Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wild West Steampunk Convention

Wow, you guys get a rare treat, where I actually post more pictures than words. I know this whole page looks super ego-tistical. I promise,  it's really UN-tistical!! (holy night, that word is awkward.) I would like to thank each and every one of you who came into my booth for the last for weekends of shows, whether you bought something, talked to me, told me awesome jokes, brought me goodies, or just looked so beautiful that I was inspired by your magnificence!

Me and my babies. Notice Brynn's super awesome white faux leather motorcycle vest. I went to H&M the night previous to find some tights, and instead found the coolest kids clothing I had ever seen, whereupon, I had a nervous breakdown freaking out about how fervently I wanted my own daughter to have the cool clothing that I never felt like I had, while at the same time being nervous that she would end up "too cool"'s a many layered brain problem, trust me. When you grow up poor, lots of times you want to make up for what you DIDN'T have, and you try to make it up through your kids. It's problematic. 

Holy face, this woman next to me is one of those ones that is so gorgeous that she almost made me nervous when she came into the booth. I  almost feel like, "Wow...these people are so people like  my stuff...can that REALLY be REAL???"  Very intimidated. I promise.  (Erin, it's freaking true.)

what the crap, this pose looks a little more..uh...suggestive than I wanted it to look. I don't EVER take selfies, but I was trying to get a good shot of the epic Boba Fett Fez that I had just purchased to go along with my Star Wars tights. My hand on my chest is really just me trying to hold the dang camera cord out of the way. 

Ariat boots, purchased in Texas. I knew I would hate myself if I didn't get a pair of cowgirl boots in that great state!!!

Okay, SERIOUSLY, look at all of the accessories here! This splendid couple made everything they're wearing! I was absolutely enamored! And they couldn't have been more sweet. 

what the WHAT?!!!!  A Gentleman Dalek? Yup. 

Better picture where you can see my Boba Fett Fez to go with my tights. 

Leif, the little baby that came out of me 3 months ago. He is the reason that I'm absent from the booth so much, because I have to run and feed him every two hours. He didn't like taking breastmilk from the bottle, bless his little heart. 

My favorite ribbon I've ever seen at a convention. 

Jasmine(did I spell it right) is so freaking adorable! She had a shrunken head in a jar as part of her costume, and explained that it was her ex-boyfriend....also she fills all of the other interesting shaped bottles with crazy junk and hung them off of her belt! One of them was filled with hair gel. It looked marvelous. Also, her dad was one of the coolest men I've ever met. 

If you pay attention at our booth, you'll notice that we always try to hang our corsets in a Roy G. Biv pattern. 

Paige and Katy, the only reason I survived these last crazy weeks of constant travel. I LOVE my team!!  (OH, also, note that Paige's eye makeup is done in a hand-painted leopard print. Hecks yes!)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Big Frowny Face

I have put off publishing this for long enough. I have been fretting over it for a LONG dang time, and I just need to get it out there! Phew.

*Cancelled Shows for 2014 (Ones that we Normally Do, but Can't This Year)

*Sonora Celtic Faire
I LOVE THIS SHOW, I LOVE the people running it, and I LOVE the town of Sonora!! The only reason we can't do it this year is because I had scheduled a show in Texas the previous weekend, and so my options for these dates (March 7th-9th) were to either drive to Sonora (A 30 hour trip, ONLY if Donner's Pass isn't closed, which would make it a 40 hour trip...with no stops. *shudder*)  OR I could do the Wild West Steampunk Convention in Arizona....which is not quite as far from my Texas show.

I am truly sad that I'll miss so many of you at this show, because I've been doing it for a long time! Hopefully, this is the only year I'll be unable to attend, and next year, I'll figure things out and do anything I can to be there!!!  I'm just trying to minimize my time driving with a little 3 month old baby screaming in the back (he hates cars soooo much.)

(oh, this hurts)
*Oklahoma Renaissance Festival at the Castle of Muskogee
This was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make for my business. I dearly love this show, the cast, the vendors, the people who run's a great family.  I've been doing the show for 8 years now, 4-5 weekends out of every single year.  When I really started looking carefully at numbers, which I try not to do (which is idiotic for someone who runs a business), I was horrified. Truly, it was just not enough profit for the time spent.  I had to be away from my sewing shop for over a month, not producing any inventory, which meant I didn't sell a thing online for the whole month, plus, all of that time off made it so all of my shows in the first part of summer suffered. I hate the whole "It's not personal, it's just business" thing,'s a thing. 

Every single time I make a post on facebook or a blog or anything about actual events I go to, I ALWAYS, without fail, have tons of people pleading with me to come to their shows, whether they're in Florida, New York, Maryland, Alaska, Hawaii....anywhere!  Since I'm an emotional woman, I always take it personally, imagining that they are looking at me running my company and saying, "Hell, that woman is so stupid! Doesn't she know she would SELL OUT if she came to our show? Doesn't she know how HUGE the festival next to us is? Why doesn't she just DOOOO it?"   I stupidly take suggestions as criticisms, and I flinch when a sentence starts out with "why don't you JUST??".   Here's a few things to keep in mind-

-There is this jump that a lot of vendors have to make where they decide to let other people manage their booths for 8 weekends at a time, and they have to farm out their production to other countries like Mexico and India to have enough inventory to do these gigantic shows and actually make a profit.   That is completely their own decision, and as HUMANS, they are just doing what they think is best. It's not my personal wish to send production of my products to other countries. When you come to a festival and handle our wares, I have put stitches and personally touched EVERY SINGLE PIECE. I try to be the best quality inspector that I possibly can.  I'm truly very passionate about the actual integrity of the piece. I'm not ready to send that thousands of miles away. I don't know if I'll ever be ready. 

