Sometimes you are looking for the perfect outfit, but you just can’t find it. Maybe it is not cut right, or the sleeves are too short.
Other times, you have an idea for what you want to wear, but you can’t find it anywhere. Then you start to wonder if you can make the outfit yourself.
Maybe you already have some sewing skills. It is possible that by making your clothes, you will get exactly what you want. However, how will the cost of homemade clothes stand up to the cost of store-bought clothes?
Generally speaking, is not cheaper to make your own clothes rather than buying store-bought clothes. Manufactured clothing is less expensive due to being made in bulk and often because it is made by people who are working at far below a livable wage. Also, sewing your own clothes can be more expensive due to the rising costs of fabric, learning the skills needed for sewing, and the time it takes for you to make the clothes.
Although it may cost more to make your own clothes, it does have many benefits. Continue on to read about the advantages and the disadvantages of making your own clothes.
Learning to Sew
First off, if you want to make your clothes, you need to learn to sew. Some basic patterns are easy to learn. You need a few essentials like pins or clips, shears (that you only use for fabrics), thread, and a sewing machine.
Sewing by hand is time-consuming, and the stitches tend to be uneven. Your clothing and other sewing projects will be much more satisfactory if you use a machine.
There are a dizzying array of sewing machines available, but you don’t need one that does everything if you are interested in basic sewing.
For example, you need a basic machine that makes buttonholes and has a zipper foot if you are going to make clothes.
Start practicing with some simple patterns first on fabric that is not your favorite or most expensive. Be sure to learn your lessons and make mistakes on the less expensive material.
Cost of Fabrics, Patterns, and Notions
Fabrics are more expensive than they used to be, and making clothes may take more cloth than you expect. Let’s take a pair of flannel pajama pants, for example. A pair of flannel pants at a big box store might cost $15 – 20 per pair.
If you wanted to make a pair of flannel pajama pants, you would pay maybe $10 for the pattern (but only once), then 8-10 dollars per yard for the flannel.
You will need 2 ½ to 3 yards of fabric, depending on your height and size. At 8 dollars per yard, you are already at $20 for flannel. You still need thread and time to make the pants.
Pattern brands change sales each week. If the pattern you want is not on sale, you should wait until the following week because they will likely be on sale soon. Pattern prices can range from $5 to $20, so it’s good to wait for a sale.
Notions are all the extra things that you need to complete a garment besides the fabric. You will need a thread, of course.
Also, depending on the pattern, you may need elastic, buttons, a zipper, hooks, or other items. Notions are not generally expensive, under $5 for packages of items.
Modifying Existing Clothes
One possibility for saving money on clothes is to modify existing clothing. For example, you can buy clothes from a thrift store that may be too big or not precisely what you are looking for, but you can adjust the size or the length to make the clothes fit better.
When you are looking for the perfect pair of shorts and don’t want to spend $20-30 dollars on them, you should try thrifting. You can find a pair of pants at the thrift store and cut them to the length you want your shorts to be.
Then add a hem or decorative stitching if you feel creative, and you have inexpensive and unique shorts.
Perhaps you have found some jeans that fit perfectly everywhere except the waist. It is a bit too big and gaps when you sit down. You could wear a belt, but they can be uncomfortable.
With just a few steps and with or without a sewing machine, you can take up the extra space from the waistband and make the jeans fit perfectly.
Is It Cheaper to Sew Your Own Clothes?
When you are thrifting, you can’t always find clothes of the exact length you wanted. Hemming is an easy sewing skill to learn. You can do it whether you have a sewing machine or not.
With an iron, a seam gauge or ruler, and a needle and thread, you can shorten pants to the correct length. You can also shorten a skirt or dress to suit your style and height.
Once you have conquered hems and taking up waistbands, you will be ready to take up the width of shirts and dresses to make them fitted as well.
Of course, this requires an additional person so that you can try on the dress you are altering while the other person pins it. But then, it is just a matter of sewing a new side seam to fit your body shape.
In case you are wondering, you can also add fabric to make a top or skirt more flowy. For example, you can split side seams and add triangles of complimentary fabric so that the skirt or top becomes wider at the bottom. This is a great move if you need low-cost maternity tops.
Another excellent skill for saving money on clothes is learning how to mend or repair damage to the clothes you already have. Many times, all you need is a needle and thread to make the repairs.
If the seam or hem comes out of a garment you love, all you have to do is sew back along the existing seam to repair the hole. You can also learn to replace buttons and even snaps and zippers to keep your clothes in good shape.
If the damage to your garment is in the middle of the fabric, you have other choices. For kids’ clothes, especially play clothes that are just for getting dirty, you can get an iron-on patch to extend the life of a pair of jeans.
