Sunday, May 1, 2016

Halloween Every Day!


        You know....life is just beautiful. At least, I feel that way when I see all of these festivals popping up that make me so happy I could cry (which happens a lot these days with the hormones being absolutely out of whack.  I cried over an Animaniacs episode. ).  It's like people are finally thinking, "Hey, everyone who is awesome loves Halloween, but it's a bummer that it's only one day a year. What if we made it MORE days a year???!!!" Yes, puh-lease. 

         I think I know what it is. I have seen this at Comic Cons very vividly, and I am honored when I experience it. It's human CONNECTION! Something about donning a costume releases a lot of the pressure we feel from every day life and interactions, especially when thousands of other people are in costume. When I am at conventions, I see adults playing.    They are taking pictures with each other, high-fiving, laughing, and loving. It's a beautiful thing, because I think so many of us think that we have to grow up, be responsible and never have fun again and only think about depressing chores and errands. Ugh. I am gleeful when I think about the opportunity to get all dressed up, NOT feel judged, and go and have fun and love things with other like-minded people. Sign. Me. Up. 

              I feel it my duty to inform you of awesome events that are going on, and even though I'll only have a booth at the Utah event this year, I am planning on signing up for the others next year, because if it's going to be a gathering of people who like macabre things, skeletons, candy, and dressing up, then I know that I have found my people.

             So, back to the "playing" thing, I strongly feel that adults should recapture the joy of our imaginations and dreams. After all, when we want something in life, it's not the actual THING that we want, it's the FEELING that it gives us.  A Damsel in this Dress corset  is logically just some really nice cloth, boning, and grommets, but when you put it on, the feelings you get are extremely potent. Trust me, I know. I still, to this day, truly treasure my own corsets. People might think that I take them for granted, because I sew them all day every day, and I can always just make another, so they might not be special for me, but that is nowhere near the truth. The fact is, I have memories I created whilst wearing each one. I have sweet experiences, confidence, joy, pain, success, failure, and about a million other things woven right into each piece that I wear. When I pull them out and touch them, I'm reminded of all of this, and I love my life. Once again, not about the corset itself, but the feelings that nearly burst out of it when I wear it. When I think about my possessions, the ones that I cherish the most are actually my costume pieces!

       Imagining yourself as someone else....maybe even just the best version of yourself with the things that you want, the relationships you desire, and the life you dream......you can almost take a "shortcut" and sit and marinade in those sweet feelings as they wash over you. You don't have to sit there and "face reality" like an adult and see all of the things you don't have and the qualities you are not. You can just feeeeeel the feelings that you want to feel, and I promise, all of the things you desire will be much closer when you start playing around in your imagination. I have used this method with much success, just sitting and feeling the joy of things that I want to happen, before they even occur. It takes the stress and pressure off, and I am free to just enjoy life, which is what we all really want anyway, right?

        So, Halloween. Yes. Imagine. Play, Dream. Eat Candy. Feel the sweetness of life.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Suggestion Box!

       It occurred to me recently (and painfully) that many of you might not actually know if your comments, suggestions, or concerns ever get TRULY taken into consideration. After all, you're not right here, working with the company every day. You're not in my overly active brain that runs on a constant mix-tape of every failure or criticism I've ever received. You don't see how I agonize and bawl my eyes out. You might just assume that I'm like most big companies, where we have some robot read your email and reply with a robotic form letter. (All the same, I do want to hire this robot, because he sounds like a pretty fun co-worker. I mean...he's a freaking robot. I'm imagine Number 5 from Short Circuit, high-fiving me while we listen to 80's music.)

       BECAUSE of some very painful and aggressive criticism I received, I decided to do some blogs that let you guys know what suggestions we've received, what we were able to implement, and honestly, what we were not able to implement (not everything works for everyone.)I thought it might be helpful to see that your comments are taken very seriously, and every time one of you is honest, it helps us to get better. You want to see people succeed, right? I think it's good to remember that what we put OUT into the world is what we get BACK. Therefore, if you are contacting a company and bringing up an issue in an open and helpful way, with kind words and encouragement, you probably will receive that same type of help in your own life. Cha-ching!  (One side note here....if you truly are so mad at my company that you want to see us fail and burn in the fiery pits of Hell.....first off, what the heck are you doing reading my blog? Second off, I need you to know that every time you cause a huge stink on facebook or some other form of social media, I get a HUGE influx of orders. I don't know why it happens, but our sales go up probably about 40%. The meaner your comments, the more money I make. Just keep that in your brain. Also, seriously....stop reading my blog.)

     So, without further ado...adieau.....adough.....adoooh?  Here are some changes I've been able to make with your help. THANK YOU, for making the product better for everyone, including me!!!
First Change: Whether or not to button?
-If you know me at all, you know that I love freaking lapel collars. I like how they frame faces, I like how the lines help to create another stacked "hourglass" silhouette on top of the other one you've already created with a corset....I just love it. With our first rendition of them, I wanted them to stay exactly in place, so I buttoned the dang things down. I thought it looked dashing! However, one of our customers came into our booth and pointed out that if the lapel had been pulled a little more over to the side, and then buttoned, it would have fit her chest a lot better. Huh....chests are all shaped differently. Oh, YEAH! But putting in the permanent "jeans style" metal post button, it doesn't allow it to be adjusted for chests. The customer told me that I could just put a button hole on the lapel, and then put a couple of buttons on the corset for different ways to pull the corset. However, right off the bat, it's good to understand a few things: 1.)Every seamstress ever HATES button holes with the fiery passion of a thousand hot pockets.   2.)I don't have a machine that does button holes. You would literally have to get an industrial machine like the ones that do buttons holes in jeans, and it's actually a machine where that's ALL it does. Crazy, right? Did you know that there is a special machine where ALL it does is sewn the inseam of your jeans? Seriously. It's really crazy looking. It looks like a really skinny ironing board with a sewing machine at the end of it, and you sew with a double needle up the inseam of jeans. Anyhow, if I were to decide to spend about $2000 on that specialized of a machine, I would need to raise prices to cover the costs, and seriously make that machine work hard for its money. See how suggestions can be helpful, but can't always be taken to the MAXX?

