How Much It Actually Costs To Make Your Clothes

The average person spends around $161 per month on clothes – women spend nearly 76% more than men do on clothing in a year. The average family of four spends around $1800 per year on clothes, with $388 of this on shoes.
Isn't that incredible? 

Why should you care how much does it cost to make your clothes? If its priced right for your pocket everything else is irrelevant, Right? 

Well, I would say this depends on actually what you really care about. If you don't care about the planet, the environment or what you leave behind for the future generations then the above statement is right. And also if you don't care about your personal style then also the above statement is true. However, if you do care about the planet or your personal style then keep reading.
Everything has a cost and a lot of times the price for the cheap stuff is paid by the planet.
Think about it......

How Much Does it Cost to Manufacture Clothing?

There are many factors to consider when it comes to the cost of making clothes. The first factor to consider is how many outfits are being made, who is making them and how are they making them. If the clothes are being made by under paid workers in miserable conditions vs fairly compensated workers in good working conditions.

Another major factor to consider is also where in the world you are making the clothes. As this decides the labor costs due to minimum wage policies of the specific country.

Let me list all the factors-

1. Quantity of outfits being made

2. Country of manufacturing, well being of makers

3. Fabric type and quality 

4. Embroidery type

5. Sewing of the garment

6. Trims and accessories

7. Labels and packaging

8. Shipping, customs and duties

9. Other expenses


Quantity of outfits being made

The number of pieces being made plays a major role in the pricing of the outfit. For example if you are making 100-1000 of the same dress vs if you are making 10-20 units of the same dress. Making 1000 pieces means everything is going to cost way less than making even 100 pieces. This is called "mass production". In mass produced garments, fabrics are bought in bulk reducing the cost. The fabric is then layered in huge piles and cut all together with industrial cutters and sewn in a chain manufacturing style called assembly line. Everyone in the assembly line has 1 job and does that job repeatedly. For example a single worker will sew the left sleeve all day continuously like a robot, another worker will make the collar, another would do the right sleeve, and they all will be put together by another worker at the end of the assembly line.

Walmart, Target, Gap, Zara and many other low costing shops/brands make a lot more than 1000 pieces of style and therefore everything costs cheaper and they sell it for $5 to $50. A lot of times many mass producing fashion companies also use cheap materials and fabrics that may last 10-20 washes before they start to fall apart, so the garment is low quality and has a short life ending in landfill. This is also referred to as fast fashion. The incentive of a short garment life cycle is to induce more buying. The frequent need for clothes may make you buy 10 times more clothes then you need. Where as 1 well made outfit may do the trick.

Did you know fast fashion is the second most polluting factor after petroleum in the world.

Also, If the fact that 10 other people around you are wearing the same clothes as you at the same time doesn't bother you then mass produced outfits are fine.

However, if someone is making 10-20 pieces of the same style that costs way more, at-least 5-10 times more than mass produced clothes. You can do the math here.

Country of Manufacturing

Many clothes cost way less or more depending on where they were made. General perception is that clothes made in China, India or southeast asian countries cost cheaper than the clothes made in western countries. Also the expensive clothes made in western countries are of better quality. This statement is true and false depending on what is being made.

For example many embroideries and all hand embroideries are only possible to be made in India. Only Indian crafts and embroiderers are skilled enough to do delicate embroideries.

Did you know big designer brands also get there hand embroideries done in India?

With that being said in general only high quantity, low quality mass produced items cost less no matter which country they are made in. Low quantity, high quality clothing costs more to manufacture in any country.


Fabric Type

When making a dress or a top the area that accounts for the majority of the budget lies in the fabric or textiles.

Did you know, “the fabric cost constitutes 60 to 70 percent of the total garment making cost.” The quality of the fabric plays a pivotal role, but so do a few other characteristics.

