Reality Check!

Hoo-boy…see this dress?
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This dress was made by Rachel from Silverlode Needlecraft… gorgeous. I am a huge fan of her spectacular work. She is quite the artist. Look at the detail…and this is one of her simpler dresses. The River Silverlode is my all-time favorite. It is like an incredibly complicated quilt! Unbelievable!! If it was mine, it would be hanging in a shadow-box frame in my living room.

So what’s the reality check?

On Dance-Again are scores of used, old dresses for $1600 on up. There are hundreds of worn BN dresses, cookie-cutter designs, priced ridiculously high because their owners want to recoup some of the price they originally paid. There are new ones made by experienced folks priced reasonably that do not get even a nibble. And there are so many brand new dresses made by inexperienced people that are priced unrealistically at $1200 -2000.

Guess how much Rachel is asking for this dress, this gorgeous, one-of-a-kind dress made by a highly skilled, very experienced, accomplished dressmaking artist?

Only $850…it is on Dance-Again for ONLY $850!!!!!!

Reality check!!!!

……………reality is shifting………….

(SOMEONE needs to snap this dress up. Better yet, I hope there is a bidding war so that Rachel gets what this is really worth!!!)

We all know that the ID dress market is changing. Rapidly. Used dresses now typically languish on sale sites for a very long time. I hear that the numbers of dancers are falling which affects sales. Styles change so fast that the perfectly good and beautiful dresses that were stylish 1 year ago are considered out-of-date…which affects sales. Even the re-sale market for the BNs is stalling because there is a glut of them. This is of course not the BN’s concern because the dresses belong to others, but as the BNs are increasingly being called out on their unfair business practices and dresses that cannot be danced in, I do believe that their future sales will also be affected if they haven’t been already.

It is a rare dressmaker (any?) who makes a living from the sale of Off-the-Racks (OTRs) because there are so many dresses for sale. But there continues to be an influx of new dressmakers who seem to think there is high money to be had for their first few attempts. Do many of them actually get what they ask for? I have no way of knowing.

Let me say here that I have nothing against newbies…the more the merrier. It is great fun talking to all the new people on IDD and the boards. Yes, they ask questions that have been asked a thousand times before, but when we answer, we get to define and refine our thoughts about our respective techniques. I am always learning something new from a “newbie,” especially the ones who think and work outside the box. I learned something great from a seamstress who alters ID dresses but has not made one yet herself because she is not sure she can!!! (Slappin’ my forehead!!!)

So many of us encourage newbies all the time, because ID dressmaking should not be an elitist art form. But it takes time to become proficient, and the learning never ends. It is the weird pricing by the inexperienced that makes me twitch. Having made the journey myself from newbie to now, I know that my skills and therefore my dresses are INFINITELY better now…no way would I have asked $1800 for my 1st dress…or 2nd…or 3rd…you get it. On the ID dressmakers board, Celtic Flame, someone did take the time to ask about pricing and there was a great response: “If you are looking to build your name/reputation, then price on the low side of ‘reasonable’ to get your name out there. If you do this a few times with some great looking dresses, you’ll begin a ‘following’……” Great advice! I know I have done it.

Another pricing issue…I have not really commented on this before, but I have had a big problem with the fact that the BNs were/are still charging BIG bucks for dresses that now have very little embroidery and/or appliqué. Quite frankly, it would be a breeze for me if I got to make a dress that depended mainly on the fancy fabrics for its “identity.” It would NOT cost as much as a dress dependent on embroidery and appliqué for it’s look. I have a breakdown of what I charge for everything…if there is little to no embroidery or appliqué, the price is significantly lower. In fact, this next solo will cost less because the underskirt will be completely soft! The one after that will have no stiffening anywhere which brings my labor cost down again!!!!

