Monday, October 19, 2015

Pricing shit is hard...

For those of you who would rather watch a video than read, here's a video.

This post, and the video, comes about because of a few different conversations that I have had with people over the past few months. One is, "why is your stuff so much more expensive" or more accurately "you charge how much?!?" and two, "what do you think I should sell (insert product) for?"

We can answer both conversations with the same blog (or video if you have now stopped reading and gone off to youtube). There is a method to how I price my items. It's something that has taken me a few years to hone in on, but this is what works for me.

Now there are some standard methods, like materials x 2 or materials x 3. I've also seen: materials + labor = cost x 2 = whole sale x 2= retail. Let me tell you, if I did that, my corsets would retail for $500 for the cheap ones. These methods did give me a place to start, but to get into my final groove, there is a little more math involved.

To start, I like to build a spreadsheet in Excel. You can do this by hand, or with any other program, I just find an Excel spreadsheet to be the easiest. 

Now we have to figure expenses. Materials are pretty easy to sort out. I use a column for each material and put in the cost. Example I have a column for fabric type, next would be "price per yard" followed by "yardage used" and then "total fabric cost." I break down each material this way until I have all of my materials. Then total material. 

Next section is labor. This is the amount that you will pay yourself when each item is sold. (material funds go back to restock those materials). Price your labor at a fair rate. You wouldn't work for some one else for less than min wage, don't work for yourself for less. For most art types, $11.50-$15/hour is the going rate. So in this section you will have "labor $", "labor time", and "labor total"

So now we have our material cost and our labor cost, and you can stop here, but if you want to build your business, you need to also add in profit. There are several ways to do this, but I start at 1.5 x (material cost + labor cost). From there I can decide if I need to charge more or less. 

Let's put that math to work. Let's say we've done all of the math and our item costs $5 in materials and takes us 1 hour to make. For this example we are going to use $11.50 as our labor rate. Just in materials and labor we are at $16.50. Now multiply that by 1.5 and we have $24.75. Now we will look at our item and decide if we think that is too much, or too little and adjust accordingly. When our item is sold, we use $5 to restock, $11.50 goes in our pocket, and $8.25 is used to build the business. This could me doing other art shows, paying for advertising, buying different materials, etc. 

Short hand: restock materials + pay yourself + build the business = sell price

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Inside the Mind of Adult Dress-up

Sugar Plum, Ginger LeSnapps, and Sassy Frass as The Sanderson Sisters.
Costumes by Mlady's Coutorier

Yesterday I had a different friend help me at an event. This was her first time with me out in my world. A couple of hours in, she commented that I really knew how to "work the people" and get them interested. I told her, "I really don't. It's all The Sewing Wench."
You see, as my friends will tell you, I'm naturally a very shy person. Almost afraid of my own shadow shy. My mom made my doctor appointments until I was 28, shy. But The Sewing Wench, she's not the least bit shy, after all she makes all of her money on you buying her wares.

When I go to events, I always dress as The Sewing Wench, whether it is a full costume, a pair of wrap pants, or a corset with jeans, if I'm going to a place where I know there is potential for people to be interested in what I do, I will dress as The Sewing Wench dresses. And it is the simple act of dressing the part that makes me so out going and feel safe to talk to people. People make me nervous, crowds are draining, and when an event is over and I get undressed and into regular clothes, I feel as if the life force has been sucked out of me.

Sophie the Washer Wench with The Sewing Wench at Ohio  Renaissance Festival
Becoming The Sewing Wench allows me to forget my fears. I don't fear rejection, I don't fear strangers, I don't even fear people thinking I look stupid, or I'm making an ass of myself. She can do and say things that I would normally have that little voice in my head going, "what if some one laughs at you?" or "what if they say no?" The Sewing Wench doesn't even have these thoughts pop into her head. Dress as a sheep at a dog and cat rescue event and walk up to people saying "baaaa"? Doesn't even bat an eye. And you know what? I had so much fun doing it. 

