Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sexy Bald Eagle

I am just so proud of this drawing that I need to make sure that I immortalize it in my blog forever.   Now, if the REAL costume can only look this cute.....
       By the way, making patterns is hard. I made the eagle hat above to put into my costume.....and even though it looks awesome on Leif, it looks wretched on me. It stuck off of my head and didn't sit right and looked more "chickeny".  

      What is even more sad is that this dang eagle hat was my FOURTH attempt! I was too ashamed to take a picture of how it looked on my face, which is why I used my baby. As you can see from the pictures, he even yanked it off and ran away. 

       And so, more pattern-making attempts for tomorrow. I have the most serious love-hate relationship with Halloween. It kills me every year. I work myself TO DEATH, every single year. I plan on having an awesome party every year, and then only manage to vaguely pull together something sloppy at the last minute. I always envision myself being a total rock star. I always end up being......just me stressed out. 

        This is me and my husband at last year's Halloween party. I figured I could be an owl, and my big pregnant belly would look like an egg.  We took pictures in front of a green screen so that we could swap everyone's backdrops out for really awesome settings that would match their characters.  There is still 400+ pictures sitting on my computer that need edited.  Wow, this is turning into a sort of melancholy post. I didn't mean for it to take this turn! I guess I might be feeling overwhelmed. Big surprise there. 

       Back to the positive stuff! I have some really neat costumes coming up, and I'm really proud of them. I know that I, alone, can never get the world out of the mindset of "I'll just get  a black corset so I can be a witch for Halloween" but goodness knows I will keep trying until I die. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

STAY PUT! Makeup Tools and Tricks

I already adore Heidi Klum, but SERIOUSLY, look how committed this lady is to her Halloween Costumes! What in the...what???

         So, Halloween Makeup. If corsets and body image for women is my main passion, makeup is definitely the second love of my life. I love using my face as a pallette! I LOVE colors and textures and brushes and tools and tricks!  I come from a very artistic family, in fact, my mother is an INCREDIBLE painter and sketch artist, my older brother is an environment artist for Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2, and my sister is such a good cartoonist that I boil with jealousy whenever I see anything she has scribbled out onto a paper. I used to dabble in art, but I never had a really good teacher or tutor that took time to help me hone my skills (I know, I know...why didn't I beg my mom to teach me? I don't know...maybe I was too busy making my own dorky renaissance bodices to wear to high school.).   Makeup, for me, has been a fulfilling creative process, and the biggest reason I wear makeup every dang day of my life is because I love the practice in art and skills! 
You know who has INCREDIBLE makeup tutorials and costume ideas. Freaking Martha Stewart. I know she is the devil. It's fine. 



I have a whole arsenal of products that make it so I can do my things.  Oh, by the way..will someone reach into this picture and turn my own necklace around? Thanks. 
So, there are a few things that make it so my makeup stays put, and I wish someone would have told me about all of these things years ago!  I also love finding makeup blogs and tutorials, and if I didn't work 27 hours a day (this is no joke.) I promise, I would spend more time just looking at....makeup!  
I live in a part of the country that is extremely...um....."competitive" for women and their looks.  There is lots of surgery, lots of dieting, lots of fitness fanaticism, and everything else that has to do with looking better than the next lady.  I'm not here to condemn anyone, because I like to look beautiful just as much as anyone else. I find it really tedious to spend time on comparing myself to others (man, it rots your soul!), but I do LOVE the attitude of taking what God gave you and showing him that you like  it, you love it, and you're dang proud of it!!!! 

Oh, my, I am getting off topic. So, back to the women in Utah. The eyelash extension thing here is HUGE!  I love the look of long, lush eyelashes, but holy freaking-freak, the price is insane! I believe it starts somewhere around $200 for the first set, and then to get refills, it's $40-$60. Depending on how you take care of your lashes, you need to get them refilled every 1-3 months.  My true issue with them is that they pretty much destroy  your natural lashes. Once you stop, you've got..um...nothing left until they grow back in.  Now, I know that I might have a force of women descending upon me for this and telling me how wrong I am. I guess I've only known a few women that got this done, but it DOES come at a price, and not just the $$$. 

