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. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Principles of Epic Costume: Chapter 4

       I suppose this would be Part 2 of yesterday's blog entry. I just really want to emphasize how important it is to get rid of all of the preconceived notions that have been shoved into your brain about how everything you wear has to make you look small and make you disappear. 
       I REALLY love John Mayer (yes, I know he's a butt-head in real life) and especially all of his music written before about 2010. However, I'm completely obsessed with his song "Bigger than My Body" and I think it embodies (pun intended) the spirit of bustle skirts!! 
 Yes, I'm grounded
Got my wings clipped
I'm surrounded (by) 
All this pavement
Guess I'll circle 
While I'm waiting 
For my fuse to dry

Someday I'll fly
Someday I'll soar
Someday I'll be so damn much more
Cause I'm bigger than my body gives me credit for

       Either way, I WILL apologize for every time I've lost my temper when  woman came up to my booth at a show and looked at the bustle skirts and said, "Oh, I couldn't wear those! I've already got enough JUNK in my TRUNK!"  What in the POTTY WORDS???? Friends, people won't even see your bum. They'll see a stunning woman who is not afraid of life. They'll see sumptuous folds of fabric, elegance, and fearlessness. Your "junk" doesn't even enter the picture. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Principles of Epic Costuming: Chapter 3

       Ah, yes, a CONSTANT battle for me.  I think, as women, we are just told to pretty much "shrink ourselves up to as small as possible." I wonder if everyone is also wanting us to shrink our brains, our ideas, our passions, our strength...our voice? *cough* I think we all know the answer to that. 
      I love historical costuming, because it allows women to be as "big" (physically, metaphorically, mystically), colorful, textured, and full of depth as their personalities are!!  Friends, I want to tell you right now that the only time I truly feel like myself is when I'm completely decked out in all of my Damsel stuff. I feel confident, vibrant, powerful, and inspired. 

      I love all of the different shapes throughout the time periods. I ADORE tiny tiny waists and HUGE skirts that are built around cages and pillows that you wear on your bum. Yes! YES!!  I am always reaching out and endeavoring to educate women in our day and age that you can wear skirts that make your bum and hips huge, as long as you're pulling your waist in with a corset. 
           Look at this skirt. It is made to flare out huge at the hips.(sorry, old picture, but it was the first one that came to mind when I thought of huge hippy skirts!) My only regret is that it doesn't flare out MORE!! I should have stuffed the thing on both sides with teddy bears.  Now, here's the thing. Can you even TELL what size my own personal hips are? No, I've created an interesting, glorious shape to wear alongside mine. This costume is not about hiding. It's about finding.  Finding who I am.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Principles of Epic Costuming-Chapter 2

         Yes, I believe this with all of my heart. Now, before I make a whole slough of SCA folks mad, I want to point out that I LOVE the SCA! It's one of the reasons I have a dang company. I love the portion of people who love to dress up, camp together, and beat each other with weapons. Yes please. What a fantastic way to get modern-day aggression out of your system!!  My only beef with them (what a strange phrase...."beef with"...I would have thought that "having beef" with someone would be an enjoyable occasion with much celebration and calories....) is when the people that are super-hard-core-history-buffs come up and rip into some poor woman for her gown in the hue of purple, when CLEARLY she should know better, since she is but a mere peasant.  
       I get it. I love dressing up. I love the idea of playing characters. I have a deep reverence for someone who sits and hand-sews their whole entire wardrobe with sinew and a needle made of a squirrel bone. I love people who lovingly hand-dye their fabric that they wove from their own cat hair and corn husks. Heck yes to dousing your pieces in beet juice for weeks to get a particular hue. I am IMPRESSED. Also, I'm amazed at the people who research history from every angle, tirelessly consuming wikipedia articles and scouring images of period paintings.  I even like it when two "period nazis" (not my term. This term has been around for a LONG freaking time in the SCA) get into a heated discussion over how a codpiece would have been attached. It's exciting to be so passionate about something! I just wish that those blessed people might tone it down slightly when they're in the presence of a family who, let's say, just showed up at the renaissance festival in clothing that they made from a McCall's pattern and $1 fabric from Wal-Mart. (Bravo to this mom! That was TOTALLY my family!)  Those people just want to come and have fun and escape the horrors of modern-day stress.  Let them have it. Please don't accost them and tell them how wrong every  piece of their clothing is!
       Now, on the other hand, if you are in a guild, and your terrifying guild mistress tells you what to wear, you had better dang wear it. I have had my posterior whooped by many MANY succinct guild mistresses, and I would suggest you NOT mess with them. I  understand when guilds want to portray an accurate representation of their time period. That's the whole idea of re-enactment. I would professionally suggest that you stay FAR away from my booth if you're trying to go for re-enacting history. Obviously I want you as a customer, but I will be frank, and let you know, right out of the gate that our stuff is NOT period appropriate. I've said this before and I'll say it again. When people come up to my booth and politely ask, "Wow, what period in history is this clothing from" I politely respond, "roughly, circa Spring of 2014". 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

9 Principles of Epic Costuming-Chapter 1

**This will be the written version of my panel that I gave at the Salt City Steamfest this year (for those of you who didn't make it, shame on you!! ;) Honestly, it was just a really amazing show, and you would have enjoyed it, even if you're not as big into steampunk as I am.)  

