Tuesday, November 17, 2015

OFFICIAL Grab Bag Rules for 2015!!!

It seems like this is such a big and popular thing for my company that I shouldn't even have to explain it, but I always forget how many new corset fans we get every year! 

Here's the basics. We lovingly sew and craft high quality corsets, skirts, blouses, and accessories, and at the end of the year, we need to "clean house" of pieces that fall under certain parameters. To qualify, a piece must *Be a limited edition or one of a kind   *be made out of discontinued fabric  *sewn in a discontinued pattern *possibly be slightly flawed or "as-is"  *a size that hasn't been able to sell at my booth, and so we only have one or two left. 

Because it takes hours and hours to photograph, list, and inventory these pieces, we cut out the whole middle part and just put them into boxes which you can purchase on Black Friday (and Saturday) and you get in on handmade items at 20-90% (no joke) OFF of their normal price!! 

You don't see pictures of the items, and don't know what colors or certain designs you're getting, BUT you DO KNOW the SIZE and whether or not the corset will be OVERBUST or UNDERBUST. Here are the details and prices for this year. Please note that the S&H is about $10-$20 (for the higher boxes) because I literally have 8 people packaging and sorting for this event for 3 solid weeks, full time. It costs me a whole lotta money.

Level 1 Underbust Grab Bag: $50
Includes one underbust corset in the size stated in the title. 

Level 1 Overbust Grab Bag: $75
Includes one overbust Corset in the size stated in the title. 
Level 2 Underbust Grab Bag: $100
Includes one underbust corset in the size stated, plus one other item. Total of 2 items. 

Level 2 Overbust Grab Bag: $125
Includes one overbust corset in size stated, plus one other item. Total of 2 items. 

Level 3 Underbust Grab Bag: $150
Includes one underbust corset in size stated, plus 2 other items, for a total of 3 items. 

Level 3 Overbust Grab Bag: $200
Includes one overbust corset in size stated, plus 2 other items, for a total of 3 items. 

Level 4 Underbust Grab Bag: $250
Includes one of our Premium corsets with coat tails OR a huge peplum ruffle. 3 extra items are included, for a total of 4 items. 

Level 4 Overbust Grab Bag: $300
Includes one of our overbust pirate coats OR peplum pieces OR cropped tailed overbust pieces plus matching under corset (for a complete overbust look and structure). 3 extra items included, for a total of 4 items. 


Here are some extra things that are crucial to read, and I will try to space them out into bite size chunks.  
*Click to enlarge

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Damsel Holiday Time! Special Promotions Available!

      I truly hope that this is one of my ideas that goes as well as it seems in my head, and that people can appreciate where my  heart is and where I'm coming from. Here goes....

     The other day, I was thinking about a necklace I needed, and I had remembered that one of my customers sent me a GORGEOUS one that was exactly what I wanted, except that this time I wanted it in different hues. I couldn't remember which marvelously generous and beautiful woman sent it, so I put a post on facebook, and not only did I have my answer, but I had a pile of other suggestions and links to etsy shops. What I saw was so glorious that my heart just swelled with pride at how many talented artists there are out there, and it got me thinking.......

    There are some great "Damsel" groups on facebook, but we still don't all KNOW the different shops and talents that are in this amazingly large and fascinating customer pool. I would love to have just a nice tidy LIST of shops and places where I could buy wares that are made by the very same people that support ME and MY COMPANY! I was thinking that it would be REALLY SWELL if all who are interested might want to put a nice little coupon of shop advert into my GRAB BAGS FOR THIS YEAR!

     So, not only would you get this amazing bag, (I am packing them up, and I'm already excited on your behalf.) BUT a neat pile of goodies (I am thinking bookmarks.....little look books, if your company does them.....anything you feel that you could do in this limited amount of time!) and the idea is that this EXTRA bag would be like the swag bags you get at really good conventions. My favorite swag in one of my con-bags was free tea samples, free little eyeshadow samples from a makeup company, and beautiful bookmarks for authors there.

     Thus, to make things clear:
*If you have a company that makes things that you think would be awesome for our customers (yes, it has to be hand-made. Sorry, friends.), I want tons of people to know about your fine wares.

*Think of this as a little "Renaissance Faire in a Bag". You send me a lovely little JPEG image of your wares, preferably with a coupon code for everyone, if you can afford it.  (send to seamstress@damseldress.com OR you can send physical items to Damsel in this Dress, 1452 W Meadow Ln, Mapleton, UT 84664)

*I need to have all images, physical goodies, and goodness in my hands by November 20th. I know I didn't give you a lot of time. I have ideas quickly! 