So, see the eyelashes up above? I'm obcessed with these things. You can buy them on Amazon for about 5 bucks a pack, and one pack is 3 sets.  They look amazingly natural, like the little single falsies, BUT they go really fast for application, because of the sets of 3 lashes. You could even just use a couple of the shorter ones for fillers on your own natural lashes, and it's going to look amazing. 



Makeup setting. DO THIS. There are a lot of different brands that sell "makeup setting spray". I like Urban Decay the best, and I promise, this stuff does extend the life of your makeup. Guess what I also use it for?  When my mascara is getting a little dry, and I want to extend its life and make it glide on more smoothly, I just spray one squirt of this stuff onto the mascara brush, and it magically works! 





Oh my good-golly-gee! I love this stuff so much I want to snuggle with it and watch Pride and Prejudice. Please, friends, if you are going to wear eyeshadow, put this on first. Trust me. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Principles of Epic Costuming:Chapter 9

Do you know who has the Epic Costuming nailed?? The Monster High Dolls.  Say what you will about "teaching little girls negative body image" and so on and so forth. Anyone can criticize. And do you know what? If you want to find a doll to hate on, dwell on the horrible things about the Bratz Dolls, which I think are putrid, from the very name right down to the fact that the expression on their faces is NOT one that you want to see on your little girl, I don't care what kind of parent you are. *cough* I digress.  Sorry, anyhow, we are all allowed our opinions, and let me tell you my opinion about the Monster High dolls.  I REALLY like that these girls are celebrating WHO they are and what makes them special.  The word "monster" has such negative connotations, but these ladies take lemons and make lemonade with the word! They CELEBRATE monster-hood, and everything that goes with it. 
If you look very carefully at the dolls, every single piece of them was thought out carefully, to communicate who they are and what their story might be! Holy night, if I could craft costumes that were this concise, intricate, and mind-blowing, my company would be what I WANT IT TO BE when it grows up!!   I honestly think you can take a page from this and put it into the story of your own costuming.  Don't just lace a corset on with a skirt and blouse. Think about yourself from head to toe.  Start at the top and imagine what you could possibly do with each part of you to create the look you want! Here's a checklist.

*Head (What hat, fascinator, bow, hairpiece, color,  or accessory might you do here?)

*Hair (How can you style your hair so that it will help tell the story of your costume?)

*Face (DO NOT neglect makeup. Don't use the excuse of "I don't know how to apply makeup."  Don't tell me that by wearing makeup, you're telling the world that you don't feel pretty and you have to "lie" to be pretty. I've heard all of this. I don't accept it. Makeup is a celebration of your beautiful features, to highlight, accentuate, and illuminate them! Watch some dang youtube videos and stop complaining. PHEW! There, I said it. Be mad at me all you want. )

*Neck (From necklaces to chokers, collars, and even neck corsets, you can take pride in this beautiful part of your body!)

*Blouse (prints are fun! If I thought that I could actually sell leopard prints, florals, and stripes. I would carry printed blouses for my company. However, any time I've ever had them on the racks at shows, they sit and let the wind whistle through them. I do understand. It can be hard to match them with the corsets, and even I'm limited by what colors and prints I can even find in the appropriate weight and weave of fabric. Thus, I resort back to carrying white and black, and that's just fine.)

*Corset. Obviously. (One note here. I don't think that you should try to cram the whole concept of your costume into the corset itself. I'm not a fan of "overworked" corsets.  If you are going to be a mummy, don't ask me to make you a corset with thousands of bandages sewn onto it. I'll charge you a crazy amount and it will only work for one corset.  I like to keep things fairly simple. While I DO like putting a bat signal on a corset for a Batman cosplay costume, I don't like making a corset with muscles, a six pack, leather, a utility belt, and a voice box. Calm it down, people.)

*Belt (I always think you should have a belt that you can sling around the lower part of the corset. It's nice for aesthetics as well as having a place to put pouches and money. Don't over-think this. Go to a freaking second hand store, get a belt, and then get some used military surplus pouches in leather to hang on it. I do this, and I have tons of people ask me where I got my belt at every single show I attend.)

