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The Value of Custom-Designed and USA-Made Stage Costuming

Posted by Deborah Nelson on Thu, Aug 08, 2019 @ 06:08 AM

Wings Dancers Tops desiigned by Satin Stitches-1-1Twice in the last week, at Satin Stitches, we have been contacted by groups looking for a stage costume for their performances. And their ‘wished for budget’ has been $40. We are perplexed. Why, you ask?

What is a stage costume, and what are these groups hoping for? These groups have shopped online for a suitable, sparkly top for their group of maybe 40-100 adult performers. This top needs to have a glittery stage presence, fit everyone and accommodate an abundance of shapes and sizes. It should be constructed for the rigors of multiple performances, over several seasons. It should be re-orderable, as they hope to wear it several years and would like the option for future new members.

Groups have been searching and finding glitzy tops, yes, but when they buy one to check out and find the ‘made in Vietnam (or China, or Bangladesh)’ label, that these garments are greatly lacking in quality and sometimes fit. Many are not available in the sizes needed for the group. As some people seem to forget, most of our ‘affordable’ clothing in our stores and online are made in 3rd world countries where the ‘contract shop’ gets maybe $2 for a top, and they pay their manufacturing staff at a rate of an estimated $2 to $15 PER DAY, not per hour, and mostly based on ‘piece work’ which creates a need to sew fast – with less attention to quality.

Mass Produced-CustomAdditionally, some shops set up in the United States do pay a very low wage, and their pay may also be based on ‘piece work’. Satin Stitches does NOT contract out for cutting/sewing/embellishing of our custom performance costumes. We base our pricing on A LIVING HOURLY WAGE for our Minnesota, home-grown employees. We value quality work and we do not base our employees’ wages on ‘piece work’.

We pride ourselves on creating a truly custom and quality garment for each and every client. We invest in creating a prototype that we hope will exceed our client’s expectations, possibly reworking that prototype a number of times to achieve the client’s costume goals. Fabrics and trims are purchased specifically for that client’s needs. We do not have a warehouse full of limited fabric options.

Guess what…attention to detail for a custom garment request requires labor-time to sketch the options, create the CAD pattern, cut the prototype, sew the prototype, embellish the prototype, ship the prototype (with our generic sizing samples) and then when critiqued, update the sketch, update the patternmaking and perhaps re-cut, and then sew and embellish another prototype to be shipped to our client for approval. If tweaks are still needed, then we again update the sketch, update the patternmaking, and sometimes sew and embellish and ship an additional, updated prototype.

Once that prototype is approved, we then work on creating all the sizes needed for our client – as small as Child Sizes, and as large as Adult 6X – all with SHORT, MEDIUM, and LONG torso, sleeve and leg or skirt lengths, for our clients to have a full range of sizes available to them. This is so our clients are able to correctly fit ALL their group members. Additionally, when necessary, we will custom-cut for someone that does not fit into our hundreds of size options, because we know that every group member deserves to have a performance costume that fits. We will offer special sizing with cup-sizes when needed, and for a group member with non-conforming proportions. Because sometimes costumes need to be micro-fitted to group members, we take this into consideration so that talented group costume personnel can easily make those adjustments on their end.

High Cost of Cheap fashion bookI am reading a book titled: “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth L. Cline, published in 2013 but VERY pertinent for today.

In fact the GW Museum (The George Washington University Museum/Textile Museum has an exhibit opening August 8, 2019 “Fast Fashion/Slow Art” that addresses sustainability.

This is why we cannot sell a custom designed performance costume for $40. When you contract for a custom performance garment with Satin Stitches Ltd, you receive so much more that what is offered online.

Tags: Custom Dance Team Costumes, Quality in Costumes


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