Thus, the collar is no longer buttoned down. It is good to mention with this style that it's best to unlace the straps in the back, lace yourself up completely in the front, and then adjust the lacings in the back to how you would like it to fit, along with folding the collar right where you want it and also maybe even putting in some cool brooches to hold those lapels right where you want them! Woot!

Another Change:
Okay, so I don't exactly have a before/after type picture for this one, so I'll just try to explain. When I made these cropped tops, I scooted the front boning up so it sat a little higher, in between the breasts, rather than dropping down and starting closer to where a front bra closure might. It's REALLY cute and perfect for pregnant ladies like me, but for LAYERING over other corsets, like we've done in the picture, I had a customer inform me (She was so awesome. She made me like a 5 page google document, complete with charts, lines, arrows, explanations, and and details on exactly how she wanted it to fit and look on her chest! Wow! And she was very respectful and helpful, with no name-calling, accusations, or escalations. It was extremely pleasant....so much so that I actually dropped everything I was doing and re-drafted the pattern based on her suggestions right then and there! The finished product was marvelous!)

What she suggested:
-Lowering the boning slightly, because on a larger chest like hers, there ended up being a gap between the bottom front of the empire corset and the top of the underbust corset....right there at the rib cage. By lowering it only about 1/2", it solved the problem, BUT still allowed me to have a happy medium between the old and the new.

-More curve "outward" for larger cup size. It is good to note, she is very blessed up top, so when I made hers, I REALLY curved it. However, for the standard pattern, I only gave it about an inch more of an outward curve, and only did it on bust sizes 40 and up. (remember, we're going by your actual measurement around the fullness of your breasts...not your bra size!) It did allow the breasts to "sit" more in the cups, like a bra, rather than being pushed so far up that you would cause traffic accidents.

And Lastly:
This one is so simple that I don't know why I didn't see it! So, these straps are removable, but on the initial corsets, I had been riveting the heavier brass snap-hook to the actual corset.....thus, if you were going to wear it without the straps, you would have this heavy hook sort of hanging there. I had several ladies WISELY suggest that I should switch it so the much lighter D-ring would be riveted to the actual corset. The D-ring is light weight enough that you could even fold it down, and hardly even see it there. Duh! Thanks, ladies!!  All the ones from here on out will be just as you suggested!

I hope this has been illuminating to see that there is a company that truly does listen and even follow your advice! I can't do everything for everyone, and sometimes I get truly odd suggestions from people who have very specific needs, and it would just be unwise to change the whole process to fit one single person and ruin it for everyone else. In those cases, occasionally we can do a custom order, but that's not even always possible. I can't tell you how difficult it can be to communicate clearly what is needed on extremely specific requests. It can take hours of emailing back and forth, pictures, diagrams, and pleas, and it might still not work in real life like it does in our imaginations! That is something I've found to be true over and over again. I have had a clear vision in my brain, but then in real life, it was an absolute flop...which is why I need you guys!

So, thank you again! I dearly appreciate all of you, and I'm especially grateful when you send kind words, tell your friends and family about our company, and have interventions with people who are wearing cheap, crappy, plastic boned corsets. ;)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Damsel in this Dress SPOTLIGHT Contest!

Thanks, Yia, for this marvelous picture. Hopefully you don't mind that I used it. You can totally use it again for an entry! ;) 
     All right!!! This was a contest suggested to me by Misty H. (were you 'maiden last name' at that time? anyhow..) and it's absolutely brilliant! She told me that it would be cool to do featured "guest spots" on my blog and feature some of our customers/damselites who seriously talk the talk and walk the walk when it comes to our corsets. I loved this idea and took a million years to finally do it, but here I am!!!  

      How this will work is that I am going to have you guys submit "guest blog" spots, along with at least one picture for my blog. It can  honestly be about anything (well....anything goes....but if it gets too crazy, like how you sacrifice chipmunks whilst in your corset, I might not end up posting it....then again....if it had interesting pictures.....*cough* No, seriously.) and I WILL say that I'm mostly interested in hearing about places where you wear corsets and things you do while wearing them. We're trying to think outside of the box here, and maybe open up some new avenues for helping women to be bold enough to wear things that make them feel radiant!  Even if you wrote a really encouraging post about how you talked yourself into wearing a corset to a wedding or something......I'm open to any ideas. 

     I WILL be rewarding you handsomely ****$150 Gift Certificates for each Winner!!**** 
However, the contest will end on February 29th (see guys, the year even gave you an extra dang day!!! No excuses! ;). You just need to send any entries into me at seamstress@damseldress.com and we will choose accordingly.  The cool thing about this contest is that it's not a contest where thousands of other people on facebook are vying for the prize. It does take some time and thought to sit down and write, but I think it's rewarding and a wonderful thing to keep for posterity! 

