The Cost of Clothing

AKA you want HOW MUCH?! For a HAT?!

Allow me to start with the following statement: You are underpaying for your clothing. Yes you. So am I.

We live in an era of cheap, mass produced, clothing that is inexpensive due to globalization. $1.00 goes a lot further in Togo (GDP for 2015 $4.08 billion) than it does in the US (GDP for 2016, waaaay more than that).  A happy side effect being that we’ve gotten used to $10 tee shirts and breaking $100 for special occasion or business garments. Heck, HAVING special occasion or business garments rather than one or two outfits you wash and/or air out frequently.

This does tend to skew our perception of what clothing costs to make and what textile work entails. I mean, I can go to Local Big Box Store and buy a skirt for $10, so offering $20 for someone to make it for me is more than fair. Right? I mean, if it’s someone who likes sewing anyway I can probably just offer them what I’d pay at BigBox and that’ll be super fair. Not quite, dear heart.

This gets even more pronounced (in my personal experience) for commission work for reenactment garb. When you’re used to spending $10-$50 on a single garment and suddenly you need to commission something you can’t buy at BigBox for your persona, $300 for a dress seems outrageous. And it is! Just not in the way you might be thinking.

(Note: this is just an example. More will follow at the bottom that include spinning and using period appropriate tools and less luxurious raw materials, as well as one entirely modern example.)

Remember that French Hood I made and posted pictures of? Here’s a refresher picture 18698950_1529308743760396_786930571_o.

Hand stitched, hand woven silk, linen, real pearls ect. How much would you expect to pay for that? $100? Maybe $200? Lets figure it out together.

Silk thread (60/2, 2 cones in white) $70.00

Pearls (3 strands of 15in) $90.00

Linen 1/2 yard @ $15 per yard.

Wire 10 ft $7.00

Dye (red and black) $10.00


Materials:  $184.50 (not counting shipping costs. To keep math simple lets say $200.00)

Great! That was on the upper end of what we’d be willing to pay for it, I’ll just hand a check to my weaver/fabricator and — hold up there tiger. You’re missing something very Very important in this calculation.


Without this you don’t have a French Hood, you have a pile of string, wire, cloth, and dye with some pearls scattered all over the table.

You may be asking: Why should I pay labor costs? This is someone’s hobby! It’s what they do for fun! I’m paying them to do something they like!

My darling, it is a hobby and for fun when the laborer in question is either A. Making something for themselves, or B. making a gift for someone else by their own initiative. As soon as you ask them to make something for you or a friend it becomes a commission and a job, and they should have their time compensated appropriately. Just like any other job or service. You don’t ask an accountant to do your taxes for free because they love counting, you don’t offer to just cover your plumber’s material costs because they like laying pipe, don’t be that guy that assumes you shouldn’t pay your artist.

Sewing and weaving *are* skills. Textile work *is* skilled labor.  Skilled labor with artificially depressed wages. Where I live skilled labor pays $25.00 an hour and up from there. So that’s what we’re going to use. It takes just as long to get good at textile work as it does any other kind of skilled labor so I’m not going to dip the price just because it’s a bit higher than we’re used to seeing for handmade textile work (which, if we’re being honest, is generally $0.00 – $1.00 an hour).

This took 112 hours of active work to make. 88 hours of warping and weaving, 24 hours of patterning, sewing, and dying.

112 hours at $25 an hour is $2,800.00 plus the material cost of $200.00 is a total cost of $3,000.00.

Ok! Lets say we bought the silk instead of weaving it.


1.5 yards of silk @ $20 a yard: $30

Pearls (3 strands of 15in) $90.00

Linen 1/2 yard @ $15 per yard: $7.50

Wire 10 ft $7.00

Dye (red and black) $10.00

1 yard silk ribbon $15


Material cost: $159.50 not counting shipping. So lets say $175.00

Great! We’re saving money already!

Now to add our labor costs of 24 hours at $25 an hour ($600.00) to that and we come up with $775.00. Which is, admittedly, much more reasonable than $3,000. But still way more than I’m betting you were expecting to pay for a hat.

Maybe that’s just silk and pearls though. I still want an authentic garment, hand stitched, but lets go early period just to keep it simpler.

