How Much Would You Pay to Have a Dress Made by a Family Member?

Updated on February 21, 2012
R.D. asks from Richmond, VA
20 answers

My aunt is *amazing* when it comes to making dresses. She made my cousin's gorgeous wedding gown, and offered to make mine... but I had already bought one (she didn't know) when she offered.

I found this dress I really want, but there's no way I'm spending $100 on it!!

So if she's willing to make the dress (and I'll post a link to it in my SWH), how much should I offer to pay her?

I do know she's looking for side work, and while she offered to make the wedding dress, I'd pay her for this! But how much?

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So What Happened?

Here's the dress:

@LiveBold, thanks, I get where you're coming from, but that didn't exactly answer the question: HOW MUCH?

@Victoria, I did ask her, but she's insisting on doing it for nothing! Stubborn! ;) I do want to give her something, I know she already has most if all of the material she'll need, but I also know she needs the $$!!

Ladies, are we looking at the link? Reading the question? It's a hand made dress in the USA... And I quote from their website "Pin Up Girl is an American owned company so profits stay in USA."

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answers from Phoenix on

I would just email her a copy of the link and ask her if she could make this dress for less than $100. That way you will get an honest response from her and you will know if you should just buy it online or not. Good luck! P.S. Its super cute and would look GREAT on you! =)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on


Maybe you should ask her? If she sews a lot, she will have some idea of what the materials/fabrics will cost and how much time/labor it will involve. If she can't get it done for less than $60 or thereabouts (I don't know if that is reasonable or not! Just using a cut-off number) then I'd just order it directly. Then you don't have to worry about it being done "right" or how long it will take for her to make it, etc. And if it doesn't look like you anticipate, then you can send it BACK. Can't do that if it is custom made, lol.

ETA: Maybe if she INSISTS on doing it gratis, that you give her a big thank you card with a gift card for $50 to her favorite fabric store?

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Denver on

My mom is an amazing seamstress. I pay her 20 dollars just to hem a pair of pants for me - that takes 30-45 minutes. I don't see how your aunt could buy the fabric and put the labor in for less than $100.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on the $100 for the dress. It would take HOURS of her time and WAY more than $100 in labor and materials.
That's the concept behind mass production, ya know.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

When I used to sew, I just never understood the cost of things. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get it to pay off. By the time I bought patterns, notions, and material, I'd have as much or more the cost of buying new into it. That's also assuming I never made any mistakes. Many mistakes would or could require extra fabric, multiple needles when they break, and maybe taking the machine in to be fixed once and awhile.

I honestly don't see how your aunt could have any money left over for herself, even at 4-5 dollars per hour for labor, even at 96 dollars.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I sew, I sew quite well and win prizes at the county fairs around here. I can tell you that this fabric will be hard for you to find for less than $10-$20 per yard and it will be mail order only. If you supply the fabric, thread, and pattern and then pay her you will be spending well over $100. You will most likely be spending closer to $150 minimum.

Here is an ebay place that has the fabric on sale, I would tell you to get at least 3 yards of it but you must have the exact pattern first, the dress pattern may be cut on the bias:

I spent nearly an hour looking at vintage Vogue, Butterick, McCalls, and Simplicity patterns and there are none exactly like this dress. They start at the lowest around $25 and the average is more like $75, for just a basic dress like Mrs. Cleaver wore on Leave it to Beaver. The higher priced patterns, just the paper patterns that are $150 each. They are the bridal and prom ones, similar to this one but not exact.

Then you have to find black you can see, this is not a cheap adventure. The cost of the supplies to make this dress would make this dress easily several hundred dollars.

I say talk to her, pin down a cost of her services, then go find the supplies, EVERY ONE OF THEM, from the exact pattern you want, not one to be altered, but exactly what you want, to the black stretch fabric and black lace all the way to the thread, buttons or zipper too.

I think once you start finding the actual prices of stuff you will find buying this dress already made is a steal at $100.

I googled the fabric and found some cute sites for retro clothes, I love the top dress too. You have good taste but I think buying the dress already made up is the way to go here.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

What a nice dress! I'd pay her $100 plus the cost of materials. Yes, it's more than the dress you saw online, but then the one your aunt made would be a custom fit for you.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Dresses like this are mass-manufactured in plants where the pieces are assembled after being die cut. Even "handmade" ones. In order to make the dress again and again for customers who want it, they die cut the pieces.

Your aunt will have to hand cut and assemble each piece, which will take her a lot more time and effort.

To me, a hand made dress which has been designed to my exact measurements is worth every bit of $100. Go to any professional seamstress or tailor and I'll bet you won't find one who will custom make a dress like that for less that $150.

I know that's not the answer you're looking for...but that's my answer. She might be the most generous lady on the planet, but that doesn't mean that you should take advantage of her in a crappy economy when she could really use the money. If you want the dress custom made, offer her about the same amount as the one on the page...and see what she says.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I'm surprised that the dress isn't more! I would say you need to cover the cost of all materials/supplies (even if she has them on hand) and then pay her something for her time. In my book that would probably add up to more than $100! That's the problem with handmade things - you can never get out of them what you put in!