This is one of the things with all of these adults you see playing dress up. A lot of them are socially awkward, have some sort of social phobia/anxiety, and/or have been social outcasts in their lives. Pretending to be some one else for a while allows them to do things that that little voice in their head would normally scare them out of doing. When people interact with their character, they get to experience the world in a way that they may not normally get to do, for one reason or another. 

It really is no different than how you feel with you go from everyday clothes to work clothes, or party clothes, or dressy clothes. What you wear can change your whole attitude for the day/evening. You may say, "oh I'm always the same person," but your language changes, your posture changes or in some cases your attitude may even change based on where you are going, what you are doing and in turn what you are wearing. 

This is also why I love getting women in to proper fitting corsets. You can see their personality change right before your eyes. The corset forces them to stand taller, it forces your back to be straighter, this in turn causes you to keep your head elevated. You look more confident, so people treat you as if you are more confident, and this in turn gives you confidence. It really is a beautiful thing. 

All of this is my experience only. I'm not even sure if there have been scientific studies on the relationship between how one dresses and how one's confidence/attitude changes. It would be an interesting study to conduct. Most of this is stuff that goes on in my own head when I get dressed up, or what I've personally witnessed. So while I can't claim scientific fact, my hunch is I'm on to something with this, and I hope it helps you to understand a bit better why I may have flirted with you at the burlesque show for 20 minutes, but I have no idea who you are when you see me at the grocery store 3 weeks later.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The difference between custom and "off the rack"

So I wanted to take a moment to explain why I don't keep a lot of different corsets in a lot of different sizes, and it hit me, I have the perfect examples to illustrate this!

On the left (or top depending on how the html decides to play on your screen) is a corset made from "off the rack" measurements. I did not adjust anything to the pattern. This is just your standard "42 inch waist" corset. On the right (or bottom)  is one that I altered to fit my measurements exactly. 

Take a good look at these two photos. While the red one is beautiful, you can see some stark differences.
  1. Take a look at that waist in the red one. There is only a slight curve there.
  2. Looking at the bust, from front on, I kind of flatten out a bit.
  3. Again at the bust, I kind of have a bit of a muffin top rather than smooth round humps.
Now compare that to the purple:
  1. We see a sharp indent at my waist, making it very well defined
  2. the bust is rounded out and holding all of me
  3. Rather than muffin tops, we now see lovely rounded mounds over top of the corset, along with signs of more cleavage (the chemise kind of blocks this for the most part)
And this ladies and gentlemen, is why I only keep a handful of samples and instead dedicate myself to making custom corsets. 
While I love the red one, it just isn't as comfortable as the purple. With the purple corset, I sometimes forget that I even have a corset on (until I go to reach for something!). It fits me like a second skin and becomes apart of me. In contrast, the red one feels very forced, and honestly it doesn't flatter me as well. 

There is just something about having my natural curves highlighted that makes me feel more confident and sexy. This is my shape. I haven't been tight-lacing or waist training to get this figure. My natural measurements are 54-43-53 (as of 9/5/15... I have them posted in my Corset Making 101 DVD and I believe they were a bit different then)  Compare that to the Butterick Size Chart  which only allows a 5-6 inch difference between bust and waist and has hips 2 inches larger than bust (where I'm an inch smaller). These are "off the rack" measurements. 

It is the pushing you into standard measurements that makes a corset feel uncomfortable, flatten you in places you want plump, and just generally does not give you the corset shape you want. I can do that, but I'd rather highlight your natural shape, and show you what YOU look like, not what the corset looks like. 

I hope this gives you a better understanding of why I don't carry a mass amount of different sized corsets when I'm at a show. Rather than a quick sale, I'm looking to satisfy my customer and build life long relationships. Corsets should be uplifting, not restricting. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Spreading the word and learning a new art.

This Summer I took on a project that sounded so simple. Turn my Corset Making 101 class into a DVD. How hard can it be? Right? Right?

WOW!!! What a summer!

