Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dream It.

*Photo courtesy of Castleton Photos. Note the steampunk flamingo on his shoulder. If that's not bad-A, I don't even know what is. This is one of my favorite couples, by the way!

I was asked a question today to which I had no answer, which is not normal for me, since I make a regular and practiced practice out of speaking without thinking (which is pretty impressive if you think about it, because I know that most people have to actually cogitate lucid strings of words before they spew forth from their maws. Me? Nah. ). The question was about my goals for this company. Goals? Company??? What the WHAT?? I cannot recall a time when I have actually planted myself down and thought about the direction in which I was headed. What AM I doing? 

When I was 14, I went to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. There I was, giddy with the feeling of wearing a romantic dress and being called "Milady" by men in tights and codpieces (Oh, man...this codpiece is real COD. That is my favorite Mystery Science Theatre 3000 line EVER!). I was in a dress that I had proudly stitched together myself...come to think of it, I bet I can find the pattern image. Ah, yes!! Here it is!!!
***By the way, just in case you're wondering, this is like ALL patterns. The pictures look gorgeous, the sizing on the pattern envelopes is atrocious, the methods they have you use and tedious and wasteful, and the fit of the actual garment would be more suited to a hunchback organ grinder monkey. 

Yes, so I was in the dress. I had made the bodice portion out of a brick red floral pattern and then the dress was flowing and green. It had more cleavage that I would normally get out of the house with, and I felt absolutely regal. I even felt....captivating! When I put that dress on, I could literally feel a mass of unpleasant things fall away from me.It was as if I had generously sprayed Emotional Scotch Guard on my inner self, and all of the insecurities and self doubts beaded had beaded into liquid dots, rolled into rivulets, and flowed off of me, leaving me unscathed.  I liked the feeling of being LACED into something, being literally "held" together by an outer force. *Once again, it's good to note here that this little bodice only felt that way for about 10 minutes, and the second my little pieces of plastic boning from JoAnn for $3.79 per yard started warming up with my body, they bent and twisted into awkward lasagna noodles.)

Even in my little rebellious puberty-stricken 14-year-old brain, I could see that other women felt confident and proud of their bodies. I could see how much fun they were having, uninhibited by the usual boxy t-shirts and bland denim leg cages. I saw how the men smiled and flirted in such an unbridled manner with these sparkling feminine forms. This was NOTHING like I had seen at high school (thank heavens) and everything that my romantic heart had ever dreamed of.   I walked past several vendors selling succulent gowns, bawdy bodices, and flowing blouses. Right then, I had one of the most crystalline and revelatory thoughts of my entire existence.  As I looked into one of the costume booths, my brain sparked and a voice said, "Wouldn't it be INCREDIBLE if you could make and sell these things?! What if you could GIVE other women the same feeling that you have right now?" 

So, what is my goal? Phew. Yikes. I'm going to be honest here, and bare a part of my soul that is very tender, so please don't poke it when I unveil it. I want to DRASTICALLY change how women FEEL about and perceive their bodies. Not just my customers. Every dang woman on this planet.  If I could bottle up and give away that poignant manifestation that I had as a teenager, I will have lived a good life.  Now, I DO struggle with a natural propensity toward sarcasm and self-deflecting negative thought patterns, and I think that the REASON that I battle so much with this is because some sinister force DOES NOT want me to help women. Each time any of us wants to do something greater than ourselves, there is a mass of resistance that quells our aspirations and dims out lights.  My wish is to conquer this virulent force and get  bypass my own brain. I've got plans, and they don't just involve corsets.   However, the corsets have been a marvelous vehicle, but this is just the beginning, I can promise you. 


