Prior Attire Victorian Ball, Bath 06/05/2017

And what an amazing weekend it was! The ball was a huge success, and we all had a lovely time indeed. This was our 3rd ball in Bath Assembly room, and the most attended by far – 130 people, with … Continue reading

Romantic Ball, Kasteel d’Ursel, November 2016

Romantic era ( late 1820s and 30s) is a rather,  well, ‘interesting ‘ period, fashion wise.  Men’s garb is superb – nipped in waists, tailcoats, cravats, waistocats galore – very smart, very dashing. Women’s fashions are – a bit extreme. … Continue reading

Victorian seaside adventure!

Some things start unexpectedly…. last January I picked some lovely silk that just screamed Victorian Seaside Bustle frock… And so for the summer I put a few days aside to make it – and to nip somewhere on the coast for … Continue reading

Prior Attire Victorian Ball, Bath , 7th May 2016

  Well, I  thought our previous event at the venue was a blast – but  this year it was even better! After a year of preparations, marketing, meetings, sales, dealing with emergencies and unplanned changes, sewing and general organisational madness, … Continue reading

The Buttercup Ball and the 1895 evening gown

  A long overdue post on a rather splendid ball we attended in London, in December. The Buttercup Ball was organized by Stuart Marsden ( the dance master for our  Victorian ball  last year – and this year’s edition too!) … Continue reading

Georgian Adventures in Stamford 2015

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There is a Georgian Festival in Stamford every other year – and this year we were contracted for a couple of jobs there ( thanks to Black Knight Historical).

The festivities lasted 3 full days with lots of lectures, meetings, Georgian market  and  living history – but our adventure started on Friday night –  at the Georgian ball!

We arrived in plenty of time , and were led to a proper  theatre style dressing room – and it turned out we were sharing it with Dr. Lucy Worsley, who dropped in for a moment of respite between her  talks, book signing and other public duties. We have met before as worked for the Worsley/Starkey documentary in Hampton court the year before, so it wasn’t too awkward. Still,  not often do we get to share a dressing room with a celebrity – and I felt a bit overdressed on the occasion 🙂

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although, as you can see, we clearly had the same colour scheme  in mind 🙂

At the ball we danced, we chatted – and then provided some entertaining background during the buffet break as the folks were queuing for  some lovely food –  there was chatting, playing cards and some sketching  taking place….

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After the break ( and after eating rather a lot of left over cake) there was more dancing and frivolities – until it was time to drive back home….

Saturday was a day off,  and Sunday we were taking part in the fashion show, so with a day off in between, I decided to make myself a new outfit – just  because I have always wanted a jacket, and because i had the fabric for ages!

I made the skirt in a lovely quilted cotton, with a fringe, and   then worked the rest of the day on a 1790 pierrot jacket.

I quickly drafted the pattern and then fitted it – mock up first and then playing with the real thing, in silk and linen

IMG_2462Sunday morning saw the jacket finished – but i had a few hours left before we had to make a move. so time to make a new hat! a gigantic one! Not the best of my creations, admittedly, but it  did the job.

 

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Then it was packing the gear and setting off.

The fashion show went down a treat – there was a huge variety of costumes, from different decades and different walks of life, and the commentary was super as well…  a few behind the scenes shots..

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men looking splendid….

 

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I was modelling a 1790 redingote, and Eleanor was wearing her lovely francaise ( more on making it and more pictures  in the Georgian Ball post.

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Amy fro the Period Costume Shop in a stunning polonaise  ( love the fabric!), me in the redingote and Kelly in her anglaise!

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some unspeakable and unmentionable things happened too….

 After the show, I could change into my new bits and have a stroll around Stamford – and take a few pictures

But I was not exactly happy – I felt the wig did not work very well with the colours of the walking outfit. So when we got back home, I changed  wigs and we went on to snatch some autumnal pictures at the local Nature Reserve…. much  happier with these!