-Gas is expensive. We're lucky if we can get 10 miles to the gallon. The trailer we pull is about 8,000 pounds, fully loaded. I have looked into having things shipped (hideous) freighted (eek) or even sent on a train, and there is just so much logistical horror to all of it that it makes me panic and I don't want to run this company any more. Maybe one day I'll grow up and figure out how to fly me, my employees, my children and our 8000 pounds across country in an efficient, cost effective manner..until then, I've got to stick to shows that are slightly nearer to us.  If you're wary of buying something online when you've never tried it on in person, don't be. I've sent out hundreds of thousands of corsets to women I've never met all around the world. All they did was measure and follow directions. I try my very best! 

-When someone tells me to do a show because I "will sell out" I always have a quick rush of pure rage.  You don't ever "sell out" in a business where you have such a range of sizes and colors. Just because your booth is being rushed doesn't mean you'll have something for every last person that wants to buy (wouldn't it be beautiful, though??)  I know it's immature to get frustrated when I hear these comments, and I know that the people truly mean to offer advice in the kindest possible manner.  I suppose the issue is that all of these things are my most stressful parts of the actual job, thus I'm needlessly sensitive. I love sewing and creating, but terrified of traveling and all  of the chaos around setting up for a show. 

Either way, I do apologize profusely to all of you who are going to be disappointed. Like I said, these might not be permanent decisions, but for this year, I'm just trying to do my best. As always I appreciate your support more than I can possibly say, and I'm so grateful for all of the women who have enriched my life. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Texas Trip, Part 2

        *Quick Disclaimer here....sort of the same horrid brand as "Um....Not to be rude or anything....but, >insert offensive, unsolicited advice here<". I do enjoy saying things but telling people not to react to the things I say right before I say them. Brilliant, BRILLIANT, I say!!!   OH, crap. Back to my disclaimer.   I just want to note that this story of going to Dallas Texas on a band trip when I was a goofy teenager is told by my perspective as it was then. It was, in a lot of ways, sort of a turning point in my life, and helped get me to the place I am today, for better or for worse. I understand that self-deprecation can come off very badly, and it appears as though I'm putting myself down for cheap laughs.  But, seriously, you remember being a teenager? If you don't, I can copy and paste some of my 16-year-old sister's facebook posts here, and you'll remember in a hurry! (Why the crap not? She's posting them for the whole world to see anyway. Love you, Natalie!! to be "rude or anything"...but might not want to share every SINGLE thought and feeling with everyone. ;)   Anyway, I think it's a marvelous blessing to have perspective, find humor in situations that were gut-wrenching and tear-jerking at the time, and look back at where you were to be ever grateful for where you have come!   And now, part 2. As promised.

        I'm sorry about the picture. Usually I would take some time to give it a little bit more character, but I'm frantically trying to clean my house to maybe possibly put it up on the market so it will maybe possibly sell and maybe possibly we'll move.  This is my way of escaping my duty, impending and crushing as it may be.

       I believe it was the day after going to Medieval Times that are band group was scheduled to go to Six Flags Amusement Park.  OH, junk. Let me back up here for a minute. REWIND  *GLING* Previous afternoon!
    "Michelle, we're going down to the hot tub! Some of the cuter guys said they were going to be down there!"
         I believe this was said by Cortney...... Cortney Starbuck. (Oh, crap, sorry, Cortney, I spelled your name wrong up there.)  I would just like to point out that  you can't NOT be cute, itty-bitty, blonde and a boy magnet when you're name is Cortney-Freaking-Starbuck. Her mom guaranteed that she would be a popular cheerleader the second the filled out the birth certificate. It worked!!   (Remember what I said up there about perspective? Remember, this is teenage me. Or, for better words: jealous, insecure, and selfish.)
    "Um..I didn't bring my swimsuit." I squeak, feeling instantly defensive and mortified.
    "That's okay. Your bra is really cute and has rainbows on it. Just wear your underwear. No one will know!"
         At this point, my blood turns to ice as I realize 3 things simultaneously: 1.)The pure white button up shirts that we were all wearing for performing while we played our instruments were apparently not leaving much up the the imagination where my bosoms were concerned. My mother would kill me. 2.)I would be in a hot tub, with all of, and I've never been able to wear skirts or shorts that went up past my lower knees OR tank tops or things that were very low cut. My mother would KILL ME! 3.) She probably would never find out. Until I accidentally told her in a blog 13 years later....My MOTHER WOULD REALLY KILL ME!!!
        Nope, not happening. Not for cute boys. Not for the thrill of it. Not for the possible humiliation of it.  I declined. Over and over and over again. Finally, Brenda, Cortney Starbuck, and my friend Mary all left the room in their fabulous swimsuits and hotel towels worn as strapless dresses, whilst I made myself comfortable on the hideous abstract print 1990's era hotel comforter and flipped on the TV, delighted to find the Red Green Show was on!  Yes, Duct tape CAN fix anything! Even a forlorn emotional teenager's delicate self esteem.
       This is how I started to withdraw into myself and purposely make myself into an outsider. When you're an addict for the glorious thrill of non-conformity, you get caught up in your emo-teenage poetry narration track in your brain, and you WANT to be the one that "no one understands".  I mean, if those girls understood me, we would ALL be sitting and watching middle-aged Canadian men with beards on tv, instead of sitting in a hot tub right now, giggling at bad jokes.  Thus, all at once, I decided to be sulky and sullen for pretty much the rest of the trip, refusing to romp around in the hormonal bliss of my friends. This is how my teenage brain worked.  I'm still not sure why. This DOES explain why my older brother would have come up with the "Michelle has no settings between 0 and 10" theory around this time in my life.