  1. Your reasoning behind loving your first "corset" is similar to my reasoning, as well. For me, it feels like one long, sustained, comforting hug. :)

  2. I can offer to come to your town and present one of my workshops on body image and self-esteem.


  3. I'll never forget my first corset experience....I've never been "small," I've always carried at least 20 lbs. more than is deemed "acceptable" by society. I was attending a costume party with a group of friends, and we were going as the Moulin Rouge dancers. I had a corset from Fredricks of Hollywood, and the rest of the costume was beautifully made by one of my friends. When I tried it on, it was gorgeous! I felt thin for the first time in well...ever! When it came time to party, I realized the corset was not meant to be moved in - at all. The plastic stays started curling upward, like the corset was trying to roll up like a window shade. I was embarrassed and my self-esteem plummeted. For decades, I refused to try another corset. Until the Portland pirate festival in 2009, when I came across your shop. You laced a girl my same size into a wench corset and she looked stunning!! In fact, girls of all sizes around the faire were wearing your corsets looking voluptuous. I was reluctant to try one for fear my self esteem take yet another hit, but you expertly laced me into a black and gold vixen corset and I was hooked. I felt so amazing, and so thrilled that my body could look so smooth in all the right places. I have since lost enough weight that that corset can cross in front about 8 inches, so I gave it to a good friend who needed a boost to her self-esteem. When my weight loss is complete, I intend to invest in several corsets for myself :). For now, I've started my 15 year-old on her own collection (thanks to the grab bag sale!). You deserve a medal for giving so many women their self-esteem back :)

    1. 8 inches of weight loss???? MAN ALIVE!!!! That's freaking insane! I'm so proud of you! Write a book! ;)

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Right now, I'm at 87 lbs. lost in 10 months. My goal is 100 before the year is up in September! I feel like a new person :). Thanks for the encouragement!

      (sorry for the delete above - rperry770 is my boyfriend and I forgot he was logged in!)

  4. It's amazing to me how many of us start at a young age at Renaissance festivals and never look back. I've been working at my home festival for 18 years and just like you all it took was some amazing clothes and wonderful, supportive people to make me realize that I was indeed pretty and wonderful and funny. I went from a incredibly shy and insecure young woman to the person I'm proud to be now. I even met my husband there. I'm so entirely grateful to have been blessed with the experiences I've had, both bad and good. I never feel more beautiful then when I'm dressed up for a faire, there is just something about garb that transforms a person. And the joy of that carries me through the year.

    1. That's totally awesome! Both my sister and sister-in-law met their husbands at renaissance festivals. I'm telling you, it's ROMANTIC!

  5. At one point a few years ago I likened going to the Renn Faire as my Christmas. I never really had Christmas growing up, and for a while the Renn Faire was one of the only things I looked forward to all year. I haven't been in a few years, sadly, but I've been to some great Steampunk events. I hope I can come out and see you at next year's Renn Faire at the Castle of Muskogee. I want to give you a hug for how amazing you are, and how great you've made me feel.

  6. Michelle -

    I can't tell you what your corsets have done for me and my self esteem. I can't tell you how much you've done for me, though I have to say, sometimes I feel like I am a pain in the ass. It's my one time during the year I get to sit down and literally spend hours planning a new outfit. Because painstakingly, every month I've put away at least $10 a week into a fund that ONLY gets touched for your stuff. Sometimes I get to put a bit more into it, but even if I only get to put ten in that week - I am still all the way to the bank saying to myself "This is going to add up and I'll get to get something to make me feel great."

    To some, this may be...a little extreme for a corset and skirt - or the Wren Jacket/Hooded deal that I have saved up for (well, I've been saving for some sort of hooded something...didn't know the money was for this until I saw it a few weeks ago)...

    To me, I think about it every week as a way to give to myself. I have never met you, and I'm pretty sure you've cursed my name a few times in response to my endless questions the last few years - but I still feel like you've done so much for me.

    Thank you for taking the time to make products we all love and covet - and some of us spend once a week putting money in the bank for.

    For the longest time I felt guilty putting the money away for something so 'frivalous' when the ten bucks or however much I put away that week could have gone for something less 'just for me.' Now, I have to tell myself, and some of my 'moxy' is from your posts giving me a boost - that it is needed. They make me feel like I should - beautiful.

    Thank you for giving me places to plan outfits, and have something to look forward to each year. You help make me comfortable in my own skin.

