Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jumping the Broom

This past Saturday was Tonia and Shawn's wedding - it was lovely! The wedding was held outside in a wooded area just a few steps from a pond teaming with ducks and swans. I admit that I was worried - well, we ladies of the wedding party were all worried - as we were waiting at the side of the party house for the queue to begin the wedding march, it became quickly over-cast and a few sprinkles were felt (nothing came of it, thank heaven). The occasion was a small affair of about fifty friends and family. The groom's mother put together a scrumptious spread of finger foods, and my sister-in-law Whitney (who is a pastry chef in Columbus) created the beautiful cake (I think Whitney bewitched the butter cream icing - it was freaking divine). And can you believe it, the bride and groom did not smash the cake in each other's faces! 

Like the other gowns I constructed, I made my gown simple - as I always say, if you have a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time, go with what you know rather than with what you do not. It's not prudent to dive into something complicated - so, I kept it very simple. For my gown, I constructed the shift from a heavy blue bridal satin; the bodice from a royal blue velvet trimmed in black braiding and silver lace; and the over-skirt (which is attached to the bodice) is a blue sparkle organza. As you can see, where Elma's gown (pictured with me in the cinnamon-colored gown) laces up the front, mine laces up the back. While this style of bodice and gown is very basic, I cannot say enough for its comfort - if your going to be laced in anything for several hours, this would be the gown to be laced in! (For construction pictures, see The Dressmaker's Album)

Now, going back to Whitney's butter cream icing (oh, my goodness!), I now know why my brother can sit and eat a whole tub of it with nothing but the hands God gave him - scoop and shovel in! It's a good thing Whit lives eighty miles away - I'd be forced to make "special visits" on a regular basis. My butt, hips, and heart would certainly protest, but my lips, taste buds, tummy, and the pleasure center of my brain would beat the others into submission. I decided long ago that Whitney's my go-to cake and pastry chick for ever and ever, and since it's asking for a diabetic coma (or triple bypass surgery) to eat a five-pound tub of butter cream icing in one setting (hope you have good insurance, brother), I'll spread out the buttery love between occasions - it's a good compromise - at least my butt, hips, and heart think so! lol! 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Medieval Mayhem on the Horizon

Eleven days until Tonia and Shawn's wedding and I still have a little work to go on two costumes, one of them being mine. I did a fair amount of work on my gown over the weekend, most of my time being spent hand sewing gobs of trim on the bodice. I still have to sew up the back of the skirt on the gown, serge the hem, add grommets (or D-rings, or some form of closure) and silver lace to the bodice back, and then the gown will be complete. Will I ever not be in a rush to finish a sewing project? I think not! lol!

Rosie's gown is complete, thank heaven, except for a couple slips of boning in the front of her bodice, a few gold grommets, and gold lacing to finish it up. Tonia posted a picture of Annie-kins (my other fabu niece) in her very lime green gown (in contrast to Rosie's lavender), and wow, the bride better watch out - our two little Tinker Bell faeries may end up stealing the show! lol! They are going to be so adorable as the flower girls - I cannot wait to see them together!

More progress pictures to come - and Halloweenie is right around the corner, too!  Yikes! lol!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

There's a Weddin' In 17 Days!

Oh, it's the big countdown to Tonia's wedding, and we are feeling the heat! Last night, T emailed me and told me she still had several things on her wedding sewing list to complete, mainly her gown and her fiancé's medieval-style shirt to compliment his kilt. This does not include some minor touches left on Annie's flower girl dress (my other really cute niece), decorating the club house, finalizing everything on the cake, and Lord knows everything else on the list she sent me, which I cannot quite recall (I think my brain filtered most of it out for sanity's sake - lol)!

This past Sunday I finished Rosie's flower girl dress, except for the grommets in the bodice, and I began to work on my gown the night before with little success - I was far too tired by the end of the day to get anything really done. I had very good intentions yesterday to work on it, but by the time I walked in the house, it was very late - so phooh! the evening was gone! 

However, a couple month's ago I was wise enough (or not so busy, I should say) to complete two of the guests' gowns early while I had the time. The gown above is my sister's, and it was designed with Tonia and Shawn's autumn wedding theme in mind. The bell-sleeve shift is constructed of a heavy antique gold bridal satin; the bodice, a crushed forest green velvet trimmed in a brushed gold and burgundy braid; and the attached over-skirt to the bodice is made of an iridescent olive/gold/burgundy organza - the picture does not do the gown justice (especially the organza) - it certainly has a WOW! factor. 