     Ahem, back to Six Flags.
     Since I was being a  jealous, insecure, poo-face, obviously no one wanted to hang out with me, so I spent the better part of the morning alone, or vaguely trailing along behind Brenda (Wearing a tight, one-shoulder tank top borrowed from Cortney), Cortney Starbuck (wearing a tight, one shoulder tank top borrowed from Brenda), and a pile of eager, drooling band geeks (remember, this is an affectionate term. We knew what we were...and dang proud!). One of the droolers was a very tall, very......socially off-putting, young man named Mike. I can't explain him. He was just odd. He was very quiet, stood a little too close, and always looked like he would rather be somewhere long as that was right there with you. On this trip, he formed an attachment to Brenda, and followed her around like a sick puppy dog...I mean, literally....sick.
       The crowd hopped onto a roller coaster that takes you upside down, spins you around, and emits shrieking from the most steadfast theme park patron. It looked like the one from the beginning credits of "Step by Step" (Oh, holy face. Now, I've got that song in my head again. This happened the other day at work, and then I got it into everyone else's head, and then we were ALL singing, "We'll make it better the second time around!!").  Anyhow, I politely declined, seeing as I take about as much joy from roller coasters as I do from chewing tinfoil.
       About 20 minutes later, I saw Brenda, running from the entrance/exit of the ride, irate and disgusted.  I ran over and asked her what was wrong and she declared that Mike had PUKED ALL OVER HER! He had gotten into the cars behind her, and when they were at the bottom of one loop, Mike's car was at the top of the loop, and when he threw up, it went straight down, onto her too-sexy-for-minors tank top! The outrage!   (By the way, Brenda, I know you're going to read this. Remember, I was always perpetually jealous of you, and in a strange, extremely uncomfortable way, I EVEN wanted to be the kind of girl that could scream at a boy for throwing up on her because he loved her so much. *sigh*  I'm so glad we're both married to very cool husbands and have 3 kids each now. Isn't life so much better this way?)  Brenda ran into the nearest tourist-trap souvenir shop and bought a much LESS alluring, baggy "Six Flags, Dallas!" tshirt. I felt a small, guilty, "I'm a horrible person" victory when I saw that she, too, had to have sleeves on her shirt...just like me!
       Needless to say, Mike was very uncomfortable and embarassed about the whole situation, and decided to switch his allegiance to my friend, Mary.  Mary, Mike, and Me (does this sound like a tv sitcom??) broke off from the rest of the crowd, and wandered around trying to win awkwardly big prizes.
       I will need to take another whole entire blog to describe the power that  my friend, Mary had, and STILL has to this day. She just....gets. free. stuff. She has such a magnetic personality, and is so disarming and frightfully honest when she talks to you, and you almost just hand over whatever you have and ask if you can possibly give her anything else?  One time when we were out shopping, all in a single night, we got all of our meals at Burger King for free (no joke, she pulled up the drive-in window, the guy said, "Welcome to Burger King, can I take your order?" and she said, "Yes, I would like 3 # 5 meals, super size, for free...for some really hot girls."  Pause. "Please pull forward to the second window."  Out came the food...tons of their crappy little desserts in the cardboard packaging. What the WHAT?) we got our movie tickets for matinee/child price, we got some sneakers for the employee price, PLUS, coupon, PLUS some other illegal cash register magic that the guy worked, resulting in us paying about $6 for $60 sneakers.
       We came up to a booth where there was stuffed animals to win that seemed absolutely shamefully large, and I fell in love with the gorilla with two baby gorillas on its shoulders! Mike suggested that maybe he could throw the ball at the pyramid of cans and knock them all off the table to win them for me. Mary suggested to the guy running the game that we could take a bunch of "practice" throws before we did the "actual" throw that we paid the money to win. When Mike did knock the cans over, after about 30 tries, Mary hurried and handed the guy $4 and explained that she had just paid for that last throw. The guy actually let it pass. I got the gorilla. You can see me grasping its bosoms below. ;)  If my memory serves me right, Mary just got the giant dog for free.
     That afternoon, when I got back on the bus, precariously shuffling back through the seats and beating everyone in the head with the gorilla as I walked past them, Brenda looked up and saw me in all of my glory. "Where did you get that???"  she exclaimed!  "Um....Mike won it for me?......"  And there was this awkward moment where we realized that the same boy who had thrown up on Brenda had won me a gorilla, all in the same day.