Natural fabrics like Silk, wool, cotton, linen and high quality man made fabrics like scuba always cost way more that nylon, polyester, rayon, or any other petroleum derived fabrics. The quality of fabric also decided how beautiful it looks, how long it lasts, how it reacts with your skin and what is its impact on the environment.

Now you know why silk feels good, look good and costs so much more!


Embroidery on clothes can be done by machine or by hand or both. As one can assume, machine embroidery costs way less than hand embroideries.

But most countries in the world are unable to do embroidery on garments for manufacturing purposes.

Many embroideries and all hand embroideries are only possible to be done in India (For manufacturing purposes, this statement doesn't refer to the cross stitch family heirlooms made by grandmas or a wedding dress). Only Indian crafts and embroiderers are skilled enough to do delicate embroideries that you can cherish for a lifetime and more.

Did you know even in India embroidery and heritage skills are on a steady decline. 

With that being said any embroidery increases the cost of the garment and the specialty or novelty factor of the garment.

Sewing of the garment

Garment costing must also factor in labor costs. Making of a garment includes, designing, pattern cutting, actually cutting the fabrics, sewing and finishing. As expected the making cost may be lower in developing countries vs developed countries. However, if garment makers are paid a fair wage, given good working conditions expect the cost to be very similar in both developed and a developing nation. The old labor costs do not hold true in todays times.

Also, the more complicated or interesting the design of the garment, the more you should expect to pay. So you can take your pick between a t-shirt, a shirt or a gorgeous wrap dress.

Trims and accessories

Fabric costs are part of the big picture, but we can’t forget the small details. Trims and accessories are essential components of all garments, even something as simple as a T-shirt. Why? Because all garments require sewing thread, and others call for trim and accessories that go beyond the basics.

Items like zippers, buttons, elastics, labels and other additions like laces and embellishments are trims that need to be calculated into the cost of manufacturing clothing. It also points out that the “quality and quantity” of the trim and the labor required to apply them will affect the cost. The more intricate, detailed, and unique your trim and accessories are, the higher your apparel manufacturing costs will be.

Labels and packaging 

A clothing line is more than just a collection of garments; it’s an experience for the customers and an opportunity to reinforce the brand. We take a certain pride in wearing certain brands, but the time, effort and money spent on establishing the brand value and brand perception is often ignored.

You know what it feels like when you carry an expensive designer bag. Also you may know that if a Gucci bag costed $50 it's fake maybe the logo says Cucci or Guccy.

So additional high quality packaging, like bags, gorgeous boxes, and price tags, labels should all be factored into the overall cost of creating the clothes.


Shipping, customs and duties 

Just because the collection has been cut and sewn does not mean the process is over. One has to still figure out how to get those garments from point A to B.

 If you are in another country, then shipping costs, custom duties will likely be higher. Regardless, the transporting and logistics details need to be calculated and factored into the clothing line cost.

Other Expenses

Times are changing real fast and social media, content creation, advertising costs, fashion shows, fashion photoshoots all cost a lot of money and the cost is also added to the clothes.

As you factor in all of the above you may realize how dizzyingly detailed the process is. Honestly, I think I have skipped a few factors (like in my case each of my designs are printed in a gorgeous bespoke print) and missed out on a few details here. But in the end let me tell you, and I say it on a positive note.


It is true for everything in the world.



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About the

Sandhya Garg is a Project Runway fashion designer. She studied and specialized in women's fashion at London College of Fashion, UK and has worked at Alexander McQueen, Gucci, Liberty London, Alice Temperley to name a few.

She has her own successful resort wear, vacation dresses, special occasion dresses, wedding guest looks, swim coverups label. While on Project Runway Season 13, she won 2 challenges and was fortunate to show her collection at Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week. The brand has been featured in Marie Claire US,Workshop at Macy's,, Elle Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Vogue online to name a few. 

She designs limited edition high end printed spring dresses, casual resort attire and swim coverups. Beautiful prints are inspired from around the world to be worn during travel, resort stay or cruise holidays.

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