Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Official GRAB BAG Rules for 2016

It's the event we have all waited a year for! The momentous event where a professional corsetier (like me) goes through the available stock, hand-picks and coordinates an outfit for you, and packs it all neatly with a bunch of goodies so that you can revel in the glory thereof. 

Here's the basics. We lovingly sew and craft high quality corsets, skirts, blouses, and accessories, and at the end of the year, we need to "clean house" of pieces that fall under certain parameters. To qualify, a piece must *Be a limited edition or one of a kind   *be made out of discontinued fabric  *sewn in a discontinued pattern *possibly be slightly flawed or "as-is"  *a size that hasn't sold at my booth, and so we only have one or two left. 

Because it takes hours and hours to photograph, list, and inventory these  "orphan" pieces, we cut out the whole middle part and just put them into boxes which you can purchase on Black Friday (and Saturday) and you get in on handmade items at 30-90% (no joke) OFF of their normal price!! 

You don't see pictures of the items, and don't know what colors or certain designs you're getting, BUT you DO KNOW the SIZE and whether or not the corset will be OVERBUST or UNDERBUST. Here are the details and prices for this year. Please note that the Shipping and Handling is $15 for Levels 1 and 2 and $25 for Levels 3 and 4.   I literally have 8 people packaging and sorting for this event for 3 solid weeks, full time.

***And One Last Thing***
I want you to know that we try to be more generous whenever possible. These parameters are what you can expect, but I am hoping that most of the boxes will either have bonus items, extra free awesomeness, or unexpected gleeful things. 

Level 1 Underbust Grab Bag: $50
Includes one underbust corset in the size stated in the title. 

Level 1 Overbust Grab Bag: $75
Includes one overbust Corset in the size stated in the title. 
Level 2 Underbust Grab Bag: $100
Includes one underbust corset in the size stated, plus one other item. Total of 2 items. 

Level 2 Overbust Grab Bag: $125
Includes one overbust corset in size stated, plus one other item. Total of 2 items. 

Level 3 Underbust Grab Bag: $150
Includes one underbust corset in size stated, plus 2 other items, for a total of 3 items. 

Level 3 Overbust Grab Bag: $200
Includes one overbust corset in size stated, plus 2 other items, for a total of 3 items. 

Level 4 Underbust Grab Bag: $250
Includes one of our Premium corsets with coat tails OR a huge peplum ruffle. 3 extra items are included, for a total of 4 items. 

Level 4 Overbust Grab Bag: $300
Includes one of our overbust pirate coats OR peplum pieces OR cropped tailed overbust pieces plus matching under corset (for a complete overbust look and structure). 3 extra items included, for a total of 4 items. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

If I could just look like someone else....

      When I was a teenager, my mom pulled out this old VHS tape for us to watch. On it was "Return of the Native" which is an absolutely heart-wrenching movie with a very young Catherine Zeta-Jones (pictured in all her glory above). This film made us both bawl our eyes out as we agonized over what decision her character was going to make. If you want to feel real-style depressed, I would heartily recommend it. 

      Anyhow, during one of the scenes, in which this actor looked particularly striking, my mom said something like, "I wish I looked exactly like that!". We actually discussed it afterward, over our balls of bunched up kleenex with our bloodshot, red-rimmed, puffy, estrogen-y eyes. I asked my mom, "Really, if you could change your face for her face and your body for her body and have EXACTLY that same thing, would you?"  It was a strange question. I think we all look at others and compare ourselves (human  nature) but I wonder if we actually would go through with swapping out all of the features? It is a compelling line of thought, if nothing else. In the end, my mom decided that she just wanted to stick with what she knew. 

Me and Leif, earlier this year. 
        The reason this came up in my brain is because we were discussing this at work yesterday, while sewing.  My sister said that there is a company that she really likes (I don't particularly want to say names here, but if I say that it's a popular plus-size company, you'll probably figure it out...so., it's Torrid.) that is doing a contest for their customers to pick their next model. They had 4 gals and they were letting their customers vote.  Now, obviously, this is a touchy subject, because this stuff seems to always hit a nerve on the internet. It's like our insecurities grow venom-dripping needle teeth and red glowing eyes and come out for the KILL!  Anyhow, this seemed to be what was happening on the internet. My sister said that comments came from a lot of frustrated women who exclaimed that the models still must be wearing some kind of amazing shapewear, because "plus size" doesn't stay the exact same shape, only slightly bigger. The women commenting  were wishing that their body types were represented.....without tons of touchups, without tons of post-production to make them look unlike the original reality. (This is funny to me, because I took a brief look at the campaign and felt like the company was doing a great job, and really liked all of the women. I couldn't possible vote for something like this, because I genuinely liked them all. I didn't feel offended, get pissed off, or want to wage war.)

       Remember that question, up at the top? If you could actually trade, feature for feature, with someone else, would you? I think that what is going on here, in the underlying, deeply buried, hot lava center is that we actually might truly love ourselves. We're just burying the radiant self-love under layers of deflection. When I see a woman say, "I wish my body were represented in the media" she doesn't need to go on to say "Because all these women are fake and air-brushed and they suck and make me feel like less than I am." .....Nobody can make you feel like less than you are except yourself and your own thoughts. You are saying that you wish your body were represented because you love yourself. If you truly hated yourself and thought you were a piece of crap failure, then you wouldn't want yourself to be...uh.."represented", would you? 