    And hopefully I don't spend all my money, an dsave up to get that cropped steampunk vest that isn't for sale yet - or maybe I'll just have to be patient for another year. :)

    I'm glad you found that place that made YOU feel like this was what you wanted to do - that made YOU feel beautiful. Because you are passing it on...and on...


  7. I want you to know something that I haven't shared with you yet. I love your clothing and could echo what many ladies have said on here about body images and being/feeling overweight and how a good corset (and, frankly, yours are the best hands down) made me finally appreciate my curves. However, last May I woke up on Mother's Day weekend and found that the whole left side of my face was paralyzed. It looked like a melted candle and I thought I had experienced a stroke. It turned out to be Bell's Palsy which I had never heard of before. It was so bad that people at work asked if I was drunk because of the slurred speech and difficulty eating without dribbling on myself. I can't really complain about this - it's not terminal and it's not expected to be permanent, so it's a cake-walk compared to what many others go through. I'm a person of faith so I'll accept and submit myself to this without grumbling, as best I can, try and understand the lesson for me in this and use the experience to become a better person and stronger on my walk. And over the summer it's slowly gotten better, but it's still there. My left eye won't blink and I feel like Quasimodo when I see myself in the mirror. Now we get to the part I really want you to know. The 2 pictures of posted of myself in your clothing are the only 2 pictures I've allowed to be shared with others since this happened. Even though I have found new ways to hate my reflection (and yes I realize that humility is probably one of those lessons) - I still feel so beautiful and proud of how I look in your clothing that I want to share that openly with others. So your work is in effect, maybe in an unexpected way, and I really wanted you to know that.

  8. Hi there! Michelle i just want to tell you that even though i don't know you personally and i don't own any of your corsets(YET!), i trully admire you and look up to you!I want to be a designer one day, a costume and wedding dress designer in fact!i believe your attitude towards life and corset making is so inspiring that makes me smile!i am a hopelessly romantic girl myself and i always dream about the prince on the white horse though everyone keeps on saying i shouldn't because there is no such thing as the perfect match...:/i love your work and there isn't anything more powerfull in the work you do other than the love and commitment of yours to what you do and the integrity you have as a person and as a designer.You respect women and their personalities and you want to help them and work for them.there's nothing biger and better than that.Unfortunatelly there's no chance for me that i will visit a Renaissance Festival any time soon since there aren't any(i think) in the country i live in (Greece)...but i do hope to go to one some day and i hope of meeting you as well!With much admiration and respect a loyal fan of yours and of your work.:)

  9. I started going to Renaissance festivals back in 1997 when I was 16 years old. Back when I was 16 I weighed over 250 pounds, which is what the average middle-aged mother weighed. I've never been thin or anything close to it. Renaissance festivals were a great escape from my everyday life full of teasing and living in a world that was too small for me. Boys my age never looked at me because I was the fat chick, but when I went to the Renaissance Festival I saw women of my size being flirted with. Women who are my size actually got more attention than the ‘skinny minis’ that were there. I couldn't believe that larger ladies had guys practically falling at their feet to get their attention. And the women who got the most attention were wearing elaborate costumes I could never afford.

    The Arizona fair season of 2008 was when I discovered your clothes Michelle. An online friend from Utah had mentioned that you made custom corsets for any size without a price difference, and I looked you up.

    My first purchase was a royal blue pirate corset with tales and a black and blue patchwork circle skirt. When I wore your outfit for the first time I finally felt like a real woman. I had curves, breasts, and an amazing hourglass figure! I didn't care that it was a 24-hour hourglass figure, I looked amazing. I looked amazing and I had confidence in myself for the first time in a very long time. Even before we entered the festival I was getting compliments and attention from performers and other patrons who were there to enjoy the escapism of the Renaissance Festival. I felt like a teenage girl who had just discovered that she had breasts. In my normal day to day life I felt like an asexual blob with no curves. I wore blue costume for the next two seasons, until I moved to the Pacific Northwest where there is a big black of Renaissance festivals.

