Tuesday, July 22, 2008

oh, I'll just make my own

Have you ever had simply AMAZING food at a restaraunt, and then thought, "OH, man, if I could just make it like that!" ? Further more, have you ever endeavored to go home and make it? We all know about those top-secret recipes cookbooks, and we certainly know that the internet is a never-ending fountain of online recipes. It sounds plausible.

I think the stuffed chicken marsala from Olive Garden is what they'll feed us in heaven (along with the added bonus of us not gaining any of its 2,014 calories per serving) It's....seductive. Plain and simple. I asked my husband if he would love me more if I could make it. He looked me in the eye and said, "Honestly, yes."

So, I found the cheat recipe. It called for many....expensive things. "OH, well," I thought, "it will still be cheaper to make it." Well, I was wrong. After mentally adding all the ingredients in my head, it was going to be well over $40, plus the added couple hours to make it just so I could end up with something that was probably pretty good, but not nearly as good as Olive Garden's. You see, I've learned this lesson over and over again! I was cursed with the "do-it-yourself" attitude when I was born. I get it from both my mom and my dad. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not an entirely bad virtue.

Here's the problem. There are some things that you really should go home and make...provided you have the time, the energy, the know-how, and the fortitude. However, there are other things that you wouldn't dream of going home and making yourself. You're not going to see a beautiful large flat screen TV and think, "Oh, I'll go home and make my own." Heavens no! The people that do that for a living and have studied it and worked for years at it will do it much better than you can.

So, how does this all relate to corsets? Well, friends, it's honestly insulting when I hear customers walk past one of my splendid mannequins, poke at the fabric, wrinkle their nose, and snootily say, "OH, I could make that." I hate to tell you, but....you probably can't. You can most certainly go and buy some upholstery fabric at $10-$40 a yard,along with a $14 Simplicity Pattern ($1.99 if you're smart enough to watch sales at JoAnn) and sit there cutting the weak crackling tissue paper, and then trying in vain to fold the stupid pattern back together in a way that it might somehow fit back into the stupid envelope. You can stare at the hideously confusing directions and try to decipher what they are telling you to do as your eyes slowly glaze over. You can clear a place to lay your fabric out, and then enter into another war with the tissue paper, trying to pin it the right direction and cut around it. You can battle with your sewing machine for hours as you invent new profanities, break needles (if you're making a bodice, you should be using sturdy fabric) run out of bobbin thread, and become friends with the little seam ripper.

Whew. Wait, we're not done? Nope. From there, you can discover that plastic boning is the only stuff they carry at the craft store. You face the decision of either using the plastic crap, and having the edges of your bodice look like a lasagna noodle after you've worn it, or you can go and make a special order for metal boning off of the internet. Keep in mind that you'll have to pay shipping and handling, and there are two types of boning, several different widths of each, and about a million different ways of putting them into the bodice. You might have to special order boning casing, or you might get a special kind of boning that has holes in it so you can mark your bodice and put grommets right into the boning. There are multiple different ways, and you have to decide which is best for you.

OH, and look. We're at grommets! My favorite! As a young, ignorant 14-year old, the only grommets that I could find that I could apply were these goofy little eyelets with teeth that wrap around and grip onto the fabric. It was $2.99 for a package of 144. I also spent $16.99 for a tool that would set the eyelets for me. You'll probably do the same. Unless, of course, you want to buy a decent grommet press, which will run $40-$200, plus a die for the size of grommet you're using ($30-$40....some presses have them as additional items. Some have them included in the price). Also, you will want to get some actual 2-piece grommets that don't suck. They run about $10 to $25 for 144, plus S&H. Anyhow, if you go the cheap route, and get the crafty little eyelets, the second you really lace yourself into your bodice, they WILL pull out of the fabric. I'm speaking from an abundance of frustrated experience here.

Next, you sit and mark the bodice for the grommets, and apply them. If you mess up on one of them, your bodice will be ruined. Trying to take one back out creates a bigger hole than the grommet. It's NOT pretty.

Then, FINALLY, the moment of truth! All these hours of researching, reading, sewing, cutting, purchasing, driving, and emotional turmoil might finally pay off! You lace the bodice onto your body. Hmm......the simplicity patterns ALL cut off right at your natural waistline. Once, again, I'm speaking from experience. I know. The problem is that they pinch your waist, and pooch out your lower belly and love handles. It also makes your body appear much shorter than it is. You look like a tree stump. But, you persevere.

