How to price your work to create a sustainable business and save yourself from burnoutRead More
Don't get me wrong guys. I love what I do. Love it. Not quite so much that I would do it for free, but I'm not all that far off.
Short version? I live in Denver, where the cost of living puts a reasonable living wage around 50k/year. About how many corsets do you guys think (mostly) one person can make per year? I average about 50. I only get to keep about a third of what I charge, the rest goes to materials, studio space, equipment, and those assistants I mentioned earlier. That is some depressing math. In order to make 50k, my cut for each of the 50 corsets would need to average $1000. And remember how I only get to keep a third? That means we have to multiply the cost per corset by 3. So now, to make a living wage in Denver, I have to charge, on average, $3000 per corset.
Which very few people will pay. In fact, if I'm charging that much, each corset will be expected to take months of my toil. Which means I won't have time to make 50 pieces, and we have to start the sad math all over again.
Still with me? Because I want to get into this. That was the short version. Are you ready for the long version?
Let's look at my actual numbers from last year. Actually, this is great incentive to get my shit together for taxes.
In 2017, my pricing started at $300 for a basic black underbust, and horribly undercharged for bridal starting at $1200. My prices have since gone up. I actually made 21 corset commissions including several bridal, and charged $10,755 for them total before tax.
Truth be told, this number isn't really indicative of the amount of work I did, since I spent January remodeling my store and studio, February and March making one of my best friend's wedding dresses, and August making five and a half Hamilton costumes for friends for trade. I had an injury in October that kept me from working until this January. So really, this last year was pretty rough on the wallet, but sometimes that happens. Realistically, without the injury, those numbers could easily have been double. But that didn't happen, so we're gonna work with the reality instead of what could have been.
Anywho, that averages out to $896.25/month.
Let's take a look at my expenses now.
For materials, I spent-
$752.23 on coutil
$1277.52 on boning, busks, and grommets
$863.47in silk (Silk Baron probably knows me by name now)
$632.17 on other fabrics and laces
$113.74 in sewing equipment (no big purchases last year, just thread, paper, pattern hangers, needles, machine feet, and throat plates)
$40 on photography to promote my work (My incredible photographer was also paid in an Aaron Burr costume, so this number would be way higher normally)
$35.85 on business cards
For a grand total of $3714.98 last year. There's probably some hidden expenses I'm not counting, too.
So my take home after those expenses? $7040.02. Or $586.67 per month.
But wait! There's more!
My studio space is inside my store, which runs $1250/month, kinda a steal in Denver. I use about a quarter of the space for studio, so we'll divide that accordingly. $312.50 a month for that, or $3,750 per year.
Now we're down to $3290.02 I get to keep per year. And we still aren't done.
My amazing assistant averages $168 a week for her two days work cutting, grommeting, and some hand work; before employer taxes. These are things I cannot physically do long term, and sometimes I can't do them at all. I really wish I could afford to pay her more, she really really deserves it. Anyway, that's $8,763 per year. She does split that time between doing corsetry work and working the shop, I'd guesstimate it's about a third of her hours that directly go into corsetry, so we'll adjust that number accordingly. So $2921. However, if we don't count the 6 months I was either too injured to get her help sewing, or working on projects I wasn't being paid for, we can cut that number in half for the purposes of this post. So $1460.50.
Notice how my margins are pretty much gone? I very literally made $1829.52 last year off my work. Granted, this is 6 months of paid work, but that's still under 5 thousand a year. And yet, I'm constantly getting comments about how my work is too expensive, and such a rip off. Please, enjoy some comments that make my blood boil!
So! How can I even afford to keep running this business? Luckily, I have other income. My Masquerade shop brings in some decent business, and my fiance helps me through rough patches, which is way too often for my tastes.
That was depressing, right? Are you guys ready for a little optimism?
Let's talk about my options! This isn't going to be a one miracle fix thing. It's going to take several things to put me actually in the black and sustainable long term.
First thing- I've raised my prices. This was kinda a duh, especially since I'm booking over 6 months out at the moment. As of this publish date, my work starts at $400 for a basic underbust, and my bridal work starts at $3000 for a whole ensemble
I'm thinking of other things I can create to supplement my income too. I plan to teach corsetry classes locally, which will boost my income. There's some prep work that needs to go into that, which I won't get paid for. I also plan to start making corset sleep pillows and storage bags, and have ideas for a couple of cool clothing pieces that would be simpler to make.
One of my current dilemmas is that I sometimes spend 15 hours a week just answering messages asking for quotes, so I hear got a basic website set up with a price guide to refer people to, and maybe start charging a nominal consultation fee that can be put toward the final price if they go through with it. That should save some time so I can spend more actually making stuff.
Which leads me to my next point. Quantity. If I can quadruple my output things would be a lot easier. How, you ask? I could work more hours, but unfortunately that's not really a option with my chronic pain issues and insanely busy life. So how can I work smarter? Well, it's a larger initial investment, but I do finally have a line of standard size patterns that seem to fit most people well. And making standard sizes is much easier because you can batch them! In fact, I can probably make 10 basic corsets in the time one big bespoke piece will take, between fittings, searching for the exact right materials, shipping time for mock ups, waiting for clients to get back with measurements, etc. So if I can make 10 $400 corsets in between bespoke clients, I may do ok.
