Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Principles of Epic Costume: Chapter 4

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Principles of Epic Costuming: Chapter 3


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

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

Monday, August 11, 2014

Principles of Epic Costuming-Chapter 2

PRINCIPLE 2. NO WRONG ANSWERS
         Yes, I believe this with all of my heart. Now, before I make a whole slough of SCA folks mad, I want to point out that I LOVE the SCA! It's one of the reasons I have a dang company. I love the portion of people who love to dress up, camp together, and beat each other with weapons. Yes please. What a fantastic way to get modern-day aggression out of your system!!  My only beef with them (what a strange phrase...."beef with"...I would have thought that "having beef" with someone would be an enjoyable occasion with much celebration and calories....) is when the people that are super-hard-core-history-buffs come up and rip into some poor woman for her gown in the hue of purple, when CLEARLY she should know better, since she is but a mere peasant.  
       I get it. I love dressing up. I love the idea of playing characters. I have a deep reverence for someone who sits and hand-sews their whole entire wardrobe with sinew and a needle made of a squirrel bone. I love people who lovingly hand-dye their fabric that they wove from their own cat hair and corn husks. Heck yes to dousing your pieces in beet juice for weeks to get a particular hue. I am IMPRESSED. Also, I'm amazed at the people who research history from every angle, tirelessly consuming wikipedia articles and scouring images of period paintings.  I even like it when two "period nazis" (not my term. This term has been around for a LONG freaking time in the SCA) get into a heated discussion over how a codpiece would have been attached. It's exciting to be so passionate about something! I just wish that those blessed people might tone it down slightly when they're in the presence of a family who, let's say, just showed up at the renaissance festival in clothing that they made from a McCall's pattern and $1 fabric from Wal-Mart. (Bravo to this mom! That was TOTALLY my family!)  Those people just want to come and have fun and escape the horrors of modern-day stress.  Let them have it. Please don't accost them and tell them how wrong every  piece of their clothing is!
       Now, on the other hand, if you are in a guild, and your terrifying guild mistress tells you what to wear, you had better dang wear it. I have had my posterior whooped by many MANY succinct guild mistresses, and I would suggest you NOT mess with them. I  understand when guilds want to portray an accurate representation of their time period. That's the whole idea of re-enactment. I would professionally suggest that you stay FAR away from my booth if you're trying to go for re-enacting history. Obviously I want you as a customer, but I will be frank, and let you know, right out of the gate that our stuff is NOT period appropriate. I've said this before and I'll say it again. When people come up to my booth and politely ask, "Wow, what period in history is this clothing from" I politely respond, "roughly, circa Spring of 2014". 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

9 Principles of Epic Costuming-Chapter 1

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

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

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





Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Working Hard or Hardly Functioning

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

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sometimes I forget

 WHAT DO I SOMETIMES FORGET?
      Well, if we're being real, it's a lot of things. However, what I'm talking about here is that sometimes I forget that we have so many people that are new to my company and they just see pretty things, but don't actually know the story of what makes our products special, or why they should buy a corset from us versus any other corset company out there.
      So, I don't believe in ever putting down other companies, although (bless their hearts) I have been put down, copied, slandered, and internet bullied (heck, I'm pretty sure everyone has) by competition.  I'm eternally grateful for my competition, as the majority of them are extraordinary people, and MY GOODNESS, we are all in this together!
       That being said, we do have a few things that I personally feel like are unique to our company, and I haven't seen it in very many others. Let me detail them below. I will try my best to not be too wordy, but any of you who know me at all....well....I'm verbose.
Damsel in this Dress Corsets Are:

  • Made with Steel Boning!  Not the cheap stuff. Just because it says it's "steel boned" doesn't mean it's nice steel. We have had to source ours very carefully, and in all of my years doing this, I think we've only ever had 2 METAL BONES BREAK.  That is 2 out of....lets see...do some math...figure things out......I've made about FORTY THOUSAND CORSETS myself since I started this company, so if you take 40,000 and multiply that by 5-14 pieces per corset...holy crap. I've actually never even done the math. That's pretty freaking good.  Also, if the metal bone did have a manufacturing defect, I paid for shipping both ways and did the repair for free. I try to stick by the product.
  • More of an Hourglass Curve! If I wanted my job to be easy, I would straighten out the sharp curve in the waist. If you look at most lingerie corsets, renaissance bodices, and steel boned corsets made overseas, they actually don't have a very sharp hourglass turn in the sides of the waist. Some of them can be downright barrel shaped. I totally understand why. It's MUCH easier to just stick something on a woman that is simply uniformly TIGHT than something that actually takes the flesh, skin, and...uh..."padding" on our waists and RESHAPES it. Lots of women have this idea in their head that a corset will actually physically make their body smaller.  Friends, if there was a product that could do that in 3 minutes of lacing, I would be a whole lot richer. CORSETs DO NOT MAKE YOUR BODY SMALLER. All they can do is "redistribute" parts of your body and flatten your body, as it is. When you put one one, you will definitely FEEL and SEE a different you, but there is  nothing that can take the molecules of your body and shrink them.  (Scientists..don't hate me for that sentence. I know it is wrong.)   However, I do believe that if you wore them on a regular basis, your posture would improve, your waist would honestly reshape, your portions would get smaller, and your self confidence and sense of well-being would sky-rocket! Clearly, I need to make a post on JUST this subject.
  • 10 years of pattern-making and interior tweaking for superior construction!  Yes, friends, we have been in business for 10 years, since I was 18 years old! I LITERALLY think about corsets all day every day. They are always on my mind. I want to make them better, higher quality, more affordable for my time and materials, better able to fit a variety of sizes....the list goes on and on. No matter how much you, as the customer, think about corsets during your normal day, I think about them MORE. I promise.  With all that thought, the patterns get reworked and re-designed about every six months.  I NEVER say to myself, "Meh, it's been selling great all this time. There's no reason to do anything different."  I know that there will eternally be room for improvement. The only sad thing is that lots of the improvements are things that aren't visible to the eye, because they're on the interior of the corset. I will just let you know, the interior structure is more important than the exterior, and we have grown in leaps and bounds in that area in the last 2 years.    It's also good to note that I SERIOUSLY CONSIDER CUSTOMER FEEDBACK, SUGGESTIONS, AND THE OCCASIONAL COMPLAINT! You guys help fuel me to make these better, and I would completely suck without my amazing fan base. 
  • Fabric is glued together before it is grommeted!  Every time I see a bodice home-made by a seamstress, no matter what her sewing skills are, the grommets are almost always pulling out because of the stress of lacing. I used to have this problem too. When you punch a hole into fabric, made of woven threads, those threads will keep pulling apart over time, especially if you're trying to suck a waist in dramatically. Thus, we take THOUSANDS of hours carefully glueing layers of extra thick upholstery to the front openings of our corsets so that the grommets won't pull out.  Once again, as with the boning, we'll have maybe one in every thousand fabrics we use that won't "adhere" well, and the grommets end up pulling a little, but we always fix things....always! 
  • I care. I care so much that it's stressful and ruins my life sometimes. When a customer makes a suggestion or ESPECIALLY if we ever get a complaint, I take this deep into the roots of my soul, and struggle emotionally for days and weeks....sometimes years. I know it's not good. I know it's not healthy and it causes a lot of depression and self-flagellation. I'm trying to stop. BUT, what it DOES mean is that you do get a better product and better customer service because I beat myself up so much. 
Okay, honestly, I can think of a million other things, but I'll have to save them for later.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Stretching My Brain

This is such a BEAUTIFUL image! I want to dress like this every day...maybe I'll make it our mandatory work uniforms..?
      I am going to do better, I am going to do better. MAN ALIVE! When you have a creative brain, it can be very hard to organize, document, regulate, and commit to timelines, goals, numbers, and paper-worky types of things.  I'll be the first to admit, for ALL OF 2013, I felt so overwhelmed, hormonal, and festively pregnant that I couldn't fathom doing anything more than I was already doing. I spent most days yelling, feeling sorry for myself, and thinking about what I was going to eat next, instead of trying to plan for where my company was going and how I was going to tackle my dreams. 

      Well, now I'm endeavoring to get on track, and be like an aggressive 80's business guy in a power suit, with a slick hair-cut and lots of "buzz" words like "synergy" and "prime objectives!" and...um....honestly, I've never worked in an office....maybe I'm not going to be that guy...It's just that....have you guys ever seen that episode of Futurama where Fry teams up with the 1980's Business Guy? I LOVED how he kept asking everyone if they were "sharks" or "sheep".  I suppose I want to be a shark? 
Anyhow,  If you're wondering what these pictures are about, they are my sketches and inspiration for one of the many projects I have going on in my head. At ALL TIMES, I have these glorious visions and patterns and fabrics in my brain, and they're just waiting to bust out! Sometimes I draw them out, sometimes, I look for the particular fabrics I need, and SOMETIMES I EVEN *gasp* MAKE THEM!!! 

    Which brings me to Soldsie. I read about this company in an Entrepreneur Magazine (I sit and read these while I eat my steel cut oatmeal at 5 am every morning) and I was very excited, because they seemed to have the answers to all of my current problems....well...almost all of them. So, this company allows you to sell directly to your customers RIGHT on facebook, through a safe channel. All they have to do to purchase something from you in the size and color they want is to comment "SOLD" below the item, and then type in the options they prefer from what you have available.  They really encourage you to make a specific time each week that your customers KNOW they can come to you and see new items and get good prices and freebies.   I don't know why I never thought of this, but it's SOOOO awesome! I get emails all the time from upset customers who wanted an item that I listed, but I listed the piece at a completely random time, and they missed it. This helps focus all of us in, and have a time when we expect something awesome, and we can all be excited about it! 
      So, I named our weekly events "Hourglass Events" because I felt like it hearkened back to the fact that we sell hourglass shaped corsets, AND these are a limited time release, so the "sand" will be slipping through the hourglass quickly!   As you can tell from the pictures, I'm actually PLANNING and looking for inspiration! I'm very proud of myself, because this is not normally  how my brain works.  Anyhow, I'm hoping to get the final patterns for the "Gretel" collection done in the next couple of weeks, and *VOILE!* I have the theme for one of my events.
     I realize that this blog is ALL over the place, which is ironic, because it talks about how I'm going to focus and be better.  Bless my heart.   Anyhow, I've got a crapload of work to do, but I just wanted to give you guys an insight to what's going on in my life, and I hope you're as excited as I am!