But here, in Rachel’s dress, we have a skillfully designed, carefully constructed stiff dress with detailed embroidery and appliqué made by a well-known and respected dressmaker…and she is only asking $850. On her website, she states: “We were recently trying out a new skirt style** before beginning a dress for another dancer. It might have been overkill, but we designed a whole separate dress as our test dress with its own design and color scheme, and we are happy with the results and have decided to sell our finished ‘test dress’!” We should all be so lucky to make a “test” like Rachel’s! And, she is only asking $850!!!!!

Reality check!

Does Rachel really think her work is only worth $850? I hope not. Or, is her (too low) price a reflection of an honest, realistic look at the current dress market? Perhaps this is something we should all be doing.

Reality check.

1 Design, 2 Dresses

Lovely Rose sent me a pic of the dress she just finished using the same design I used on Emily’s dress. Amazing how different they look!

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Beautiful, Rose! Thank you for sharing! Remember to send me pics of the back so I can post them.

Feisdress presents: The Emily 9-panel Solo!

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Oh, and..ta-DAH!!! (Please excuse the crud on the crown…had to take pics before I was done trimming.)
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So, to review, this is a 2-piece, 9-panel dress. The regular Feisdress pattern was used and altered for a panel skirt using Susan Gowin’s directions (email her if you want them). Designed by Susan to be a 10 panel, but I could not truly find a way to add the 10th panel over/around the zipper in a way that pleased me, so the 10th panel is hanging on my embroidery rogue’s wall. Turns out that the young dancer has lost more than a bit of weight, so I would have had to remove it anyway to make this skirt the correct size. Here is the skirt and under bodice:
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Here is the finished under bodice. I was so excited that I had learned how to make bias tape that I made more to finish the neck and hem of the bodice jacket…such a dweeb!
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Here is the sleeve in its entirety…
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…and the lining for the bodice jacket and the sleeves (I LOVE the wild stuff):
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We used a regular 3-panel construction for the underskirt (the details can be seen here: Emily’s 9-panel). I have recently had the opportunity to really inspect a couple of panel dresses that did not have anywhere near enough room for a dancer to move freely: one had box pleats between the panels that were small and so terrifically stiffened that they did not have much give, and the other was a supposedly soft underskirt that was actually a set of ruffles attached to a RIGIDLY stiff CONE with vestigial, tiny stiffstiffstiff side pleats that did not move and NO back pleats…no room to dance here at all. I like the 3-panel underskirt because I already know how it moves and there is enough room for the dancer to kick freely. The next dress on deck is another panel with a completely soft underskirt…can’t wait to tackle that!

Look at the crown/headband “from a distance”…
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The clients had sent me a description of the type of headband that they wanted, but I had not received it by the time the dress was to be picked up, so I did my embroidery impression of a headband…does it look like one? A fat one? Molly thought I had succeeded. I am waiting for a pic of the dancer in full regalia to determine my success.

Here are my shawl “pins.”
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These are not actually pins…they “pin” the shawl underneath with a sandwich of velcro as shown in the Webmaster’s revamp, the flower dress, and Aislinn’s teal dress. One of Susan’s genius ideas. All of our clients are so amazed by them!

Here they are at work:
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(Notice the bunching above the embroidery line on the back of the bodice jacket? In a former life, my dressmaking dummy was an Olympic swimmer by the name of Helga…and this is as small as she goes. Does not fit this way on Emily, thank goodness!)

This is the skirt lining:
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Not enough fabric for the bloomers so made them out of heavy dark pink satin that matched the pink in this fabric.

Ended up putting some crystals at the neck…I like the necklace look. Used a tip from IDD posted by Erika…I put 2 fabric bandaids on my left index finger so that I could really press these hot-fix crystals into place. Great idea, Erika!

Yesterday, diva Maggie was looking at the bodice jacket and she exclaimed, “It looks just like a corSETTE!” That’s how she pronounced it.

” Yeah.. that’s the point, dear.”

“Oh…well, it’s cool.” The Divas are all lovin’ this dress! I feel truly successful when the Divas approve!

Even diva Michael is impressed with this dress. He actually came down the stairs into the dungeon to look and discuss it with me last night. Tonight I showed him the finished shawl product in this pic and he laughed…
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…can you see it?

