Question of the Week: What’s a “fair price” for doll clothes?

Written on April 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm by Michelle
Filed under: Question of the Week

I was looking through sundries listings the other day (a very dangerous thing to do) and I was looking at the costs of a Blythe dress. I went through and counted up the prices of 50 different dresses from all types of makers and types and the average price that it came out to be? $10. I did not count stock clothing or other more mass-produced brands (eg. Moxie clothing, vintage Skipper and Francie, Sugar Mag).


Now these dressed that I was looking at were all hand-crafted by people in the doll community. Some dresses had snaps, others had velcro. Some were very intricate, others were a bit more plain. Puffed sleeves, short sleeves, long sleeves or no sleeves. There were collars, and collar-less varieties.

But the average price, after counting 50 different dresses, was $10.

233/365 - May I remind you... I think that one that really stuck with me the most was a handknitted dress that was being sold for $3. I’m a knitter, so I know roughly how much time (or at least a range) that a knitted item in that thickness of yarn can take to do. And $3 is a pittance for what it is worth, in my eyes. But I also know that pricing has to be for what the market will handle. You could figure out hourly wages, costs of supplies and overhead and then come up with a price for your item – but if nobody buys it, is it really worth it?

And then I considered what it’s like when I make something. So I decided to consider my costs and steps when I sew a doll dress.

A lot of my fabrics that I use are discounted, roll-ends or ‘sample swatches’ from the fabric store and then the other half of my fabric stash is from old clothes or thrifted things like sheets or pillow cases. So let’s say that the cost of my fabric per dress is between $0.25-$1. And that’s overestimating it. But let’s give it a cost of $1

Then comes the cost of thread. I spend maybe $1 on a spool of white thread. But it also gets used for other projects as well, but for sake of argument, I’ll consider the cost of buying a new spool of thread, so $1.

And then time. From cutting, fray-checking, sewing, ironing, and finishing (sewing on snaps, hah), I’m going to estimate (and I’m probably underestimating because I’m probably slower than I really am) that I take approximately 1.5-2 hours per dress. Thank goodness I don’t sew dolly frocks for a living. But let’s say it’s 2 hours. Minimum wage here has been going up, so it’s about $10/hour.

And then there’s costs of packaging – I don’t sell dresses that I make, but I’ll guesstimate a cost of approximately $1 per dress to go into packaging and shipping materials (but not including shipping itself).

So there’s $1 + $1 + ($10/hr * 2hr) + 1 = $23.00. And I’m using inexpensive fabric too – no super cute prints and assuming that I need to buy the fabric new, without using existing fabrics in my stash.


Now I realize that those selling sundries usually aren’t selling things that they’ve  made – that’s what online shops are for. But it really makes you wonder, considering doll dresses on Etsy, Artfire and eBay generally aren’t averaging $23, they’re much closer to my original estimate of $10.

What do you consider to be a “fair price” for doll clothing?

What do you expect to be able to get for $10 when shopping for your doll’s clothing?

What styles of dresses (not caring about designers here) would you consider ‘worthy’ of a $23 (or higher!) price tag?

8 Responses to “Question of the Week: What’s a “fair price” for doll clothes?”

  1. Hana AKA @initialshh

    Don’t forget to include PayPal, Etsy, etc fees! Fair price really depends… I’d only expect to get a $10 deal secondhand, but I will definitely pay more directly to the creator. It’s not just good craftsmanship that I look for—the item also needs to have a cute design and fitting fabric. I’d say the latter is more important so long as the craftsmanship is at least decent. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately looking to open my own shop next month… it’s hard to find a balance between what I think people would readily pay and what feels like it’s worth my time and energy.

    • Michelle AKA @blythelifecom

      Oh fees, I can’t believe I forgot those, heh. But some (Etsy, other storefronts) do vary, but Paypal is just a pain. I do think a lot of people fail to take into consideration Paypal fees when pricing goods – they consider the price points of their competition, but not the ‘hidden costs’ of each item.