 

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we even had a go at some heavy machinery….

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all together, a cracking weekend  was had!

credits:

photography –  Lucas from Timelight Photographic

costuming – Prior Attire ( the  walking outfit is now available for sale – here)

shoes – American Duchess, naturellment!

The Gold Gown, market and a Regency Ball 2015

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 Last year we had a lovely time at out first Regency ball, part of the annual Jane Austen celebration in Bath (see post on that here). This year the dates were changed a bit, which meant that the Ball was on the first Saturday of the festival, and there was a market earlier on in the day too. So, two  birds with one stone – we could go and trade to earn our living in the day, and in the evening we could go and have a good dance at the ball!

 The usual dilemma ocurred – What to wear? I had my old evening gown, but it would be nice to make something new. As I had only 5 days to prepare regency dresses for sale, I decided to get the stock items sorted first and to work on my own frock if I had some time spare.

 I already knew what I would be using as an inspiration  – this gown from the Met museum

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 I already had some lovely gold semi-transparent silk in my stash, so all I needed to get was lace, decoration and the silk satin for the base of the dress. I didnt really like the pearl trim on the original, so decided on an alternative, but all of the components were ready and waiting, just in case I managed to make time for it!

 In the end I finished all the stock dresses on Friday moring – and we were to leave Friday night. I had about 8 hours. Well, you know that I do like challenges….

 One thing has to be said – working on the stock meant that whilst handstitching other frocks I had time to think about the gold gown construction even before I started to work on it. I must admit, it did take me some time – mostly because I simply couldn’t see how it closed! Yes, you can see the sheer overgown ties in front, but what about the satin gown?  You can zoom in quite a lot on the Met site so you can see clearly that there are no rows of buttons or ties at the back under the sheer, nothing at the side or front, no button closures, no bib closure, no tie closures… A mystery!

 I started  zooming in to maximum and checking every detail – and finally I found it! On the back, right of centre-back, you can just about see something on the satin layer that could be called a button and a loop, at the neck egde.

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I new that must be it – After thinking a little more, and analysing the cut I arrived at a very simple pattern idea – basically a sack with fitted neckline. I tried the idea on a mock-up first, making the top part of the gown in calic; it worked. I actually didn’t even need the button, the thing just slips ovehead and a simple tie does the rest.

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 So on the day I cut the gown in silk satin, sewed it, hemmed it, lined the bodice, etc – in other words it was ready for the overgown and the sleeves.

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Merlin was happy as for once he was allowed on the silk. normally it is off-limits but since it was my own stuff, I did not mind – and he did enjoy overseeing the work.

  That was the easy part…. the overgown was next – and whereas it is basically a loose robe, it took the most time due to all the finishing – cutting precise facings in flimsy sheer fabric is not my idea of fun! But the facings were cut, sewn, handstitched and metallic lace attached – then they were just awaiting the posh trim I wanted to use in place of the pearls.

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 Sleeves were next – and they were the most time-consuming…

 Cutting up the base and the satin layer first –

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 Then preparing the space for the gathering and placing the gathers in suitable places so that that they formed ‘pulling-outs’ –  just as in Tudor sleeves.

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Sleeve gathered on both sides

Once the gathers were positioned, I was able to add the overlay with the cut out holes and the gold metallic trim

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I was getting excited by this stage… All that now remained was getting the sleeves together, lining them, sewing into the armbands and then into the armhole, (both the satin and the  sheer layers of the dress).

And it was almost ready – just a little belt to add, made from the sheer (I tried to  attach it to pregathered sheer underneath like in the original, but after speding an hour I decided I didnt like it – so outside it went.  Only the posh trim remained, and that could be done before the ball next day.

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We packed up, drove to Bath (3 hours), checked into the hotel and collapsed…

Next day saw us setting up the stall at the market in the Guildhall – and we had 4 jolly hours of trading there…

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The stall, ready!

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Farthingale Hats stall. Yes, I did get a new hat….

