Griping & trying to Grin

So… I borrowed the following quotes from another blog because I have never read them:

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. –Helen Keller

To stand in your now, looking forward with deliberate intent and anticipation of what is to come, is infinitely more satisfying than to stand in your now, looking back, retracing your steps as to how you got where you are.–Abraham-Hicks

They were part of a nice blog post…that did not speak to me…but these little quotes spoke to me.  They rather rattled my cage and the thoughts stuck in it.  Let’s see if I can articulate…

I will be honest here and say that sticking to my resolution that I will no longer post on Celtic Flame at all and only rarely on the others is difficult for me.  My practical Buddhist brain asks me why I bother then if I am not going to add anything helpful to the discussions.  My cranky lizard brain demands that I stop reading at all since it can have no satisfaction by setting some of the stupidity to rights…or at least by calling it out for the stupidity it is!!!  But, I am starting to find I am becoming more removed from it since I am not using valuable energy to formulate hopefully helpful answers anymore.

When this blog went private, so many of you told me of your reasons for no longer posting on or even reading the boards anymore…I understand even better now.

Why do I keep reading?  Part habit, part wanting to stay informed about the happenings, the opinions…the occasional altercation…I know, I am a rubber-necker!  But who can resist the morons when they tap dance on a train wreck?!?!?!

But since I changed the blog, other doors have opened for my energy, even in my own head.  Other thoughts are formulating in different ways because we are a smaller more open group.  (I feel the need here to apologize to anyone who was gearing up for a very active group here…we have slowed down…mainly because I wanted it to.  Don’t get me wrong – the number of members that we have is incredibly gratifying…I feel more like a rock star than a loser now that there are so many “friends!”  But I did feel very overwhelmed there for a bit.  I am figuring this out, and we can be as active as we want.)

My current thoughts are spawned by the continuing questions about how the BNs do things, make and design dresses, etc., as if there are rules that must be followed…fsm forbid anyone should be creative on her own…

You may remember this from my response to the first CCD:  [A] thing I have stopped doing is letting the nebulous “rules” about how these dresses are “supposed” to look influence me.  The only thing that influences me anymore is what the client wants.  I suppose if I made OTRs I would pay more attention to the trends…or maybe not.  The fact that the dress styles actually have very little to do with the dancing offends my artistic sense of what is supposed to be important!  The costume should complement the dancing, not hinder it.  The heavy, stiff dresses that have developed over the past 20 years are actually quite astounding to me.  As a choreographer, dancer, artistic director and professor, I stood my ground many a time with a costume designer who tried to force an undanceable design onto a dance!  The dance and dancer are most important and the role of the costume is to enhance the message and look that the choreographer wants.  It is not the role of the costume designer to force change and accommodation…I fired or failed those designers who could not understand their complementary role! 

Don’t get me wrong…I love making these wild, amazing, “ridiculous” pieces of wearable art.  These fanciful confections have developed in a very specific environment and would not be worn by anyone else!  But I find that I am increasingly interested in the comfort of the dancer.

I would very interested in that particular moment in time when someone decided that the ID dress needed to be more prominent in the dancing picture, because from there ID costuming evolved with no real thought as to the dancer or the dancing.  I think this strange mindset is what informs the creation of these dresses still.  So many questions about dress construction make it clear that the triangular, wide, flat, stiff shape of the dresses is considered to be traditional!  Granted, there also seems to be a renewed interest in the history of ID costuming which may or may not shoot that thought down…

But what is interesting to me are the objections, subtle or not, to dresses moving towards the soft skirt again, and my fascination is partially because it is still in my head that the dresses still need to be wider than any normal person would wear…although some of the fashion links on the boards have shown the fashionistas to be wearing pretty poofy skirts!

There is also, and still, this irritating idea that somehow the BNs are the gods of ID costuming who must be emulated at all costs!  Why?  Not too long ago, someone who claimed to just be making a comeback to ID pointed out that all of the current dresses look the same, no matter who made them!!!  I have to agree!  We are ALL doing panel dresses right now.  There are more folks trying to solve the soft skirt problem in many creative ways…but how many times have you read the same question on the boards:  “How do ED/Gavin/SR, etc, etc, etc…make their skirts look like that?”

Susan said something to me about how the harder people try to be different, the more they conform…  Wouldn’t you say that most dancers want to set themselves apart from the other dancers?  So out come the wild colors, the sequins, the crystals, the feathers, the 3-d flowers, etc, etc, etc…and what happens?  They not only all get lost in the cacophany of dazzling color, they all look the same!!

I have no earth shattering solution…I love making these dresses.  Each one is my baby.  When one client says subtle and elegant, that’s what I do.  When another asks for more sparkle, I do that, too.

