The True Cost of Making a Shirt: A Comprehensive Breakdown

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Have you ever wondered how a simple t-shirt goes from raw materials to your wardrobe? It’s a fascinating journey, rife with intriguing costs that most consumers never see. This blog post will pull back the curtain on this process, revealing the real “price tag” behind each shirt you buy.

Prepare to be enlightened!

Key Takeaways

  • Making a shirt involves various costs, including materials, wages and benefits for workers, as well as mark-up for profit.
  • In Bangladesh’s garment industry, the costs of raw materials, labor wages, printing, design and tariff expenses contribute to the overall production cost of a shirt.
  • Sustainable fashion is more expensive due to higher material costs and additional expenses associated with ethical manufacturing practices.
  • Transparency in the fashion industry is important in promoting sustainability and allows consumers to make informed choices based on their values.

The Cost of Making a T-Shirt

Making a shirt involves various costs, including materials, wages and benefits for workers, as well as mark-up for profit.


The materials used to make a shirt are very important. They play a big role in the overall cost of making the shirt.

  1. Fabric is usually the biggest part of this expense. It can be cheap or quite costly depending on the type.
  2. Cotton is a common choice for shirts. But there are many types, and some are more pricey than others.
  3. The price of fabric can also go up if it has a special design or color.
  4. Other materials add to the cost too, like buttons, zippers, and thread.
  5. Printing designs onto shirts brings extra costs as well.
  6. Screen printing is more expensive than other methods, costing around 90 cents per shirt.
  7. Some shirts have logos on them, which also adds to the price.

Wages and Benefits

The wages and benefits for the workers involved in making a shirt are an important part of the cost breakdown. In some countries, like Bangladesh, where garment production is common, the minimum wage for garment workers is quite low, around $95 per month.

This means that the labor costs to make a shirt are relatively low compared to other expenses. However, it’s important to consider fair wages and working conditions when analyzing the true cost of making a shirt.

Workers deserve to be paid fairly for their work and have access to benefits like healthcare and social security.


The mark-up is an important part of the cost breakdown for making a shirt. It refers to the amount that is added to the production cost in order to cover other expenses and make a profit.

The mark-up can vary depending on the company and factors such as brand reputation, market demand, and competition. For example, if the production cost of a t-shirt is $6.29, adding a 100% mark-up would bring its retail price to around $12.58.

This additional amount helps cover expenses like marketing, overhead costs, and logistics. However, it’s worth noting that higher-priced shirts do not always mean higher-quality materials or ethical manufacturing practices.

Bangladesh’s Garment Industry

Bangladesh’s Garment Industry plays a significant role in the global apparel market, with its low production costs and large workforce attracting numerous international clothing brands.

Local Business Costs

Running a garment business in Bangladesh comes with its own set of costs. Here is a basic breakdown for local business costs in the country’s garment industry:

Cost Category Approximate Cost
Raw Materials (e.g., cotton) $1.50-$2.50 per shirt
Labor Wages Can be as low as $2.10 per shirt
Printing About 90 cents per shirt
Design and Tariff Expenses Around $5.39 per shirt for the Planet Money podcast
Overall Production Cost On average, $6.29 for a blank shirt

However, these numbers do not reflect the true cost of making a shirt, as they often involve hidden costs and exploitative labor practices. It’s important to remember that the cost of making a shirt goes beyond just the materials and labor, with additional expenses for things like design and logistics.

Commitment to Transparency

Companies in the garment industry are increasingly recognizing the importance of transparency. This means being open and honest about their practices, from sourcing materials to manufacturing processes.

By committing to transparency, companies can build trust with consumers and demonstrate their dedication to ethical and sustainable production. They provide information about where their materials come from, how they are made, and the conditions under which workers operate.

This allows customers to make informed choices when purchasing clothing and support brands that align with their values. Transparency also helps expose any unethical or harmful practices within the industry, driving positive change for workers and the environment.

Transparency is a vital aspect of promoting sustainability in fashion. It enables consumers to understand the true cost of making a shirt and make more conscious buying decisions. When companies openly share information about their supply chain, it becomes easier for customers to assess whether a brand meets their standards for ethical labor practices, environmental impact, and fair wages.

Why is Sustainable Fashion More Expensive?

Sustainable fashion is more expensive due to the higher cost of materials and the additional expenses associated with ethical manufacturing practices.

The Garment

The garment itself plays a significant role in determining the cost of making a shirt. Factors such as the type and quality of fabric, the design complexity, and any additional features or embellishments can all impact the overall production expenses.

Sustainable fashion, which prioritizes eco-friendly materials and ethical manufacturing practices, often comes at a higher price due to these considerations. Additionally, customization options like logo printing or personalized designs can also increase the cost of a shirt.

It’s important to understand that there is more to making a shirt than just materials and labor; various factors contribute to its final price tag.

Cost of Manufacturing

The cost of manufacturing a shirt includes various expenses such as materials, labor, and other production costs. On average, the production cost of a blank t-shirt is around $6.29. However, this cost can vary depending on factors like the quality of materials used and the location of production. Additionally, when printing designs or logos on shirts, there is an additional expense of approximately 90 cents per shirt. It’s important to note that the true cost of making a shirt goes beyond these direct expenses and may also include hidden costs associated with worker conditions and ethical practices. So, while you may see a $12 t-shirt at the store, keep in mind that its actual production cost could be higher due to these factors.


In conclusion, the true cost of making a shirt goes beyond just the materials and labor. It involves various expenses like design, printing, and logistics. Understanding these costs helps us recognize the importance of sustainable fashion and the hidden costs behind cheap garments.

So, next time you buy a shirt, remember that there’s more to it than meets the eye.


1. What factors contribute to the true cost of making a shirt?

The true cost of making a shirt includes materials, labor, energy, transportation, marketing, and overhead expenses.

2. Why is it important to consider the true cost of making a shirt?

Considering the true cost of making a shirt helps consumers understand the social and environmental impact of their purchase and supports ethical and sustainable practices in the fashion industry.

3. How does transparency in pricing benefit both consumers and manufacturers?

Transparency in pricing allows consumers to make informed choices based on their values while encouraging manufacturers to adopt fair trade practices and improve supply chain efficiency.

4. Can I find affordable shirts that are ethically made?

Yes, there are brands that offer affordable shirts that are ethically made by prioritizing fair wages for workers, using sustainable materials, or supporting charitable initiatives. Researching and shopping consciously can help you find these options.

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