Thursday, October 5, 2017

Spoooky Tales

When I was younger, I was madly, obsessively in love with a boy named Tyrel who lived in a large two-story old Civil War mansion. This place was just mind-blowing. It was right next to a Civil War graveyard, and if you go to Newtonia, Missouri, you can still find many physical relics of one of the larger battles that was fought there. To this day, there is still a reenactment group that gets together all Civil War style (my kind of freaking people!) and occasionally you can get tours inside the house. Okay....ah, thanks, the internet. HERE is the house!

And Tyrel...well....he actually looked extraordinarily like Milo Ventimiglia. Holy Goodness. I know. I KNOW!! Just make his hair curlier. Man, I need someone to back me up here...... I wish any of the kids that I went to high school with read blog. 

Anyhow, back to the mansion.  Ty was not one to tell wild stories. He had serious dark eyes and a stoicism about him. However, he solemnly told me about many various ghost stories that occurred while his family lived there.  Here's what I found on the internet:

"This home is rumored to be full of paranormal activities by several ghosts. It has been said that there is a piano that plays on it own along with door that open and close, lights that flicker and turn on and off. There have been various sightings of ghosts over the years in the houses as well as in the small ran down cemetery located on the property. It is a two-story, antebellum mansion, constructed by slaves over a period of years in the late 1840’s and believed to be the oldest structure in Newton County. There are two cemeteries west of the house. One features the ornate headstones of the Ritchey family. The other has plain, uncut stones that mark the spot slaves have been buried. The mansion house served as a hospital for both sides during the Civil War. The mansion has what is called “the black room.” It is said they painted the floor black because of the blood stains on the floor."

And I'm telling you, it seems to match his stories. He said he had heard soft, old music playing faintly in other rooms where there were no speakers, figurines being moved to certain spots on shelves, no matter how many times they were moved back, and definite, odd things that happened in the "Black Room". His mom kept thinking that her kids were causing problems and playing tricks, running up and down the stairs lightly during the night, and then she still heard the pattering on the stairs the night she locked them in their room. Huh.

I have loved Halloween my whole life. I think that when I first watched "The Nightmare Before Christmas" where there was a whole entire HalloweenTown, I thought I had died and gone to.....well....that town. ;) I don't necessarily enjoy slasher movies, or terrifying and disturbing things. I guess I enjoy a little bit of mysticism. I love the unexplained. I don't want it explained. I don't want a scientist to come in and tell me how it all worked. I want to wonder...it feels akin to dreaming and hoping. My dreams and hopes are..um..definitely not reality. I can't even begin to tell you how I entertained lofty teenage fantasies of marrying the Tyrel from this story, and both of us becoming music stars and making buttloads of money all grown from our love (yup, he played guitar, and he was actually good....also a deep, lovely singing voice!). That reality didn't occur, and my life went in a different direction, but the "what if" was still tantalizing.

What if??.....

And, to add to the mystery, the beautiful Red Riding Hood pieces here will be on our website today. http://www.damselcorsets.com  We will not be having an Hourglass Event, because I'm sort of just being sure to tantalize your brains with images and imagined stories for your life every day for our 13 Days of Halloween. Thanks to all of you stunning people, and please, keep the imagination alive! 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Don't Drop the Tin of Cookies!

Don't Drop the Tin of Cookies!
I was in a cheery, 90's Christmas-themed Elementary School play when I was in 3rd grade. I remember this whole incident very well, because I think it's partly where my squirmy and uncomfortable fear of adults came from. My teacher had announced that we were doing this big play for all of our parents for the yuletide season, and there would be try-outs the next day. They handed us sheets of dialogue, and urged us to practice.

You wouldn't have recognized me as a kid. I was extremely shy, quiet, and reserved. You know, I can never tell if the “real” me turned into a different adult me....or if the adult me IS the “real” me and the kid was the fake. Either way, I had this ardent yearning to be the lead in the school play....and maybe that desire came from that same mystical place where my more fiery adult personality originated. I literally FELT it in all of the particles of matter in my body that I would be in that play, and I would be the star.

I wanted to be a star. I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to be admired and praised after delivering a stirring performance up on stage that brought the audience to tears and made them wonder at their own existence. When it came time to audition, I gathered all of my faculties and made the slow walk up to the front of the cafeteria, where the hopefuls and the judges awaited. I remember all of those heart-pounding, powerful emotions that come with a tryout. The unknown is oddly seductive. There is still the appealing zest of “what if?”