    Once I realize that Michelle was going to be at the festival in St. Helens I promised myself I would have to see her wares in real life, not just online. I wore my blue costume to the pirate Festival and was shocked that it was large on me. The pirate festival was very busy but Michelle did recognize that I was wearing one of her creations. I wanted to get a simple corset, something without a collar tales, so she grabbed a size 44 off of the rack and tried it on me. I could not believe that there was something in my size because I am not a normal size. I was also shocked that there were many SO MANY in my size!

    A week or two later Michelle was back in Oregon at a tiny Renaissance Festival south of Portland. My friend Amanda had never been able to find a course in her size and when she found out that my size was sold at your booth she insisted on going there. We jeopardize your time for at least an hour or two, ended up buying five or six corsets, and when we were done shopping we drove back home to Portland without visiting any of the fair. Both of us, larger ladies weighing more than 350 pounds, have had our lumpy bodies transformed by wearing your costuming.

    I've never enjoyed Halloween as adults because I never felt comfortable enough to dress up. All of my friends get dressed up into these slinky sexy outfits, the naughty nurse or the slutty schoolgirl, and I'm left with the frumpy choices: Pooh Bear, the Pillsbury dough boy, or anything else that my fat ass will fit into. This year I have decided to actually dress up with my friends as a voluptuous little red riding hood. Also, before my mother died suddenly in April she had bought some fabric with sugar skulls on it because it reminded her of me; Michelle turn that fabric into a corset for me and I love it. It fits beautifully and gives me hope that I will learn to be comfortable in my own skin. Society isn't necessarily very accepting of a woman my size, but actually feeling like a woman instead of a round androgynous lump makes me feel better about being out in society.

    1. Oops that was me, not sure why it pops up as unknown

  10. I'm so glad you did! Love my corset, love watching all your fabulous products, and can't wait until I can get to another CON and try on more really fun stuff. So sad I won't be at ChiCON, but hope to see you somewhere else soon. Keep it up!

  11. I can't wait to see you at the Portland Pirate Festival, and I hope costume I ordered from you a couple weeks ago will be here in time for me to show it off live.

    If you are looking for other events to expand to, I'd highly recommend the Oregon Country Fair. It's stereotyped as a hippie festival, but to those of us who work to put it together, it's a few days up to a month's worth of whimsy, creativity, and community (I work security and get to be there for about a week, while the event itself is open to the public for three days). This site hasn't been updated for next summer's Fair yet, but the About OCF link as well as the others should give you some good information: http://www.oregoncountryfair.org/applications.php.

    Keep doing what you do so well!

  12. I was browsing your shop at the Scottish Festival in Payson this summer. I have thought for years about getting a corset (I realized after the fact that I've actually browsed your etsy shop several times), but I've never actually done it... I was touching one of the corsets and you said "can I lace you into something?" and I thought why not, let's try one on, that would be fun.
    Then you told me I was 5 sizes smaller than I thought I was (which shocked me), but when you laced me into the little thing it looked AWESOME. I don't think I looked that good on my wedding day. I texted a dozen people when I walked out of that tent that there was nothing like trying on a corset to give a lady a good body-image day. And of course I came back and bought one. :)
    I agree with you, wearing the corset feels awesome. I look fantastic and I feel sexy and feminine and beautiful. I say, go YOU! I'm so glad you're living this dream.

  13. I still can't get over the fact that you posted Our Freaking Picture!!!! That of all the people you meet, you remember us. That is *so* cool.

    I'm slowly gaining the courage to get some stuff together to sell thanks to you. I'm not there yet.... Thank you for everything :)

  14. I wander out here now and then-mostly just to drool over your wonderful clothing but also to read what you have to say. I don't know that I'll buy anything anytime soon, with 4 horses at home to feed money is scarce :D but I do enjoy your posts, comments and clothing.
    Keep up the fantastic work and wondermous attitude :D
    P.S. I too enjoy being voluptous :D

    Patty V.