Ok. Let’s run through the tunic I made my husband a while back. Not completely authentic because it was a cotton/linen blend rather than straight wool or linen. But it was hand stitched. I’ll show the numbers for the simple tunic, as well as the embroidery and trim and you can mix and match as you wish.

Fabric: 5 yards at $11 a yard = $55.00

Thread: $3.00


Material cost: $58.00, lets say $60.00 because round numbers are nice numbers. (add another $2.00 for thread for seam treatments, another $10 in yarn for woven trim).

Fitting/cutting patterning: 3 hours

Sewing: 20 hours.


Labor time: 23 hours @ $25 an hour $575.00 + $60 = $635.00 finished tunic. No embellishment.

Seam treatments: 6 hours (add another $150)

Woven trim: 20 hours to dye, warp, weave, and attach (add another $500.00)

For the heck of it lets figure out how much a completely hand spun, hand woven, hand stitched, embellished Saxon dress would cost to fairly produce. Why not go for broke? Literally. Baring in mind a Saxon dress is an unfitted tube with sleeves. Not anything super fancy or complicated.

Fleece (raw gotland): $100.00

Soap for processing:  $6.00


$106.00 in materials.


Washing fleece: 3 hours

Combing/carding fleece: 90 hours

Spinning fleece (at a rate of 20 yards of thread per hour): 1020 hours.

Warping (at a rate of 100 threads an hour – note this is fast): 18 hours

Weaving (at a rate of 2 inches an hour – also fast): 22.5 hours

Cutting/patterning: 2 hours

Sewing: 20 hours

Woven trim: 30 hours

Seam treatments: 6 hours.


Total hours: 1,211.50 hours at $25 an hour is $30,287.50 plus the material cost of $106.00 makes this a $30,393.50 dress.

Puts that $300.00 dress into perspective doesn’t it?

But ok, maybe you do just want a friend to make you the simple drawstring, cotton, skirt you saw at BigBox that you didn’t like the color on. A simple tube, with another tube on top, and some string threaded through the top tube. As dirt simple a garment as you can get.

Cotton cloth (1 yard): $6.00

Thread: $1.00

Drawstring: 50 cents.


Materials: $7.50.


Patterning, cutting: 1 hour

Sewing/serging/hemming: 2 hours.


3 hours @ $25 an hour = $75.00 + $7.50 = a total cost of $82.50 for a reproduction of your $10.00 BigBox skirt.

Next time you want to commission something, and the price tag makes you choke a little, remember this one simple fact:

You are underpaying for your clothing.

That… did not go as expected.

So my last post (way back in mid-April, remember?) I talked about weaving silk. I laid out all my glorious plan for how this was going to go and how beautiful the finished project was going to be, ect. Well…


  1. I miswarped the first time. So I tried to solve this problem by tying on additional warp when I approached the end of my first one.
  2. That was an epic failure. I needed to pull it all off the loom and rewarp like a smart not-corner-cutting person.
  3. Pearls take a long time to knot onto silk thread.
  4. Silk thread is super fine and does not want to form knots wide enough to not slide back out of the pearls.
  5. Sewing through stiffened linen is super hard guys. I don’t like it. Sewing around wire is also less than pleasant.
  6. Pleats are hard yo.

That being said”

I made my apprentice sister a french hood. Because I love her very much and she needed a hat just as glorious as the fancy dress she recently acquired AND something worthy of sitting atop her awesomeness. I think I came close and I really hope she likes it.

Materials 1/2 yard x 12in 54epi silk for the shell on the crescent and paste. 20×21 35epi silk veil. 1in x 40in 60epi silk ribbon (red). Roughly 1/2 yard of (commercial) linen for the lining and to stiffen for the interior structural bits. 10 ft of wire, 45 inches of 1cm freshwater pearls.

Total cost: ~$200 not counting time.

Total hours: sweet merciful Loki. I averaged 1in an hour weaving time and spent about 30 hours total warping. So 88 hours weaving/warping total. Sewing took about 10 hours. Knotting and applying the pearls took about 6 hours all told. Patterning/cutting materials/stiffening the linen was about 4-5 hours actual work. Let’s say 5, I tend to under state my labor.