I would like to point out that I sewed the orange camouflage shirts that Brenda and I are wearing. Remember how I sewed tons of the clothing that we both wore to school? Here is proof. 
      And to end it all, I think the very best part of the trip was when Mary later told me that, when the girls had gone down to the hot tub, Cody (one of the few genuinely attractive boys in band....also, a bit of a rebel with a bad reputation) had bothered to ask "where Michelle was".  My friends said I was too self-conscious to show up in a swimming suit. He apparently grunted in dismay and said, "Too bad, she has a bodacious bod."  Yes. I heard it right. BO-DA-CIOUS!    That was the first time in my life where I had stopped to consider that boys might like different shapes. I know it seems obvious, human beings are all vastly different and have wide varieties of opinions, but I think that girls, in their teenage brains, decide that there is one body type that is acceptable and attractive, and it's NOT their own.   This is an obvious fallacy, and of course, we know that it is pushed on us by every media source constantly. I figure that girls might be like flavors of ice cream (hopefully this is not disrespectful...I mean it in the best, purest way possible.) where there is chocolate and vanilla, and the vast majority of people DO like those flavors.....but then, there is so many variations, different textures, types, and brands.  The varieties make it exciting and wonderful.  I think women think that all of us should just be vanilla (or rather, flat tummy, huge chest, flawless skin, long legs, firm bum) but what about all of the OTHER ones out there? It would be so freaking boring if we were all the same. I think we forget that.
       I know, I spend  most of my life forgetting that. In my angsty teenage brain, I would be so jealous and frustrated, and just want to be something else that I forgot how good it was to be myself. After all, I am the one who knows BEST how to be my body, with all of its unique characteristics. I may not be vanilla, but I COULD be something really awesome and strange, like the garlic ice cream that they serve at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
     I got WAY off topic here, but I do want to exclaim that I am grateful for all of the painful teenage experiences that helped kick my bum into adulthood. It's much better here....sorry, but it just is. However, you obviously can't MAKE it to adulthood without paying the price with your teenage emotion profusion.   Just take joy in who you are, and remember that  for as nervous, jealous, insecure, unsure, selfish, and immature as you can sometimes be, the people around you are probably feeling and acting the exact same dang way.   Hopefully, in the end, you can get a huge stuffed gorilla, and that will make it all better.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dallas, Texas

      When I am at festivals, one of the most common questions that I receive is from incredulous individuals who are shaking their heads and slightly bugging their eyes, asking "How did you even get into this?"  My prompt and frank answer never deviates from the truth. "I started out as a dork in high school, and I never stopped." The response usually elicits a polite laugh.  Friends, it's all true. When I talk about wearing renaissance bodices to school with vigor and pride, I'm not embellishing the past to make it more rosy.   Below, I have shared some  person pages, RIGHT out of my own scrap-book, done by me when I was 17 years old. Now, for some good hearty "origin stories". 

         I made friends with Brenda in third grade, after she ran up to me, screamed, and licked me on the cheek. She had previously clung only to playing soccer with the boys at recess, but at some point in time, decided that she could, in fact, be friends with other females. We stuck together like glue from pretty much that point on, with the occasional pre-pubescent bouts of senseless, yet classic girl "cattiness".   By the time we got to high school, we were inseparable. Brenda was magnificently tall, slender, and exotic looking as she has a fair bit of Native American blood in her. Therefore, she was eternally tan. Had she NOT been friends with me, (which brought her coolness level down several notches), she definitely would have been one of the popular girls.  I made us both matching clothing, all of it having some sort of awkward medieval theme. We usually wore matching shirts on matching days of the week.....sadly, NOT ON PURPOSE.

         When we went on band trips or really ANY kind of trip that took us away from our high school and to places where there were high school boys that DIDN'T know how the social map of our school was laid out, it always went the same. We would try desperately to flirt with boys and make them fall so madly in love with us that they would be forced to ask for our email addresses and/or phone numbers. (good night! You kids in the golden age of facebook have it SOOO easy! You just need a name, and then you can spy on this person, figure out all of their deepest personal thoughts and feelings, find every girl they ever dated ever, and also how they feel about every single thing that happens including their burrito at lunch having not enough hot sauce. ) Anyhow, generally, we would stumble upon two lonely boys, one of them being the better looking-more-talking and more attracted to Brenda. I always got the less desirable sidekick. And by "got" I mean that I extracted perhaps 1.79 furtive glances from him until he gave up and switched to just looking at Brenda and the Cool Boy.   By the way, if you ask Brenda about all of this, she will deny all of it. She is lying.

Below, you can see the page from  my scrapbook! Our sophomore year of high school, the band got to take a trip to Dallas, Texas. When I found out that we were going to get to attend a Medieval Times dinner, where we would watch jousting, eat turkey legs with our hands, and yell "Huzzah", my excitement was nearly all-consuming. I knew immediately that I had to sew the most beautiful gowns ever for me and Brenda, and here we are, in our 16-year-old glory. 