If your favorite jeans get torn, and you don’t want to go with the holey look, you can add fabric behind the hole and stitch around the hole, so it doesn’t fray any farther.
You might also look into the Japanese sashiko style of mending holes in clothing. It is a beautiful geometric kind of embroidery that shows on top of the clothing and fixes the holes.
Making Clothes for Kids
Because kids’ clothes are smaller than adult clothes, sewing clothes for kids can be cheaper than buying them. For example, sometimes, a dress for a toddler costs as much as a dress for an adult.
Making shorts, pajama pants, simple dresses, and t-shirts for children is straightforward and inexpensive. This can be cheaper than buying clothes because kids’ clothes don’t need much fabric.
You may even find unusual fabrics to reuse for play clothes like old bedsheets or even an old men’s shirt or maxi skirt you found while thrifting.
Making Clothes for Adults
Where you buy your clothes will help determine whether you can save money by making your clothes. If you typically purchase clothes from big box stores or average-cost clothing stores, the clothes may be cheaper at the store.
When you start considering whether the price of pre-made clothing is more affordable, remember that sewing your own clothes will involve time as well as materials.
Choosing a formal dress for a school dance or the perfect wedding dress is a daunting proposal. One thing you should remember is that formal dresses are just dresses made with fancy fabric. However, the underlying concepts of sewing remain the same.
If you are trying to find the least expensive route for a formal, making it yourself can save you a bundle. With many formals, you are paying for the cost of materials and labor and the name of the designer – especially with wedding dresses.
When you are in the market for everyday clothes, from casual to business casual, you may find that store-bought clothes are more economical. However, due to the cost of fabric, plus the time it takes to make the clothes, you may spend more on homemade garments.
Denim for jeans may cost 10-12 dollars per yard. An average pair of jeans will require 2 ½ yards of fabric. Just the material, then, is about 25 dollars minimum.
Then you have the pattern, notions, and the time it takes to make the jeans. If they cost $30 at the mall, then your cost in buying pre-made jeans is less.
On the other hand, if you typically buy jeans that are $60-$100 making your own may save you money once you learn how to make them efficiently.
People of Unusual Sizes
One of the major benefits of making your clothes is that the clothes will fit you. The clothing industry has crazy sizes. A size 10 in one brand may fit differently than a size 10 in another brand.
Furthermore, if you are not an “average” sized person, it can be hard to find clothes that fit correctly. When you make your clothes, you can alter the pattern to your exact measurements.
For example, it is challenging to find clothing for women over six feet tall. But if you make your clothes, you can add additional length to the leg and sleeve so that they fit properly.
This is just as true for people who are shorter than average or who have a large bust.
Buying clothes then paying to have them tailored is expensive. Learning to make your own or alter them on your own can stretch your dollar and allow you to express your own fashionable self.
You can save money and take care of the planet by reusing old clothes for new purposes. You can make curtains, table cloths, and cloth napkins from bedsheets.
If clothing had become too worn or damaged to wear, it can be made into quilts or into baby clothes.
Shopping at thrift stores and sites like ThredUp can help save money on clothes and reduce the impact you make on the environment.
If you are planning to make or reuse clothing in an effort to reduce your impact on the planet, you might want to consider using naturally sustainable fabrics.
Look for recycled cotton, hemp, linen, or Tencel fabrics. You can also find polyester that is made from recycled water bottles and Econyl which is nylon made from reclaimed ocean plastics and discarded fishing nets.
The Value of Sewing in Crafts
Many people are interested in sewing clothes for crafting purposes. For example, maybe you have a dog or other pet that needs cute seasonal outfits.
Or perhaps, your child has a doll and wants matching outfits. Learning to make these items yourself can definitely save you money.
Clothes for Dogs and Babies
Perhaps you want to make some cute clothes for your dog either to celebrate the season or to keep him warm. Unfortunately, buying clothes made for dogs is pricey.
However, making baby or toddler clothes with some minor adjustments will suit your dog.
You may also consider thrifting baby and toddler clothes and altering them so that they will fit your sweet pup.
Clothes for Dolls
Many children love to dress up their dolls. Sometimes those 18” dolls (like American Girl dolls) have expensive clothes. You can buy patterns for the dolls and learn to make outfits for them.
They don’t take much fabric or time to create. And making doll clothes is an excellent way to practice your clothing skills before you make clothes for yourself.
Learning to make, mend, sew, or alter your own clothes is an excellent skill. It may not be much cheaper to make your clothes than it is to buy them from a mid-range store, but it will give you a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Furthermore, if you have trouble finding clothes that fit, making your own clothes is a great solution. You may be interested in our guide about when is the best time to do laundry to save money.
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.