*Skirt or Pants. (Even though I sell skirts and adore them, I actually prefer some leggings and a short, sassy little skirt over them. Just easier to work a show in. However, if I were going to a grand ball of some sort, you had better believe I'm going to be in petticoats, hoop skirts, and a massive bustle skirt.)

*Shoes (Anyone who knows me personally will know that I love me some cowgirl boots. However, with this costume piece, you guys are all on your own. I know customers who can wear 7 inch  heels all day and somehow miraculously live to tell the tale, and I've had ladies who wore Converse sneakers with their bustle skirts. Either way is cute. Own it.

By carefully crafting your costume to fit you and your personality, you WILL be a legend! People will want to photograph you and get a picture WITH you! You will be like the princesses at Disneyland, except without the handlers, screaming kids having meltdowns in long lines (I'm guilty of this with my own kids) and crazy egos.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Principles of Epic Costuming: Chapter 8


I have a personal rule for my own costumes that ALWAYS makes me happy when I follow it. This is the rule. When I am trying to pick out what to wear, if I have a SINGLE bit of hesitation about whether or not something "goes together" I know that it is a compass pointing me in the direction that I need to go! I immediately conquer that fear and uncertainty by putting the things together, and then I get  my best costumes. 

Just barely, I was getting dressed for the Salt Lake Comic Con, and I was trying to match my Lumpy Space Princess/Adventure Time leggings. I thought, "Oh no, these are light pink, and the only corset I have is this dark gray snakeskin that is in totally a different color pallette! I let that fear guide me, and I put them together anyhow. Because I knew that I wanted to have a uniform  look, I painted a light pink blush on the very high apples of my cheeks all the way up to right beside my eyes. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it all turned out together, and I felt like I had some personal kind of triumph.  I know it sounds dorky. Just a pair of leggings and a corset. Why is that a triumph? Because I challenged my own beliefs about what "worked" and what was the "right way to do things."
When you take the thing you automatically want to do, out of laziness, fear, and distress, and do the exact opposite, that is where you gain ground. This principle applies to nearly everything in life. There is  a huge pizza. I want to eat all the pizza. I want to rub it all over my face and growl while I exclaim revelry in my utter ecstasy.  But, guess what? The pizza never delivers on its promise. I should have eaten something that would make me feel light and free, instead of heavy and like a failure. I could have USED my absolute lust for the pizza to direct me down the path of celery sticks and reverse osmosis water. Alas. 

 But seriously, trust me here. If you are afraid of wearing something on your costume, you should at least ONCE try to figure out a way to make those colors, patterns, or shapes marry each other. I think that the very act of stretching your brain in this matter helps you to be a more understanding, forgiving, and compassionate person. These things DO translate across the wiring in your brain.
So, let's repeat.  When you feel a fear about a color, confront that color. If you have a color that you "hate" and you "never wear" because of "insert excuse here", you should find a way to insert that very color into your costume. In this act, you show that you have mastery over a thing as simple as a freaking COLOR! It no longer has mastery over you and your thoughts and actions.

The next time you pull out a black corset and think, "Okay....what would this go with...Oh! I've got it!! My BLACK SKIRT!"  you need to swat yourself with a newspaper. Bad! BAD!  Any old fool can put black with black.  Be a LEGEND! Put black with periwinkle. Put black with brown, heaven forbid! Put anything with anything! Stop letting color scare you, and let it energize you!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Principles of Epic Costuming:Chapter 7

I genuinely believe that costuming is good for the soul. There is a reason why Halloween is such a beloved holiday, and it's not just the excess spikes in dopamine and seratonin levels from high fructose corn syrup!

When you are putting together a costume in the manner that is thoughtful and methodical, it helps you to confront the negativity monster in your head.  Believe me, it needs confrontation every single day, and it absolutely THRIVES when you retreat, give up, wallow, stress, and falter.  However, the very act of going out into public with your head held high, in a costume that you compiled yourself out of your ideas and passions is a victory!  You are firmly telling that mean voice in your head that you are here to share your art with others, to inspire them and connect with them!  You are here to help conquer the monsters in OTHER people's heads! It is a triumph for all!