Holycrapholycrapholycrap. This was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, up to that point! There we were, at a castle *Squeeeeee* dressed up in fabulous dresses (my band teacher was, I believe, simultaneously slightly embarrassed, impressed, amused.) and, not to be a jerk or anything, but we were dressed WAY better than the wenches, who  were in very sad royal blue peasant blouses, black cotton broadcloth skirts, and little flower hair wreaths. Seriously, ladies? I still think they should have all gone on strike until they got to wear some decent corsets. You're flipping BAR WENCHES! It's one of the rites of passage!!!! 
          The show was AMAZING, and there was even one point where the handsome knight that "won" the tournament circled the edge of the arena to find a lucky lady to whom he could gallantly bestow a red rose! In a very rare moment of sweet justice (take THAT Brenda, who always gets the hot guys AND their awkward sidekicks!)the knight raised his head, peering into the crowd of restless peasants, scanning them keenly until his eyes found ME *gasp* at which point he smiled salaciously, raised his gauntlet-clad hand, and sent the pure red rose sailing in an arc (at which point, time stood still, the music stopped, the crowds faded away, and there was only me, my head tilted at an elegant angle, my burgundy home-made bodice tight around my gasping bosom, and my eyelashes fluttering) at which point the rose landed into my eager  hands, and the crowd erupted into frantic cheering, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. There I stood, triumphant and breathtaking, a warm pillar of light ascending down on me and my metal plate of greasy turkey leg bones.  These perfect moments in time are so rare that you have to cherish them  for the rest of eternity, especially when you're having a particularly bad day, working as a lowly waitress at a Ruby Tuesday in Joplin, Missouri, bent over on your hands and knees, scraping up the chicken nugget crumbs from the previous table of 2 adults, 5 kids, and a $1.75 tip. At those points, you can reflect back upon that one shining moment, when you were the princess....the belle of the ball....the lady of the hour. 

             To be fair, it might not have been quite that dramatic. I'll tell you what WAS dramatic-the event that occurred shortly thereafter. My camera had run out of batteries and film (yeah, that's right, FOOLs! I didn't have a magical camera on my phone where I could take never ending piles of pictures of myself and my plate at dinner! This is back in the STONE ages!) and we were left only with Brenda's little disposable camera. We knew we only had one picture left, and we were absolutely, giddily desperate to get a picture of us and the beautiful queen from the dinner! She had on a marvelous dress, and was CLEARLY the celebrity of the evening  with her flowing gown, heaving renaissance bosom, and period head-dress!(I know, I know. In reality, she was probably some 27-year old under-grad student working at Applebees and playing the queen on the weekends, after which she would yank off the dress and go and get hammered at a karaoke bar, wailing out a painful rendition of " Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia.)  

       The rest of the kids had shuffled away to the bus, but we pleaded with our band teacher to let us just take a few more minutes and try to find the queen! Seeing us with our big eyes and flowing lace-up gowns, he probably had a momentary lapse of judgement and just urged us to hurry up!  We turned and ran, looking frantically and desperately around the whole castle, only to see every single cast member EXCEPT for the regal queen!  We realized that were were pushing our luck, and hung our heads in defeat as me made our way back to the yellow bus of failure parked behind the castle. At that point in time, the clouds parted, and a shaft of golden sunlight shown from the heavens, directing itself ever toward the center of a courtyard, surrounded by an iron gate with bars through which the onlooker could glimpse a momentary view of what it must be like to be ROYAL! (in all reality, this was most likely just the area behind the castle where the knights would escape to for a quick smoke in between jousts.). 
 There, framed by the vertical prison of black iron railing, was the queen!!!  She was standing regally next to a man with a sizeable mustache, a Hawaiian shirt, and khaki shorts. She was laughing a beautiful bell-tone tinkling laugh and paused as she beheld something that, no doubt, was slightly alarming.

       To our surprise, the queen and the random mustache guy actually smiled and came over and opened the gate. They must have heard our uttered cries of "picture" and "queen" and "pretty" in the jumble of all of our other garbled teenage jargon. I finally extruded a sentence that made sense. "Can we PLEASE get a picture?"  At that point in time, something strange happened that I didn't even think about until much later. The random guy smiled smugly, bowing his head slightly, and the queen stepped AWAY. Um....Okay. We frantically thrust Brenda's little $9.97 windup Kodak disposable camera at the mustache guy. He hesitantly took it, a look of confusion and embarassment under his mustache, and Brenda and I thrust ourselves over to each side of the queen, where we grinned triumphantly. The mustache guy mustered just enough concern to hold the camera to his eye, snap a shot, and then hastily thrust it back into Brenda's hands, at which point in time we fled from the courtyard, bursting with joy and practically skipping with elation. 
        We reached the bus, climbed the stairs, made our way through the narrow, cramped aisle, avoiding all of the lethal glares being beamed at us from the 30 fellow impatient band-mates, and collapsed into our stiff little cramped seat. All of the sudden, Brenda froze, as if made of the same unyielding vinyl rocks as those dang bus seats are. Her eyes went wide and she said, "Oh my HELL, my mom is going to KILL ME!"  I sat there, puzzled, unable to figure out anything that was going on.  She said, "Michelle! That was Geraldo Rivera!!!  The man in the mustache! My mom watches his show all the time!  We handed the camera to HIM to take a picture of US and the QUEEN!" 
        Stay tuned for Part 2 of My Beginnings as a Renaissance Nerd in Dallas, Texas. Part 2 will have vomit, rainbow colored bras, and large gorillas. No Joke. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Packing Up-Another Annual Adventure