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Amy’s (Costume Shop) stand where Lucas purcahsed his replacement hose; clocked, no less!

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I was sporting the redingote which I made last year – more on making that here. I still love it!

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Hair Story with their wonderfull wigs and hairpieces… And yes, I have commissioned some hair from them since…

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A dashing young fellow!

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The silhouette cutter was super popular!

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My Customers were sporting their Prior Attire bling – Janet picked up two new hats from me, and it was the first outing of the military style spencer… David’s finery was made a year ago – more on its making here.

After the market  we packed up the remaining goods, drove back to the hotel and collapsed (again). But we had a ball to go to! I was so tired, that honestly, if it hadnt been for the fact that there was food on offer I probably wouldnt have gone… But we knew Searcy’s would deliver a great meal (we were not disappointed as it turned out), so after a power nap I got my act together and sorted out the braid on the dress:-). Then it was time to get dressed…

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    do love my regency long stays, the are comfortable and provide anazing ahem, lift…. here shown with a petticoat

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    You can see here how the layers worked

    And so, off to the ball we went – armed with a big camera too!  We had an amazing time, despite being so tired (I danced every other dance to conserve my energy), and the meal was superb… pictures below!

    The gold dress first – I am rather happy with it – the design worked surprisingly well 🙂 Will probably sell it at some point,  as I simply cannot go to the ball next year in the same frock, can I ? 🙂

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    We snatched this one at the break as everybody rushed to grab some food…

    and more generic photos of the dancing  etc 🙂

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Loved the blue gown!

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Zack from Pinsent Tailoring, in the tightest breaches ever – check out his work, very good!

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I admit that we did leave ‘just’ before the ball ended – I was falling asleep! As it turned out, combining a working day with an evening of fun doesnt really work for me 😦

Still, we had a good night’s rest, a good brekkie and were on our way home  soon.  Once back home we decided to take the opportunity to photograph the remaining dresses  – they are now available in the shop – click  on the links to see the listing 🙂  I look tired but the gowns looked well, and that is enough for the shop 🙂

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A tiny bit too big, otherwse I think I would be keeping it to myself!

this is my favourite – super smooth cotton, with removable long sleeves:-)

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Undersleeves removed

We even made a short video about how to put on a regency brassiere: – enjoy!

Many thanks to PItcheresque Imagery for the photos!

Dear customer….

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This will be a little bit different from my usual posts, and possibly a little controversial, but I feel some things simply have to be said. Running a business has its ups and downs, pros and cons , its challenges and its rewards. I love running mine – and the only thing that sometimes makes me pause is the interaction with some of my potential clients. Usually online, sometimes at trading events. I feel I have been very lucky in general, and my customers at least 90% lovely people (I became friends with many of them), but over the years there have been enough of the less-than-perfect kind to make up that the 10%.

To be honest,  in most cases people simply behave in a particular way because they are oblivious to certain facts about the way of that life people in my line of work lead. They simply do not realize how rude they can sound – I believe if they did, they would be mortified! True, some people are dicks and nothing can change that,  but most of them are simply unaware that their behaviour can cause offence.

This is not simply my own opinion – quite a few folks  running small craft & art related businesses have experienced similar treatment, and probably for the same reason; I suppose that other small business may have been on the receiving end, too.

Below I am going to list the most common ‘faux pas‘  that I have personally come across. Usually small things, but small things do accumulate and can lead to a very negative client experience. And, hopefully, small things are also easy to amend. Some of the interactions mentioned my only be perceived as less than pleasant  from my personal perspective – as a very happy introvert I tend to  have a very specific perception I suppose – things that make me want to turn around and run away may make another costumer jump for joy, for example – but I think some of the  situations are relevant no matter what your personal traits may be.

So without further ado, this is my private list of ‘issues’ – and how they may be avoided!

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 Email/online interactions:

*Being polite matters!