The whole family has remarked that this dress, though intensive in its work process, has not been as crazy as others. However, Michael said, “That is so perfect!” when, in the background, he saw this:
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Not birth, but these creations make me tired and a bit bug-eyed!

Now…on to the next!

Emily’s 9-panel

(Edited 10/11 to include more info on the panels as asked for.)

Great fitting meeting on Sunday. Another extremely nice family. Their reactions to the dress were so wonderful…just spurs me on to make it all work perfectly.

Young miss had lost a bit of weight, so there were some fitting issues to be addressed. But otherwise, all is well. The colors on this dancer are unbelievable. Her last name is Irish, but she and mom, though blonde, have this beautiful naturally tanned skin…gorgeous. (Makes me feel like an albino mole rat…) And these colors on her are so wonderful. These are not my colors at all, but I absolutely love this dress. Even my girls all love this. Ahhh!

Here is the front skirt again. The bodice neckline and armscyes are just serged here.
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And here I have finished them off with a double-folded bias tape that I made myself…I was so proud of myself!!!! Had my nifty gadget and it was so easy! (I am such a geek about these gadgets!)
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Here is the back of the dress on the floor…no real reason that it is on the floor and not on the dummy… just my state of mind…Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Here you can see the full separating zipper…separated!!!
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And the lovely, wild skirt lining!
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This dress was supposed to be a 10 panel dress – 5 front & 5 back. I truly could not find a way to add that 10th panel so that it would fit into this skirt seamlessly, so I canned it. The back panels were all embroidered separately just like the 5 front panels, but these back panels had less stiffener so I could sew them down onto the back skirt. This is different than Molly’s dress below-
Here you see one back panel lifted. These had the full amount of stiffener in them and were only attached at the waist. This allowed for a lot of movement which I do love. But Molly (my daughter) is a different build than Emily. I have not seen Emilly in true dancing action, but she is a much slighter build than my Molly. I did not feel that adding extra weight via flying free panels was a benefit to Emily, so I sewed the panels to the back skirt which reduced the overall weight (less stiffener) and drag (no flying panels).

Someone asked if this was a flat panel skirt, meaning no pleats in the front skirt. No. The underskirt is a 3 panel skirt. Here is the underside of the very center panel on the CFP.
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The 3 panels on the CFP are sewn down about 1/3 of the way simply because they were not still enough for me when I was trying to get everything even!!!! Freaking OCD sometimes….

Here is the underside of the panel on the outside of the CFP. This panel lies a little more than half off of the CFP as you can see here.
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This is a side view of the same panel. The 2 CFP side panels were obviously only sewn down on one side.
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This is the side most panel on the front skirt. I did not have it overlap the outside edge of the FSP (front side panel) because I did not want to add width to the bottom of the skirt.
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Here you can see a bit of the FSP peeking out from behind the panel on the edge of the FSP.
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I have also been asked about deciding on the spacing for the panels. Quite frankly, I eyeball it and then use my ruler to make it as even as possible. These panels all met at the top and then I made decisions about final skirt width. After that, the other panels fit inside evenly, front and back, and were then sewn down.
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This is one of the back panels sewn onto the outside of one of the back pleats which brings me to…
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…the questions about which back panel configuration to use on these skirts – standard or inverted.

Answer: Whatever floats your boat!

I have made a couple of dresses with the inverted back pleats. My opinion? I do not think they balance most skirts well. If you have a flat dancer upon whom you can fit an absolutely flat panel dress, then yes, an inverted back panel pleat makes sense. I have not had one of those. I do feel that the skirts with the inverted back panels that I have made do not look proportioned because the front skirt has a fuller volume than the back. When I get Flat Stanley for a dancer, I will make a flat dress.

That being said, this dress is made differently than my daughter’s or the Webmaster’s panel dresses ( go here). Molly’s and Webmaster’s dresses were made to hang in a narrower silhouette than most. Emily’s skirt was not cut to hang the same way. Just another example of the versatility of the Feisdress pattern.