This is one of the rows of packages. We had them stacked in my garage, all lined up like soldiers, or order by waist measurement. 
 As fun at this is for us every year, there is ALWAYS a point when we're going through invoices with confidence, but then we can't find the box to match the invoice ANYWHERE! What happens is that our Black Friday sale is so popular that people are quite literally clicking on items and purchasing them at the exact same second, and so we double-sell things.  We thought about maybe NOT listing every single thing we had, thus anticipating the probable glitches, but the issue there is that we have no possible way of knowing which sizes will be the ones that need extra.
OH, hey! Look it's my kitchen! At this point in time, I should probably be like every other woman ever and apologize for my messy house. ;)  I mean, SHAME on me for having packages everywhere! 
     However, even though crazy things occur every year, I can always either make more corsets, pull out of my current festival inventory, or alter down some of the lonely bags that happen every year (how do we orphans? I've never figured that one out!).  The thing is, when mistakes happen, and it's no one's fault, I would always rather have my company take the blame and lose the money, as opposed to the customer. I try to always think about it from my own point of view. How would I feel if I was super excited to get something at such a great price, and then the company let me know that I wouldn't get anything and would have to accept a refund? Now, to be honest, we DID have to do this last year. There were several packages that were $500 pirate coats, plus skirts and blouses. They got oversold, and I just COULD NOT BEAR to make whole brand new sets which would take a ton of time and money, losing us so much in the end. We WERE able to pull about 60-70 brand new items out of our show inventory to make up for any of the other missing packages, but I did have my limits.
Leif let me work pretty well today. However, the little guy kept getting hiccups (which make him sound like a squeak toy) and I would have to hold him and try to calm him. 
OH my!  You live and you learn. We worked for 9 solid hours just packing, and it took that whole entire time just for my assistant to print out all of the invoices (we have to be as careful as possible so as to not miss invoices or double-print!).  In the meanwhile, every single one of us got our cars snowed into my driveway (remember how my garage was being used for your packages? ;) and so we all got to grab shovels and dig ourselves out. The cruel irony is that we DID just buy a snowblower, but it was still in its package, and even if we had been able to put it together, we didn't have a way of getting out to get gas. Irony.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Black Friday 2013-Bigger, Better, and Most Likely More Aggressive!!!

I'll try to make this simple. We ARE doing this notorious, nefarious sale again this year, despite many setbacks, new babies, and treachery. I know there has been a lot of buzz about it, and rightfully so.   I will start by explaining how it works, for those of you who don't know, and then I'll get to the "fine print" details. If you don't read the important stuff, it's your own dang fault.





*In our Black Friday SALE, there are 4 "levels" of "grab bags" that you can purchase. They are grab bags, because the customer doesn't know what is in them. We will tell you the size (because getting the right size on a corset is CRUCIAL) but we will not tell you what colors or styles you'll be getting, because, GUESS WHAT, we don't even know OURSELVES!!  We just print out your invoice, find a box that matches it, and send everything out randomly. There is no playing favorites. There is no chance of me remembering whether or not you, personally, already have this color of corset so maybe I should send you another box. I'm not that awesome. Sorry.


*the REASONS for my company doing this are many:
-  First off, we will have spent the whole entire year vending our wares at festivals. Lots of these corsets will have traveled more miles than any of you have last year....that's just how it is! ;)  We always end up with corsets in odd, random sizes, after our full stock has been picked through from taking the corsets to 20 different shows. When we have lonely, leftover corsets, they always cause us problems, because we can't re-stock all of the sizes (most fabrics will have been discontinued) and the customers will come into the booth, fall in love with something, and we won't have it in their size. The NEAT THING about this, for the Black Friday Grab Bag Event is that lots of these will be fabrics that you've never seen if you haven't attended one of our events!
-This is a FANTASTIC opportunity for new customers that haven't felt able to afford our corsets yet! Sometimes, you just need to be able to commit a little "less" money to "try something out" and then you'll be hooked! We LOVE when we convert new ladies to our corsets, so the loss of money from the original price is totally fine!
-We have a website where customized corsets can be ordered, but despite all of our best efforts, there can still be misunderstandings about measuring and fit, and we still get returns. Since these are one-of-a-kind pieces, it's hard to sell them, so they go into grab bags!
-a VERY SMALL PERCENTAGE of these corsets and skirts will be "AS-IS" pieces, which will mean that there will be cosmetic flaws, irregular stitching or seams, or possible fabric stains. In the past, we've ended up clearing out a lot more pieces like this, so we're pretty much left with nothing. I would say that 97% of the stuff in our bags this year is BRAND NEW and in perfect condition!!!
-I TRULY DO love my customers, and I'm deeply grateful for all that they do for me! I see this as an opportunity to say "thank you".  This year, we were able to put together TONS of boxes where there were whole entire perfectly matched outfits. Even when we couldn't get a perfect match, we tried our best to put in good, versatile pieces that would be fantastic for costume building. I  just hope that if I try to be generous with you, you'll continue to be generous with me, supporting our company, telling your friends, and WEARING the beautiful things out in the world!!


*Level 1/UNDERBUST: $35 -This includes 1 corset, in the size stated in the title. You can be assured that the style will be an underbust style(yes, that means it goes under your breasts) and the normal price of the corset will be anywhere from $55 up to $149.  I can tell you right now, it's mostly wench corsets (lots of them with built in back boning) and then some Vixens and Torians.

*Level 1/OVERBUST: $65- 1 Overbust Corset, in the size stated. Originally priced at $99-$199.