88+10+6+5= 111 hours. Give or take.

For a hat. A really awesome hat.

French Hood

Created by Lady Ǣthelflied Brewbane

The design for this piece taken from a portrait of Anne Boleyn showing a black French hood trimmed in pearls and edged with an orangey red pleated ribbon.  I have chosen to recreate this hood in handwoven black silk taffeta, red silk satin ribbon, and cultured pearls.

Original ^18698950_1529308743760396_786930571_o

My recreation ^

We’ve found cloth ranging from 15 to 100 epi per Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450. In an effort to recreate this I aimed for 50 epi when weaving the covering, lining, veil, and ribbon. I have woven the covering, lining, and veil in a simple tabby weave to produce taffeta per  “Anatomy of the Abuses in England” (1583) by Phillip Stubbes:

… on toppe of these stately turrets (I meane their goodly heads wherin is more vanitie than true Philosophie now and than) stand their other capitall ornaments, as french hood, hat, cappe, kercher, and suche like; wheof some be of veluet, some of taffatie, some (but few) of woll, some of this fashion, some of that, and some of this color, some of that, according to the variable fantasies of their serpentine minds. And to such escesse is it growen, as every artifices wife (almost) wil not stick to goe in her hat of Veluet everye day, every marchants wyfe and meane Gentlewomen in her french-hood, and everye poore Cottagers Daughter in her taffatie hat, or els of woll at least, wel lined with silk, veluet or taffatie. …

The silk taffeta on the shell of the paste and crescent came out to a finished thread density of 54epi. The ribbon is an average of 60epi,  and the veil was woven at 35-40epi to allow for a lighter fabric.

A simple weave, and coarser thread count, would keep costs down in creation of this piece as well as speed production. As today, fashion follows the rich, and it is not out of the realm of possibility that a gentlewoman would commission a hood in the style of one worn by the queen. Therefore it would behoove an enterprising merchant to be able to produce one quickly and comparably cheaply.

The stiffened paste and crescent that forms the center shape of the hood is composed of three layers of heavy linen canvas.  These layers are edged in 14 gauge jewelry wire to help maintain the shape of the hood and support the weight of the veil. Though we have no surviving extant French Hoods we have found wire shaping for English Gable Hoods, the direct predecessor of the French Hood, making it safe to assume French Hoods would have been constructed in a similar fashion.


Textiles and Clothing 1150 -1450 Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland.

Museum of London Publication, 1992. 2001 Reprint.ISBIN 9-781-84383-239-3


The French Hood: What it is and is not Lady Alliette Delecourt mka Irina Lubomirska Accessed 3/25/2017.


Anatomy of the Abuses in England in Shakespeare’s Youth A.D 1583 Phillip Stubbes. Accessed on 3/25/2017.


Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

Norton Press, 1994. ISBIN 0-393-31348-4.



Norse Hood Documentation

Take two: The handwoven.

Documentation for Norse Hood

Created by Aethelflied Brewbane


The ultimate purpose of this project was to illustrate the difference, or lack thereof, in seams stitched with a modern steel needle, and those stitched with a bone needle. The seams themselves are stitched using two different colors of silk thread. One color was stitched using a period style bone needle, which is often assumed to have been abandoned as soon as metal needles became available, due to the small size of both the stitches and needle holes noted on extant textiles. The other color of thread was sewn using a modern steel needle. 


This is a recreation of the hood from the Skjoldenhamn find, unearthed in 1936. Carbon dating done in 2009 dates the find to 1075, with a 20 year margin of error. There is some debate with whether the costume from this find is Norse or Sami in nature, as the tunic, trim, and pants unearthed on the same body as the hood bear strong resemblances to traditional Sami folk costume. However such details are also consistent with Norse finds from other locations, making it impossible to definitively answer the question of which culture produced the extant textiles.

The hood itself resembles a Norwegian folk hood known as a køyse in that the top is squared off rather than rounded, as with modern Sami hoods. It also has a straight facial opening, rather than the more crescent openings of a Sami njalfatta. Given the resemblance to the køyse, which is assumed to be a direct descendant of period Norse hoods, I am confident that this style of hood would have been known to and used by the Norse, even if this example is Sami in origin.