9 Panel Dress

Whoo-boy… another work intensive dress. Love it, love it…but why do my dresses seem to take longer and longer? Could it be that Susan keeps getting more creative, setting more and more intense challenges for me in terms of design, digitizing, creative hooping, and fabrics? 3 separate overlays that needed to be fused! SUSAN!!??!!

Before I get to it, first a pic of the snaggletoothed youngest diva in her princess gown. If you look carefully at the right side of her smile, you can see that there seems to be a whiter spot. That is a baby tooth that she has been working at so hard over the past few days that she bruised her gum!!! Did not matter what I said to her, she was determined to get that tooth out. She’s relentless. It did finally come out about an hour after this pic.

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And here is the dress that has been holding me hostage in the basement. It is a 2 piece, 9 panel. Fitting tomorrow to fine-tune the fit. The cotton underbodice is just serged right now…I will bind the armscyes and the neck after tomorrow.
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The sequins still have the plastic covering that I put over them to embroider. I will remove that when I am done wrestling with this dress. The dress has a full separating zipper.

Here is the bodice front.
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Like my toes?

Tomorrow I fit the bodice jacket as well. Thinking about a different hemline for it. We will see what all concerned think.

Time for bed.

A Soft Dress

Susan and I have talked about making a soft dress for quite a while, but have not found a willing client. After my last rant (hissy fit) in which I said I should perhaps put my money where my mouth is, I began thinking seriously about who I could get to wear one.

Molly. I passed the idea by her and she just shrugged and said, “Sure.”

That was easy.

She did then bring up that she has only worn the new one that I made for the regional Oireachtas once. She will wear it a few times before I get another done, but I want to do this. I put it to her that she would then have a choice of dresses…always works to point out the wardrobe advantages to a teenager. She’s rather excited.

Now to get busy.

Dress Observations

(Disclaimer: I love making Irish dance dresses, I love making Irish dance dresses, I love making Irish dance dresses,I love making Irish dance dresses…)

In order to meet & fit a new client, I went to the Nation’s Capital Feis yesterday. I had made the mock-bodice from measurements Susan had taken a few weeks ago…the client lives in southern Virginia and was here, obviously, for the feis. Very nice people. Good bodice, if I do say so myself…only have to make it smaller in the bust.

The young lady has quite a beautiful dress now. Dancer said it was a second hand Siopa Rince. Nicely made except for that zipper…shows on the inside of the skirt, not covered at all. What is that?!!! Dress costs a fortune and no one can take the extra five minutes to tuck the zipper into the lining and whip-stitch it into place? Irritates the bejesus out of me. Had a nice visit with the new clients. Had some musical accompaniment as a dancer prepared to play her fiddle for the music competition. Just love that. Finished with the dress business, Meave and I began our slow trek back to the car.

It felt very odd walking through a feis after all this time. Molly’s last feis was the Oireachtas in December, and Maggie’s and Meave’s was earlier in the fall…it may be almost a year by the time we go to our first one this fall. Anyway, I was hit by a very odd feeling as Meave and I maneuvered our way through the crush of bodies…I felt my shoulders rising to my ears. I felt a twitch starting at the side of my mouth… No doubt that “competing” charges the air in a very specific way. It was a disconcerting feeling.

Of course I was compelled to study every dress I walked by…quickly because I was NOT compelled to stop (had to escape some of this mania. Note to self: remember what it is like before we go to our first feis this fall). There were so many made almost entirely of sequins! And not just any sequins…FISHSCALE sequins! For those unfamiliar with them or who might call them something different, this pic illustrates what I call fishscale sequins:

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Rather pretty, aren’t they? And they make a whole Irish dance dress something to behold. Very striking…and very expensive!!!

I saw every type of dress imaginable…even a bubble skirt bobbing down the hall in the distance. Little girl moved too fast for me to see much before she disappeared. So many ideas…just proves what many on the boards have said…there is no absolute style to these things, no standard to measure yourself against. If you like it, do it because anything goes!!!