You wear it to your renaissance festival. Your own creation. Sure, the fit is a little off, because most people don't know that when making patterns, you make a size smaller than the pattern tells you. Sure, it's really digging into your waist. Sure, the satin ribbon that you used to lace it up is slippery and keeps unlacing. But you, "Just made your own". Wait to go! You sure told that stupid girl at Damsel in this Dress! Ha! "Take this, Michelle" you think, as you tug at your bodice that keeps creeping upward. "Who's laughing now?" you think with a self-satified smile as you look down and realize that your metal boning is starting to poke out the bottom of your bodice.

You walk up to a booth that looks familiar. There are buxom mannequins out front, wearing bodices that are richly toned and alluring. You discreetly reach over and finger one of the bodices, and realize that it has boning up every single seam, and that the boning is twice the thickness of yours (by the way, we special order our boning from Europe. America's steel is really poor quality.) Then, you feel this amazing piece of rod up the front. Wow, it wouldn't bend when you sat down, like your current bodice does. The grommets are beautifully set (We just purchased a $3000 machine, thank you very much). A gorgeous, curvy dark haired girl comes up and invites you in. She is kind and considerate, and a little sarcastic. She takes your bodice off, and tells you she loves the fabric, and then she tries on one of the ones from her booth. You look in the mirror, and realize that you're never going to make your own bodice again. You look like you instantly lost 20 pounds! You look like you got a tasteful and attractive boob job :) You look romantic and feminine. Yay!!!!!!! This is what you wanted in a bodice...
And there you have it. When you buy from us, you're buying from a company who is dedicated, honest, and friendly. You're supporting a business run by a woman who KNOWS bodices. My whole entire job is bodices. I have a lot more time to ponder them, research them, sketch them, sew them, and revise them into the perfect fit. Me and my husband have spent over a hundred thousand dollars purchasing the right equipment, supplies, and material to make them the best we possibly can. Our whole business is set up to do them. We have industrial everything! Now, I'm really not trying to make anyone necessarily feel bad. I think that going out and exploring your passions is good...but then again, you maybe have a job that you're really good at. You're doing that job so other people don't have to try and do it themselves. Your time is valuable. That's all I'm doing. I am very impressed with what I see that women have sewn up themselves, and there are most definately seamstresses out there who are phenomenal, and make amazing things. But, you know how I can tell instantly if you're a true seamstress? You come into my shop, you compliment me on the stitching and patterns, you ask me where I got my fabric, you say, " My gosh, I couldn't make it for this.", and you buy one from me. You know the scenario up above all too well. You know that value of being able to purchase a bodice rather than battling your sewing machine in an effort to make the same thing. You are my friends, and I respect you and I'm so grateful for you.
I am so tremendously grateful for my customers who have helped me build my dream. I am thankful for all your suggestions, support, input, and well.....$$$$. :) I promise that I will continue to improve, rethink, and revise to climb higher and higher to the tops of my potential. I literally lay awake at night thinking about what I can do the next day to improve my product and make it better for my customers. I want you to look in the mirror and see the woman that you know is inside. I want you to stop critisizing yourself, and realize that you have some serious assets that were brought out by a little thing like a corset. We have powerful weapons. They're called breasts. Use them wisely, friends.
Thank you again. If you actually read this whole thing, I'll give you %30 off on any bodice you want. ;)


  1. 30% huh? Love you Michelle. :)

  2. Ok, I ran into your blog a while a go while blog surfing on Lucy's "My Bird House" I instentaneouly fell in LOVE with all your bodices. We went to a renaisance wedding at the Colorado Larkspur Renessaince Festival. And may I say EVERYTHING you said is exactly true. I made my own bodice ( I am bigger chested and have those love handle things you talk about) so not to look at silly as having my handles pop out and be seen I hike up my skirt in between my belly button and chest. Talk about having an already short waist as it is. It sufficed me for that day, but I threw it it the trash cause I KNOW I will NEVER wear it again - it didn't look horrible, but a day with plastic boning and cheap material (you will hate me for this, I use a med-weight matte cotton). When I get my funds I will definaltey be aquiring one of your FABULOUS bodices. I do wish you visted the Colorado Fair, I would love to see them all inperson. Yours looks totally better that the ones they are selling there, there's definately looked better than mine, but your beat them all that I have seen.
    Was going to ask you if you have ever considered offering a class, but after reading your blog that would just be in vain. I will definately take you up on that %30 offer as soo as I get some money saved up!

