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June 29, 2020

Helmut Lang vs Topshop Bias Cut Skirt

I came across this interesting article in my newsfeed this morning from HuffPost, “Satin Midi Skirts: The Difference between Cheap and Expensive”. I thought it was an interesting article, and wanted to share it. You can read the original, but I thought I would go through just the highlights with some of my own thoughts, and then add the whole idea of what sewing the garment will cost….

The first thing the article addressed was the difference in materials. The $540 Helmut Lang skirt was stated by the article to be made from silk satin whereas the TopShop $55 copy was 100% polyester satin. However, when I looked the skirt up at Saks and other shops, the skirt is actually made of rayon. The article suggested that the silk satin would be $60 per yard, the rayon satin is about $20 per yard, and polyester is about $9 per yard. Assuming that there are two yards of fabric in each skirt the Lang skirt starts at $120 but really with the rayon satin the fabric cost should be should be $40 - $60 and Topshop skirt fabric should run about $18.

On the construction, the Lang skirt uses French seams whereas Topshop uses serged seams. From the side photo on the Saks site, the skirt appears to be bias cut, and the seams hang really poorly in the photo. The Lang waistband uses a high end elastic waist band and the Topshop waistband uses a narrow elastic enclosed in a folded down seam. As for where each of the skirts was made, there was no definitive information in the article. It just discussed the issues of living wage and how many tags within garments can be deceiving. For example, Prada has been manufacturing shoes in Eastern Europe, but finish them with labels, buttons, and insoles in Italy, and then therefore they can put on the “made in Italy” label which can command a higher price. So, it is often hard to discover exactly where a garment is made, and how the employees are paid or treated.

Finally of course, you are paying for the brand name of Helmut Lang vs Topshop. However, when I looked up the skirt this morning as I was researching this essay, I found the Lang skirt is now on sale for $162 down from $540. So the brand premium has been dropped from the price, and the Topshop skirt is now on sale for $28.60.

Now, how do the two skirts compare to sewing the same piece? First, you can choose the color you want for the skirt. Secondly, most of our silks at Esther’s are $25-35 per yard, and our rayons vary depending on where they are from, but can vary from $15-40 per yard. If you don’t have the pattern, you can either draft one from a similar pattern in your stash or buy a similar looking pattern; one that I found was a Butterick pattern for $5.95 at Etsy. Then you will have to spend time fitting and sewing the pattern, but in the end you could have a much nicer skirt for about $70-80 with much better fabric than either piece you can buy and with a better fit. So, not including your time, you could make a better Helmut Lang skirt for half of the sale price!

So the next time someone says sewing is more expensive that buying clothing, then you can challenge them. You are sewing a quality garment and using quality fabric. Those pieces should be compared to a garment from a high end store. Here’s another example….

Eileen Fisher Organic Cotton Gauze Crop Top

You could make this Eileen Fisher crop organic cotton gauze shirt for a lot less than $148! We have organic cotton gauze for about $20 a yard, you would need about 2 yards or less to make this top, and you could use Grainline’s Scout Tee Pattern. So for $60 you could make your own version of this summer top (I included the pattern cost).

Hope you have found some inspiration from these ideas, and that you are inspired to sew your own designer garment.


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