     Do you know what the other awesome, underlying thing here is? People are looking at other's bodies and demanding that "their own shape" be represented more, BUT nobody can represent you, because nobody else is you! The coolest thing that I've learned from my company is that every single woman really is a unique snowflake in their body shape! I will try the same "size" of corset on women that look drastically different, body-composition-wise, and it just delights me. It is FUN for me. I just love to see all of the variety of women out there. What an astoundingly beautiful, colorful, diverse pallet we have in this world! And guess what, friends? No company can "represent your body shape" because that company would have to photograph every single woman of all time in their clothing, including you! Since we are all that different, no company is ever going to be able to get it right. No matter who they use for a model, that person is not you, and will never be you.  ( I could go on to write a whole entire article about this very thing. It's crazy, because someone might "represent your shape" in a way that you deem worthy, but then your shape will change....because we all change, no matter what. Gasp!)

    Now, I get it....I do. You don't want to see so much photoshop retouching because that makes you see a lie and compare your reality with a lie. I used to spend a lot of time being angry about this. Do you know how much that anger helped me? Um....not a whole lot. Anger doesn't magically beget happiness. Bitterness doesn't give birth to satisfaction.  

    Do you know who can help to show the world your body shape, without a ton of photo-editing? You. Yes. That's right. You might be yelling at all the wrong people. And do you know what is interesting? If you take pictures of yourself, dressed up, looking gorgeous, and proudly post them, you will most likely have something happen.....someone is probably going to see you, roll their eyes, and say, "Yeah, it's great that she looks that way, all pretty and nicely shaped, but why doesn't someone show MY body type!!??"   If they want to be critical and point out your flaws, they will probably do that as well. You don't control their brain and their behavior (thank heavens) but you do control yours. And in this instance, you would be creating, and all they could do is destroy. (another blog post coming up on this subject.)

      The man above is so beautiful that he burns my eyeballs, but he has a truly beautiful story. You can read more about it here, in an interview with  him http://benaustinblog.com/interview-andy-hnilo-model-clay-sardines/  but, suffice it to say, he had a career in modeling and acting, and then got in a hit-and-run accident where TWO cars hit him, and his face was beaten up so badly that the doctor told him they were the worst facially injuries he had ever seen.  And guess what...this picture is freaking AFTER his accident!!  Andy is one of my heroes, and I listen to every interview with him that I can get my hands on, because I think he embodies what I am talking about here. He turned a "bad" situation around and made it into a company that helps people. (I'm a giddy fanatic of his products, especially since they involve rubbing strange kelp clay on your face and looking like a lagoon monster.)  You, too, can take a situation that has previously been causing you pain and use it as a launch-pad for your own good future. Nobody else can be you.

      I have been reading a lot about the idea that other people are "mirrors" of ourselves. (There is a fantastic article about it here, if you want to educate your marvelous brain more! http://www.thepowerofoneness.com/blog/what-we-see-in-others-is-a-reflection-of-ourselves/ ) and the most relieving thing that I have read lately is that when you see things you ADMIRE about other people, that is because there is a seed of the exact same thing in your own spirit. You literally would not be able to see that beautiful thing unless it was somewhere inside of you. This takes away the biting sting of comparison, and drops down the walls between us. When I think about things this way, it brings me peace and joy, because I noticed beauty and I was grateful for it, and then I went on to recognize that the beauty is in me as well. Nice.

     So, would you want to look exactly like someone else? I'm guessing the answer is "No". Do you want certain qualities that someone else seems to have? I'm guessing the answer is "Yes". Did you notice those qualities because they mirror you, in some way? Yes, Awesome. Now, get to it. Go out there and love yourself and love others. Appreciate yourself and appreciate others! That beauty will outshine ANY other physical beauty that could ever exist.

Friday, September 30, 2016

I'll Be Better When.....

      I haven't written in this blog in a LONG. DANG. TIME.   I kept telling myself perfectly reasonable explanations. "I have a 9 week old baby"    "I am so busy with Damsel in this Dress"  etc.  I also told myself some fairly UNreasonable explanations.  "You don't know everything. Why the heck are you writing?"    "Who the heck cares what you have to say?"   AND my very favorite- "I'll do it when........"

      Which is why I am  here. I'm sick of "doing it when". It's been pretty freaking poisonous in my life. How many people say "We've been soooo busy" when you ask them how they are doing? It's an interesting thing. It's like "busy" is an emotion? Apparently "fine" and "good" are emotions as well? Maybe I should be asking the question in a more straightforward, less vague, manner.  "Hi. What is getting you out of bed in the morning lately? What is your greatest fear? On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your current level of pride in yourself?" Fine. Good. Busy.    I've been busy too. I've been busy avoiding why I was put here on earth. I've been busy avoiding possible and inevitable criticism. I've been busy living smaller so I wouldn't have to live as big as I know I can.