The gown below is made for Marie, my 17-year old, who really liked McCall's pattern 4997. The bishop-sleeve shift is made of a heavy lavender bridal satin; the over-gown is made of a crushed black velvet trimmed in silver metallic braid. The black, lavender, and silver colors look beautiful together; and indeed, the wearer of this little gem (that being my Maria) will make it more beautiful, still! 

Granted, these gowns are more costume than historical clothing, but who cares - everyone is going to look beautiful with a distinctly Camelot flavor, and we all are so excited about it, even if we are half crazy over details and tying-up loose ends right now. I will post progression pictures of my gown and Rosie's finished flower girl dress very soon. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It's Not Always About Bad Customer Service...

...sometimes it's about bad customers. 

Granted, there are companies that excel at terrible customer service, especially those companies who have a monopoly on a necessary product or service consumed on a mass scale (i.e. fuel, power, and telecommunication products); therefore, the consumer is very often forced to reconcile bad customer service in exchange for a necessary commodity. It's not so easy to boycott a fuel, power, or telecom conglomerate over shoddy service or unethical practices when many of these Goliaths own the lion's share of varying markets. The fact is, unless I want read by candlelight, it's best I resign myself to paying the electric bill despite the inept service of my local power company. 

But the retail market is another story. If we don't like Walmart, we don't shop there; and here, within the multi-billion dollar retail business sector, we often find our customer service experiences to be a bit more friendly and helpful than those we might experience from the commodities companies - and it's not necessarily because commercial markets value our patronage more than Time-Warner, BP, or Shell Oil. Retail giants like Walmart, Target, IKEA, and Staples, have made it tragically easy for the American consumer to refund or exchange almost any purchased item, despite the reason for the item's return, because their products are substandard and inexpensive to produce. We consumers, to the determent of our consumer savvy and purchasing responsibility, have come to sacrifice quality for cheap abundance, and we have come to apply these awful retail consumer standards on nearly everything we purchase. For those of us in the specialty retail market, like custom tailoring, this growing American consumer mindset has become our nightmare.

What brings this up, you ask? The other evening, I happen to be reading The American Duchess' blog when I ran across an intriguing entry she had posted on September 10, 2010, entitled "The Problem With Sewing for Other People" - naturally I was curious because we share the same professional trade. Oh my goodness did she ever hit it on the head! As my tailoring compatriot so poignantly stated:
"Sewing is perhaps a lost craft, and in today's world of ready-made, machine-perfected clothing from an overseas factory, it's difficult for people to understand that a custom made, hand-made, historical garment is not an easy, or normal thing to make."
Indeed, my dear Duchess! Far too often in own my tailoring adventures (especially as a seasoned merchant at our local Renaissance festival) I have heard window shoppers complain of the expense of my (and other merchant's) handmade goods. We tailors and crafters call these types of customers Big Box Shoppers because these people have absolutely no purchasing scruples when it comes to discerning the quality and uniqueness of a handmade product in correlation to price and construction time. Their comments are harmless and mostly silly, of course, and they are rarely paid any mind.

It is on the rare occasion when we specialty retailers experience a bad customer, and when we do, they are the worst kinds of people. I can handle the talkative, I enjoy the inquisitive, I can understand the indecisive, and I even appreciate the potential customer who has difficulty parting with his or her money (if only most of us were so prudent!), but I will not tolerate the hypercritical, the demanding, the intrusive, or the belligerent costumer. Because I am creating for a client a unique, handmade garment, one that has likely cost him or her a considerable expense, this does not give that person license to abuse me - they need to check their unrealistic expectations and behavior at the counter or else I will fire them as my client. Simply put, a client's patronage does not supersede my dignity. As the Duchess reminds us all, "[c]lothes are not made overnight, and hand-made clothes, even with the aid of a machine, take weeks, even months depending" - this bit of knowledge can be said for most handmade goods. If a potential customer wants off-the-rack, Walmart quality at Walmart prices, then I cannot help them and I refer them elsewhere.

Indeed, there are people, although very few, who are never satisfied, and whose patronage we specialty retailers can do without, as the American Duchess has attested to in  her blog entry "The Problem With Sewing for Other People". However, to the significant majority of the specialty retailer's unique customer base (in my case, those patrons who have made my tailoring experiences a joyful challenge), I would like to say Thank You & Please, Come Again...