Header image from Olesia Buyar via Unsplash.

Is it cheaper to sew your own clothing? While I wanted to learn sewing for multiple reasons, one of the compelling factors was the potential to save money. On the surface, sewing seemed like an economical way to build my wardrobe.

However, after my first few projects last year, I quickly realized that this is not always the case – and that’s totally okay. Here is a breakdown of what some of my ‘tried-and-true’ pieces cost (or would have cost) compared to RTW (ready to wear). If you are toying with the idea of sewing, I hope you find this helpful!

Example 1: Raw Silk Blouse

Retail Cost: $140 from Only Child Clothing

DIY Breakdown

  • 1.5yd of Raw Silk from Stone Mountain Fabric @ $23.80 / yd = $35.70
  • Thread = $2.50 (won’t use a whole spool, but assume buying a matching color so it’s new)
  • Time: 30min tracing, 15min cut fabric, 1hr to sew = ~2 hours total at $20/hr = $40

Total DIY Cost: $75.70, or about 50% cost savings.

Though if I calculate how much I could earn consulting / contracting at a $100/hr rate, it’s not quite so cost effective. But in reality I don’t do consulting on top of my full time job, so I am using an entry level living wage to calculate time cost.

This particular example with raw silk is a pretty clear cut cost savings, but not all are. I have the short sleeved Luzon top in their cotton-silk blend fabric which is a luxurious blend, and I haven’t been able to find the raw material anywhere. I don’t regret paying full price for it at all!

Example 2: Cotton PJ Set

To be honest, I haven’t purchased a PJ set in a very long time – I’m mostly a sweatpants and t-shirt person. In my browsing, I saw a wide range of pricing for 100% cotton pajamas. From this $70 flannel LL Bean set to this $112 beautifully printed short set to a $30 Old Navy set.

DIY Breakdown

  • 3 yards of Ruby Star Society Cotton fabric = $38.40
    • This had a lot of leftovers (about 1 yard worth), but I needed the full 3 yards for the continuous border piece. I may make a sewing machine cover out of the remnants.
  • Carolyn Pajamas Pattern = $19
  • White piping: 2 packs x $3 = $6
  • 1 pack of buttons from JoAnn = $4
  • Time: 10 hours x $20/hr = $200

Total DIY Cost: ~$270 lol, or $70 if only looking at raw materials cost

Yes, I could definitely buy multiple equally cute cotton PJ sets for the same price or cheaper. However, I very much enjoyed working on this set – the border print is amazing, and thematically is a perfect match for PJs. Additionally, I have a much higher appreciate for clothing with structured collars, piping, buttons, etc. after going through the steps myself.

Example 3: Luxurious Silk Tank

As you know from my silk comparison, I am a big big fan of the 3-ply silk Cuyana uses for their silk tank and tee. Prior to the price decrease from $145 to $95 for their tank, I thought about making a few variations for myself.

DIY Breakdown

Total DIY Cost: ~$157, raw materials cost ~$97

Less worth it, unless I need alterations to improve overall fit. Which, I do want to raise the neckline my on Cuyana tank, so it may be worth trying to sew my own version. But if I mess it up, it will be a very expensive mistake… so I’m hesitant to dive into that at the moment.

Example 4: Wide Leg Pants

I really like my simple, comfy and WFH-appropriate Elizabeth Suzann wide leg Florence pants. Since those are no longer for sale, I’ll use the Only Child Cove Pants in Tencel for this comparison, which retails for $225.

DIY Breakdown

Total DIY Cost: $90, raw materials cost $50

Worth it! And as a bonus, me made pants will always have the right hem length, no need for alterations since that’s done as part of the process.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the cost of raw materials is the biggest driver of whether or not you will save money sewing something vs. buying it. I find that mid-range pieces made from quality linen, raw silk, silk crepe de chine, twill and tencel can be sewn more cost effectively compared to their ethically produced counterparts.

However, very casual pieces (ex. t-shirts made of knit fabric) and fancy pieces (ex. 3-ply silk) will typically be cheaper to purchase. There is no way to compete with a $5 t-shirt from Target, or even an $18 one from Everlane. And fast fashion will always be the cheapest short-term option, as we know.

That being said – I find the activity of sewing itself to be very enjoyable and fulfilling, which ultimately makes this all ‘worth it’. 

And while this post may make it seem cost prohibitive to get into sewing, there are increasingly more free resources and patterns out there in the community. Love to Sew Podcast dedicated an entire episode and post to free sewing resources, which is a great starting point!

Partnership Disclosure: This blog post was not sponsored by any of the brands listed above. As always, all opinions are my own. This post may contain affiliate links, in which I earn a commission on purchases.

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I'm Kristy, a growth marketer based in not-so-sunny San Francisco ⛅ This is my personal blog, where you will find my random musings, in-depth reviews, and latest sewing endeavors.

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