     I will announce the winners on March 1st. Good luck! Remember, I really like creativity! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

How To Be a Steampunk Vendor -A Completely Biased Opinion

This is me at my last show. 
          I was looking around online trying to find some more shows to do, since I have had several dreams viciously crushed lately (It's okay. I apparently wasn't ready to do bigger renaissance festivals yet. Admittedly, it does make my stomach clench when people cheerily suggest, "You should TOTALLY do this show! You would make a KILLING!" and it's a show that I sent in an application to, and then got denied entrance.) I understand it. I have vendors that I work with (you know, the businesses that I buy fabric, grommets, and boning from) have blessed my life and I want to continue relationships with them to grow my business. If some other company came along and said, "Hey, you should work with me!" I would really be hesitant. These HUGE festivals than run 8-10 weekends have a lot of stuff to protect, and it can especially be hurtful for them to allow TOO many types of the same kind of vendor in, because then it spreads the "success" out a lot thinner, and then everyone is angry and no one has a good show. I understand a scarcity mindset. I've been there many times in my life. I'm there right freaking now, trying to claw my way out, but feeling very raw and overly sensitive.

         Anyhow, back to the subject at hand. AT LEAST if I can't get my dreams right now, I can help build other people up. This is a post intended for any of you who have wanted to take your hand-made items to a show. I'm focusing specifically on the "steampunk" genre, but really these could be applied to lots of shows where there is fine, handmade wares being presented. I hope this is helpful, and I hope that you can remember that these are just my opinions, based on my own unique experiences and observations. I don't  mean to belittle or criticize anyone.

Several Tips that You Might Violently Disagree With:

*Do not lower your standards. 
I have met and seen vendors who chose to have a section of their booth that is the "cheap stuff" for people who don't have money. It's usually buy-sell stuff from China that you could find on a quick Amazon search. The strange thing is that LOTS of these people are incredibly talented artists, and they have their quality, well-priced things right along side the cheap things.

I could be totally wrong here, but in my experience, the people that are coming to these events are truly looking for something unique, hand-made, and full of life! If you are vending at a festival that is juried, and your art was good enough to get you there, then focus on giving people that experience with you and your art! I LOVE to meet my customers in person, and I hope that they have had a good experience meeting me, the lady who hands her hands all over their corset. ;)

I'm not saying that you CAN'T have little $5-$10 items to sell slowly to make your booth fee, because lots of times people truly could only afford to pay to get into the show, and they still deserve just as good of an experience as anyone else. What I'm saying is that you might want to really think about the whole picture and vision of what you want a customer experience to be. Are your smaller priced items TRULY unique and hard to find? I just met a girl who had done an incredible job of curating very interesting buttons, and had big, beautiful trays full of marvelously quirky steampunk buttons. GREAT example of how to do it RIGHT! The prices were low, but the display and the message was clear.

It can actually be hurtful to the other fellow vendors to purposely have a pile of "cheap stuff" table. The reason here is that if you are a patron, walking through a show, and you walk into one booth and see hand-made leather bullet belts for $95, and then in the very next booth you see a felt mini-top hat for $10, it can be very confusing. The price difference ends up being a shock. It's like, "Holy crap, that belt was EXPENSIVE" and then the huge price of the belt makes the cheap items look even CHEAPER, and you think, "Wow, that must be a piece of junk". No one makes money. No one wins. The vendors get bitter and the customers are confused.

I'm hoping that I'm clarifying this in a clear way. I totally LOVE seeing little stickers, buttons, and trinkety things that match the business and are specially made for the booth. I'm just lovingly encouraging you to remember that what comes out of your own brain will be better than something you bought in bulk off of alibaba.
*Always Work on your Display, but don't let it take away from your Products!
I have a little bit of a struggle with this one here, because one of my MAIN goals for my booth is to have as many SIZES available as possible. I am  keenly aware of how painful it is to walk into a shop where they don't even have anything approaching your size! It's embarrassing and just makes you feel like you are wrong and bad. Even with carrying about 30 different sizes, I STILL am not always able to fit ladies that come into my shop, at least not into the corset that they wanted. Anyhow, because I am so crammed full of corsets, I don't even have as much space for display.

This is going to work better for you if you have maybe smaller items, and you want to really let them shine! I read a funny blog post about a vendor who had found this gorgeous antique butter dish, and she put her business cards into it on a doily. She said that about 10 people came in and asked to buy the dish, not even looking at her other products. One lady even dumped out all the cards and said, "I just want this dish".  She took away the dish.

A good way to navigate this field is to just take careful note of what you DO and DON'T like, visually, with other booths. With the beauty of the internet, you can find never ending amounts of images to inspire you, and you can make the most delicious pinterest board ever! I remember that one time I walked into my aunt's house, and she had decorated it absolutely BEAUTIFULLY. I was blown away by her sense of style and taste, and when I asked her about it, she laughed, walked out of the room, and came back with a magazine. She opened up the magazine, and there was her room. She literally just found something she liked and copied it with her own pieces. The differences were slight, but good glory, it was stunning!
These ceiling tiles were only about $10  a PIECE! I had a good friend make some hinged "corners" for the ends of my Snake Oil Beauty Makeup booth, and then he glued these gorgeous tiles to them. The effect is elegant, eye-catching, and expensive looking. Do you know where I got the idea? There was a "kids fort" at a children's museum in Tacoma Washington that had walls with these drilled and patchworked into them. I thought it was so beautiful and that someday I would use the same idea! I took pictures and have remembered it for 5 long years before I finally implemented it!
*Do What You Want To Do.
Okay, I simplified that. What I really mean to say is that you should carefully think about what YOU, YOURSELF, want to see, and then follow that. I've met tons of creative people who will be wearing some amazing costume piece, and I ask them about it, and they'll explain that they couldn't find just what they wanted to buy, so they made it. I always suggest that the should do their own booth, and I will be their first customer, and they usually just laugh and blush.  COME ON, friends! If you are wearing something, and you are getting constantly stopped and asked about it, figure out how to produce it. I know that lots of people are like, "Well, this took me 40 hours to make, with much pain, suffering, and profanity and there's no way I can get people to pay me $500 for it."  First off, you would be surprised. Second off, the first piece is ALWAYS the worst. Do you think I would even have a company if I made everything in the same way I made my first piece??? Good NIGHT! I would not have been in business for 12 years now!! You will be inspired. You will be lead. You will possibly even find another company who can take one element of your design, produce it by the thousands, and allow you to sell your awesomeness.

