I often notice a commonly asked question on social media: “Why are wedding gowns so expensive?”

If I had to type all the reasons, this blog post would be never-ending! I am someone who loves information. If you have been a client of mine, or if you want to be one soon, I do a lot of research, I like to educate myself consistently on new techniques and focus hard to better my skills. I provide an extensive amount of information to my clients, to always keep them in the loop. I don’t like surprises, so I always want my clients to be prepared. 

With that out of the way, let’s start with reason number one: admin, admin, and more admin. I am an admin junkie. It is something I am very good at. I am one of the few who likes it. Let’s go through my process, shall we? 

Once I get a new enquiry, I immediately save their details. Usually, a bride will send some inspiration images of the style of dress she would like. I have a template that I send with pre-consultation information to tell the bride what to expect. I then whip out my iPad, create a folder within a folder with her name and surname. I created a template on my Goodnotes app, this template has 8 pages, ranging from dress analysis to fitting tracking sheets. My consultations are an hour long, where we discuss everything in a lot of detail. I have fabric swatch folders, for clients to choose their fabrics.

I created my own personal cost calculator template on Excel, where I calculate the cost of her final gown, and from there, I generate a quote. This quote goes into the folder with her name and surname. 

I draw a sketch, with a summary of the details which we discussed during the consultation. I create a timeline to send to my client to stay on schedule. 

Before any sewing starts, my client receives an email with a detailed sketch, an invoice, a summary of what we discussed during consultations, a detailed fitting timeline and a contract to protect both parties. 

The second reason is very important! 

Sourcing.

I don’t buy fabrics at one specific store; I have multiple fabric suppliers. I travel to many different stores within Gauteng, I order from stores all over South Africa, and when it needs to, I can import fabrics. I want my clients to fall in love with their fabric and won’t settle for something which they don’t completely love! 

As you can imagine, this takes so much time. I love visiting the fabric stores, and sometimes must force myself to not buy “unnecessary” lace, just because it is pretty. It is also great, because by sourcing constantly, I always have a general idea of what might be available for when I am looking for something else for other clients. 

Thirdly: pattern drafting. 

I create a unique pattern from scratch for every client, based on their measurements. Creating a perfect pattern is the most important aspect of this whole process. Each body is different. The perfect placement of style lines, fitting details, inner structure placements etc., is crucial. When something is not correct on the pattern, it can influence the fit, shape and structure of the entire dress.

This is the whole foundation of the entire garment. To ensure that your pattern is perfect, it is crucial to do a mock-up garment for the client to fit, and from there you can make the needed adjustments. 

So here we get to number four: sewing. 

There are multiple considerations in this process. Each dress has different sewing techniques. Some dresses can be sewn relatively quickly, some needs up to months to sew. 

Before sewing the garment, I quickly create an order of construction list, to be sure I do everything in the correct order and not to skip any steps. 

Number five gets us to the most time-consuming aspect: applique and hand sewing.

No, designers almost never just cut out lace in the shape of the paper pattern and sew it as is. We meticulously cut out each individual piece of embroidery or beaded lace to sew it on by hand. This creates a seamless effect on the final garment. This also allow designers to place each piece of lace exactly where they want. 

A lot of finishes also needs hand sewing techniques to complete the garment such as blind hems, sewing on buttons or individual beads etc.

Time allocated to fittings brings us to number six. I personally work with an average of 4 – 6 fittings, depending on the complexity of the design. Time = Money. Although fittings are necessary, the time spent on fittings, can take time away from creating. 

With this being said, I enjoy fitting times, as you get to know your client, and feel honored to be a part of their journey.

In general, here is a quick list of other aspects that can contribute to cost:

  • Operational costs.
  • Maintenance costs.
  • Rent & utilities.
  • Packaging.

This is a full-time job, not only a hobby. I must earn a profit at the end of the day, to pay myself a salary. 

I truly enjoy my work at the end of the day! I can’t imagine myself doing anything else! It is tough, and I work very hard, but at the end of the day, I find true happiness when I see the tears of joy, being part of someone’s most special day and knowing my work will forever be part of memories.

Attention to Quality

It’s all about the details

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