My other option to increase output is to outsource. Which I'm very seriously considering. I have a line of patterns that work well. I could, and may, find an ethical factory overseas and have them produced for probably less than I spend in materials per corset. However, the initial investment on such a thing is gigantic. It's flying overseas, interviewing factories, teaching them how to make my product in a way that I'm proud to put my name on, checking samples, and having things remade until they suit my standards. And then, they will doubtless have minimums, but that doesn't really matter anyways, because there are 13 size of corsets I make, and I don't want to be that asshole excluding larger sizes. So we're probably talking at least 10k between travel, r&d, and product minimums. And I tend to estimate on the optimistic side because of who I am as a person. So.... It won't help immediately. But maybe for next year.
Luckily, you guys don't have to worry about me going anywhere. I'm too stubborn to give up and I love what I do. Hopefully though, the next time you look at the price tag for handmade corsetry from a country with a high cost of living, you won't be a dick about it.
Ok. This may not actually be true for you. Everyone has different bodies and different experiences. But as a person with 3.25lbs (each) boobs, it's been a little life changing switching to corsets daily instead of bras.
You don't know how much I love lingerie and bras, so let me start there. I own dozens of beautiful bras that range from a couple hundred each to about 30. I've been professionally fitted multiple times, as well as fitting myself. I was wearing high end super supportive bras in my proper size, and I thought that was as good as it got. I mean, it was infinitely better than going without.
How, you ask, did I discover that a good overbust corset is boobie magic? Sadly, by tragedy, with a not so fun injury. I have EDS (Ehler-Danlos Syndrome), which in layman's terms, means I'm held together with stretched out rubber bands. There's more to it than that, but that's the important part for this story. Well. I dislocated my sternum. I got a dress caught over my chest and couldn't get it off, hit the bottom of my breath, tried to breathe in, and the wind was knocked out of me instead. Taking my sternum, collarbones, and ribs with. I tore the cartilage attaching most of my ribs. It was possibly one of the most painful things I've ever gone through. Not just because of then, but that the pain pretty much didn't stop for a month. And only then did it start giving me occasional days off.
Anyways, after I realized what had happened, and had my bones put back where they were supposed to be, my doctor recommended I wear one of my corsets 24/7 as a brace for my ribs, until they healed back how they were supposed to be. She told me to put moderate pressure on my ribs, but to be careful not to put any pressure on my sternum. So my beloved bras were out. But I couldn't leave my boobs all loose and willy nilly either, since they pulled on my ribs and it hurt massively. I could get away with an underbust and no bra only if I lay very still. So I started wearing an overbust corset. It held my boobs in place without pushing them into my sternum, applied pressure to my ribs, and genuinely felt awesome for relieving the pain.
As I started to wear it more, I realized a couple weird things. I didn't have a hot spot on my back between my shoulder blades anymore. My neck started hurting less. My shoulders weren't straining against straps. And finally, the permanent line where the band hit began to disappear. I felt like I wasn't even carrying the weight of my chest anymore, since they were being supported from underneath.
Seriously, it's like walking around with someone else carrying your boobs for you. (Magic)
I don't think I can ever go back. I'll still wear bras for photoshoots with underbust corsets, but may never be anything more permanent than that. It's kinda like wearing crappy shoes all through your early twenties and then discovering that Clarks exist. I'll miss all my beautiful pieces, but it's hard to miss the back, shoulder, and neck pain. Not to mention the deep painful marks they could leave, or the permanent shaping.
So tell me, fellow heavy boob havers, what do you think? Would you try it out?
Hi everyone! Welcome to my very first blog post, hopefully one of many! My name is Kitty Krell, I'm a cosplayer and corset maker of many years. Hope you enjoy my ramblings! This very first post is on my entry for this year's Foundations Revealed Competition! After seeing how beautiful everyone's pieces were last year, I knew I wanted to enter. After (impatiently) waiting for this year's theme, they announced that Insects were next! Immediately, I thought of Rainbow Curve Corsetry's entry from last year. It was a gorgeous iridescent and hand painted butterfly corset and tutu, all light grace, whimsy, and ethereal as can be.
I decided to go opposite. I wanted something heavy and dramatic and chitinous. An idea started to shape in my mind. I'd been planning to work with iridescent and holographic materials more over the last year, so I started doing some research. I found a gorgeous black holographic vinyl, but unfortunately it was only sold in half yard pieces. So I messaged them. After a couple months of messaging back and forth, I managed to score a decent sized bolt of the stuff in one continuous piece! To add a green cast, I wanted to layer green over and with the vinyl. I chose reversible sequins, a beautiful feathered sequin fabric I happened to have laying around, and actual beetle wings.
I started with the corset. It was the most critical piece, being, yanno, a corset competition. I spent several months refining my pattern, and making a few new corsets for myself along the way!