*Level 2/Underbust: $89- Yup, this price is up from last year, and I think you'll easily see why! These boxes are a MILLION times nicer than the last ones. You will get one underbust corset PLUS AN ADDITIONAL ONE TO TWO ITEMS, with their total value combined being $149-$225. This year, instead of just doing "numbers" of items in the packages, we're doing more of a "total value" type of system. The more you spend, the more you save.

*Level 2/Overbust $115-You will get an Overbust Corset plus ONE to TWO items with the original prices totaling $160-$250.

*Level 3/Underbust $150- This is EASILY our best section this year. We put together a LOT of the most amazing level 3's I've ever seen. I was honestly jealous packing them up, thinking about how much I would personally love to save that much money and get something that good! Anyhow, these are THREE TO FOUR items(including the corset), totaling around $250 on up to over $400 for a lot of them.

*Level 3/Overbust $170-One overbust corset (mostly, we had Duchesses, Auroras, and Crossfire corsets this year,  however, the patterns changed halfway through the year, so these are all the discontinued pattern) and then you get 2-3 other items for a TOTAL OF THREE TO FOUR ITEMS that will have a retail cost of about $250 to $430.

*DELUXE-Level 4 Underbust $250-This is where all of our brand new long tailed corsets, peplum coats, and two-piece sets went. These items ALONE start at $250, and then go drastically up from there. This is where we put all of our entire, matched outfits. You'll either get the coat style piece and two skirts to layer together(lots of GORGEOUS full length bustles in these!), OR a skirt and a blouse......or whatever awesome stuff we chose to throw in. We made them good, TRUST ME. The total original price of all the items will be around $375 on up to $550. It IS good to note that we didn't have very many sleeves for the coat pieces this year. We realized that we always to such warm events, and we would sell the bodies, but not the matching sleeves, then be leftover with tons of sleeves that go to nothing at the end. I have a whole stack of Victorian sleeves that I'm going to have to just throw away, along with a few pirate coat sets, just because we don't have the fabric anymore!

*DELUXE-Level 4 Overbust-$270-This will be our smallest category this year, as the overbust coats are not produced on high levels, seeing as they take so long to produce and they are a higher ticket item. This level ALSO INCLUDES TWO-PIECE TAILED SETS, such as empire corsairs or steampunk jackets matched with Torians or Wenches. You'll still get whole, matched outfits, so at least 3 pieces, on up to 5 pieces total. The normal cost of these boxes would be $375 up to $650.


*NO COUPON CODES OR STORE CREDIT CAN BE USED TO PURCHASE THESE! I'm truly, very sorry, but if you try to use a coupon code or previous store credit, we will automatically refund your money and relist the items. These are already discounted so much that we can't allow them to go on sale further.

*NO REFUNDS OR EXCHANGES!  This is where you ABSOLUTELY must measure yourself correctly! if you don't have a measuring tape, grab a ribbon or string, pull it around the smallest part of your waist, usually above the belly button, and hold tight! Then, you can lie that down and measure it! DO NOT GUESS!  If you're buying these for a gift, double-check the measurement, even if that means you're spoiling the surprise!

*DON'T FREAK OUT! I know it can be scary buying things without the ability to get a refund or exchange, but guess what?? Any and ALL of you are welcome to create facebook groups where you can trade items back and forth. The only thing that I have to BEG OF YOU-PLEASE DO NOT USE MY COMPANY NAME IN THE FACEBOOK GROUP NAME! People see this and assume that I'm running the show, and that they will have someone to talk to if the exchange goes wrong or if people are dishonest. I believe the exchange group that was started last year was very successful, but there was certainly some drama over whether or not people could trade "other" things on the page, since the name of the page had "Damsel in this Dress" in it.  We all know how ill-behaved and riotous people can be when they're posting comments and opinions on the internet. Most of us aren't on our best-behavior when we're not having face-to-face conversations.  Honestly, if it were me, I would sell any items that I didn't want on ebay, where you  have a safe payment system and recourse if anything goes wrong. However, that's my *ahem* opinion. Feel free to attack me and call me Hitler. I find that always helps.

*AGAIN, DON'T FREAK OUT.  Please, for the love of everything good and decent, try on your items (not upside down....the tags are at the top, like everything else.....we've had a lot of angry upside-down-my-corset-doesn't-fit-customers lately, and they're always immensely relieved when they find they got a PERFECT fit when they wear it correctly!) and remember that corsets are a different beast than your normal clothing. They take a bit of "breaking in" and generally stretch out 1-2 inches with a lot of pressure being put on them by your warm, malleable human body!  If you measure correctly, and your waist measurement falls within the size permitted, there should not be a problem! When we sell our corsets, we give a "size range" that they should fit. We start with a smaller number, say...."32 inches" and that number is the actual measurement of the corset itself! (When we measure our corsets, we pull them VERY tightly, stretched, like they would be on your body. If we just haphazardly laid the measuring tape on it without pulling it, the accuracy would be nothing! ) Then, we give a 32-34 inches. This means that if you measure your waist and come up with 32, then this corset should come fully closed on you, after wearing for about day. If you measure a 33, you'll have a one inch gap, and if you measure a 34, you'll have a two inch gap. Make sense? It does to us, and it's worked VERY WELL for nearly 10 years of my company being open!
Yup, friends, this is how it is when you're trying to get these packages. The corsets and packets of blood, and all of you are "sharks". 