So how much? At least $50 - $75 for her time alone.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

I wouldn't give her anything less than $75 for making the dress. The stretchy fabric and lace are enough to make a person scream if it is not cut right.

Custom made clothing costs more to make than the mass produced because it is made for one person whereas mass produced is made to a set of measurements that are a general number for each part (hip/waist/bust).

Since you know she is looking for work, perhaps you could pass the word around so that people will come to her.

The other S.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

$100 for this dress is quite reasonable. The fabric alone, when purchased commercially in a fabric store would cost nearly that. Quality stretch bengaline, stretch lace and a whole lot of lace at the hem.

This dress is closely fitted which is a tricky thing to do also. The fabric has to be stretch and needs to have a mat finish to look good. I suggest you may have difficulty finding suitable fabric.

I would pay for the cost of the fabric plus $100.

However, if she wants to make it for you I would pay only for the fabric and allow her the pleasure of making this as a gift. I suggest giving her anything less than the $100 would be a slam against the difficulty of finding the fabric and making the dress.

I made a friend's wedding dress as my wedding gift to her and was very glad to do it. Nothing would show my love better than putting my self into making the dress.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I spared no expense when it came to paying my aunt for her craftsmanship on a sheer coverup she did for me so many years ago. I paid for the fabric and I paid her for her labor and even gave her more than she asked for because I love her talent and enthusiasm about me. She has been dead for about 10 years now but I still have that coverup and can still fit in it. When I put it on over a white or black dress I still get plenty of compliments.

I would pay my aunt and pay her well. If she won't accept money and is giving it to you as a gift accept her generousity but give her an envelope with a monetary thank you inside with the words of gratitude.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Iowa City on

So she already has the fabric on hand and doesn't mind using it for your dress? If that is the case pay her at least $60.00.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

That is alot of tedious work, If your asking how much $250.00 is the least you could give..Thats just my opinion..

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

Only $100? What do you have against paying $100 to begin with for a wedding dress?

If your aunt is offering to make your wedding gown for FREE then you graciously accept the offer. Especially if she's telling you that it's her wedding gift to you. Don't continue to insult her by offering to pay when she's continuously telling you she doesn't want you to pay her.

But if I had someone making me a wedding gown from scratch, and let's take "family" out of the equation to make it unbiased here... and it was excellent quality material, good time spent, and true artisan-ship and artistry, that can withstand time and be passed along as an heirloom, you can be darned tooting I'd be paying more than $100. I would expect $100 for a wedding gown to be cheap, chintzy, and cheaply made. It would be like wearing a rag.

If you expect your aunt to make the dress you linked to and she can manage to class it up a bit, I would pay her at least a few hundred dollars. Especially if she can make that dress look good.

I was lucky, though. I got a $2K designer gown for only $500.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Your Aunt would be hard pressed to make this dress for under $100 just counting the materials alone, not her labor. Labor that is specialized.

The sad fact is it is usually MUCH cheaper to buy a dress that has been made in another country. Labor and materials are SO much cheaper. If you want this dress you may be able to find something similar by looking around a LOT. If there is a customer service phone number, call and see if they have any kind of discounts, coupons, or upcoming sales. If you Aunt was to make this dress and you wanted to be fair, you would need to pay her more than $100.

ETA: If you have any doubts after this, take the picture to another seamstress in town and ask what they would charge.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

You should offer the cost of the materials for the dress plus an additional amount for labor or hours of time she puts in. Just because she's a relative, she shouldn't have to make a dress under sweatshop conditions. ;)

I disagree with others, if this is an actual designer pattern, buying the materials and making the dress by hand is always cheaper than buying off the rack (unless you are requesting she use some rare imported fabric). If she sews a lot, she probably knows where to find fabrics at a reasonable price, and if she's skilled, mistakes will be few. So you're getting a deal no matter what, even if you are paying for her hours of labor. The problem I see is taking advantage of her because she is family and not a private seamstress or couture house maven. Since she's auntie, she probably won't tell you the actual cost to make this out of the kindness of her heart. You are going to have to do the homework and figure it out, based on similar handmade dresses on the market.

If you're wondering about what to pay her for her time, check on sites like and see what crafters are charging for their goods and you'll get a good idea of what would be fair.

Here's a link to Esty's "pinup" fashions. You should get a ball park for pricing of handmade fashions there:

Another idea is if this pattern or design is from a couture house, find a similar design in a cheaper pattern book like McCalls, or Simplicity. They do alot of "look-alike" patterns of big couture houses, at half the price. The patterns alone can be VERY expensive. If you get a low priced knock-off you could take a big whack out of the price right there.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Well honestly the fabric and her time are probably worth $100 but if you were going to spend that much, you'd just buy the dress, right? I dunno...$75?

Lucky you for having the figure to wear that...that dress should definitely NOT be made in plus sizes...those two women modeling the plus sizes at the bottom of the link took terrible.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Hi, R.:
Ask her.
Hope you get it made.


answers from St. Louis on

What I would do is ask her to make it and how much she wants. I only charge my family for material, well unless they annoy me but I think it is pretty well known I charge an annoyance fee. :)

So much easier that way.

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