The construction of this hood requires one long rectangle that stretches from shoulder to shoulder, and is deep enough to cover the top of the head, and two smaller squares inset into the front and back. The find also included a pair of ties attached at the base of the skull, presumably to allow for a tighter fit along the neck without having to tailor the overall hood itself. I have chosen to leave these ties off of my reproduction as I find them to be unnecessary in smaller hoods.


The yarn for this project is a mix of 15 wpi grey handspun and white commercial yarn. This dissertation is going to focus primarily on the properties of the handspun as the commercial yarn was selected due to its availability, fiber content (wool), and similarity of weight to the grey handspun.

S spun textiles did not become popular until the invention of the spinning wheel. Z twist is produced when the spindle is spun counter clockwise, which is the natural motion produced when rolling the spindle along the thigh to begin the spinning, also the direction of spin produced when flicking the shaft of the spindle off of the thumb for supported spinning. This makes Z directional spinning a more automatic and comfortable yarn to produce. S twist is produced due to clockwise spinning, which is the natural hand motion when pushing the spokes of a wheel down and away to begin it spinning. As this find predates the invention of the spinning wheel the grey singles were spindle spun with a Z twist.

In period the entirety of this project would have been completed with hand spun Z twist singles. For the purposes of time I augmented my handspun with commercially available 2 ply yarn I had on hand as the goal and focus of this project is not on spinning or weaving, but on the differences in stitch produced by using different needles in sewing.


The fabric itself is a hand woven 2×2 twill using my own handspun (grey) and a commercial wool yarn I received as a gift several years ago (white).  The breeds of sheep for both wools are, unfortunately, unknown. The final sett came out to 15 ends per inch, with a weft of 17 picks per inch. This puts my fabric on the coarser side of a period weave (12 epi to 50 epi per Texand Clothing 1150-1450, Crowfoot, Pritchard, and Staniland).


In order to achieve such small stitches and stitch holes with a bone needle, a different sewing technique must be used. With a steel needle a simple running stitch, where the needle holds many stitches before being pulled all the way through the fabric, can be used. If you attempt that same stitch with a bone needle you will end up with very large, uneven, stitches with huge needle holes. It also puts undue stress on the needle itself and makes it more likely to snap. In order to achieve period stitch length (3mm between needle holes per Viking Age Headcoverings from Dublin), the needle must pass through the fabric entirely, much like a sewing machine needle does, before turning and stabbing directly back up to complete a single stitch.

Using a bone needle produces three differences in the stitches itself. First and foremost the duller point of the needle pushes the individual threads aside, much like an awl, rather than cutting through them. Secondly, because it compresses the threads in its initial pass the hole created by the needle is much larger than that of a modern needle. However, in the second stab to complete the stitch the compressed threads are forced back to their original location. This has the effect of healing the initial needle hole around the sewing thread, producing a final hole similar in size to that of a modern steel needle. Thirdly because the fabric itself is undamaged by the passage of the needle it produces a more durable final product.

The fabric itself should be a five harness 3×2 twill, as that is a far more common weave for my time period. 2×2 twills did not begin to become popular in England until multi-harness floor looms supplanted the vertical warp weighted loom. I chose to weave the simpler 2×2 twill as I had access to a four harness table loom, rather than the five harness loom required for 3×2 twill. I also opted for the simpler weave as this is my first weaving project that is not tablet woven.



Viking Age Headcoverings from Dublin Elizabeth Wincott Heckett.

Royal Irish Academy, 2003. ISBIN 0954385551


Skjoldehamn Find In Light of New Knowledge Dan Halvard Løvlid. Translation by Carol Lynn. ,

  1. Translation 2011. Accessed on 3/25/2017.


Textiles and Clothing 1150 -1450 Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland.

Museum of London Publication, 1992. 2001 Reprint.ISBIN 9-781-84383-239-3


Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

Norton Press, 1994. ISBIN 0-393-31348-4.


Woven into the Earth  Else Østergård

Aarhus University Press 2003. ISBIN 8772889357