One of the greatest blessings of my life is seeing my customers out at festivals and conventions CONNECTING with each other. It may be a casual high-five as they walk past each other in a crowd. It may be a knowing nod and a single questioned phrase, "Damsel?" met with an approving smile. More often than not, it's women that are excited about each other and the costume ideas that they have created! They will stop and compliment, ask questions, revel, and rejoice!

I wake up almost every morning thinking, "Holy crap, I cannot do this today. I can't accomplish the things I want to. It is too hard to please all of these women. I don't have the strength. I cannot do it. I cannot face any negative comments. I can't do another show. This is so emotionally exhausting."  and a whole host of other untruths. It usually takes me the whole entire day to turn this around to "I LOVE my job! I love the women that support us! I love creation! I love my brain! I love my body! I love the bodies of my customers! I love everybody!!!! I love corsets! I love romance! I love hope! I love joy! I even love the bad things in my life because they make me LOVE the good things even more, in contrast!!! Love!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I want to tell you right now, the corsets have a magic in them, and even though I'm not the one who created the magic, I like to think of myself as a purveyor of the magic.   This magic is the only thing that can defeat the horrible monster...at least until tomorrow. ;)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Principles of Epic Costuming: Chapter 6

Yup. I said it. Wear your costume out into a bland, hum-drum normal place. The bigger your costume, the better.  You have NO idea what kind of gift you are bestowing upon the world when you do this.

Let me address a few things. People always ask me "where would I wear this?" at festivals, and I always try my hardest to be civil and keep the sarcasm out of my answer.  I would like to state that most of us have been raised in a society that ultimately wants us to...uh...sit down and shut up. What does school teach you? Take the tests the same way as everyone else, learn at the same rate and the same speed with the same expectations, and if you don't, we'll give you a naughty grade and help you to define who you are and how you are limited!!!  The fact is, no one can define you and limit you except for yourself.

And yet, I have grown adults, women who are successful, smart, passionate, and superb, and yet they are still timidly asking ME "But, where would I wear this?" about the corsets. Some of you may say, "What the crap, Michelle, they are just asking a valid question. They don't want to get something that they won't wear."  I know that occasionally, the women are just genuinely wondering how  much use they'll get out of the corset, but I feel that 90% of the time, the REAL question is, "What if people don't accept me in this corset? What if people judge me for wearing this celebration of my body shape? What will people say?  What will they say behind my back? Who am I to be alluring and attractive?"

  It's so sad to me when I see this hesitation...this faltering, when the woman CLEARLY was enamored of herself initially when she tried on the corset. Most of my customers look into the mirror, see a woman they love and cherish and want to be, but then the habit of second-guessing comes in. No, ladies! No!!! Take that pride in yourself and let it transform you!!  I'm  not saying, "buy the damn corset", I'm saying, "Don't stop yourself mid-progress and start with the self-flagellation." I just want women to take the gift of loving themselves from my company, and let it be a "gift that keeps on giving".

I heard a quote that I really liked. It went something like "There are two things that mess us up. Our parents and High School."  *said tongue-in-cheek*   I seriously think that high school trains our brains to be so terrified of what "the other people" might think that we split ourselves in half, and go on living the half of ourself that is reserved, scared, apathetic, and caged.  We spend our lives trying to please people that we don't care about and that we might not even like. That sounds harsh, but I'm afraid it has some truth to it.

Wearing your costume out in public helps other people to confront their own fears and self-limitations. It allows others who see you to articulate things about themselves to their own brains. If they're offended, it gives them information about their experiences in life and their own prejudices. If they're exhilarated by the vision of you, it allows them to have hope that perhaps they might have more courage themselves. Once again, you are giving people a gift. When I am in Seattle and I see a handsome man striding proudly down the sidewalk in a kilt and a button-up shirt, I feel brightness, clarity, and hope for humanity. He gave me a gift.  Now, go out and give to others!!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Principles of Epic Costuming-Chapter 5 (Holy Night! I'm behind!)