An example of this is our steampunk trim on our corsets. Did you know that I used to sit and watch TV while I held a huge roll of belting and carefully cut them by hand into 4 inch pieces, and then took a lighter to the ends to finish them and melt them....one....by....one......
I looked into a machine that would automatically cut to length and singe the ends....and it was $30,000.  Yikes. My beautiful, wonderful husband figured out what to search on google, and he found a company who HAD these machines, had lots of different types of belting, and would cut them in batches of 10,000 for us. Now, granted, the up front cost is still *cough* significant, BUT I'm not spending hundreds of hours burning my fingers. We gave business to a company that was already set up to do what we wanted, and they were good at what they did! We blessed them with our business, they blessed us with their machinery and knowledge. Heck yes!!!

Well, friends, this is honestly all I have right now. I truly have to get to work, but I wanted to write this while it was in my brain! I truly hope this helps you to find courage, because that is what I am actively seeking in my own life. I know that as I keep improving myself, the good things I'm hoping for will  naturally come into my life at the right time and in the right way.

Monday, January 25, 2016

"BeLIEf, Part 2"

       Well, here we are. I'm writing this as promised. And, you know? I think this stuff might finally be sinking in. I'm extremely proud of myself, because I am CATCHING myself right in the middle of saying things that are foolhardy, lacking in truth, and the opposite of what I desire. Even this morning, my son asked if we could go to the store, and I started to say "No, I have a headache coming on and I'm feeling like crap" and it felt like the words were fully formed, but I was blundering around, trying to catch the little guys as they were spilling out of me. In that EXACT second, I thought- Do I want to have a headache? Why would I make that true with the power of my words? Do I want to feel "like crap"? What kind of message is that for my son? What kind of message is that for me? I am not crap. I will never be crap. There is no possible way I could ever be crap, no matter what I do in this life. Why would I try to "feel" my way to crap? What the WHAT???? Anyhow, I was pretty proud of myself for turning it around and saying, "Todd, I am excited to go to places too. We will not be leaving right at this moment, but you and I can both do specific things right now to enable us to happily go to the store."

      And then....well, this part was just crazy. I really did "feel" that headache coming on, but I thought this instead over and over and over. "My head is light and all tension is gone from my brain. There is no reason to feel any self-loathing or stress. I release this up and out of my being, and I take my power back. I am grateful for how wonderful I feel, and how clear and light my mind IS."  I then said a prayer, and then, for good measure, got out some essential oils, gently dabbed them on, inhaled deeply, and took massive, cleansing, HEALING breaths. I focused on breathing in relaxation and breathing out stress and tension.

     Honestly, I felt a moment of panic because I thought, "I still feel the headache! Maybe it's not...." but then I stopped myself. This is about the power of my freaking brain!! I am MORE powerful THAN THIS!!!  I didn't even let the thought finished. I repeated the previous steps.

     10 minutes later, my peaceful words were true, and I felt no headache at all. At. All.
    Isn't is absolutely CRAZYPANTS that there are so many "funny" little phrases that are tossed carelessly around. It's part of our dang culture! When people are indulging in their problems, you are SHUNNED if you don't nod and agree and roll your eyes and talk about how much your life sucks. I'm serious here. This is creepy stuff.  These little phrases just roll easily off the tongue. They're in sitcoms. They're in your status update. They're what you casually say to strangers. We are all comfortable with them, and they are completely poisonous.

      I think it's so funny that people will get all offended and up in arms about profanity, but those same people will say treacherous things like "Well, you know, that's just the way the world is."  Holy face! According to WHOM?? (hey, did I use the "whom" right? I'm trying to work on this stuff.)

      Here's the thing friends. When you use the power of the spoken word, you are wielding a MIGHTY weapon, especially if you are talking to someone you care about. When you speak forth words of illness, scarcity, negativity, and fear, you start NOTICING and GIVING POWER to those exact same things more and more.

      I read a wonderful book on the Law of Attraction, and it said to think of your thoughts and spoken words as a literal google search.  Whatever you type in, that's what you will get. EVEN if you "type in"  the words "I do not want to attract creepy men", the universe will give you a perfect "search" of creepy men. Ugh. Think of what that would bring up in the google image search. YUCK.

    What you focus upon, you get more of.  (sorry, I know that isn't correct grammar. Oh, holy night. I'm focusing on bad grammar! There's going to be dangling participles ALL UP IN HERE!)

      I always find it sadly amusing when women come into my booth at Renaissance Festivals and say ANY or ALL of the phrases in my image above. How can you possibly expect to say, "I never find what I want and they never have my size" and then somehow GET what you want in your size? That's like planting  a tomato seed and expecting some nice jicama. No, it's worse. It's like planting a tomato seed and expecting a cuddly koala bear. What the WHAT???

      On the flip side, I absolutely love it when a woman comes  in, goes straight to the exact thing she wants on the rack, pulls out the RIGHT SIZE (yeah, this is creepy, because we carry about 25 sizes, and corsets are very specifically sized)  and then we try it on and it just HAPPENS to match everything she is wearing EXACTLY. She will pump her fist in the air and declare, "Yes, I always find perfect things for me!"  Well.....there you have it. I want to be this lady, personally. How about you?