While I worked on that, I wanted to be sure that the material would a) hold up to being made into a corset, and b) not wrinkle terribly. I wasn't sure yet just how much extra black vinyl I would have after cutting all my pieces, so I chose one of my other iridescent vinyls! I was pretty happy with how it turned out, and learned exactly what techniques I needed to apply differently on the Scarab.
Next step was the skirt! I got lucky with my patterning for it, as I had made a similar skirt a couple years back and I could use that pattern as a base! It's a 7 panel pattern, with 1/4 circle godets between each seam. I tried on my previous finished piece with the corset I had finalized the pattern on, and luckily, it fit beautifully together! If not in color, in silhouette!
Now that I had a plan, I started cutting and assembling pieces! The body of the corset went together relatively easily after all the work I'd done on prep beforehand. Learning from past projects, I stitched boning channels to the coutil pieces, then roll fused the vinyl to the coutil. After stitching (with a wider stitch length than usual) I carefully top stitched everything.
Then it was time to start working on the appliques! I carefully cut out the pieces to go over the hips, joining several pieces together where necessary, and, over several evenings of work, hand stitched beetle wings onto each scale. It was tedious. The material is hella pretty though, so that helped!
Next, I started assembling the skirt! I knew there was going to be a lot of structure needed, so after doing the base assembly, I started adding horsehair braid to the skirt lining! Obviously, one layer wasn't going to be enough, so I layered horsehair all the way up to the top of the godets, about 50 yards total!
Of course, nothing can ever go smoothly, so somehow, the skirt wound up too small. By a lot. There was no way it could contain my booty. So I had to get creative. I decided to add lacing panels down the back, and try to match the lacing gap to the corset. It was kinda a pain to insert, but I wound up liking it better than the flat back design I did have planned! Next, I realized another really cool thing I could add to the skirt to make it even better than my original design. I cut out several more pieces of the scaled sequin fabric, scattered a few beetle wings on each, and stitched them to the skirt trailing up from the hem. However, the hem was still laying a little flat for my tastes, so I added a layer of 4" wide horsehair braid in the hem of the top layer also!
The posture collar, epaulettes, and bracers were one of the last things I worked on. I figured if I didn't get them finished, it wouldn't be the end of the world. I draped the posture collar on a dress form, then made a muslin mock up and adjusted a couple spots. The bracers I drafted, made a mock up, tried on, fixed, made a mock up, tried on, fixed, made a mock up, tried on, fixed, made a mock up, and then finally had something that fit the way I wanted! .... With just a couple tweaks.
For the "wings," I wanted to use that crazy iridescent sheer fabric. You know the one. It usually comes in white, blue, and pink, and very very pale, which definitely wasn't going to work for this project. So I decided to dye it. And not just regular dye it, but varigated dye it! I stacked the pieces, pleated them, and folded them so it would be easy to manipulate in the pot. I have a collection of dye pots in various sizes, so I set up two, one with RIT's Dye More in Emerald Green, and the other with Sapphire Blue. Once they were both boiling (which is the most important thing when trying to dye synthetics) I dipped one side in green and the other in blue until I was happy with it!
For the centerpiece of the corset and epaulettes, I had ordered brass stamped scarabs from a maker on Etsy. I'd originally planned to have them painted with the same chrome I planned for my nails, (more on that later!) but I decided the contrast of the gold with the beetle wings was just too lovely to pass up. Just one problem, they were plain brass and looked a little cheap. So I decided to take a walk down patina road. Luckily I ordered a couple extra to test on! I tried two different things, a green iridescent nail polish I had sitting around, and black Sharpie. Both were good, but missing something. So tried another with both, and that was the clear winner!
With the beetles prepped, it was time for the corset applique! To make the pattern, I put on my cream and pink corset that uses the same pattern, pinned a piece of muslin to myself, and drew on the general shape needed. Once that was done, I transferred the pattern to paper, doubled it, and held it up to make sure it was the right shape. Once I was satisfied with that, I began to layer the sequin scale material over the pattern and cut and place it to create the wing shape.
Once that layer was carefully pinned together, I placed the sequin layer over felt and hand stitched it down. Then filled the scales with the beetle wings much like I had on the hips, hand stitched my large brass beetle to the center, and filled the blank area around with beads and crystals! After I was satisfied with the level of embellishment, I mixed classic Elmer's glue and water in a 1:1 ratio and painted it to the back of the felt where it needed to stand up. I placed it on my trusty bathroom vent to speed up the drying process because of course this was the day before the shoot, then cut it out carefully and hand applied it to the corset.
On to the epaulettes! There's a couple things I would do differently if I made these again, including adding a chain to go around my arm behind them. I carefully matched sizes of beetle wings for each side, and attached them to some delicate antique brass chain. I then realized they weren't nearly big enough for my arms, and added a second layer and dangles!
Finally, it was time to get my nails done to match my outfit for the photoshoot! I'm so lucky I have a great salon, and they carry a bunch of amazing chrome finishes! Take a look!
After a few more last minute things, it was time for the photoshoot! Ginny Di was kind enough to work with me on this project, I love how the pictures turned out! I hope you enjoy!
And just for funsies, a couple quick videos! One with Kirakira+, and one in the sun to show off the holo!