It's nice to be noticed and admired. This is me, Leif when he was a baby,  and my youngest sister.
Yeah, I didn't get it. They gave it to the popular girl. How in the junk are there “popular” kids in 3rd grade? What did Stacey have that I didn't have?? And really...I mean... Stacey? I guess I really DID grow up in the epitome of the 90s. Sigh. Well, if those crusty-toot-shingles couldn't see the brilliance that I was, they didn't deserve my talent! However, I didn't deserve the part of “lady in store #2” either.

My part was simple. I had one line. Heh. “You had ONE job.”

In the story, there is a store owner who started out grumpy and annoyed with Christmas, and by the end, he has learned the true meaning of the holiday, and he started giving away the tins of cookies in his shop. Piled high, on a rectangular folding table, were many tins that normally house those wretched little dry, crumbling butter cookies in all shapes and sizes. I'm sure that people had brought a few of the empty popcorn tins as well...you know, the kind that had 3 different kinds of popcorn, and the cheddar always got eaten first, and then the caramel was too rich and slowly died a horrible sticky death after the tin got put into some closet and then you found it next Christmas.

Anyhoo, as Shop Lady #2, I got the blessed role of being gifted the tin and exclaiming, “OH, thank you, Sir! Thank you very much!” I had a terrifying teacher who was endeavoring to run this production with an iron fist, and she got down to my level, looked me straight in the eye, and uttered, “Michelle, these tins are right underneath the microphone. Look up. You see it there? If you drop this tin, the sound will echo through the whole gymnasium, and hurt all of the ears of the audience. Whatever you do, DO NOT DROP THIS TIN!”

Yeah, I dropped the tin. There I was, sweating up under the lights, and I felt that I could at least deliver the most heartfelt line possible. It was definitely a slow-motion moment as the kid/store owner was handing me the tin. I was thanking him jubilantly, and my little fingers just slipped. I froze, hearing the clanging echoing sound of the tin as it dropped and then bounced a couple of times, to finally roll in a traitorous line off the stage.

And you know what? I honestly don't remember anything that happened after that. Maybe I ran off the stage crying. Maybe I turned and told the scary teacher to be more careful about whom she curses. I don't remember.

I didn't get the part. I ruined the part that I DID play. I dropped the tin.

As an adult, this is laughable and charming to remember. We all had those paralyzing, embarassing moments. All of us, even Stacey perhaps, have “not gotten the part.” Then again, we don't know how that loss might have possibly shaped the “parts” we got in the future. I mean, holy night...what if the braver, more self-assured adult tME came from that experience. That part of the that wanted to be admired never went away. :/

And honestly, I'm hoping that my current “dropping of the tin” feelings make me able to become more of who I know I am in the future. A star. A....Stacey, even.  

This is Leif, my little toddler. He is a star. 

Friday, September 15, 2017


These are from last fall, but I thought they would be a beautiful reminder of how awesome this season is that we are entering into! Also, the kids in the wagon (my son Leif, and then Becca's little girls, Violet and Eve) have the hugest personalities I've ever seen....and they still get along...perfectly.

A revelation came to me the other day. My sister and I were talking about what the subject was in their Sunday School class, and apparently it was running along the lines of “things that will be great in the life after this.” (FYI, I do believe in an afterlife...however, I can't think about it too hard, or else my brain will explode. Suffice it to say, I've decided that maybe I could be this really hip, cool Angel that sews all of the white robes for us heavenly messengers, but I would make them all edgy, and put boning and hidden corsets in them, and then everyone would all be sexy and such. Hallelujah, right?) Anyhow, in the class discussion, one of the ladies raised her hand and said that she SO looked forward to an existence where all of our relationships are perfect and all of our communication is perfect.

My sister was smiling and nodding, but then suddenly she actually tried to THINK about what that magical dreamland would entail (she has the same overactive type of brain that I do!). She was straining, endeavoring to image out this Utopia of “perfect” relationships, and she realized she didn't even know what that looks or sounds like. For instance, she said that maybe a perfect relationship might be one where she and her husband never argued, but then she realized that those arguments had brought them closer together and strengthened their communication! Wait...so...is that perfect?

It got my brain rolling. What the heck is a perfect relationship? I instantly thought of how I'm always bursting out these fantastic, stupendous, can't-even-believe-no-one-has-thought-of-this IDEAS for businesses, and when I tell them to my husband, he takes his logical, planning brain and starts pointing out pitfalls, drawbacks, and the general booby-trappery of all of my dreams! Maybe a “perfect” relationship would be one where he hears my ideas and gives me a high-five and then we ride off in a Unicorn Rental LLC business into the sunset.

No, actually. No.

A perfect relationship, in my brain, is exactly what happens. I feel annoyed and frustrated by his doubts, and I accuse him of wanting to rain on my Personal Parade Inc. Because of his questions and dubiousness, I get all charged up, with my heart pounding, and my brain whirling, and I come up with solutions for his fears, insights for his misunderstandings, and an even BETTER business plan for the “bottled herbal tea that has all those herbs that are supposed to make your chest bigger” dream!