  3. My Lady Michelle,

    I'll start by saying that the very reason that I've ordered a custom bodice from you is because I know damned well I can't make anything close to what you produce myself. Not if I sold my soul.

    I know what you're feeling fractionally because I work as a freelance artist. I work largely in digital art. As an artist, or rather, a -person- that's pouring emotion and time to make something beautiful, it hurts when someone comes up and says, "Oh, that's -digital-, huh? Yeah, anyone can press some buttons and make 'art.'" It's even worse when you have to smile and try to politely disagree because you're on stage. It's tempting to rearrange parts of their body that were never meant to be rearranged. It's tempting to make a lecture out of an exhibition.

    I don't put up with that daily, however. It's not my life's work, either, so I can only multiply what it feels like for me to imagine it for you. But you make beautiful art. You make beautiful, living art for people to love.

    And I'll tell you what; I'm jealous.

    Ashley Del Villan.

  4. Wow, do I hear ya!

    I'm a 'maker' myself, and teaching myself silversmithing has truly made me appreciate craftsmanship in others. It's hard to comprehend the work that goes into something without trying it yourself, but this post not only gives us DIY-ing readers a much-needed a prod towards reality, but emphasises how gloriously awesome your work is.

    I'm guessing you're open to orders again now? :P

  5. I just shed a manly tear...


  6. 30%?

    Wow, love. <3

    And I totally agree. I tried buying the Simplicity pattern after having decent luck with a pattern on the interne, and I hate it. I even tried drafting something onto it, and it ended up being really crappy. And grommets are a pain in the ass.


    Your bodices will always be gorgeous; better than my strange duct tape one.

    Lovelovelove. <333

  7. Oh sad.. . I actually read it (laughing my ass off the entire time)and THEN notice the bottom. : )Oh well! I'm planning on wearing my bodice for a steampunk outfit at Texas Ren. Festival for fantasy weekend. Is there a way to get some of your business cards to hand out b/c I know people will ask. . .

  8. You vent like a pro, girl! I think you should arrange, during a renaissance faire, to give a speech about how involved true craftsmanship really is.

    I don't have one of your bodices yet, but I'm going to before the winter, I hope! The designs on your site are the only ones I've seen that would be VERY flattering on curvier body types.

  9. Wow, can you rant girl! I know exactly where your coming from as a photographer. I found you through the Pirate Festival that is coming in September and I can't wait to see your bodices! Athough with your 30% ending August...I may have to buy early...


  10. Oh I think I almost hyperventilated from the giggles while reading this because oh, how sadly true it is. I don't own one of your corsets -yet- but I do plan on ordering one for our pirate festival next May. Being a short-waisted, top heavy girl, I cannot wait to put it on.

    I just noticed that you were vendors in Oklahoma, my best friends husband is a jouster for Noble Cause and he was out there. Sir Tristan - his colors were red and yellow. Too bad you don't make it down to any of the Florida fairs, you would make a killing. :)

  11. Your work is so unbelievably amazing! I commend you for your hard, passionate work and your extremely awesome designs!!

    Trust me- there will be a day I purchase from you, but I have to save mah pennies :P.

    Rock on!!!

  12. I totally read the whole thing and I'm totally eyeing something in your Etsy shop. :) And it's very tempting to have something new and shiny to wear before MDRF starts in a couple weeks...

    On that note: what are the chances you'll ever consider coming out to Maryland? :D

  13. I have to agree with a lot of people here. I took one look at your work and said to myself that there was no way I could make something comparable with what little experience I have. Everything about your work seems to exude skill and passion. The more experience you have with creating on your own though, the more ability I think you have to recognize quality when you see it. I think the sorts of people that scoff and say that they could make that for cheaper probably have very little experience -actually- making anything, nor enough skills to consider their time worth much.

