How Do I Start a Clothing Line with $5,000? Where Should I Spend the Money?

How Do I Start a Clothing Line with $5,000? Where Should I Spend the Money? 

How much does it cost to start a children's clothing line?I found this great question in my Inbox the other day, forwarded to me from Cathy Wagner, my retail consultant buddy. who got it from a client.

How much does it cost to start a clothing line? << Big question.

It’s like asking how much does it cost to buy a house. The answer…it depends. 

But “it depends” is not helping you! So, I decided it would be great to answer this Q for everyone who wants to start a fashion line – clothing collection, accessories line – on a tight budget.

Here’s the question…

Q: “I have 5K to start a childrenswear line and…”

…am hoping to double in profit. Ideally I’d like to get started as soon as possible, a day doesn’t go by that I’m not thinking about it! Initially I was working for a bank, thinking that a 9 to 5 job was requirement for success. It wasn’t until I met my husband 3 years ago that I realized success is where passion meets purpose.  I’m a new stay-at-home mom, so what better time to take a chance than now when I have the time to do so!  

The clothes line idea I am pursuing is more than just clothes for kids. It’s a message. An important message that I whole-heartedly believe needs to be shared from parent to parent, and the focus and common ground is the love of our kids. My muse-well you guessed it, my 20-month-old son. My brother-in-law is a web developer so he will be in charge of that aspect.  Again, any advice in any step of my process is greatly appreciated!”  
Stay well,

A: Hi Gaby. Here are the steps to starting a clothing line on a small budget.

Before we start, Gaby, I’ll tell you that this is how I would start if I had your budget. There are lots of different ways to bake this cake, but here’s what I would do step-by-step.

Also, one quick PRO TIP on where to you’ll needs to spend $$. If you have a small startup budget, DO SPEND money on pattern making and high quality photos. You can skimp on other things like paying yourself and studio space (if possible).

You can do a relatively cheap photo shoot – use your own kids and friends – natural Instagram style, do it outside – even consider hiring a WEDDING photog to do the shoot. They know how to capture people and use lighting and are available on a Tuesday.

First – design some styles. Each in two color ways – 10 hangers – so that could be 5 bodies for a total of 10 pieces to show a customer.

Next – get items SIMILAR to what you want. Buy them from stores, raid your kids’ closets, ask friends etc… Use these examples as references to show a pattern maker what you want and how you can improve the styles for your collection. For instance, if you like the collar of that piece and you love the trim on another piece. You gather up whatever compilation of items you can to show the pattern maker EXACTLY what you want in your unique piece.

Fabric – ideally buy your fabric wholesale and keep it simple!! Don’t source a ton of different fabrics. You can get creative in other ways like with trims, finishes, etc., so be sure that your base cloth is used in multiple places. When you choose your fabric, try to buy it from small quantity wholesalers. You can download my free list of wholesale fabric vendors for startup fashion brands (and they sell small quantities).

Pattern maker – going to network and industry events or asking around is a good place to start. Makers Row is another great resource.

Sample maker – here’s the sneaky way I produced my blanket and baby blanket line. 

Build an audience BEFORE you’re ready to sell. While you’re doing all this product development, don’t forget you’ll want customers from the first day you launch. To make this happen, you’ll want to lining up customers for your brand even before you have a product ready to sell.

Our proven audience building method is taught in this Build an Audience Before You Launch workshop.

Yes, it’s totally possible and Gaby, please don’t miss this step! What I mean is gathering a group of like-minded people you want to sell to. You can do this by starting a blog, social media, offering a quiz for email list building, or emailing your friends & family with updates on what you’re working on.

Costing and pricing – you’re playing chicken and egg here since you’re guessing quantities, but you gotta start somewhere.

Get your samples made. A few rounds of samples – pattern, fitting, pattern corrections, cut a new sample… Get to a final “perfect” sample and then…

Get manufacturing quotes for production pricing and determine your retail prices. 

Plan a simple launch event. With your budget, I suggest a home party (or 2 or 3 or 10) at friends’ w/a charity component or virtual events. I strongly suggest doing pre-sales to help with cash flow and also know what quantities of what styles to order for manufacturing.

Start selling and take orders – customers should pay up-front and you ship in 6 – 8 weeks or sooner if possible.

Produce and ship.

Get product reviews. After you ship, reach out and ask what they like about the product? Where did they go with the kids in the outfits? Ask your customers to send in pics you can use for marketing purposes.