Polite clients are a pleasure to deal with, and as a result I am willing to go the extra mile for them. I either offer a discount, or a free postage, or do additional high quality finishing work, just because they have been a joy to work with. If you are rude to start with, I am unlikely to accept your commission in the first place – despite what everybody seems to think, people in the creative industry rarely do sit around twiddling their thumbs, waiting for some work to miraculously happen to them, and are not therefore simply happy to accept anything from anyone – and so:

*Remember that written word can come across much more harshly than when spoken.

*I understand that nowadays formality tends to be often forgotten, but please when writing to me try to address me by my proper name, and not diminutives or ‘ huni’, ‘sweetie’ etc.  This is a personal pet hate – I understand that some people just use  endearments  automatically, but neither my family, my friends nor even my husband call me ‘sweetie’ . For a complete stranger, in a strictly professional situation, it is simply off-putting,  at least for me. My name is Izabela – please use it and we will all be happy.

*Please do not ask me to copy the work of another designer; Especially if you want it at a fraction of the original price, (more on the cost of bespoke, art items and pricing in the industry can be read about in the this post – A Queen on a Budget, please.) Also, do not  be offended if I cannot take your order because it is something that we do not make – in such cases I will attempt to provide links to other people who specialise in that area, (shoes, fantasy and fancy-dress costume, etc), I simply know my limits and if I decline to accept an order, it is for a good reason. We specialise in historically accurate clothing – if you need a fancy-dress Victorian costume with medieval sleeves and Regency silhouette, in lycra, we may not be the best choice – but we probably know people who can make it for you, so we will endeavour to provide you with an alternative solution if we can!

*Book well ahead – I tend to be booked up to 6 months or more in advance. Yes, I can sometimes have an emergency slot  available, but often I simply cannot provide you with a full Regency finery for ‘next week’ – it is nothing personal, there are simply not enough hours in the day for me to do the work – especially since those rare emergency slots are already digging into my personal time and rest.

9. planning - in the calendar and working out components and time necessary for an order

*Be prepared to sign a contract and don’t be offended when we ask for a deposit; It is simply a part of running a business in a proper and effective manner, and avoiding running at a loss. More on running a business here – and even more, especially on contracts, here.

*Do not be offended if I do not accept your friend request on Facebook. I may be old fashioned, but I keep my personal account  for family and friends – which means people I have met, interacted with, liked, and deal in person often. Having an item made does not make you a friend – yet. Over the time if we meet often enough and find we like each other that may change, (and often does), but since we are starting from a professional footing, simply keep in touch through my page until such a time comes when we may change the status quo.

*also – i do not offer a free advise/tuition/consultation service via fb or email. we do provide the service if needs be, but   it is a hourly paid job.  At the moment , if i was to answer every message/ email asking me for advice, opinion, etc   i would probably not have time to do plaything at all   – we get about 10-120 on avarage. Per day. so nothing personal, but i cannot help you unless you book us in advance for a specific thing, billable by the hour…

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Fittings/home visits.

Dear customer, when you are coming to me for a fitting, please remember that I work from home, not from a studio, and so work and life are intertwined here – this may not be so common for many in the industry, but that does cause a few awkward situations.  And so, please:

*Do tell me how many people are coming along – unless otherwise specified I expect only you. I need to know if there are more people as there are problems of space as well my personal issues. To me, the sudden invasion of 5 people when I was expecting 1 is just like a punch to the face. Suddenly instead of the controlled, serene environment  I am used to working in, the situation is changed into chaos, when everybody is everywhere, all talking very politely no doubt, but nevertheless very distracting. I do need to concentrate when I am fitting toiles, taking measurements and discussing designs with the client. Loud chatter, however amicable, is not helping.

*Ditto children –  my house is not at all child friendly – there are lots of sharp objects around, lots of antique stuff, lots of weaponry, and a pond, too –  so unless you can keep your offspring under control (which means another person to do so while you are busy working with me), preserving any Health and Safety rules will cetainly be tricky – in which case I would have to decline the commission.  Please let me know beforehand so that we can come up with appropriate solution to the situation.