The first obstacle was to come up with a story board. I have a lesson plan for live classes, but having some one live asking questions, and being able to "read the room" is very different from looking into a camera. 

Looking into the camera was another difficult bit. Remembering to look up, smile, and be mindful of where my hands were while sewing to make sure the camera could see what I was doing... well, it's a lot! 

But I survived the filming. I thought that was the worst... until the editing started. 

Now I don't have a terrible self image. I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin, but watching myself on film was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Not only did I nit-pick EVERYTHING from my voice inflection to my hand gestures, to what I was wearing, but I also felt very self conscience. I just wanted everything to be perfect. 

As we've continued on, my videographer/editor has reminded me that I'm a seamstress, not an actress, and that coming across on the video is not a bad thing. I don't have to be perfect. I know what I'm doing and that shows. If I trip on my words, or roll my eyes, it just makes me more personable. It's what makes me The Sewing Wench. 

This project has taken a lot more than just my time and understanding. It takes money, and that is slowly running out. 

If you'd like to help support a one woman corset factory, there are a few ways you can help me make this project see its full potential. 
  1. GoFundMe campaign here: for direct donations
  2. Buy the pre-sell of the DVD here:
  3. Purchase anything from the website or the Etsy page
  4. Spread the word through Twitter, Facebook Google+, Pinterest, or any other social media or email/word of mouth
Sometimes getting the word out is just as important as direct donations. Having the right word get to the right person can have a huge impact. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

So you now have your corset...Now what?

I've been on a rant lately over what a corset is and isn't, but it has recently been brought to light that many people don't understand what to do with a corset once they get it as far as care.

First of all, let me say this. a tight lacing corset is like a bra or any lingerie really, it's meant to be replaced every six months. Now we all have that bra that we have had for years that's just more comfortable, and I'm not saying that it's not possible to extend the life, I'm just saying this is what to keep in mind. Now six months is considering you wear your corset like a bra, at least 12 hours a day, so if you only wear it for special occasions, you're already extending the life.

Why such a relatively short time? Fabric. Honestly, the fabric of the corset will wear out long before you will break any bones. I have recycled many a corset's insides because of this fact. The same goes for bras and that teddy. Fabric has a limited life span. Period.

Here are ways that you can extend the life of your corset: 

  • Washing
    • This seems like a no-brain-er but I'm going to start with this. You should not be throwing your corset in the washing machine and dyer. I am guilty of this, and I do it with my bras too, but the process is very hard on the fabric and will shrink the life of your item.
    • Instead, gently hand wash your corset (an bras!) with a mild detergent and leave flat to dry. 
  • Multiples
    • If you do intend to wear your corset every day, it is a good idea to have more than one. This way you can switch them out for washing, as well as give one a brake. 
  • What's underneath?
    • It's a good idea to invest in some tube tops or tank tops to go under your corset if you are not wearing it over something already. I've always been one of those people who thought, "why bother?" when told this, because I don't wear one under my bra, so why my corset? 
    • This again comes down to the fabric. All day you sweat, you shed, you secrete, your body has a whole mess of chemical processes going on through out the day. All of that gets into the fabric and eats at it. It doesn't make much of a difference what the fabric is, eventually your body will break it down. Having something between your skin and the corset, helps slow this process down. 
    • Think of it like a mattress cover. It keeps all that human gunk from seeping in a bit longer. 
  • Putting on and Removing
    • I have heard several people say that they want to lace up the corset and then just leave the laces and be able to put it on and off laced up. 


