Construction issues

There is a post on one of the ID boards that started out as a question about a particular dress manufacturer and has turned into a “debate” about the quality of the workmanship of lone dressmakers vs. the so-called big name manufacturers. Always a learning experience.

Some of the complaints about the particular dress manufacturer are the same ones that have been lodged against other big names (BN, from now on): sizes are wrong, cost too high, customer service is bad, etc. One poster wrote that she did not have any problems because she stayed very involved in the whole process…on the phone from the US to the UK. Phone cards or not, that adds to the cost of an already expensive dress.

I have had the opportunity over the past year to get my hands on dresses from 4 of the “big names.” Quite frankly, in my naiveté, I expected to be blown away by great work. Instead, I was blown away by the shoddy workmanship. Many have said on the boards that our (we lone dressmakers) customers would never accept such crap from us. As one poster pointed out, she knew of a local dressmaker who charged too much for bad work…is she still working? But because parents at some schools are told they must have a dress by a “BN” they shell out the $ and accept substandard work. Why? And it has been suggested that the substandard work from these manufacturers are sold to dancers in the states because they are either 1) so dazzled by the name they do not question the workmanship or 2) they won’t go to the trouble and expense to have the dress fixed by a maker overseas. AND, as many on the boards have pointed out, said makers very often simply tell you it is your problem…no fix, no care, no refund. Unbelievable!
Of course, none of us is perfect. We all make mistakes, have our idiosyncrasies, methods that others may disagree with. But, I believe most of us “small” dressmakers do good, neat work because it is a source of pride. I have been told many times that I am too picky – “no one will notice”, “I don’t see that”, “You’re nuts” – but I know how I feel when I could do something better, make something fit/look better, etc. It is important to me that I know I have done my best. And I try to keep learning. I learn from Susan. I read the boards. I go to the sale racks at every feis to look at the dresses…I have learned many a good thing from homemade dresses. And many times the obvious difference in quality between a homemade dress and the BNs hanging there is staggering and insulting…especially when the price difference between a BN used dress and a “homemade” used dress is so huge.

Ultimately, though, this is a hands-in-the-air moment of , “Oh well & who cares.” At least someone is riding this wave to the bank. Or are they? If I think about the actual time I put into creating a dress that I can be proud of, I do not think I even remotely break even. I do this because I love it…and a bit of extra cash is nice, but I am not actually paid for all the time I put into a dress. Perhaps what is perceived as cutting corners is actually practicality- the BNs have more people to pay, more dresses to turn out. So re-using designs and fabrics, cutting some construction corners, not sweatin’ the small stuff are all ways to make sure there is some profit. After all, no judge walks up to inspect dress construction! The goal seems to be that dancers should look spectacular to make a good impression, and a lot of these dresses do have great stage presence (I know, another debate). And then the dress is quickly sold to help pay for the next one. Very interesting process we’ve got going here. And we know the dresses are NOT simple to put together, no matter other construction issues. Even simplifying design and embellishing time, I suspect that the BN is not really riding a wave let alone a Mercedes! Perhaps they are the only ones brave enough to ask for appropriate payment for the expensive things clients want now.

So, what do I really think now that I have worked through this? I know I will not change my ways and I find it hard to charge the high price that perhaps I should. I have considered ways to cover my costs more effectively…I need to implement them. And while I may not like the things I see from the BNs, it truly is a case of “who cares?!” More power to them…I will maintain my integrity, they must feel they are maintaining theirs. Besides, do I want all their clients? No. Those who want what I can give end up on my doorstep. If people are bitching about price and quality, they only have themselves to blame if they keep writing the checks. At some time, somewhere, the BNs must do/have done good work or they would not be the BNs.

Maybe all folks are paying for is stage presence and who cares if it falls apart in 6 months…I won’t be wearing it!

I think I am done with this topic.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anita - Dancing On Eire Aus
    Dec 17, 2006 @ 17:36:00

    Great article, Ann 🙂 , and I couldn’t agree more. I live in one of the most isolated cities on earth (Perth, Western Australia) and there aren’t any BN dresses here! On trips to the east of Aus I sometimes get to see a BN dress up close… and I am satisfied that my craftsmanship will always stand up to any comparison. Shame the smaller name dressmakers can’t charge the same! Cheers, Anita

  2. Ann
    Dec 18, 2006 @ 08:52:00

    Thanks so much, Anita. Glad you liked it…and that you came to visit! Cheers to you too, Ann

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