  2. Jane AKA @maidensuit

    Fair price does depend a lot on the intricacy of the item. I have a personal rule to never pay over $20 for one Blythe item (I don’t even spend $20 on one item of clothing for myself — it’s not that dolly duds can’t be worth that and more, it’s just to help me keep an eye on my spending priorities). I break it now and then, but typically I look to spend way less than that.

    I feel like I cannot say what is fair pricing and what isn’t; I can only look at a Blythe item and say, “Yes, that is worth spending 10, 20, 50 bucks to have!” That can be wildly different for everyone. The creation process is really different for everyone too.

    Pricing a product to be both fair to your customers and fair to you, as the person creating the product, is truly a difficult decision to make! It does often take a very long time to make things by hand, even if you have the process of creation boiled down to a science or you enjoy some aspect of the process. I make crocheted hats with deer antlers and ears stitched on, the antler construction being the most tedious/time-consuming part of the process. All in all I’ve deduced that it takes me six hours to make one hat from the ground up. Take away supplies, PayPal, and shipping costs, and I’m making hardly any money compared to the amount of work I put into them. But I mainly make the hats because I enjoy being productive and having creativity be part of this hobby, which is the most important thing to me as the creator.

    • Michelle AKA @blythelifecom

      I think that’s a very interesting thing to think about, Jane. I’m assuming, given that you spend 6hrs per hat (and they’re SUPER cute!), that your Etsy shop isn’t your only source of income. If it were, you might have to find a way to streamline the construction process, find a way to decrease the amount of time spent, or to just increase the prices to have some kind of “living wage”. I would not expect that the people who charge $10 for a very detailed dress on Etsy or Artfire to have doll dress making be their only source of income. I do think that a lot of people undersell themselves in terms of their handmade goods (and especially on their time that they spent on the item) because they don’t believe that the market will be able to support their product otherwise.

      • Jane AKA @maidensuit

        Oh, yeah, Etsy is definitely not my only source of income! But it’s enough of a supplement to support my Blythe habit and I also get to make stuff, and then send the things I make away so they don’t just pile up. I really agree with Tracy’s comment below.

        Underpricing one’s work can be a good way to get your work out there in the first place. My mother is a self-employed graphic designer and deliberately charges less for her work and time than she deserves, but it does net her a wide range of interesting clients from the positive word-of-mouth!

  3. Tracy says:

    What an interesting question!

    I have a little shop on etsy (La Petite Pamplemousse), and I think my clothes are pretty decent. I make about 8 dresses a week in my spare time – dolly dressmaking is how I relax (believe it or not), and it’s also how I support my dolly spending habit. Anyhow, my usual price is between $12 and $15 per dress. I’ve been told that the quality of my product is great (see the feedback section). I’m not out to make a million bucks – I’m not even out to make a living – that’s what my “real” job is for! 🙂

    I price my product reasonably because I know there are a lot of Blythe lovers out there who really can’t afford expensive clothes, but they want nice quality clothes. My motto is: Every doll deserves nice clothes that don’t break the bank! I love to sew, and as long as I’m enjoying creating doll clothes, I will continue to make them affordable. After all, my dolls certainly cannot wear 8 new outfits a week! 🙂

  4. zoe papavasileiou says:

    this is a very nice question, and as i m new at blythe and tried to find clothes for my dollies i found a lot on Etsy….some that i couldnt afford and some cheaper…10 dollars have a differnt buy value for some in the usa, in greece or thailand…so for the time i choose to buy cheap as the ammount of money i gave for the dolls is allready big for someone from country ( greece)…when i ll recieve them i ll tell you if they where worth it…or no…

  5. Laura AKA @plastic_fashion

    Hi guys this is Plastic Fashion. As a dolly dress maker and designer I rely on my shop to help pay bills. I don’t do anything else but this. This is my “real” job. Granted my husband does have a job and makes a good working wage but at the same time I spend so many hours making a dress. I don’t like underselling my work and time. I do love doing what I do and the instant gratification I get out of it.

    All the above said. I have paid up to $70 for a handmade Blythe dress. However I don’t shop often for my Blythes as I mostly make them clothes. I don’t mind paying more for a handmade item because I know how much work gets put into making handmade items.

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