Criticism III

Beth G left a comment:

It is sometimes difficult to give frank concrit because when a dress pic is posted, it would be after the fact and too late to fix (example: swirls over the bust). I also wouldn’t want to point out something that would keep the dress from selling, since lots of mothers read our board (example: that SR dress that resembled marijuana leaves). What do you think?

This does come up quite a bit.  Not really sure what I think…

One very interesting aspect of ID is that, as a general rule, we seem not to get very attached to our dresses as they are seen as commodities that we will/want/have to re-sell.  That fact alone seems to have created a rule about criticism – don’t give any negative feedback about the oingo-boingo dress from hell (not talking about a specific dress here) because it will affect the sale.  I really do not have anything pithy to say…except…so?  Truly not trying to be bitchy here, but…so?  Wouldn’t you want to know how reviled a dress is and why before you spent big bucks?

Now, on the one hand, there may be a child out there that sees the oingo-boingo dress from hell and falls in love with it.  Mama buys it for her and young dancer feels like a princess because SHE loves the dress.  Let’s say that criticism about the dress from the net reaches her ears and she is devastated…this would make me sad, and I would feel terrible.  I have taken the Divas to the bank and the grocery store not only in insubstantial princess costumes (complete with clickety-clackety plastic princess shoes and bobby socks), but in outfits startling in their garishness, and received many a confused and even accusatory stare from fellow mothers.  My response?  I smile because hey, the Diva kid is happy right now, so back off!

In Criticism I wrote: So what do I think about criticism and its place in any field? I think that if you don’t want any, keep your ideas & creations to yourself. Ultimately, if we “publish,” we invite comment. If we present our work to the public, we are fair game for positive and negative review.

I still think that.  As a general rule, there are not a whole lot of postings on the public boards asking for opinions about dresses.  There was one just a bit ago that pointed out a dress specifically because it was rather wild and different.  After quite a few strong and negative responses about how it looked on the dancer, it was pulled because the issue of the dancer’s feelings came up.  Fair enough…the whole post seemed to have begun with a troll looking for trouble anyway.  But when a dressmaker (or new dress owner) posts and asks, “What do you think?” are honest answers verboten?

In terms of privacy, I think honest criticism can be safely given in our private yahoo group, IDDressmaking.  Some of that is beginning to happen.

What do others think?  Any one have a perspective on when re-selling dresses started and why?

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. webmaster
    Dec 26, 2007 @ 21:11:16

    “as a general rule, we seem not to get very attached to our dresses”

    In general, perhaps…

    I will say, however, that in specific… when it come to MY dress… I’m quite attached to it. heck, I take it with me every single place I go if you think about it…. 😉

    For those who aren’t sure what I mean… this dress – – was designed and created based on a tattoo I got about three months before my last Oireachtas by Susan and Ann!

  2. Caroline
    Dec 27, 2007 @ 04:31:07

    I feel that it is a bit wrong to simply “pluck” a picture of a dress from the net and start to comment negatively about it. I am never very comfortable with those posts. They did not come from the original owner or dressmaker and I feel it is almost the same as if I were to shout out loudly at a feis, or even making a big billboard that says:” Hey you guys, what about that green dress….isn’t it completely horrible?”. I just feel that when it comes to this kind of criticism, it should be a bit less public.
    However, in the case of the dress-post where the owner, potential buyer or DM *ASK* for an opinion…they should get one. And an honest one.

  3. Ali
    Dec 30, 2007 @ 06:36:18

    We also shy away from criticism–or, at least, open criticism–because we are all out to make money. Yes, many of us (most? all?) do what we do because we enjoy it, whether that comes from the challenge or the act of drawing or sewing or the look on a girl’s face when she has her awesome new dress. But we also all charge. Who wants to be known as “that bitch lady who says mean things about other people’s dresses”? A well intended but critical comment might be read–often IS read, in my experience–as sour grapes (“You’re just jealous you didn’t do something so garish/new and strange/flufftastic”).

    It comes down to my repeated point that we’re a community but we’re a community of people who are constantly in competition and locked into predetermined roles at the sidelines of the ID world. There is little shift among the top DMs, the middle rank, and the lower ranks–only some jostling within each layer, for the most part. Dressmakers have to be exceptional to break through to a new caste: able to both increase their quality and do so prolifically. It is our big pink elephant in the room at all times. And saying that Miss Z’s new dress that she slaved over is, actually, poorly fitted and hideous can be detrimental to business.