I love our new tunic dresses mainly because I think they are constructed with the MOVING dancer in mind.  But being panel dresses, am I a sheep, too?  I think Susan and I, like so many other dressmakers, were interested in a different shape for designs so we were drawn to the panel look at probably the same time as everyone else!  I am quite sure it was a lone dressmaker somewhere who came out with the first one, but the second that a BN produced one, they were given the credit and proclaimed GODS once again…gag.

What is my freaking point?  Well, maybe it is that we all as dressmakers ought to slam the door on what OUGHT to be and open a new one doing what we want to do.  Yeah, when a client comes in asking for a dress like ED, you have to deal (or not), but when I expressed that I wanted to explore these soft tunic dresses, we got 3 clients in a row!  And we just turned down someone who wanted us to make a new jacket to match her ED skirt…I understand what she wants, but I am the wrong dressmaker for her!  I am not interested and told her the reasons why.  I suppose I could simply have said that we are booked up for quite a while (as we are), but I actually felt a bit insulted that I would be asked to essentially recreate someone else’s work, so I explained why I was not interested in taking her on.

Maybe this is it…newbies or not, we are each valuable artisans in our own right.  Perhaps not every one of us calls ourselves an artist, but we are.  Maybe our first attempts are less than stellar and actually petrify brain cells when we look back, but they are still created by us is “artiste mode,” sublime or not!

When a young choreographer is beginning her journey, yes she looks to the masters for information, inspiration, and guidelines, but she is also taught and guided to find her own voice.  The point is to bring to life her OWN vision.  We as dressmakers need to change our mindsets to #1 realize that the BNs are NOT the masters (far from it), and #2 that our visions are just as valid as any one else’s!  Maybe they are not all ready for prime-time right out of the gate, but we have to start somewhere.

So, open a door…and I’ll get off my soapbox before the swelling music in my head deafens me…

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. cattom
    Jan 31, 2008 @ 16:44:09

    This is thought for today on a Buddist website that I like to read. The majority consists of fools, utter fools. Beware of the majority. If so many people are following, that is enough a proof that somthing is wrong. Truth happens to individuals not to crowds!!. Ann keep doing what you are doing I think you are on the right track. I hope to become as inspired as you love Teresa

  2. costumemom24
    Jan 31, 2008 @ 17:24:14

    I am SO Excited to hear you talk about the dress enhancing the dance! Being from a Ballet costuming background, my partner and I are approaching the solo dress concept from a different angle. Along with our TCRG, we are trying to create dresses that move away from the two dimensional cardboard look and make dresses that suit each dancer and enable them to dance better! Our clients talk about how much freer they feel in the softer dresses and how much higher they can kick and jump! These dancers work hard! They have the right to show that off and not be hindered by the costume.
    I think the winds of change are blowing!

  3. cincysewer
    Jan 31, 2008 @ 19:04:15

    Ann-your well worded post echoes what many of us feel-and hopefully with each new creation that debuts on a stage-perceptions will shift, more will begin to open their minds to innovation and acceptance of non-conformists. Each day I browse the various dress sale sites and take note of how dress styles seemed to have been on the lightspeed fast track-I am sure it’s only a matter of time when dresses come full circle–and the saying anything goes is a true reality. Those first “costumes”(way back in the 30’s and 40’s)were the traditional style-simple, no stiffening, minimal designs,yet possessed an aura of elegance. Sadly, so many dancers and parents who fund the hobby never thing to question the authority figure(TCRG)-and from what I’ve heard when talking to those who are at the higher levels-deep pockets are still expected when ordering a dress-never mind having no input or decision on the product they are purchasing. Am so glad to be removed from that element-and part of such a positive,productive group. As my favorite TV personality always says “Carry On”.

  4. kktsews
    Jan 31, 2008 @ 21:41:32

    As I read you constantly talking about making the dress more dance-able, I thought of the costumes used in Riverdance. Ok, it’s more glitz than traditional ID, but since those dancers have to perform twice a day most days, their costumes have to enhance their dance rather than burden them. Do you see stiff skirts? NO! Simple, flowing skirts. I don’t even think the fancy main dancer costumes are stiffened in any way. It is flattering and shows off the dancer’s legs, kicks, leaps, steps. Makes a lot more sense than the stiff, heavy dresses. But there is no way a BN could charge what they charge for a simple dress!