All About that Bass
Friends!! I'm so sorry! I had to take my computer to get fixed, and I lost of my little sketches from my panel, thus my series of "Epic Costuming" blogs got seriously delayed. I'm back on track. Please forgive me!

Onto the goods.
This one is a struggle. A daily struggle. I'm not even sure if this is a "battle" that can be won in this life. All of us women struggle with our bodies, our body image, our perception of ourselves, the perception of others, and a whole never-ending host of issues. In ten years of tying corsets onto women, I have heard every imagined self-deception imaginable. Holy crap! Just yesterday, I was standing (almost cowering in the shadow) of a beautiful, tall, blond amazonian type woman with long slender legs, a lean body, strong shoulders, and a gorgeous sculpted face. I was lacing her into a corset and telling her how jealous I was of her mile long legs, and she told me she HATED them and that they were man's legs and you couldn't even tell the difference between her and a man. What. in. the. WHAT???? Her husband standing next to her shook his head and said, "I keep telling her how thin and beautiful she is. She won't listen."  I was beside myself. I could not even wrap my brain around how this woman could POSSIBLY even have ANYTHING bad to say about herself!!! I'm telling you guys. She was so dang beautiful. Where could she have gotten these ideas?

All the same, here we are. Every woman I meet has a criticism for her body. I would say that about 1 out of every 1000 women I meet has something remotely polite to say about herself. Am I excluded from this group? Nope.

There's an incredible book I want to share called "The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss and Body Confidence" By Jessica Ortner.    Whether or not you actually need to lose weight (ironically, the book is not really about weight....just like all of your issues. Imagine that. It's not about the weight.) it's a remarkable tool for helping reshape your brain.  My very favorite part was where she almost helped me bare my own soul as she talked about how lots of us hide behind our weight and unconsciously KEEP it on our bodies, because then we'll always have this monster on which to blame any of our failures.  I think that perhaps I cling desperately to the weight on my body because it helps me to absolutely wallow in self pity when I really need to. I get all emotional, and go onto the list of "Allthereallybadunfairthingsthatshouldneverhappentoagoodpersonlikeme" ticking off each foolhardy, selfish complaint that I have, and ending with a drumroll and "And to top it all off, my body is stuck at freaking 167 pounds and it hates me and other women get to just eat whatever they want and be skinny, but I don't, so I'm pissed about it."

By the way, I have nothing to complain about. This kind of wretchedness comes from a Michelle that is not thinking straight and is not grateful. Gratitude fixes a lot of things really fast. 

I could literally write a whole book on this subject, but luckily, it's been done for me. I'm serious. ladies, go and get this book on amazon. It will change your life. 

Back to your body and costuming. I love the idea of costuming, whether historical, modern, cosplay, or any of the other lovely reasons you might find to adorn yourself in glory. To me, it's a complete celebration of the people, characters, colors, textures, books, movies, comics, genres, and things that you love! It's a very straightforward way to send a message out to the world about yourself. Oftentimes, the way we dress in normal, every-day life doesn't exactly convey "us" to the world. So many limitations stand in our way. e.g. dress-codes, deplorable size selections of cute clothing, current fashions, price tags...even the skill of knowing what looks best on your shape! I know that for me, if I dressed how I FELT, I would be in knee-high python cowgirl boots, leather distressed skinny jeans (that came up high enough to cover my bum, by the way) a Jane Austen style floral print empire waisted blouse, a bright graphic-printed corset (probably a wench corset for every day use) about 17 necklaces draped down my neck, big huge eye makeup, and hair like Jane Seymour in
"The Scarlet Pimpernel".  Heck yes.  DO I dress like this every day?  Um....not exactly. It is how I FEEL inside, but it's not exactly practical.
Costumes are such a joy because it allows you to explore boundaries and find that "version" of you that you would love to project out into the world.  When I'm strapping on a costume that goes with one of our corsets, I don't sit there and worry about how it's going to look. I feel free and focused, engaged and excited, powerful and proud of who I am!  My anxiety about my body is gone, because the costume is about who I am INSIDE, and it's finally matching who I'm presenting on the outside.