        What do you want? Really. What do you WANT?  What are you putting into your "google search" of your life. This morning, when you looked into the mirror, did you see what you wanted? Or did you focus  on all of the ways in which you are hideous and unacceptable? Isn't it just as easy to focus in on all the things you like about yourself? Doesn't that feel a bajillion times better?  What seed are you planting today, and what are you expecting tomorrow?

       Like I said, I'm starting to catch myself in my "lies" and it feels amazing. Do me a favor. Stop tolerating casual, but fatal, flippant little comments from the people you love. Stop allowing them in your own brain. After all, what kind of life is it when you "always" get what you "never" want?

How to Look Your Absolute WORST-10 Easy Steps

*This subject is one that I feel highly qualified to address. In fact, I've heard many times that to become a "master" at a certain thing, you must spend 10,000 hours doing the thing. Trust me, I've spent way more than that on EACH of these subjects in my life. I can't exactly say I'm proud of it. This blog is definitely being written to point out my own mistakes, and hopefully help you all to avoid some of these pitfalls. They are never pretty.

OH, and P.S. I am working on forgiving myself for them. See? I can take my own advice!

1.Joke About How Old and Fat You Are
Oh boy. Do NOT casually joke about this stuff. I swear, the subconscious brain and your body HEAR everything. The problem? They have no sense of humor and not ability to understand sarcasm.  Plus, our "casual" words are ironically some of our most powerful manifestations. It's because we say them over and over with our brain in a more relaxed, non-resistant state. Phew. Creepy.

2. Don't Forgive Others or Yourself 
Have you ever spent time with someone who has a nemesis that they just HATE and obsess over and talk about constantly? How about someone who has been "wronged" by someone and will not ever let it go? They bring it up constantly over and over and over again. Well, you may have spent time with me at certain parts of my life.

The crazy thing about this is that we have these people that drive us bonkers, but then we let them take up all of the real estate in our brain that could have been used for other things like reading Jane Austen books, thinking about if someone invented zero calorie brownies that tasted good, or solving cancer.

An unforgiving person is....well...I'll say it. Unattractive. But, think about that word for a second. Un-attract-ive.  This literally means that you are repelling the things you WANT to attract in your life...like awesome people that don't suck. The more you focus in on these people that have wronged you, betrayed you, or hurt you in any way, the MORE you get of THOSE SAME KIND OF PEOPLE. Yikes.

One last thing here. I have to remember this myself. Forgiveness isn't about bringing you CLOSER to that person. It is about bringing you closer to God and yourself. Speaking of yourself? The more you don't forgive you, the more you repel your good.

3. Threaten Others! Go Ahead. Do it TODAY! 
A few years ago, we had a corset order that went completely absolutely horridly, and I do definitely take responsibility for my part.  There was not good communication between me and the customer, and even after explaining how to measure her body and sending her pictures and diagrams, she still got the waist measurement off by 13 inches. She sent it back 1, 2, and 3 times for alterations. The first time it was sent back, it was still 8 inches off, and then when she remeasured again and told me the next size to send, it ended up 5 inches TOO SMALL. I had never had this happen and was just beside myself. I am a big believer of taking personal responsibility for my problems, so each time she sent me an upset email about how the piece didn't fit, I would frankly apologize to her and tell her that it was MY fault, and I should have double, and triple checked with her on her measurements. I know it takes two to tango, and I should have understood that I wasn't maybe the right person to do this job for her.  My pride wouldn't let me just let this order go, and after spending $100 shipping it back and forth and doing the alterations and remakes for free, we finally got it right!  I felt so embarrassed and bad about  myself at that time that I just told her she could keep it and we would refund her for the full amount.

I got back a letter and she told me that we were the worst company she had ever worked with and she was BIG in the SCA and was going tell EVERYONE SHE KNEW how awful we were and that she was taking our company down.

You know, I must have had some good karma saved up, because in that moment, I actually SAW this woman. She obviously didn't have people that listened to her and understood her, and she must have had a lot of forgiveness with-held from HER. She had to learn all of this from somewhere. I think that's the most important thing to remember when dealing with this kind of thing. This person has experienced this before. The learned it. They spread it. I imagined how TRULY sad it was going to be when she loudly and vehemently talked about this company that she absolutely hated (I am hoping she was rocking her corset and looking mighty fine when she did this, but that's just my little "boo-ya" moment I'm hoping for) and how they had wronged her so horribly. I imagined her friends listening and feeling that negative energy flowing out of her.

I don't feel good when I think about this lady suffering. Even after all of that, I STILL wish I could meet her in person and talk to her and get to know her. I don't feel malice. I just feel sad.  That "savior" complex will get you every time, I guess.

4.Act Like a Sullen Teenager. Go ahead. Cross Your Arms and Rolls Your Eyes.
 Speaking or rolling your eyes. What kind of faces do you think are beautiful? What is an expression that you love to see? I couldn't help but put a Bratz doll up here, because....I'm sorry, but I really dislike the snobby look on their faces. To me, this doll with her pursed lips, half-lidded eyes and defiant attitude is what's wrong with America. (Ironically, I got this picture from a blog post about how beautiful this new doll is. I guess it takes all kinds, eh?)  I know this is obvious. but if you're smiling, people will be attracted to you. If you are too "cool" for this happiness stuff and "hate all these super chipper people" it's not exactly attractive. DANGIT! I know this on a very deep level.

Even  just this last weekend, I was at a seminar, and it was super-charged, board-breaking, walking-across-a-bead-of-glass to break through your limiting beliefs, happy kind of stuff. After we would take breaks, when we came back in, they would be blasting loud dance music with all these people dancing and flailing about. When I came in and heard "Cotton Eyed Joe" I just wanted to run away and crawl into a dark hole and never come out. It brought back all of the trauma of high school dances in one fell swoop. I stood there, folding my arms, scowling, and the cheery people around me happily tried to get me to "shake my pregnant groove thang.".  No. NO!!!!!!!!!!