  5. maryhorton60
    Jan 31, 2008 @ 22:13:24

    I think the dancers should wear what feels good to them. the
    river dance dress was tried out over here, I was asked to make 4 years ago when it first came out. But they where poo, pooed by everyone when the dancers wore them. the dresses where stunning and I never saw the dancers dance so good. their lift was fantastic, but they only wore them twice on stage as the so called circle didnt approve. I made some for a school as well but again they didnt last long. These dress were hand embroidered and had glitz and they sparkled, but the following year they were back to the old school dresses.
    I think the school now uses them for displays.
    Mary H.

  6. paulars
    Feb 01, 2008 @ 10:37:36

    Our (daughter Liz’s and my) relationship with Irish dance is a love/hate one. We loved the beginner thru prizewinner days! She danced like a dream, zipped thru the levels, always coming home from a feis with an armful of medals/trophies feeling very proud of herself. The costume was almost not part of the equation – school dress, not the most comfortable thing, but not uncomfortable either — not much stiffener, fit well, fairly light. It was all about the dancing! I think the hate part began with that first solo dress. This was when the skirt profile was very wide — she’d take people down in the hallways with that skirt! We never thought about how it would affect her dancing, but soon realized that it did. She just can’t dance well if she is not comfortable. To see her pub dancing – it’s like she’s been shot out of a cannon and does not obey the laws of gravity. In full feis regalia – it’s as if she’s got lead in her pockets. Throw in all the feis pageantry – the makeup, wigs, tanning — and all the stress of competition and it just became an unpleasant affair. She had been asking, no, begging, to let her ditch the wig and get a soft skirt dress since she saw one a few years ago. Both ideas always shot down by TC. She finally decided last summer that she was done with competing unless she could have a costume that was made for dancing. Liz is not a sheep — she’s not only willing to take a chance, she’s is anxious to. She only likes to follow the herd if it suits her. And the current state of ID competition definitely does not. And then I found Ann – cue halleluia music! So far Liz has only worn her red dress to the O, but I’m anxious to see how this dress affects her feisin’ future. There are obviously plenty of girls out there who love the whole glitz craze and dance well despite the stiff heavy dresses. But I’m sure there are lots of girls like mine who would vastly improve and be much happier in dance costumes that have the comfort and movement of the dancer in mind. Hopefully soon it will be “anything goes” but I’m not holding my breath.

  7. krew08
    Feb 01, 2008 @ 13:45:36

    I picked up my first solo dress yesterday. It was made by Molly Bennett, and Knotwork to Me. I have to admit that I went with the wide three-panel skirt, because I’m not going to be buying new dresses every year. And right now, the three-panel is considered “traditional,” which means it won’t go out of style next year.

    Do I like the soft skirt, multi-panel dresses? Some of them are so beautiful that they make me drool, but because they are considered the “new” style, it’s frowned upon for non-champions, especially -level, dancers to have the cutting edge styles.

    I’m interested to see where the style of ID goes. I far prefer this year’s soft skirt, multi-panel trend to last year’s wrap skirts (don’t need help to make my hips look any bigger!), animal prints, fur and feathers. Who knows, mabye next year’s trend will all be tunic dresses, but we’ll know who to give credit to, no matter what BN dressmaker claims the idea.

  8. Rowan
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 03:25:31

    I remember when a friend of mine (Margaret Carroll) made 8 panel dresses for her daughters, years ago. The same year Deborah Schultz made a 10 panel for a dancer in Canberra – maybe 2000-2001? They were beautiful, all of them – Marg’s for her design flair and eye for fabrics, Deb’s was lovely too, and her construction – as always – was spot on. This in Australia, the “backwater” of ID. The buzz on CF was positive, but not many (if any) did them. Then a few years alter GoD did them and all of a sudden we all are.

    There is nothing new under the sun.

    I am waiting for something official on tights. That could have a bigger impact on my dressmaking than anything that has happened recently.

  9. maid2feis
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 10:17:06

    I’m not convinced that most dancers want to be all that unique. My own dd still wants a stiffened panel dress “like the other girls have”. She’s eleven (and in the grades) and at that age I think most girls are looking for acceptance and approval from their peers. My experience is that young girls don’t have the confidence it would take to start a new trend. I personally absolutely love Susan and Ann’s tunic dresses, and a part of me wonders why dresses like these, that flatter the dance as much as the dancer, haven’t been made more of a priority. So for those of you that have clients that are requesting something different, I am delighted! I can only hope the trend will catch on quickly.

  10. paulars
    Feb 02, 2008 @ 11:32:05

    I remember those Margaret Carroll 8 panels. A friend’s daughter had 2 – gorgeous shimmery satins, soft flattering colors — didn’t see many of those 8 panels around then. Friend raved about working with her too! But of course, when the BN’s “come out” with a “new” design….. they must have invented it! Baa, Baa.

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