*You get free promotion to several hundred REALLY good quality fans, and we spread the love to everyone.

*My customers will hopefully feel more of a connection to each other, as they learn about other quality women and businesses and spread the word and referral love.  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Big Announcements! Seriously.


Phew! Okay, I will endeavor to be brief here, as I'm frantically trying to get ready for our next 5 weekends of shows (2 overlapping.....links to events below!). I just know that lots of you are very anxious about our Grab Bag Event coming up in November, and since we actually did the bags every single week last year, lots of you might be waiting, biting your nails, with your fingers hovering over the S-O-L-D keys. You needn't worry!We have cut the event down to only 2 DAYS (Black Friday, November 27th, and Saturday the 28th)!!!  This should help with the panic and mass hysteria, and honestly, I HAD to cut down the time since I'll be traveling the whole first part of November, and couldn't send out packages if I had do!  This also means that there will be NO other Hourglass Events in November except for the Black Friday Sale; so No-Sale November?

I will be giving MORE details as to the contents and what to expect, but everything should be PRETTY similar to last year's event. The biggest change that we're making is one that I'm really excited about, and that is-
FROM HERE ON OUT, you only get 30 minutes in which to pay your invoices for Hourglass Events!!!   
The items themselves will still be available for commenting "Sold" for 12 hours, but unless you pay your invoice within 30 minutes of receiving it in your email inbox, you will lose the  item, and it will quickly go onto the next person. Why haven't done this the whole dang time? Honestly, I don't know. It's so much better for the customer that I feel dang embarrassed that I didn't change it before. You ladies will QUICKLY know whether your get your items, rather than waiting a whole dang 12 hours, and then possibly missing the email in the wait. ARg! I know!

And last, but not least, in the way of letting you gals know what to expect for the future- We will only be hosting Hourglass Events ONCE A MONTH, ON THE FIRST THURSDAY OF EACH MONTH for 2016. I realized that the really neat thing about women being able to come into our booths at festivals is that they have tons of different options, size, and accessories and skirts to choose from. I want to BRING that "festival" feel into the Hourglass Events, hopefully with more videos of the actual products and the way they move and match, and a more "personal shopper" feeling that I want to give to you all. I'm extremely excited about the changes, and I promise, they have been made by real live feedback, comments and emails, and lots of thought and prayer (yes, I pray to God all the time about my business, as well as praying for my customers!)

As always, thank you tremendously for all your support, love, and loyalty over the years. Our customers give the life, depth, and true quality to our products. Without you guys, they're just some fabric and metal. ;) 
Links to Our Shows and Festivals in November:
First up Comikaze from October 30th - November 1st:  http://comikazeexpo.com/
Overlapping this is the Escondido Renaissance Fair on October 31st - November 1st and November 7th - November 8th:  http://goldcoastfestivals.com/escondido-home.html
And Finally, The Nottingham Festival on November 7th and 8th and November 14th and 15th:  http://nottinghamfestival.com/

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Rewind Renaissance Maiden

I thought it would be interesting to share some of the older photos from my company here on the blog. Our company has grown a lot, I have grown a lot, and life has blessed me beyond what I thought was possible. 
Wow, this is one of the first style of bodices that we ever started making. Holy night. 
This is an OLD picture of my sister in law, Jill, Me, and my sister Emma. I feel old. 

This is one of my favorite old pictures of me. No wonder the men were hanging all over me. ;) 

The gals in this picture will love this! Look how....DIFFERENT we all are today, compared to this picture! Wow...

Friday, September 4, 2015

S.Q.U.I.D. Day!

       Today is a special day for my company, but also an uncomfortable one. Let me come straight out of the gate by saying that I don't like to be criticized. I am just like every other human being. When you tell me all of the ways that I've failed, I'm not going to immediately thank you sweetly and earnestly for "helping" me to not be a failure. My "fight or flight" mechanism will get fired up.  I'll get defensive and come up with reasons for why I am NOT a failure, and why things proceeded the way they did.  However, as we all know, that is not helpful.

       I worry also that we live in a time where, socially, "constructive" criticism has died. We're all painfully aware of the rampant cruelty that goes on in social media, forums, blog comments, and even freaking amazon reviews (I just read one the other day where a lady ripped another lady a new hole over a makeup SPONGE!).  We've all most likely been on both ends, whether we would like to admit it or not. If you've ever argued with someone or tried to get them to see how you're right and they're wrong...you've been on both ends, my friend.