*MY DEAR FRIENDS....DO NOT FREAK OUT! This is the worst part, but I have to let you know. Every single year, thousands of customers get their orders swiped right out of their cart! In online stores, you don't actually OWN an item until you've gone through the payment process completely.  This is because, with online shopping, there is so much indecision, and putting things in your "cart" and then deciding against it. How HORRIBLE would it be if I MADE IT SO YOU  HAD TO BUY what what in your cart??? This would be a nightmare with ANY WEBSITE! They cannot allow that to happen! It would cause problems for the buyers and the sellers!  Stop and think about it logically for a few moments.....about how wretched it would be if you had no choice except to buy things in your online shopping cart. THUS, I cannot be responsible for items being swiped out of your possession. Below, I will help you to avoid this-

*HOW TO SHOP? So,  honestly, in the past, the people that have had the most success were ones that enlisted their friends and family. Grab your husband, friend, boyfriend, room-mate....let them help you snipe the packages! We will be listing on BOTH OUR ARTFIRE AND ETSY SHOPS!  The MOST HELPFUL tips would be these:
-HAVE ALL  OF YOUR PAYPAL INFORMATION UPDATED! If you don't have a current address, the package will simply get sent to the wrong one. Trying to sort through emails AND package these up is not an option for us.
-MEASURE CORRECTLY BEFOREHAND, and DO NOT buy things that are out of your size range. Yes, we can do alterations on our corsets, but we will NOT do them before your package is sent. Imagine the problems that could cause if everyone just purchased the wrong size, figuring they could get it altered, and then we had to unpackage, alter, and repackage! All of the time wasted would literally kill us!
-BUY THINGS ONE AT A TIME! If you're wanting to put several things in your cart and then buy them all, hoping to save on shipping, it will kill you. We DO NOT COMBINE SHIPPING on these packages. Everything is pre-packed, crammed as full as the boxes can go. We will not ship your items all in one big box. No need for us to try to sort out tons of orders and put them together. Let's make it simple, friends!

*I will be posting helpful hints and ideas this whole week, leading up to the special day, so stay tuned! I will most likely sound like a broken record at the end, and that's just okay!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why Wood-Burning Stoves are Awesome

          I know, right? What the junk do wood-burning stoves have to do with corsets?  I can totally connect the dots here for you!  So, today I turned on the heat in our house for the very first time this season. I waddled over to the little magical box on the wall, pushed some little rubber buttons until I saw the right number, then walked away to go and find something to eat in the hateful fridge of broken promises.  And you know what? I found myself ashamed. 
         I grew up in a family of 8 kids, and quite frankly, we all had to work our bums off. Our big house that my dad built with his own hands and genius was fueled by one single, mediocre wood-burning stove. We lived on a 63 acre farm, half woods, half pasture, and we hauled, sawed, chopped, and burned fuel from our own land. I know, I know, this is beginning to sound like a "And then we walked uphill both ways through the 6 feet of snow" type of story, but seriously, I LOVED going on chopping wood expeditions. It's when my siblings and I would make up the very best Disney song parodies, and when we could feel united and knit together in a common alliance of hatred for slivers, wet wood, and biting cold. 

        So many occasions found my attitude sour and my vigor lacking when it came to chopping wood. I would have much rather stayed inside, sewing horrendously nerdy clothing to wear to high school or strumming around on my guitar and writing tortured teenage angst songs.  However, there was this task that NEEDED to be done for our family to survive....literally. My parents couldn't have afforded a gas bill, nor would I have wanted them to! They had strong able workers, a chainsaw, and trees galore! My gratitude for this is so deep that it runs through all of my veins. Because I learned to work, REALLY work, I was able to have the fortitude, courage, ethics, and determination to start a company.
       It seems like the attitude of the general population is to avoid pain and discomfort at all costs. Heaven forbid we suffer a little, don't get our every need and desire met, or have to endure heartache and disappointment. "Save us all" from being offended, or having our tender little feelings hurt!   Holy Crap, guys, that's life! It's what makes life rich and rewarding in the end!!  Having to face failure, rejection and cruel reality is integral to shaping us into the people we need to be!!! The more we desperately try to stave off any negative experiences, the more we rob ourselves blind.   I want to be the kind of person that looks pain squarely in the face, pushes my way through, and comes out triumphant at the end! I don't want my motivations to come from fear....I want to be fueled by an inner strength that propels me forward, heals me, and then in turn, helps others!
       I'm fond of thinking of this in terms of black-smithing. The raw metals need to be heated up in a roaring hot furnace and then beaten repeatedly to become useful tools. I would tend to say that human beings are the same way. Have you ever seen an "underdog" type of feel-good movie where there was a guy who always got his way and never had problems, and then..uh....kept getting his way....and then...won in the end?  Nope, it's always more of a "triumph" of the human spirit when the blind guy with no legs, dying of cancer ends up winning the race and getting the hot girl in the end! Yay!!
       So, in ending, I want to encourage you all to start chopping your own wood and heating your houses with it! Nah....that may be a little dramatic. Hmm....the next time you're in physical or emotional pain....sit back and examine it. Figure out and articulate why it sucks so bad. Relish in it. Revel in it. It's just pain. Don't be afraid. You can make it into either your greatest enemy or your most useful friend. Listen to it and what it's trying to say, and then pick yourself back up and move forward. You might just "fuel" your own dreams.