    • You should always loosen a corset before taking it off. 1) It gives your body time to adjust back to "normal" shaping. You are pushing around fat, organs, and any other squishy bits when you lace up your corset. Your body needs time to adjust them back and get used to the feel of things again. Failing to do this could make you sick, dizzy or even pass out. And 2) It's really bad for the fabric. Just like your body needs time to adjust, the fabric does too. Fabric (though it is very tight these days) is still a woven fiber. When that fiber is stretched, it needs time to adjust back, or it could rip. It will weaken. 
    • And putting a corset on is work enough, trying to put it on while it is tight is like trying to squeeze yourself into a pair of skinny jeans that's a size too small. It may be possible, but it is going to take a lot more effort, and won't look as good. 
    • Instead, if you live alone like I do, or other wise do not have a person dedicated to dressing you every morning, buy extra long laces. This will help you keep the laces tight as you work up and down the corset to get the proper fit. It may not fit exactly the same as having some one lace you up, but it will fit better than trying to squeeze into it once it is already laced, and (maybe more importantly) it will extend the life of your corset) 
  • Storing
    • You really should store your corset flat if at all possible. Not fully extended and unlaced, but the busk released and laces folded so that both fabric pieces can lay flat. 
    • If you don't have room for that, the next best thing is to keep the busk latched, fold it at the side seams as you would wear it, then fold those sides in to meet the middle. Don't forces it, allow it to do it's thing. 
    • If you absolutely must hang it, repeat the flat position of step one, and slide the hanger so that the laces are what's resting on it. Laces are cheap and easily replaced if they miss shape, your corset isn't. Hangers are also very mean to fabric. 

If you do these things, you should be able to extend the life of your corset. I do have a few that I have had for 6-7 years. These are ones that I only wear occasionally. 3 years is about the longest I've had a regular use corset go before the fabric started to rip. This is compared to the 5-8 months before I have to toss a bra out. This isn't something you are going to buy one of and never have to buy another. So invest wisely, and take care of your corset!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Love yourself anew

Recently I shared this article on my Facebook page.  I love every word of it mainly because I can relate to so much of it. But I wanted to add my take on it.

The reason this topic speaks so close to my heart at this time is that I was surrounded by this very notion at my last event. "I'm too boxy" "I have no waist" "I have too much hip" "I never can find a corset that fits me properly"


This is exactly the point. There are beautiful corsets out there on the market that you can get off the rack and have a lovely night out it, but they are not going to fit you the way a custom made corset will.

The thing about a corset made to your measurements by a skilled corset maker is that it will fit you like no other piece of clothing you have ever had. The point isn't to change your body (though that is an entire method and can be the point, but it's not the main one so never mind that) no, think of a corset more like other shape-ware. Like control top pantyhose for your whole torso.

A corset should feel like an extension of your body. It should hug your natural shape like Saran wrap on the roll. It should be an empowering experience that shows you all that you have to love.

We are all shaped differently. We all squish differently. A corset hand made for you by a maker will squish you properly so that it is comfortable and support you. Think about it, if a garment holds your body in better posture, literally forces you to stand tall and hold your chin up, how can you do anything but feel absolutely fabulous? It's impossible....well maybe not impossible, but it certainly takes some effort.

Having a corset hand made to you is not cheap by any means, but it is well worth every cent. There are a lot of things that goes into shaping a corset to your body, a lot of skill, a lot of work, special tools and materials. I tell everyone I meet that it is an experience that you should treat yourself to at least once in your life. And that comes not from some one who makes her living off of other people having this experience, but as some one who wears corsets and knows the feeling of having that support even when it is hard to hold your head up on your own.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Counting my blessings

This summer hasn't been all that I expected it to, but I do have a lot to be thankful for. I have some really amazing friends and mentors, people who I know support me and dream big for me when I can't seem to quite see it. Those people are worth more to me than I can even express.

I have made some progress with my costumes and corsets. My website is up ( and I even have shopping available there. Then there are the models, photographers, and agencies around the world requesting some of my pieces for photo-shoots and publicity. How freaking cool is that!

And right now I have a cold, and I feel miserable, but it will pass. I may be lethargic for a couple of days, feel gross, not get a lot done, but it will pass. Over all, I am healthy. My ears may ring like wedding bells from time to time, but I can still do all of the things that I want/need to do. This is really hitting me today. I have friends and acquaintances who are not experiencing this. Simple things hurt or are difficult even impossible for them to accomplish, and yet they still get out there and try. So I'm greatful that my little cold will pass and I am only out for a fraction of a week. I'm not sure that I would have the same positive outlook or even be able to project a positive face, if the things I love became too difficult or painful for me to do anymore.