*Do not ‘pop by’  without an appointment. Not only may I not be in, but I may be busy, either working on urgent stuff or working with another customer, (who may be in a state of dishabille), so I would have to turn you away from the door. Again, nothing personal, but it may feel like rejection, so please always ask when is a good time if you need to see me in person.

*Try not to be late.  I usually have 2, 3 appointments on any fitting day, usually, for efficiency’s sake, one after another. If you arrive late, it may impact on another appointment, so please call to let me know if you are running late. If you want me to put aside a whole day, or afternoon just for you, that is fine – but my time comes at a cost. You don’t pop round to your lawyer, doctor or dentist more or less at the time that suits you, so please extend me the same courtesy; working from home doesn’t mean that I am any less busy!

* don’t expect me to work on holidays/ weekends. I often do, and I do suggest weekends to my customers who cannot make it otherwise,  but please  remember, that  our line of work means we are usually  away at the weekend.  So if your contract says  that the fittings will take place, as agreed, in the beginning of a month, please make sure you are available. we can adapt – but all summer we are away weekends, working at events, so if you forget to book a day off it may be another month or more before we have a weekend at home!

*

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  • please understand that we  usually cannot come over to you for fittings. unless  previously agreed on and arranged it is smply not possible as i will need to carry my tools with me ( and believe me, tha machiness ar enot light) and there will be additional charge for travel cost and time used.

At markets

*I am always delighted when people who follow me on social media come to have a chat at the markets. However, please remember that  unless you comment/like/interact with the page, I will not know your name. And even if I do, I may not recognize you, if your profile picture features a fluffy kitten or happy puppy.  Please introduce yourself and then everything will be fine – I know who I am talking to and will try to remember for the future 🙂

*Also, the mere fact that you follow me on facebookPA/twitter, etc, does not make you eligible for a discount at the stall…. or in the online shop. Sorry…

* Please remember that at markets,  I am working. You may be visiting for your leisure or for business – though for majority of people the former is the case.  You may want to come and have a good time, chat and exchange experiences tips etc – it is all fine, but , as I said, I am at work and need to treat everybody the same – which generally leaves very little time for idle chatting, am afraid. There are a few relaxed moments but usually the markets we attend tend to be heaving with public, and we have little time for lunch, let alone relaxed talk. So however much I might love to do so, I need to earn my living and serve paying customers instead 😦

Talking of lunch – please, let the stall holders have their lunch in peace! Trying to answer your questions with a mouth full of bagel is not a nice experience for anyone! We usually have one of us or a helper to front the shop when one person is eating – but people still manage to dodge them and sneak in at the back of the stall to talk to the person who is currently enjoying their lunch.

Do not ask me to work for free.  Whatever tips and advice on costuming I can give I will, and a great deal of information is on the blog here anyway, but do not ask me to provide an ad hoc workshop/lecture for your benefit, for free. This happens quite a lot – a recent one was in Bath, during the market there; let me quote it for you..

-Two women were spending quite some time looking at the stays/corsets and other items, and by looking I mean taking off the hangers, turning upside down, inside out etc. After about 5 minutes of them discussing how the things go together (and meanwhile blocking access for other interested customers) I asked politely if there was anything I could help them with. The answer was:
Yeah, actually, we make stuff like that ourselves, for us and sometimes for sale, and we tried these styles before and they didn’t really work well, so we are just trying to work out the construction details – could you please explain to us how you put these together? Oh and these ones too? (at that point one of them took a notebook and a pencil out).
I looked at her and asked – ‘What do you do for a living madam?
‘Why, I teach the flute’.
‘Could you please explain to me how you play the flute? Could you teach me now, just the basics?
She looked at me, completely taken aback.
‘Why, well, I could, but I charge for my lessons!
My response? ‘So do I’….