    As a creative person myself, and someone who has developed my own techniques for my art for years, yeah, I can really see how you'd be a bit miffed if someone says 'oh, that's too expensive, I could make that'. It's happened to me, too. You really hit the nail on the head though. Fine, let them try. They'll either get a piece of humble pie when they realise it's going to take a lot more practice, or they'll just end up coming back to you anyway because they finally get that it takes a lot more work than they think it does and they're able to have a new appreciation for your artistry and skill.


  14. meander, you reminded me of something:

    Last year at MDRF, I worked for a bone, antler, and ivory carver. He does amazing work, silverware with handles carved with amazing designs, sword hilts and sheath, and chandeliers and lamps made of antlers, and mostly he specializes in knives and daggers. Some carved, some with uncarved antler handles.

    More than a few people would look at his things and be like, "oh, I've got some antlers lying around, I could do that." His response was the same, "you can try, go ahead!"

  15. I just purchased one of your garb sets and I can't wait for it. I am very lack-of-skill when it comes to sewing items and am a great fan for buying them from talented ladies like yourself. In my excitement I ran around with a printed copy of the garb screaming to all my friends "ITS MINE!! ITS MINE!" One of my friend who considers herself a seamstress said to me "Oh honey we could have made that for you easy" I bit my tongue and smiled. Blech...I don't want to battle with crap simplicity patterns, and needles breaking to have a garmet 1/8 the quality of something I could get from you. And yours prices are amazing even without 30% off. :) I love you very much thank you for taking the time in all you do to give the greatest product.



  16. Thank the heavens you are here!

    Thank you for your creative gifts; thank you for your rant, and insightfulness on diy'ers.

    Although I missed the 30%, I am glad I read your blog!
    As you are not at the Minnesota Renfest, expect an order for a xl vixen beautiful bodice soon!


  17. Hey! I just wanted to say (and I'll likely convo you about it too) that my glorious pirate outfit (in blue!) arrived this weekend so I got to wear it on Sunday to MDRF.

    And I ran into someone who gave me the, "oh, you could've made this..."

    Me: "ahahahahahahano. I have no sewing skillz. And are you serious?" Except. Uhm. I said it more politely than that.

  18. 30%? Damn. Don't think I've seen you MD Renn Fest!

    Funnily enough I'm making a bodice now, having done similarly form
    fitting bits before... but *damn.*
    Anyone who thinks they could reproduce your masterpieces doesn't make enough of their own kit! Everything on here is absolutely marvelous.

    I'm going to go off and be grateful I've never had to buy grommets for eyeletting now...

  19. Daring:

    She's not at MDRF. I ordered from her online. :) I keep crossing my fingers she'll show up in person some day. (Hey, they do a guest vendor program!)

  20. Hi there,

    I know I'm coming a little late to this discussion, but frankly, not all of us seamstresses are created equal.

    Having done absolutely accurate English Civil War clothing and American Civil War clothing, including making the corsets, I could do what you do. But then, I have years of pattern drafting experience both in re-enactment and the theater, which is something most of the people who buy a pattern at the fabric store can't.

    Also, while I would NEVER insult your work, I am actually one of those people who can say "I can do that myself."

    Keep up the good work though, lotsa girls can't even begin.

  21. I found your site with the almighty power of Google...and about fainted. Our Ren Fest is currently going on here, and I have the constant problem of wanting garb then talking myself out of it because there's no way I'm paying $175 for a skirt/chemise combo that I know cost maybe a fifth of that and two hours to throw together.

    I can't say that for corsets. I lack the patience for such (so massive props to you for just that alone!), and grommets are the bane of my existence. Someday I'll master them, but until then, I deeply appreciate the craftsmanship of others.

    The Corsair is absolutely fabulous, by the way! Here's looking forward to payday...

  22. These dreeses are really unique mainly the last one. Bravo.

  23. I really appreciate this post.

    While there are certainly some things I have looked at and thought "I could make that", it would NEVER cross my mind to say that about one of your items! Even in photographs, your items SCREAM quality and expertise!

    However, I will humbly admit that I occasionally get deterred from purchasing something I really want (even if it's of excellent quality) because of a price. This post really helps me see into the behind the scenes aspects, and understand just how reasonably priced your items actually are!