So here's to friends closer than family. To good health. And to biting life in the ass every day.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Breath, girl! Breath!

This weekend while I was at an event, I had several people make comments about how they liked the look of corsets, but they liked breathing more. Or there were others who told me about a show they watched, or something they saw on the internet where this person laced their corset up tight enough to make their waist 20" or something incredibly tight. And this seems to be what people think corsets are for, and why they avoid them. Uh, no!

Tight lacing is one reason to wear a corset, but it is not the only reason. I have had people in the past come to me for corsets to help ease back trouble upon doctor recommendation. One of my top reasons for wearing a corset is that they are so much more supportive than a bra, and less stress on my shoulders and back. Like I said in a past post, you don't have to lace your corset to the point where you can't breath, in fact, you shouldn't lace it to that point. 

Well, if the point isn't to lace as tight as you can stand it, then what is tight lacing? Tight lacing is a process, it is a commitment, and it's not something you just jump in and out of. The idea is to slowly mold your form, not all at once. Here are the basic points:
  • Your corset should be worn 23 hours a day
    • This is what I mean by commitment. If you are tight lacing, the only time you should take the corset off is to shower or bathe. That means that you eat, sleep, and go about your day with the corset on.
      • Note: This again takes building into. You can't go from never wearing a corset to wearing it 23 hours a day, 7 days a week. Start with 3-5 hours a day and build up every week or two until you are at goal. 
  • Go SLOW
    • The first corset you buy to tight lace should almost fit your body exactly. The best way to get the proper fit is to pull the tape measure tightly when you take your measurements. This is how your corset should fit. It should be comfortable, and you should be able to go about your daily activities with out much (if any) resistance. 
    • From here you can move down. Most corset makers will put a little room to shrink into your corset (covered by a modesty panel). Usually this is only 1-2 inches. Leave those inches until you get used to the fit you're in. As that becomes comfortable, lace a bit tighter until you get to the point the corset is too big. Then you buy the next size down. 
    • That process can take 6-9months at a time between corsets. Again, go slow, don't rush it, or you can do some damage. Your body needs time to adjust. 
  • Buy quality
    • as I've mentioned before, if you are going to tight lace, you need to buy a quality corset designed for tight lacing and made to your measurements. We all squish differently and we're all shaped slightly differently. Buying a generic corset based only on your waist measurement is not going to fit everyone the same, and therefor will not only squish differently, but it could be dangerous to use in that way. No one likes cracked ribs.
  • Don't go half way
    • Proper waist training is not going to happen in a day. It's also not going to happen if you decide to take every other day off, or wear your corset on occasion. If that's all you want, that's great, corsets are fun! But don't expect lasting results, and stick to the rules. 
Wear your corset comfortably. And breath!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I don't think that word means what you think it means...

The lovely Jess W. Pinup Model in the Mz. Wright corset, a tight lacing corset that she inspired.

Anyone who spends more than five minutes with me will know that I have a huge pet peeve with what manufacturers call a corset these days.

Just because it has laces does not make it a corset. If it were that simple, my shoes could be called corsets.

It has also become trend to make sure everything is steel boned. Yes, this is important, and all of my corsets, corsellets, bodices, and cinchers have steel boning, but the type of boning is just as important.

So let me lay out a few ground rules for you so that your heart won't be broken hearted when that $20 steel boned corset 1) doesn't fit you the way you had thought it would and/or 2) rips after trying to lace it to as tight as you can stand or 3) the bones snap or bend out of shape.