I wasn't pretty. I wasn't "fun". I was unattractive. *sigh*  I told you that I was intimate with all of these points!!

5.Talk About How Much You Hate Good Looking People
Ah, this is the advice that I need right here. Deep breaths, Michelle.  Okay, so I had this revelation, and maybe none of you are going to be surprised or even thoughtful about it, but I sure thought it was mind-blowing. One day I realized that if I channeled significant amounts of energy into how pissed and annoyed I was at "skinny girls who eat anything that they want and never gain any weight" I would never ever ever ever become anything remotely like that. In fact, it seems more likely that the message that I was sending out clearly to the universe is "Please, keep me fat and make my pants explode by even looking at a Red Robin billboard". I definitely wasn't asking for fast metabolism and a carefree attitude about weight. I'm honestly focusing on and giving power to all of the things that I think are wrong with myself.

When we hate and criticize attractive people because they make us feel threatened and small, we are making ourselves even smaller, and repelling those attributes away from our lives. Profanity.

A better avenue? Take joy in all the beauty of the earth. FEEL, deep down in your bones, a lightness and gratitude that there is so much beauty, and there is always more beauty coming in and flourishing. Thinking about all of this beauty automatically makes your being more beautiful. Truly.

Wow, guys. This stuff is really hard and uncomfortable for me. I apologize if it's doing the same thing to your brain as it's doing to mine!

6.Seek Approval of Others, and When You Get It, Shoot Down and Deny Their Compliments
One  of my main motivations for weight loss is to hear people approve of me, accept me, and praise me for all the hard work that I did. Well, Admiral Ackbar said it best. It is a freaking trap. First off, approval from  others will not result in approval of yourself. You have to first approve of yourself, on a deep level, from the inside, and honestly.....the approval of others shouldn't even be something you consider. They will always be "approving" or "disapproving" of you based on their own emotional state, experiences, values, and opinions. When they approve of you, it's for THEM so that they can feel good about THEMSELVES for approving of you.  That is fine. It's totally fine. They are just being human beings, and the things that they are attracted to say a lot about them. If they look at how and like your fashion sense, fashion is important to them. It doesn't necessarily mean that you are a stylin' fashion icon....unless, you think that about yourself. Then it's dang true!

On the other hand, if you DO get approval from others, just say "thank you" and that is it. End of discussion. "Thank you." Now, ladies, I do this  wretched thing as well, so remember that I'm right there along with you...but, when someone comes up and says, "Wow, you look like you've lost weight" and you say, "Oh my hell, I've gained 10 pounds and I ate a whole pan of brownies while watching Downton Abbey last night and I haven't exercised in 6 months and I'm more bloated than ever!!!", it gets real, rill awkward. (And just a side note, "weight" doesn't have a whole lot to do with the *insert expletive here* scale. I've seen women who looked 100 pounds lighter after they kicked an addiction, got rid of a toxic relationship, or just made a change in their attitude toward life. Their physical bodies might weigh the same, but I don't "experience" them as that former weight.)

7.Talk About How Much You Hate Exercise and Healthy Food
Oh, boy, oh boy. It's just not attractive when someone talks about hating healthy food. The thing is-you're conveying something else than you think you're saying. I know, in my brain, it sounds like, "See? I AM fun! I DO like to dance! As long as there's brownies and such, I'm here for the partayyyy! I don't like boring things, I'm not boring!"  (I think that's my third mention of brownies here. I have a problem....or a solution, now that I think about it.)

But, what people "hear" is more like this. "I think you're stupid for taking care of yourself and liking that food. I like junk and my body shows it". I'm not sure that any of us truly want that.

I heard a startling revelation the other day at that super happy conference. A man got up and shared that he had realized something about food. He said that when he ate live, vibrant, healthy foods, it made him more AWARE of his feelings and body. The problem is that the awareness brought up emotions that he hadn't dealt with, beliefs that were painful, and an uncomfortable awareness of his body. When he ate "junk food" it numbed the pain and suffering. It made his body and mind less aware, and it felt good to not have to deal with that unpleasant stuff.....which, of course, means more unpleasantries down the road.

Shucks. I guess I won't be making those brownies.

8.Scoff at the Success of Others
Dang you, T-swifty. You wrote that "Shake it Off" song to make me feel like an idiot for making fun of you! Well, played, Mi'lady, well played.

Honestly, guys, I'm just straight up jealous. The freaking songs stick in my head for days.....and you know what? I would have LOVED to have  that success. I really really wanted to play guitar and sing and be a rock star for a living. I know, real original, right? I am just pissed that she did it and I didn't. That is all.
Oh....also, it makes me unattractive. Remember what that word means? It means I'm repelling the things  that I wanted in my life. I'm  not attracting them.

9. Compare Yourself Constantly to Others
I went to town the other day and felt like my hair looked good and my outfit was really cute and put together, considering it was dang maternity clothing. When I got to the Children's Museum and let me kids run free, I started noticing the people around me.  Now, friends, I just need you to know that Utah can be a really hard place to live for someone who is insecure. I swear, there are more freaking gorgeous, perfect people in this area than anywhere I've ever been. It's very competitive, and there's a lot of money in this area to help people with their unreasonable beauty.