The lovely lady who assigned me my own panel gave me a few topics to choose from, and since I was terrified of the "How to run a Successful Steampunk Business" topic (I just don't think that any one formula will work, since the actual items you can sell in this genre vary soooo greatly!) I chose the one about embracing your body, no matter what size or shape you are, when building a steampunk costume. Which brings me to principle Number 1:

1. It's not Business....It's Personal.
I suppose it COULD be  BUSINESS if you're really sensationally creative and shrewd, but let's focus on the "It's personal" aspect.  I think every costume you create and wear should have a deeply personal element to it. It's sort of the idea behind a bride wearing "old, new, borrowed and blue". It helps you create a connection to your ensemble. 
 "Personal" can mean whatever you want it to mean. I hope that is implied in the word....  : /  In my own costume collection, I try to keep jewelry pieces from friends or ESPECIALLY ones given to me as gifts by customers. I try to throw my favorite color or animal in there. Depending on the costume, I might wear some tights that I got on one of my trips, thus every time I slip them on, I'm reminded of this adventurous vacation. Friends, just make it personal. Trust me, this will do wonders for your self esteem. When people stop you in the middle of a crowd and compliment you on either your whole entire outfit, or just one special thing, you can have a quick story behind the madness, and you can CONNECT!
I know I've posted this picture above, but it is lovely enough that it should be posted again! If you look at my friend, Carly, on the right, she is doing this crazy "batman/bumblebee" inspired theme. The whole reason she has the batman logo corset is because she was working a fair for me, and we were pulling out new inventory and when she pulled out this corset, the tag said, "Bat Wench" because we didn't know what else to call it on the "style" part of the tag. We all ran around the booth humming the batman theme and yelling "Bat Wench" in Olde English accents. It was a good day.  I gave her the corset to create her "Bat Wench" costume, and she has built it up ever since. We would do shows, and she would just say, "hey, Michelle, I'm wearing Batwench tomorrow, what should I do for my eye makeup?" 
Heck-to-the-Yes I got this piece. I debated back and forth, and then just pulled the trigger. I got the Sorceress Headdress from HeMan because of this video below. My older brother found it, and whenever I'm feeling depressed or pissed off, I watch it and nearly wet myself giggling. I am doing a whole entire outfit for myself based on this idiotic youtube video. Yes, THAT is personalization. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Working Hard or Hardly Functioning

My kids out mowing the yard. A classic American chore. We purposely got a push-mower because we thought it would build character, instead of one of those fun and exciting riding lawn mowers. Then we realized that we had a ginormous backyard of doom. 
 So, lately, it seems that all of the self-improvement that I've needed to do for years and years is sort of exploding in my face. I feel like I have signed up for "Get your S*%& together Boot Camp 2014" and it is relentless!! Every single thing I try to accomplish is met with so many gut-wrenching obstacles that I'm wondering if Satan's minions all formed a "We hate Michelle" team.  Now, strangely, I'm not complaining. I realized a few pertinent things, and they are pretty well the "wind beneath my wings" right now.
*I stopped asking the Universe "Why Me??"  It was really just making me more pissed off and sorry for myself, neither of which look very good on me.  I changed the dialogue in my brain to "Wow, Universe! You must REALLY want me to prove to MYSELF that I want this. If I set up a goal and it was easy and smooth to attain, I wouldn't be showing how committed I am to the venture. However, with you road-blocking me from the second I wake up at 4 am, you're forcing me to rise above and show how fierce I am! Thank you, Universe! Sincerely, Me!"
*I have had so many times in my life when I set a huge goal, like working out every day, and then immediately, I will get sick, injured, or some kind of physical plague. I honestly feel that it's my body rejecting my higher self, and acting out physically. The awesome thing is that if I can STILL work out even when I feel like junk, then I will be a TOTAL BOSS when I'm working out in a well state of being!
*I listened to a podcast that changed my life.  It was an interview with Thomas C. Corley who wrote a book called "Rich Habits" and he was talking about how he had spent the last 15 years or so studying the habits of rich and poor people alike. The interviewer asked him if he could sum up one major huge difference between wealthy people and poor people, and he said "'s that negative thinking is poverty thinking".
        Now, granted, this doesn't mean that all rich people are positive and all poor people are negative, BUT I can see where this would be a huge game changer in the lives of people. I don't want to get into any kind of political thing or make a bunch of people go crazy, but I DO want to say that it REALLY helped me, because every time I have a negative and limiting thought, I think, "hmm..that was poverty thinking". It's good to remember that you can be "rich" and "poor" in things besides money. You can be poor in relationships and friends. You can be rich in experiences.  You can be poor in understanding and compassion. You can be rich in talents. There are all sorts of variants, but I honestly do feel that negative thinking makes you poor in every aspect.
         Let me just point out that I have spent my whole life viewing myself as a negative person. I figured that I was sarcastic and pessimistic, and it was sort of funny.   Guess what? I don't want to be that any more. I don't want to limit myself and others by saying things that shut us all down. I am having to work CONSTANTLY in my brain to make these positive changes, and it's actually really exhausting. Even little things, like seeing a costume maker at another show who ripped off a bunch of my designs, make me have to work in my brain to be nice. Instead of thinking, "That dang b-otch" I thought, "It is AWESOME that someone thought I was cool enough that they wanted to be like me.  I'm so grateful that there are so many people out there at this show, and maybe that means that ALL of the vendors will do really well and we can all keep making enough money to vend at these incredible shows!" Now, I would love to say that was a flipped switch, and I was all better....but I had to REPEAT the same dang speech every time I saw her booth. I had to remind myself forcefully that I was happy for her and that there is enough good in this world to go around. Holy face, it was hard.
        Yet, truly, why would I ever complain? I'm so blessed and fortunate to live in this country, have this job, meet the women that my company connects me with.  I could spend days typing all the awesome things I have to be grateful for. Thus, why in the flipping heck would I think negative thoughts that shut me down and make me into less than what I can be?
     *sigh*.  And yet, I'll have to give this whole entire speech to myself again tomorrow. But, the thing is-I can do it. Negative thinking is poverty thinking.