    I now feel even luckier to have snagged one of your post-ren-fair sale items, and can even better appreciate the quality of your work. Thanks for taking time to explain it, bit by bit, and I'm REALLY sorry you've EVER had to overhear such rude and ignorant remarks.

    Your work is AMAZING.

  24. Awesome Blog!!! Love your stuff! Got the purple empire corsair from you at Shrewsbury and then had to tweek it for me at the Portland Pirate Festival.
    30% off huh??? The hubby was saying it might be possible for me to get a Wench Corset for christmas.... we'll have to see... Hmm...

  25. I feel your pain and appreciation in a similar but very real way. I am an illustrator... I work for a company that frequently lets the accountant do their graphics because 'they can do it themselves' despite having hired me as their art director. It is infuriating and frustrating beyond belief, but when I go home and my boyfriend looks at what I'm sketching and says in a very honest awe that I am wonderful and gifted... It's like a present that makes at least most of the frustration of the "I can do it myself" go away.

    Also, you might want to edit this and take out the "I'll give you 30% off if you read the whole thing" because it's still hangin' out up there... Unless you still want to honor it, in which case... I'll be ordering from you very, very soon.

  26. Yes, the 30% off is VERY alluring, even to a skilled seamstress like myself! :D

  27. I know I'd NEVER be able to make some of these amazing corsets. They're so pretty and alluring and everything. I've tried on the wench corset at the Highland games last summer. They are SOOO AWESOME!
    Hehe and I love how you used the analogies of food along with the corset making. I've tried to recreate some of the dishes from olive garden on my own. Without the actual recipe and experience though it's next to impossible to get the same taste! So I can only imagine the difficulty it is for seamstressing and recreating something as harsh as a Corset.

    I'd love to buy one of your wench corsets... I do have the money here and now and if I can get that 30% then you got a sale!

  28. (I am going to #@$#@$ kill this computer one day. I hate you browser to for suddenly, and magically closing while I was in the middle of typing. Thus I am typing this a again, trying to remember vaguely what I wrote the first time.)
    The was a great read. I mean I can understand where you were coming and what you were meaning by how much effort you put into your corsets.
    I was planning to buy one of your corsets. I had seen you guys at FaerieCon in Seattle, and excited. Thinking how much I would love a forest green underbust corset with a large hood.
    Then I found out that the faire I was going to perform at, my first performance, changed to just wanting us to wear elizabethan or tudor based costumes. Note only that but they specifically wanted the volunteers to not wear not only underbusts but also no Damsels in this Dress. :< So I was very sad... I was thinking about getting one anyway, for when I am priate and not the "elven"/robin hood character I've wanted to perform as... only I don't have a job and I am living off savings.
    I joined a stage combat troupe, and was going to get to finally play this character I've had in my head for a long while. A friend invited me to a group where they teach me and let me perform with them for free as well. The faire I had been going to since 2000, my first actual Ren Faire, changed this year to now a non-fantasy to pure 16th century faire... while I was in the middle of training to perform at it.
    Needless to say, I now have to make my own corset. I don't have lot of money so it's a modular corset, where the front plate changes from a underbust for other events, to a overbust, for Eisbethian/Ren faires.
    While it's fun being able to create something, and say I made it and designed it, I now making corsets, like GOOD corsets that will last a long time and are very flattering, are very much for a professional such as your self. I know it's going to be extremely time consuming for me to make my corset. I wish I could go to you guys. I really want one of your corsets so badly. :< They are sooo very beautiful. I bow to your knowledge of corset making.

    1. And thus I edit some of my wording from that last post. -.- (sorry, I'm a bit stressed and frazzled.)
      So, in order of correction:
      where you were coming from*
      was excited to get one of your corsets*
      not wear no underbusts*
      (Yes, specifically we can't wear damsels. :<)
      I don't have a lot of money*
      but I know making corsets*

      That being said I hope I will be able to have chance to someday own one of your corsets. I hope you are still giving that 30% discount. I was mostly reading this to find out more about how you make corsets, and to find that discount was a great relief as well.

    2. Oh yeah, err lastly, I was the girl who wore that Fox mask made of leather and thought you looked like Moxxi from Borderlands/2. hehehe