Yes, this is creepy, and I take full responsibility for my actions, but JUST out of curiosity, I started counting the women in the room that looked like they were really thin and fit, had perfect hair, had expensive clothing, and generally made me feel like a lumpy piece of poop. Out of around 35 moms in the room, 32 of them were at that level. Once again, I know it's creepy. I was weak......also hypoglycemic and super low-blood sugary.  When I say, "perfect" I freaking mean "PERFECT". I could tell that several of these women had 3 or more kids, and they STILL looked 10% body fat and 120 pounds. ARGGGG. And they had THICK hair. Something I've wanted my whole entire life. I put so much "thickening product" goop crap in my hair that it's probably 65% that stuff. I want it SOOO bad. They all had this effortless way about how they moved. They didn't have to try to sit in a certain way to "not" look poochy. They just freaking lounged and looked beautiful.

Now, guys. I'm not holding back here. I'm letting out all of my vulnerability. I hope you can understand that I'm really just an awkward 14 year old still hoping to be noticed and feel pretty.

I can PROMISE you that I went through the whole entire script that is appropriate in this situation.  "Michelle, everyone has problems. Just because all these women are perfect doesn't mean they don't have problems and insecurities just like everyone else. "   "Honey, comparison is the thief of joy!"  "Boo (this is my nickname that only my family calls me) You are your own unique kind of beautiful!"  "Sweetheart, you should be happy that these women have obviously worked so hard to achieve what they have! It means you can do the same!!"

See how I was nice to myself??? See  how loving I was? See that LOGIC?

Yeah, it didn't work. By the time I left the museum, I was bawling and swearing up a storm. My kids were terrified. My husband ran me to the nearest food place, and I cried and screamed as I yelled into a hamburger.  Maybe the lesson here is to not be around human beings when your blood sugar is that low.

Guys, honestly, I haven't figured out how to NOT compare. I can read all the fluffy, inspirational, cheery crap ever, and I still fall into the same trap.

But remember......you get more of what you focus upon. I am actively attracting more women into my life that make me feel inferior, further cementing my belief that I'm not good enough.

10.Take More Selfies. That Should Do the Trick. 
And, onto my final point. I need this drilled into my brain. We are NEVER happy when we're thinking only of ourselves. When your life only revolves around you, things go downhill in a hurry. Think of how absolutely stunning a kind, thoughtful woman who is friendly and thinks of others is! The most "attractive" people I know are the ones who are compassionate, good listeners, charitable, and cheerful. People who are laughing, making others laugh, and just LOVING are so much more beautiful than any physical attributes could ever possibly be.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

How to be Brave Enough to Charge What You are Worth! (Written by a total coward)

    Well, it's ironic that I should be writing this, because I'm definitely not the poster child for this particular situation. However, as with all of my writing, it's all freaking for me and my own brain anyhow. Getting it out in the open is a way for me to hold myself accountable and actually articulate what those hamsters on their wheels in my head are churning out. 

       I should point out that I was raised by the hardest working man alive. I know you all think that you know people who are hard workers, and you're simply wrong. My dad just started producing, probably when  he was born, and never stopped. However, despite being this pinnacle of carpentry and construction, working on countless multi-million dollar homes, and making more little old ladies happy than "Matlock" ever could, he's never charged people enough. Ever. He is the kind that will bid a job for $200 and then proceed to spend 200 EXTRA  hours working with the client, drawing and re-drawing plans, listening to poor, ignorant suggestions and then using his skills to expound on them and create a masterpiece, and simply using his talent and amazing mathematical brain to produce stunning work. By this time, he's formed a relationship with them, and he literally cannot bring himself to say, "Hey, I've neglected my family, slept for 5 hours a night for two months, and used up all of my mental energies to produce this one of a kind spinning, articulated, African Black Wood spice rack that also plays dubstep with voice command. I understand that it was originally supposed to be a simple 1'X2' pine shelf, but it is not that thing anymore. I am going to need another $20,000. Thanks. I will deliver your piece when I have received the payment in full. 

          And then, there is me. I grew up watching this happen over and over again, and I'm afraid to say it was often a point of contention between my parents. I mean, it's not like they had 8 kids to raise or anything. No biggie. Luckily, I took this life experience, and slowly turned it from a source of pain to a source of intense learning and growing. I would like to share a few things that I have learned along the way, in the last 12 years of building Damsel in this Dress. I hope my suggestions will be taken in the very best light, and don't taint your view of my company. ;) Namaste.....I guess? 

Rule # 1: Love Yourself!!!
Yes, I'm going to get woo-woo right off the bat. I need you to know that if you don't respect and love yourself, you make it incredibly hard for others to do the same. Think about times when you  haven't demanded respect for yourself. Let's say that you have a co-worker and she is constantly asking you to handle parts of her job that she couldn't get to, blames you when things go bad, and demands that you do it right next time. If you respected yourself, you would say, "Hey, you're awesome and I want to help you. I know that you are not the kind of person who would want to take advantage of others, yet I feel that it is happening this situation. I respect my time and limitations, and in the future, I cannot take on work that was your own. I am accountable for my own work, assignments and actions, and I am proud of what I accomplish."    However, if you don't respect yourself, you would just keep on making up for her lack, resenting her AND yourself, and nourishing a toxic situation. YOU MUST learn to cultivate an environment of love for yourself, and it starts in your brain. Every time you hear a bitchy thing that your brain says so you, you can practice filling that lie with a truth....which brings me to my next point. 
 2. Examine your BeLIEfs. 
This last weekend, I heard one of the best tips I have ever received. The basic idea is that our actions in life are all based on our core beliefs about ourselves. If you think about the word "belief" there is another POSSIBLE word right in the middle of this word, and that is "Lie."  You can know if your personal beliefs about yourself are LIES if they produce the following:
*Fear  *Doubt  *Depression  *Anxiety  *Anger  *Resentment toward self  *Stoppage of Dreams