Want a step-by-step fashion startup blueprint? If you’re serious about launching a profitable clothing line, your next step is my full startup course. It’s been called a lifesaver because sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know and if that’s true, everything is harder.

The “Launch a Line” course will save you from a ton of mistakes, frustration, and wasted money.


Here’s a quick look at how I would use your $5,000 startup budget:

  • Fabric: $1,000
  • Pattern Making: $1,200
  • Samples and Fittings: $1,200
  • Trims and Packaging: $400
  • Miscellaneous: $250
  • References for pattern maker: $450
  • Selling Event expenses: $500

Total startup budget used for Gaby’s new children’s clothing line: $5,000

where to spend the budget for a startup fashion line


So tell me… was this blog post helpful to you?

Please let me know what you think in the comments below and thanks! Based on your feedback, I’ll know what to write about next!




22 Responses

  1. HI,
    Could you please explain what is the cost of ” references for patterns” $450
    Where is the cost of sample maker of producer?
    Why Pattern Maker cost is so high?



    1. Hi Nata,
      In this case, references would be other garments purchased to show the pattern maker. For instance, if you like the collar of that piece and you love the trim on another piece. You gather up whatever compilation of items you can to show the pattern maker EXACTLY what you want in your unique piece.

      Pattern maker costs are high because it is a high lever skill and I believe Gaby needs professional “production” pattern maker.

      Hope that helps!

      P.S. My startup course covers all of this in step-by-step detail if you need it:

  2. This was EXTREMELY helpful!!!! I too am in the same situation and just couldnt find my first step!!! I have this amazing idea but had no clue as to where I should begin on such a small budget!!

    Thank you so much!!

  3. This was extremely helpful, thank you! I have a question in regards to the pattern and sizing. I am able to draft/create the pattern but where I always get hung up is on the sizing and grading. I am skilled in the initial sample pattern but not in the grading. Should I outsource since I am unable to do the grading?

    1. Some patternmakers provide a grading service. So, if you can make the initial patterns, you can have them grade them do you.

        1. Hello Jane,
          I stumbled across your website today and I am happy that I did. I am a beginner in the fashion industry and learning how to build my business. I am very interested in signing up for your program, however, I am thinking about signing up for NY fashion week through a company that works with beginner designers. Either way, your program will help me build my business the correct way. If I do the fashion show in September can your program still help me? Thank you!

          1. Hi Deborah,

            If possible, could you please share the company that you’re doing the fashion show with? I’m a new designer myself and would love to get involved with something like that.

            Thank you

    2. Hi Lydia! Yes. Absolutely outsource it to a pro. Grading is so important and really needs to be done correctly. I recall a particular jacket style in the first few years of my business where the small sample fit perfectly and by the time it was graded to a size large the shoulder pads are so gigantic it looked like something out of Mommy Dearest. Also, depending on your level of skill with production patterns, you may also want a second patternmaker to just check over your patterns to make sure they are production-ready.

      Hope that helps,

  4. Hi there! At what point in this process are you looking for manufacturing to create the pieces?

    This is always where I get stuck in my plan and budgeting. Yes, all the rest is possible under 5k, but when you actually want to produce, wouldn’t you need money up front to place a bulk order?

    I understand you can ask your buyer to wait 6-8 weeks for garment, and use that money to pay for manufacture, but let’s say you have a few parties and sell 10 of each piece, is it possible to find a manufacturer to produce such small quantities?

    Please let me know your thoughts!

    1. Hi, I just stumbled across this, there are a couple places all over. If you do a google search you’ll find tons. Its important to have the full sample ready for them to copy.

    1. Hi Candace! I wouldn’t recommend any particular budget to anyone until I had a LOT more information. To be honest, a $5000 budget to start a business is very small and only really do-able if you set your business up for cash flow from the beginning.

      Most businesses cannot be set for cash flow mode in the beginning. They’re in building mode and growth mode and audience building mode and then they learn what their customers truly want to buy, perfect the product, and get a niche.

      I know that’s not a great answer for you but I hope it helps.


  5. Hi

    I’m assuming that since pattern making is a factor in this case, that she’ll be doing in-home production/sewing of those patterns?

    If you were outsourcing would it still be necessary to see a pattern maker? what would that process look like for someone who isn’t drawing or sewing the designs?

  6. Thanks for all the guidance I launched a capsule home textile collection in the Spring! I was a smaller budget, but now I am looking to grow! I also want to throw in some boxy tops and slip dresses this Spring, so this article has been especially helpful!

  7. Thanks for this article it helped me with questions that I had and questions that I didn’t, thanks.

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