          But, holy night, where is the proper place for HELPING people to grow, and being honest with them about issues that have arisen? Even though I don't like to ever get an email with a problem in our company, usually, after a few days, I realize how absolutely valuable those emails are!!  If we never ever had anyone be honest with us about issues that they've had, my company probably would have died years ago.

       Which brings me to go the goal for today. As I grow my company to slightly larger than just me and my husband, there are inevitable things we have to face.  Every company in the whole history of history goes through something like this, and NO ONE is immune.  To think that you wouldn't suffer communication issues, quality challenges, and frustrated customers would be like to imagine that you could marry another person and never have a single fight, never be annoyed with their words and actions, and always snuggle and love them no matter what! *gling*  Cough. Today, we are bringing up issues, feelings, criticism, and discomfort.  Hopefully, we will also get to the part where I tell everyone how awesome they are and how amazing their attitudes are and how much I appreciate all of them!

         All the same, I'm still so flabbergasted when there IS any issues. I think, "What the crap, I've been doing this for 11 years! I should be perfect!"  Then comes the guilt..the shame....the beating up of myself...the putting the angry customer email on a CONSTANT loop in my head that plays over and over and over and over and over and no wonder I like cake so much.  Alas.....either way, today is about me and my team talking with candor, love, and appreciation. We're going to start at the beginning of the corset making progress, and go all the way to the end, with all of us together, watching the process, and I'm going to address EVERY customer complaint that I can THINK of for the last 11 years of being in business.
         Am I freaking out? yes. I feel like I'm back in high-school, being bullied and having completely inappropriate things said to me, and then feeling all of those feelings......however, I'm ADDRESSING these feelings head-on, instead of channeling my frustration and insecurity into....let's say...online comments on youtube. yeah.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Turnstyle Corset...as in, the style "turned" out completely different.

“Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.” 
― Ed CatmullCreativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

     I started out this post with the quote by Ed Catmull for a reason.  It's because I'm am engaged in a tumultuous battle with my unruly, snarling thoughts about my company and my success lately.  When I started this company, my main goals were simply to create a corset that was long enough that I could wear it to Renaissance Festivals without having "muffin bottom" out of the corset (the opposite of muffin-top).  It grew and morphed into a crazy passion where I truly do eat, sleep, breathe corsets. Do I want to change the world with corsets? Yeah. Obviously. Do I want to change the way women see their own bodies? Hecks yeah! That's not a hard thing to tackle, right? Do I want to reach new heights of quality as I grow and expand? You betcha. Do I want to be perfect and make everything exactly right to fit every single body without fail and never make mistakes ever in the whole entire world for one single even little bitty moment? SOOOOO much. 

      This is my ideal. I make crazy beautiful corsets. They sell to crazy beautiful women. I make crazy beautiful money. Everyone is happy and holds hands and skips and shimmies to Taylor Swift songs. Woot!  Reality can be..uh....different. I'm woefully, horrendously, human. I get offended by the SMALLEST of things  (e.g. I post a new corset made out of a fabric that made my thighs squeeze together with glee when I beheld it. I post it on facebook. The first comment is, "Wow, this is nice. If only you would have made it in a solid forest green."  I'm not smart enough to say to myself, "Oh, this is awesome, people love my creations and want them in all the color!"  I think, "Holy crap, I should just stop living. I will slink away and go and hold road-signs for a living, where hopefully I can't mess things up and ruin people's lives with my corsets. I fail everyone. Everyone thinks that I should just give up now. It's clear." ) 

      Then, there's my creative brain which NEVER stops and never quiets. I keep telling myself, "No, Michelle, you've got to make things that people actually like.  No odd, cephalopod shaped corsets draped in fishnet complete with little stuffed fish. No "Narwhal Inspired Corset Collections!"  Women just want beautiful, functional corsets that can do a variety of things and make them feel like rock stars!"   However, the CREATIVE brain EXTRUDES  ideas such as the one at the top of this post. I actually made the original "vision" corset with the scalloped neckline from start to finish, and I cannot find the dang thing anywhere in my shop! I wanted REAL pictures of the corset to show you, but I just had to draw it in the end.  Let's just say....it was sooo badly bad. The scalloped edge just did not lay right with my fabric, and ended up looking like blobby little arrows pointing to the nipples. I mean, if you're into that, then that's fine, but it didn't look good when I tried it on my own body, and it looked grotesque on the mannequin.   Plus, I have a LOT of faith in my abilities, and so I had my husband cut whole size runs (this is about 10 sizes that we carry standard) in THREE different colors. I just sat there and looked at this pile of cut, and unsewn putrescence. *sigh*  You can imagine I beat myself up heartily.  DAMMIT, I should have just stayed safe. I should have just made things that I knew would work instead of letting my creative brain drive the crazy train. 
        Then again, I cut off the scallops, draped and shaped a large fold-over collar, and I LOVED the end result. (above)   And therein lies the question. When do you let your creative brain pump out ideas, and when do you "play it safe"?  Lots of movies, books, art, poetry and music isn't even APPRECIATED in the artist's LIFETIME! There is tons of art that is made, not understood, and the artist dies, having never made a cent from the art.....then lo and behold, it is discovered, immortalized, worshiped, used to inspire millions, and truly makes a difference in the world. 