On the other hand, you can FEEL  a truth in your body. I know, in a deep and profound way, that the very cells that form our body respond positively to truth. When you think a thought about yourself that is pure truth, it feels exactly opposite of the "lies".  You feel:
*Light  *Peace  *Power  *Love  *Compassion  *Forgiveness  *Refreshed and Renewed *Confidence  *Focused and Clear  *Closeness with people around you 

Now, I won't say that the "truth" thing is easy at first. After all, sometimes, when I've listened to the lies long enough, if I just blast a truth thought into my mind, it goes haywire. It would sound something  like this, "Maybe I'm not worth it. After all, that lady that just walked into my booth sneered at my prices and talked about how she couldn't afford any of it and it was too expensive for what it was. I feel sick and embarrassed, and after I've worked this hard and long, I'm not going to make any money, because my art isn't worth anything. I suck. I freaking suck." .............."Oh my gosh, this feels horrible. Surely that lady wasn't right. I SHOULD be nice to myself......Um......I'm AWESOME!"  Nope, doesn't work. 

Oh, boy. This needs a whole entire blog on it. I will get to that. For right now, remember, to "check in" with how your thoughts are actually resonating in your body. Sometimes, all it takes is one little trigger to produce the avalanche. 
 3. Step Back
I don't always do this at my shows, and I really should. However, when I'm thinking clearly and feeling good about myself, I remember to step back from my booth and take a good, hard look with my heart. Do I see a good energy flowing from it? Is there clutter? Is is light, warm, and inviting? If I'm walking through the event, am I naturally drawn to this booth? Have I created a place where you would EXPECT to see quality items at quality prices? My husband has this wonderful analogy where he says, "Michelle, think about when you walk into Nordstrom and there is displays and lighting and luxury and a guy in a tux playing a piano. How much do you expect the price tags to reflect that? Now, think about walking into a K-Mart. What if you saw those same Nordstrom price tags?"   Yeah. Wow....yeah.  This year, I have a personal commitment to make my tent reflect how I feel about myself, which is mighty fine!
By the way, this also goes for your website (ugh. I know. I know. Hard for a lot of us artists!). If your website LOOKS and FEELS professional, and you've taken the time to really make it so, you will get paid for that time and effort. Somehow, some where down the  line, you will reap your rewards. 
 4. Build Trust
I am incredibly passionate about this one, and it's because I basically founded my whole company on it. When I first started out, I charged WAY too little. I know that. It's okay. I think it's completely acceptable in certain realms to start out with a more entry level pricing, so that you're more accessible to people, and then work your way up from there as your product gets better and your business grows. I understand this doesn't work for everyone, though. Either way, no matter what, always ALWAYS do your best.....which, by the way, will never be perfection. It will NEVER. BE. PERFECTION. What the heck do you think perfection is anyhow? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. BAM. How's that? You, yourself, could kill yourself and finally have your idea of "perfection" and some A-hole could walk up and point out all the flaws. You will never reach perfection. However, if you know in your deepest heart of hearts that you are doing your very best, you will always feel a peace and steadiness. You will radiate that to your customers, and they will pick up on that. They will understand that this is your best, and they will see it as "the best". They will trust you and the fact that you will stand by your art, no matter what. They know. They always know. 
5. Your Art and "Work" can Speak for Itself
     Ideally, you will never have to use phrases like, "What can we do to get you into this car by the end of the day? " or "Let's get to YES". Quality pieces that were crafted with care, skill, time, love, and freedom will always show up as such. Remember, most of my experience comes from Renaissance Festivals, but I also attended many craft shows with my mother in the 90's. Even as a kid, I would be walking through the booths, taking everything in, and I could just TELL the difference between people who had slapped some pine together and painted it and the lady who carefully sculpted hundreds of beautiful little beady-eyed animals out of Sculpey clay. If there was a booth that just bought and sold purses from China, it had this completely different energy than the sweet little lady who was paper-piecing together intricate boats and rabbits and stitching them into ornate quilted tote bags. I really have a lot of faith in the "public" and their ability to see the energy of the art. Even way back when I started out, and my booth was a pathetic EZ-UP, my racks were bare, and my little hang-tags were like the ones stuck on things at yard sales, people could still somehow "tell" what I was about. They would pick my booth over tons of other costuming booths, with much more professional displays. How could they tell? I just can't explain it. All I know is that I've spent all these years with a pure, true intent to provide the best quality I possibly could and to help women feel more beautiful than they ever have in their "normal clothes". 
6. Do Not "Play it Safe"
       There will always be a part of me that just HAS to believe that when you really push yourself and create something CRAZY, the exact right customer will walk in and it will be like your souls had communicated to each other! I try to carry plenty of "solid black" corsets in my booth, because I know that those will always sell, but there is no word to describe the inexplicable joy that I feel when I make a true connection with a customer. I can think  of thousands of instances where I was hanging up a piece at a festival, and as I was putting it on the rack, that mean voice in my head would say, "Really? Michelle....Um..no one is going to like this. It's too weird. Why are you even hanging it UP???"  But then, in walks this woman, and the magnetic pull is so forceful that I don't even have to greet them before they run to the piece and pick it out. The BEST is when it's a corset, and it JUST HAPPENS to be the exact right size!  And do you know what? This happens ONLY to women that believe that it happens to them!  Yes, I said it right.   Women that know, on a deep level, that they will always find exactly what they want.....um....find exactly what they want.   But, guess what I hear more often? "Oh, I never find my size. They never have it."  Ah, once again, a whole entire blog will be written for this, because it's eerily, creepily true. 
       Anyhow, take a dang chance. You'll thank yourself later. The money will come. It will. Be trusting, and take joy in what you do. 

       As promised, I will be forming blogs on the other ideas as well.  After all, remember who these are for. Yup. For me. Dang Advice for Dang me.  However, you are more than welcome to share them. ;)