Is “perfection” what we have already? Do we have to adjust the lenses? If we don't have “perfection”, do we actually WANT IT? Holy crap. Do I really want perfection?

Now, my brain is doing that overthinking my afterlife angel-seamstress existence again. Oh, great. Just perfect! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I artery gave you MY heart, so here's something in the same vein

Here you go to all of you friends who want something a little bit more quirky for Valentine's Day cards to pass out.  Download it, print it, cut 'em out, and pass 'em out!  :)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Customer Look Book CONTEST

         It is TIME AGAIN for our next installment of our CUSTOMER Look Books! These ones are my favorites, as they provide a broad, imaginative spectrum of what can be done with our corsets!  What do I do with these look books? Well, I pay several thousand bucks to get them printed up on sturdy, quality paper, my husband spends hours on layout, cropping, and texts for the images,and we um.....*cough* just give them away for free.

        A bit of back-story here. When we made our first lookbooks for the company, I charged for them. Yeah, they take an enormous amount of money and work. I figured that if I put other goodies in there, such as ads for businesses where I get my hats and accessories (the ads were always free, because I still suck at asking people for money.), funny little articles, and even some helpful things, then it would be totally fair to charge several bucks and break even.  The first batch sold....okay. Well. Actually, it didn't. If I would have sold all of the 5000 that I got printed up, things would have been going great. As it was, I sold more like 300. I got a little bitter. Not at my customers! Just at myself. I felt like all of my business ideas were complete trash and that I should just give up and go back to being a waitress at Ruby Tuesday (man, eating croutons from the salad bar for lunch and dinner when I worked double shifts! That was the life!).

       I just decided that I would give the rest away for free and count it as a loss. Oh, well. Another idea that failed. And you know, amazing things started happening after that. People would come into my booth, get to touch and feel the products, fall in love with them, but not be able to purchase. However, I still got to give them something from our company to help show love and appreciation for their support, and they were always grateful and impressed. There is no way to possibly quantify how many actual "sales" have come from giving away the booklets for free, but I always have warm fuzzies when I can just be generous and let go of the outcome.

      I have told this to every festival that I've applied for this year (I still can't imagine how you could read my application and still reject our booth!) and I'll say it again. My MAIN GOAL for my booth at festivals is to create vivid memories and experiences for people. Renaissance and Pirate festivals are the only reason I have a job, and if I'm "salespersony" to the people attending, it can turn their magical day around real fast. I take some deep breaths and just tell myself- "Michelle, your goal today is to help as many women as you can feel heard, valued, understood, and maybe...just maybe even beautiful. Money will take care of itself. It always does. Even if you don't make back the money on your booth space, hotels, and gas, you can know that you helped other people and encouraged them to fly. That is what is important. Do the thing!"

Um.....Yia. I  hope it's okay that I used this photo....and though I love this one, I cannot BELIEVE how good you have gotten in the past year. Holy freaking freak. 
        And here we are. I've made several batches of booklets since our first one, which was made about 7 years ago. I've learned a lot along the way, and by golly, I learn from mistakes! They are a great teacher, giving the "test" first and the "lesson" afterward.
Onto the rules. I will stop being nostalgic.

RULES for Customer Look Book 2017:

1.All entry photos must be submitted by February 10th, 2017. 
2. Photos NEED to be the biggest format you can send me. I would love selfies from your phone, but they most likely won't work. We need high resolution so that the photo won't end up blurry in the magazine. In our last lookbooks, there were a few photos that we didn't take just because they image size was so small. 
-Please send photos to seamstress@damseldress.com
3. If you are giving props to a photographer, it would SURE be nice if their watermark for their company was already on the photo.  We can put websites and photographer names, but it just looks much cooler if your company stuff is all right there. 
4. If you are chosen, you need to get the model release form back to me ASAP! 
5. While I think it's fantastic to take pictures of yourself that make you look like the seductress you are, it's good to remember that I give these out to all ages. If there is a sweet 10 year old girl that loves costumes, she will get a booklet at a festival. If there is  sweet 10 year old boy that loves costumes, he gets one! ;) Just keep it family friendly and tasteful. 
6. Sorry, but the CORSET in the image must be one of ours. I'm not as picky about the accessory pieces, skirts, pants....whatever. The corset does need to be a Damsel corset. This is a book for our company, so yeah. 


-Front & Back Cover Prize: $500 store credit to our website. Heck yes!!
-Inside pages prizes: $75 store credit to each of you! If you get picked, you get the sweet freebies. 

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.