        It's just such a complex thing. "New and Edgy" sometimes doesn't pay the bills and isn't even admired. You can't run a company on it. Companies need to understand their customer and THEIR needs, not exist to just fill their own odd endeavors.  Then again, we all know companies that have gotten left behind, "stuck in a time period", outdated, and haven't changed a thing in years.  I knew this wonderful crusty little old white-haired man who looked like Santa Claus after Weight Watchers, and he ran a "Piratical Goods" booth at Renaissance festivals for what seemed like eons. A fellow vendor friend said that they were talking to him one day while he was in a particularly foul mood, and he exclaimed, "I just don't get it! I've been making and bringing the same stuff for 20 years, and it's always worked just fine, BUT SUDDENLY, no one is buying!!"   To people on the outside, we're like, "Seriously, bro? 20 years? It's a wonder it's worked this long! Do something new!"  Yet, the artist, who is so close to his art and passion, often cannot even begin to glimpse the folly. 

         So, failure. How have YOU felt like you failed, and have YOU been able to see yourself and your actions in a new light? How do you feel about possible future failures? Paralyzed, unable to take an incorrect step? Energized, knowing that the "quickest way to success is to double your rate of failure!"? 

        Phew, heavy stuff here. If you feel so inclined, drop me a line on facebook or at seamstress@damseldress.com and tell me about how you move your brain through fear, into creation, and finally into "success".  ;)  I'm always interested. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Magazines and Crying

I thought this was a nifty tool on www.fotor.com You can put your own pictures into pre-set magazine covers and look all glamorous. The only thing is I couldn't figure out what a magazine about me would be like.  Um...cake and corsets? 
      When I was 13 years old, I had one of those "coming of age", "crying bitterly for loss of childhood" moments, and it all started with a dang magazine. My older brother had decided to take all of the younger kids in my family to the swimming pool on a sweltering hot afternoon in July. It was Tuesday night, and the pool had a "family night" thing where you could get your whole family in for $2. Being poor, and wanting more "bang for our buck", we regularly pulled into the entrance gleefully driving our 13 passenger van filled with my parents and the 8 of us kids. This evening, it was only 7 of us, minus the parents, and my brother stopped at Wal-Mart to get some drinks before the "Family Night" time opened up.

     I had been working hard that summer at a blueberry farm, picking buckets of gorgeous, dark clusters of purple-blue-berries and getting paid $3.25 per bucket. I think I've told you all this, but I was the fastest picker they had ever had, and STILL to this day, I hold the record for being able to pick more buckets per hour than anyone who has ever worked there, adult OR child. The buckets are gallon buckets, and you have to fill them to a certain line to make sure you get enough to get paid! Most adults average about 1 gallon per hour. I was picking 3 per hour most days, even at the age of 13. I had a little walkman cassette tape player, and I would make my own mixes of songs off of the radio to  keep me going fast. I remember distinctly a tape where I had lots of Backstreet Boys and Alanis Morrisette!  Ah, those were the days.

     Since I had my own money, and my parents weren't with me to judge my purchases, I went over to the magazine racks! There, in all of their shiny glory was all of the teenager magazines telling me how to be cool!  Glory be!!! I picked out an issue of YM (Young and Modern) and took it up the cash register, subtly trying to hide it from my siblings, as I was afraid of them making fun of me for wanting "tips on how to get a better tan" and "7 ways to make boys go crazy for you".
    The  issue above wasn't the one I had (I scoured the internet and couldn't find the dang thing) but it is close enough. Honestly, an issue with Gwen Stefani would have been better than the one I got, because at least she is genuinely cool. Anyhow, I can remember a lot of what was in the magazine. It was full of the normal ads, aimed at teenagers, and QUIZZES to help me figure out who I was, and TIPS on how to make boys like me, and BEAUTY SECRETS so that I could be beautiful. After swimming, I went home, sneaked  it up to my room, and just DEVOURED IT! I literally remember my heart beating faster as I turned each page, because I was so excited to learn how to be cool. I imagined myself at school, makeup perfect, clothing spot-on, flirting with boys and having no zits! Magic!