    I think this is also why we see more honest-but-mean commentary on the voy boards than on, say, ddn or your blog. People do not have to own their opinion, they can just fire it off. The major advantage of ddn is that you know (roughly) who everyone is. They are accountable to their screenname, at the very least, and within the ID community it’s pretty well-known who is who on there. The major disadvantage off ddn is that you know who everyone is. We don’t want to SAY what we’re thinking about that new dress with the big circles over the chest because saying so might potentially put off future customers of our own. So it gets said somewhere you don’t have to login–voy–and not where you can be associated with the comment–blogs and ddn.

    Like Caroline, I dislike the practice of dragging a random dress in for critique. If it’s requested, have at it–and I think we SHOULD be honest, though we need lessons in giving helpful critiques instead of “that colour is ugly.”

  4. Cindy
    Dec 30, 2007 @ 09:48:36

    Most comments, negative or positive, have negligible impact on the top designers/dressmakers, just as most comments – no matter how valid – are likely to be unheard by a professional athlete or performer. However, the words posted about a dress made by someone who makes a dozen dresses a year are more likely to be heard, and to be taken to heart. Corrective criticism in those cases needs to be well-intentioned and politely offered. Otherwise, it has no value than to injure someone’s spirit.

    Personally, I have trouble getting excited over many of the pictures of dresses that get posted, then meet them with little gasps of delight. I am constantly surprised at how well some of the dresses I didn’t care for online look in real life. It continues to amaze me that the tackiest, oddball dress on one dancer will often become magical on another; that a dress that looks uninspired on a hanger will catch every eye in the room when filled with a dancer; that a dress with a dead personality in photos will come to life in person.

    Many of the dresses I see online seem limpid and uninspired, sometimes downright dowdy and dull, but in person, under the lights, in motion prove to have been worth the effort and cost. I’m not sure if this is caused by some lack in my perception or just poor photography skills. It happens often enough that I generally withhold negative commentary on design for those reasons.

    On the other hand, I will always provide positive feedback when I think it is warranted. Sometimes a dress will have a design portion that is inspired, or a color palette that expands one’s vision, or will hang perfectly, etc. Success should be applauded – at each level of expertise.

  5. Ali
    Dec 30, 2007 @ 21:39:05

    “Corrective criticism in those cases needs to be well-intentioned and politely offered. Otherwise, it has no value than to injure someone’s spirit.”

    I think we have to accept, though, that to some people this is all the value that is needed. It is a competitive business. You want your things to look better than everyone else’s so you make the most money and have the highest prestige (generic you, of course). Most of us realize the value in constructive criticism (despite not knowing how to give it) as a learning tool. But just as I argued above that a forum like voy, without logins required, can give honest feedback when a dress is sub par, it can also provide a haven to those wishing to boost their own business.

    Consider fictional dressmaker X. She makes pretty run of the mill costumes–some very pretty, some average, in an average price range. She is not selling as many as she could realistically make, nor charging as much as she realistically might attempt. Someone posts asking about the quality of dressmaker Y’s dresses. Dressmaker Y is X’s direct competitor: same quality, price, and geographical range. Realistically, if dressmaker X is absolutely SURE her comments cannot be traced back to her–the biggest motivating factor to stifle criticism, in my opinion, as having negative comments associated with a DM may negatively impact business–then it is economically sound and wise for her to trash dressmaker Y. If she does a thorough job of discrediting dressmaker Y, she stands to gain in business.

    Very few of us would ever do this, yet it hangs as an option every time a dress is posted on the boards. It is a matter of ethics, both personal and community. We largely know eachother–or know OF eachother–and are forced back into the side role of dressmaker by association with ID in the first place. The community would not tolerate a dressmaker known to do this, but the whole point is NOT to be known to do this (stealth). It isn’t ethically acceptable based on my own personal ethics, but that is a decision everyone has to reach individually. I don’t think it’s right to trash someone whose work is sound purely because I am competing with them. Ideally, we would all agree. Realistically, given the cycle of trash talking, I’m not sure it’s true.

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