 And mostly, I've been fine, good, and busy at telling myself that I will do *insert mind-blowing, passionate activity here*  when I am *insert perfectionist, judgemental, impossible standard here*.

        When I have customers come into my booth (did you guys ever know that you're like mini-therapy sessions for me every time I do a show? I am literally sent angels every time I work, and you all teach, inspire, and stun me!!)  at renaissance festivals, I hear some version of "I'll do it when" almost every time. This is how it goes down. A woman comes in. I talk to her and get to know her (hopefully, it's not so busy that I can actually speak....oh, and also hopefully I don't have low blood sugar.). I find a corset for her and lovingly lace her in. She'll usually say something like, "Wow, I feel 5 inches taller!" and when I show her the mirror, I usually get an incredibly positive reaction on her part. Some women cry. Some women swear. Some women's eyes nearly pop out of their skulls. There is no way to adequately describe the intense feeling of support that you get from a good corset. Suddenly, everything is okay, including your body that you are usually yelling at and picking apart. 

       I would say that 80% of the time, the women feel the energy that I sewed into these corsets, they feel the love I have for them, and they feel the sweet, succulent joy of loving oneself. They purchase the corset, and their life gets better. I'm not freaking joking. Do you know how many success stories I have from women who come back a year later? I've seen massive weight loss, escape from abusive relationships, adequate weight gain, new relationships formed, new hobbies started, new businesses created, and new lives formed. I'm not so egotistical as to say that me and my corsets did it, but I am positive that we were a substantial stepping stone on a much better, higher, smoother path. And that's how you get better, right? Small steps, made every day, mixed in with a few massive leaps. 

      The other 20%?  I didn't forget.  They sound like my brain, a lot of the time.  "I really like this corset, but I will get nice things for myself when I have lost the 30 pounds I've been promising myself I would lose".  I tell them that I will gladly alter it for them. I tell them that I'm here for that journey with them. But, nope. "Yeah, I will just wait."   Dangit!!!  To me, it's not about losing a sale. I'm doing fine and I am blessed with what I need.  I want THOSE WOMEN to at least take that feeling of pride and carry it through the rest of the day with them!  I don't want it to do a 180 and suddenly turn into "Well, I was good, but now I am not."

     Here's the problem, and this is something that's taken me a long time to start to realize. When we say that "We'll do it when we are better", it's a really good lie.  It sounds like we're cheerleading ourselves onto greatness!  It sounds like we're rewarding ourselves for good behavior.  But...are we?  I know everyone doesn't think like me, but I know how this goes in my brain. I tell myself that I will be nice to myself "when" and be happy "when" and then I punish myself every time I don't do something that is in alignment with that heartless, rule-crazy "when". 

      But, it's just so tempting to think about the "better you".  Guys, "better me" is not going to have these same thoughts, feelings and habits!  "Better me" is going to arrive at "better" and then never ever make any mistakes ever again forever. 


             Hmm....."Better me" will STILL always mean that I'm saying that I'm inadequate in my current state. When you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other.  Now, don't worry, I DID realize that when you pick up the negative end of the stick first, there is still hope, because there is always hope......BUT it goes around in a crazy circle. "I am not good" still says "I'll be better when".  The only solution I can figure is to throw the stick into a fire and declare "I AM GREAT". 
            So, how are you? No, really? Fine? Busy? Good? Isn't it funny how comfortable we all are with those rote, colorless adjectives.  If you need some help, I've got some words for what you are. this is what YOU are right now. In  this very moment. No "whens". 

       I made myself a post-it note that I stuck on my bathroom mirror. Do you know what it says?  "I do everything right".  It's the best thing I could have ever told myself. And you know what's crazy....after a while, it started feeling more and more true. Even when I made "mistakes" and "failed", I would just say, "Well, I do everything right, so that must have been the right thing to do so that I could improve, thrive, and be abundant!"

      Lately, I've been taking it to the next level. "Everyone does everything right."  Phew. Now that is intense. I mean, I just wrote a whole blog post on how women come into my booth and talk themselves out of being kind to themselves, and I did make it sound awfully...."wrong" for them to do so. BUT, in a "We are all wondrous, and we do everything right!" world, I can more clearly see these women with compassion. I can empathize, having been there many times myself, and I can be peaceful about them just living their lives, doing the best they can, and doing things right. I can realize that maybe all of those negative thoughts were small stepping stones too, and that we all grow and evolve in different ways. 

      Now, friends. Please don't think that I completely manage to emulate all of this every day. This is my own cognitive therapy. This is my daily practice.  I'm hoping that by sharing it with you, you can feel better than "fine."  I'm hoping that you can realize that this moment is the time for happiness. You actually can't feel happy when *insert future perfect thing here* happens,  because if you feel happy....you feel happy. right. freaking. NOW!  Isn't that funny? We actually can't cash in on future happiness and peace. It can't be felt before it is felt. Phew. That is mind blowing. I think my brain hurts now.  Um....to wrap up, I drew you a cake. Enjoy. 

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.