She actually saw the point and was rather embarrassed, and apologized, but it sort of sums up the fact that a lot of people do not take what I do for a living seriously and assume it is ‘just ‘ a hobby – I suppose other people running craft or art based businesses are often faced by a similar situation.

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*Another point – you don’t generally go to let’s say, a baker, or a carpenter, have a look around, finger the goods, sneer and announce that you can do it better than they, and/or possibly cheaper. So please refrain from doing it to stallholders at the markets.  Even if you indeed, can make the items better and at a lesser cost. Just incredibly rude.

*please ask before touching the clothing. And make sure your children are under control – especially if they are eating at the time we did have a few mishaps involving children, dogs, icecream or a burger….

And finally, some interactions from the online shop.

To start with, let me quote some of the messages/emails directly

* am interested in the blue dress, but it is not my size, can you re-model it so that is 3 sizes bigger?
* am interested in the blue riding habit, I clicked on the link but it takes me to the shop based in the UK. Can you please post the link to your USA branch? Otherwise I would be unable to purchase as shipping and customs duty are expensive.
* am interested in the grey skirt, i clicked on the link to the shop but it gives price in pounds. Why is there no Euro? I don’t like working out the conversion rates myself.
* are the measurements American? How many centimeters in an inch?
* I like your corsets! I want one but in different colour, and in my size – can you make me one for this Saturday? Would the price be the same?
* I love the pink Victorian gown in silk, but is too expensive! I can spend max £150 on a thing like that, would you consider selling it for £150 (postage included), or making me a bespoke one for that price?
* the riding habits are lovely, but why are there only 2 available? and why not in a range of sizes, and colours?
* am interested in the medieval Burgundian gown, but can purchase it in July only – can you keep it for me? I am not saying I will buy it, just considering and would like to know it is still available in July.
* I want a bespoke one, when are you able to make me one? (my answer – am now booked till October) – whaaaatttt!!!! October??? this is ridiculous, I need one for June! how can you run a business like that! Can you not shift other people so that mine can be made first?

Well…

Here I feel  the very fact that  we have an online shop may be put to blame – people simply assume that we are a much bigger business than we are – and flattering as that may be, it often causes  awkward situations.

Also, people assume that our ideology is the same as that of big chain stores and find it difficult to understand that we do not carry a huge stock of the same items in a range of colours and sizes.  Our field is quite  narrow, and I like to think that I specialise in unique and individual items – so our  stock items, though usually in ‘generic’ sizes are still unique. I have no desire to create the same dress in 6 different sizes and 3 different colours – this would not only kills the joy of making an individual item to me, but poses a question of stock control, space, cost, etc. We are a small business, and I have no particular desire to grow into a huge one. Might happen – might not. At the moment I take pleasure in making items unique – even our stock corsets have individual touches that make them unique. Nowadays,  many people are motivated by finance alone – and whereas, as a business you have to be, to some extent, I am in the happy situation where I can make what I want to make and enjoy it – and I treasure the enjoyment coming from creating one specific item much higher than profits coming from mass producing shirts.

And as for being booked well ahead – well,  we often are booked for more than 6 months in advance. Asking me to move other clients around so that your stuff can be made earlier is not only disrespectful to me but to other clients as well – imagine that it is the the other folks who are asking me to shift you around…. just not professional. And it doesn’t mater if you are a Russian princess,  a celebrity, local theater, or an individual  – once the contract is signed,  your order is treated in exactly the same way as everybody else’s.  Full equality.

 

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Well, that’s about it, I think – a bit of a rant, maybe, but as I have said, a lot of the problems stems from misunderstanding of the industry, and not malice. I do not wish to offend anyone and I think there are few people who go out of their way to offend others, especially if they want to develop a professional relationship, so I think maybe this post help both parts to understand each other a bit better.

And if you run a home/craft based business and you have experiences similar situations, or have something to add – please comment!

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