    That is..until my mom came up the stairs to tell us to come down and clean the kitchen. She saw the magazine before I could hide it. I KNEW she didn't like those "fluffy" magazines, and I was terrified she would take away my beauty secrets! I knew she thought that I was too young to be thinking seriously about boys and that I should just try and be friends with them, without trying to have serious relationships. Come ON, mom! Geez! ;)

    She asked me if she could look at the magazine, and I handed it over. She actually took it downstairs and read through the whole thing. I sat up in my room, tense with anticipation.  A little while later, she came back up and set the magazine down on my bed.  She said something to the effect of, "Michelle, I know that it's important for you to be unique and kind and courageous. If anything in this magazine makes you feel good about who you are, or if it inspires you to be TRULY the kind of woman you want to grow into, then leave it in the magazine. However, if there is anything that tells you that you are not acceptable, or that you have to follow what other people are doing, or if you have to do something that you normally wouldn't do, I want you to tear out that page. In the end, you'll have a magazine that is right for you." 

     Holy crap, I got to make the decision myself?  Heck yes!  I got right to work after she left.  And DAMMIT, she was right, as always. I looked at each page and really tried to look inside myself. Did this make me feel acceptable? Did this encourage me to be kind to others? Was any of this behavior true to me? I remember specifically the page about how to get a more sexy tan, and I looked down at my pale legs that I KNEW only burned and blistered when I tried to tan.What was I DOING?  I started bawling my eyes out and ripping out the pages. One by one, they got torn out, wadded up, and thrown into the trash. 

     "How to tell if he's lying to you?"  Trash. "Super Cute Fall Fashion." Trash (It was all clothing that was wrong for my bosomy, hourglassy body.)  In the end, I was left with about 4 pages. Granted, I may have gone overboard in my hormonal teenage angst brain, but there you have it. 
      I still struggle with this as an adult. I look at the glossy magazines, glamorous media images, pinterest pages, and instagram feeds.  It's MORE prevalent than it was when I was a teenager. I still want VERY BADLY to be cool, popular, gorgeous, thin, clever, and fashionable.  Yet, my mind goes back to this story from my life constantly. Back then I had to rely on my Mom's wisdom and courage, as she helped me to be the person I wanted to be. Now, it's me, every dang day. What is important to ME? Do I REALLY want to BE the person that these things are telling me to be? Does that person think of others? Is that person kind and compassionate?  Is that person HAPPY? 

      I have to constantly remind myself that if we were truly ALL the image that the world wants us to be, then the belligerent, hell-raising non-conformists like myself would turn it right around and then it would be desirable to be NOT perfectly thin with ginormous breasts and NOT perfectly dressed with a "perfect life".  It's all about "wanting something we can't have" anyhow. I truly think that lots of Big Brand companies think that they have to make us feel bad and inadequate to sell us things. After all, if we feel good about ourselves for one second, we won't have to buy something to "patch ourselves up." 

        I truly hope that the message that my company sends out is that we want to shower our current bodies with praise, gratitude, and a little corseting. We proud of where we've come to, and we're excited for where we are going!   My favorite part of my job is meeting all of the VASTLY different brands of women that all wear corsets. It just makes me giddy. I genuinely think all of my customers are so beautiful. Their varying personalities, voices, styles, laughs, senses of humor.....I just love all of them. 

      I realize this meandered a little bit, but I just want to convey to you a message of joy in the magnificence of who you are. We live in such a rough world that I need these kind of messages every single day. It's not enough to read some little chipper meme and then to go onto my day feeling  like a rock star. I have to constantly shove it down my mental maw. I would like to say that I'm  happy to report that I discontinued ever reading any "ladies magazines" again. I'm not saying that everyone should do this, but I know that for my own brain, I would get magazines like Vogue, and I think that on a subconscious level, I was constantly getting the message of "You HAVE to be thinner and more fashionable to be successful."  We cannot possibly calculate what the lower layers of our brain are picking up, but suffice it to say, we have all jacked ourselves up a bit. 

     So, what does your OWN magazine cover look like? What would your magazine be about? What is important to you? What message do you want to send out to the world?