Rule 1: Know what it is you are looking for
When I say "corset" to you, what do you think of? Are you looking for something that will take your waist down several inches? How long do you intend to wear it? Is this something you want for every day or just to break out on special evenings? When you do wear it, will it be on for an hour? two? five? twenty three? 
These are all very important questions to ask yourself before even looking for a corset, because your answers will change not only the price range you are looking at, but the basic construction and essentials to the garment. 
    If you want something to wear for a few hours at a time that will give you a bit of shaping and the lacing look that is iconic to corsetry, then by all means, buy what ever you find for $20 bucks BUT do not expect it to be able to take your waist down 2+ inches. 
    On the other hand if you are looking for something that will slim your lines this is not going to cut it. Unless otherwise stated, from here on out we're going to go based off of the assumption that we are shopping for something that fits into the latter category. 

Rule 2: Look for layers

Before we get into bones (which yes are very important) I want to talk a bit about the layers of a corset. 
    My own very first corset  had a single layer. It was lovely, and I loved it, but it would not hold up to tight lacing, and the shaping was very minimal. So again, if you just want something that will give you the look of a corset, with out the support, stability, or contouring of a tight lacing corset, then this is a fine option for you, but that's not what we are after. 
    So what you do want for a tight lacing corset (one that really is what everyone thinks of when they say "corset") is at least three layers. The corset should have an outer pretty layer that is not made of anything stretchy, next at least one inner core layer made of a sturdy fabric, and the lining layer. For the lining I prefer cotton because it breaths, it's easy to clean, and it's light, but other fabrics can be okay. 

Rule 3: The bones of the issue

I HATE plastic bones. I understand that they do have their place, such as in bodices that just need light support. I can get that. What I can't understand is why anyone would put them in a corset. Next to single lace layers being called corsets, this is probably my biggest pet peeve. The problem with plastic boning is that as it heats up to your body temperature, it softens. This allows it to mold to what ever position you are in (which for me was usually sitting, so the bottom of my corset would bubble upwards at every opportunity), they also pucker when soft, and just plain loose most of their stability and integrity. A huge issue for shape-ware.
    Since the issues with plastic boning has become well known, most have switched to steel. So how do these big manufacturers keep their $20 prices using steel? Well, not all steel is the same. It used to be that corset boning would be made of German steel. You didn't even have to ask about the origin, you knew that your steel bones were made from a high quality German steel. However, keeping with the trend of making everything cheaper, China is now making steel boning out of Chinese steel.
    Labor issues aside, Chinese steel just does not hold up to the pressure. I have had these bones and busks break on me, and if you have ever had plastic bones snap on you, you can only imagine how much more painful a steel bone snapping is.
   Unfortunately, suppliers aren't likely to disclose where their steel comes from. I don't think I've even put that information in my descriptions before. So this one is going to have to be a common sense kind of thing. If the corset says steel, and it's $20, it is going to have one or more of the issues described above.

So, know what you are looking for. Look for layers. Know your steel. These are your basic guidelines. I'll go further into what to look for in tight lacing corsets at a later date, but this should clear some things up on why you might see a huge company selling "real steel boned corsets" for $20-$100, and then see some one like me selling corsets for $150-$350. Remember, you always get what you pay for.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Learning to Ask

Jess W. in one of my zipper front corsets.

I've always had this notion that one isn't meant to brag about themselves, nor ask for help. No one ever really told me not to ask for help, and people always say, "let me know if you need anything" but for some reason I've always had a notion that I shouldn't ask for things. 

Last year I decided to step out of my comfort zone, put myself out there, and ask for things. The biggest thing that I have learned from this experiment in asking for things is that while yes, there is a chance that you won't get what you ask for, if you don't ask then it is a sure then. Another thing that I have learned is that I often get much more than what I asked, or even had in mind. 

So, surround yourself with wonderful, supportive, and positive people, and don't be afraid to ask.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wow am I a neglectful blogger!

While I may have a wonderful sense of creativity, I have never been good at writing things down.

It's been nearly a year since I last visited this blog, and in that year a lot has changed. I will spare you all the boring details, and just say that I have ventured into a new and scary world of living for my art. 

I have also begun teaching classes. This new venture combines a lot of my passions. 
So if you are in the Cincinnati, or Northern Kentucky area, come check me out!