Thursday, September 24, 2009
Cheap costumes (or, why to buy handmade)
No, not from me. It's just a warning about what is out there in the world. (by the way, this cool logo can be found on t-shirts in phippsart's etsy shop)
My friend's daughter is in a play, so she went online to buy a renaissance-y costume. The young lady for whom the costume was purchased is a tall-ish slender 11 year old who usually wears a junior size 0/1. The costume they purchased was an adult/misses "one size fits all." Hello: one size does NOT fit all! That must be the most ridiculous clothing phrase I've ever heard. This dress was ankle length on the girl (who is 5'2")- what would it have looked like on a woman who was 5'6" or taller? The dress was made of stretchy crushed panne velour (to look like velvet) so I guess it could have accommodated up to a size 8 at best; but of course the young wearer of the costume was swimming in it. So her mom called me to the rescue.
A wise seamstress friend of mine once told me she would rather make a new dress from scratch than do alterations on an existing dress. She's smart. I should have heeded her advice. But I like a challenge.
So I took the dress up in the shoulders and pinned some very large darts in the back (fortunately, the fabric is very forgiving so I can get away with making somewhat sloppy alterations) and took it home to work on it; knowing that I would have to seam rip the top of the sleeves and reset them once I adjusted the shoulder seam.
As a boutique seamstress, I am very particular about the insides of my garments; everything is pressed, serged, neat, and as professional as I can make it look. Well, apparently "professional" is not the standard for ready to wear costumes. Some of the sewing techniques used inside this dress were just absurd. And the quality of the fabric- ugh! I could not even undo the seams without it pulling holes in the fabric. At one point, I thought I was going to have to make a new dress because I messed this one up taking it apart, but I just took a little extra in on the seam allowance.
All this to say: you get what you pay for. This costume probably cost around $30, and I'm praying it makes it through all 6 performances (and a week of dress rehearsals). I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm going to be called on again in the coming weeks to repair inevitable snags in this dress. Yes, handmade almost always costs more, but I have found it is nearly always worth the extra money for the trade-off in quality, originality, and passion that goes into the item created. So this year, as you start thinking about Halloween costumes and Christmas presents, if you're not going to make something yourself, I encourage you to buy from a local artisan or one of the thousands of talented sellers on etsy. You'll be glad you did, and so will the recipient of the gift.
(stepping down from my soapbox now)