I did manage to end up next to some dresses sporting the “newest” trend (translation: it will change in five minutes) of using mainly embroidery and very little applique. The satin-stitched lines are thick so the design can be seen, which is great. I for one am happy to see some knotwork making a comeback. But what I have noticed in pics as well as in person yesterday is that they all seem to look the same. Why? All of the knotwork designs from days gone by did not look the same, but these are all using the same sharp-pointed diamonds, curly Victorian scrolls, and flowers. Can we not be creative on our own?

And it does look as if computerized machine embroidery is close to the norm now. I do not have a problem with that since that is my expertise. It also means that folks have seen the value of what we digitizing artists can do…perhaps there will be no more of those moronic statements on the boards about how this kind of embroidery takes no skill.

Interestingly, there was recently a lamentation on the Celtic Flame dressmakers board that all the new embroidery was being done by machine and that perhaps the hand-guiding embroiderers were now behind the eight ball, that only those with computerized machines can pull this stuff off. I do not believe that to be so. I know that there are ID dressmakers who are capable of doing hand-guided embroidery of all kinds. My Feisdress partner, Susan Gowin, still does the embroidery by hand for the dresses she designed for Dudney and Maple. I am amazed by the clarity and neatness of the stitching. Don’t give this up, too, ladies!!!!

Here are pics of Susan’s gorgeous handiwork:

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Beautiful. You can see more in her Feisdress gallery.

Meave and I both said, “Whoa!” when we passed the for sale area. The rack set up for the sale of used dresses was packed, stuffed, and scarily overwhelming. Meave and I did stop briefly as I glanced over them, but there were so many, so precariously smashed together, that I did not want to really examine any too closely because I might have to pick them all up from the floor! But a couple of things struck me.

1) They all looked new…and beautiful. I could see “used” on many of the info signs attached to them, but the signs of wear were not immediately evident.

2) There were so many of them.

3) The use of fabrics of all kinds was fantastic! Visual feast!

4) The dresses that I could see were ALL 3 panels.

5) There were so many of them.

6) The prices for these “used” dresses were out of this world! From $1200 to $2500 for a used dress!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Susan and I are about to put a used dress up for sale…it has been worn 5 times and we are thinking of asking $950, half the actual construction price…$1200 is a new dress!!!!

7) There were so many of them!!!!

Conclusions that one might draw…one must not keep a dress too long because you must keep up with the trends, so sell it when it is still technically new. Charge an arm and a leg so you can make up what you spent in the first place so you can buy another new dress that you will only wear 4 times so you can then repeat the process. 3 panels are old fashioned…so why would anyone want to buy it? At that PRICE?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I feel a twitchybitchy fit roiling…

There have been several “conversations” on the boards about the glut of dresses in the used dress market. It is a very interesting phenomenon, this mentality that a dancer must only wear a dress a few times, that staying “current” is SOOOO important. I am pretty sure that every solo client that I have had still owns the dress I made. They do not feel compelled to keep buying new dresses. Not sure I understand this aquisitive state of mind. I am interested to see what happens in the next year as folks are unable to sell their used dresses. Perhaps a change in attitude is a-comin’!!!

While I was at the feis for the fitting, Molly and Maggie were in Irish dance class. Meave and I went back to wait. Meave spent that time practicing her steps. Near the end of class, I went to watch for a little. Jordan was really putting Molly thru her paces. Loved it. Such interesting, wonderful choreography. After my short trip into La-la Land at the feis, it was nice to see just dancing. I will admit here that going to feiseanna can make me crazy. Competition was nowhere to be found in my classical dance training. I competed as a cheerleader…and that is what competing in the upper levels at a feis reminds me of. Made me crazy as a teenager… makes me very tense as an adult.

Good to have this reminder now. I am resolved to be as cool as a cucumber at our first feis back this fall. I will encourage the divas to be friendly, to talk to their fellow competitors. I resolve to keep all of this light and fun and social. I resolve to meet at least 2 new folks. Maybe I will go introduce myself to ZandB and get myself a MoonPie!

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