Hmm…more ID Weirdness???

So, have you all seen the discussion on Celtic Flame?  Here is part:

From what I have heard, it is more an opportunity for the Commission to cash in on costumes
Not impressed at all

Date Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 11:49:17am
In reply to: looking ahead ‘s message,
“any predictions about new dress rules coming down the pipe?” on Monday, February 18, 12:47:27am

From what I have been told by a member of An Coimisiun, dressmakers/designers would be encouraged to “apply” to An Coimisiun with their ideas and proposals. An Coimisiun would dictate the kinds of fabrics to be used, the style of dress (i.e. solid dress, split panel, 1 color, 2 color, etc.) and the areas on which designs/embroidery/embellishments could appear. Any dressmaker wishing to make a costume would then apply to An Coimisiun for permission/rights to make an approved costume. An Coimisiun would receive a fee for granting the privilege to the dressmaker to make an approved dress, and then reward the selected designer with a portion of that fee (perhaps). I believe that An Coimisiun is in a position to give clear guidelines as to what is or is not acceptable, as they did in the past. However, I think what they anticipate passing, ie., another way for them to generate revenues (and for what???), is totally out of order

Umm…Michelle?  Is this your understanding?

Client from Hell

(Any former clients of mine who read this, I am NOT talking about any of you! Any folks who were this rude, did not get a dress…and I do thank Susan for keeping the pitch fork in my behind until I came to my senses.)

A dressmaker on the Celtic Flame board asked for perspectives on a situation with a client…a client that should now reside in the “former” category but instead has been allowed to bulldoze her way into the “current and continuing to be rude, condescending, grasping and non-paying” category. As I wrote in my short reply to the original post, this chaps my ass!!!!!

I feel bad for the dressmaker. She has allowed herself to be badgered into this situation…yes, it is her fault. But this happens a lot because the smaller dressmaker does not want to make anybody angry, does not want an idiot client like this to say bad things about her because it might affect her business. I understand that…I bet most, if not all of us understand that. In fact, I’m sure many of us have found ourselves in situations when we are completely taken aback by potential and/or current clients who make the astoundingly condescending assumption that because we are not a BN (big name) that we are there solely to be taken advantage of, to work for nothing, to spend our own money making them happy just so they might pass our name on to other prospective clients….what do they call that crap? Oh yeah, EXTORTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I found the definition of extortion here in this internet law library:

EXTORTION – The use, or the express or implicit threat of the use, of violence or other criminal means to cause harm to person, reputation, or property as a means to obtain property from someone else with his consent. USC 18

The Hobbs Act defines “extortion” as “the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.” 18 U.S.C. S 1951(b)(2).

Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Well it is. The feelings that this behavior from clients brings on are depressing & overwhelming! And it has to be downright mind-blowing when you get clients who are bold enough to actually threaten you with a bad review as I have heard about from dressmakers but thankfully not experienced…I have this image of my head exploding were I ever to be confronted by such subnormality! Where do they get off treating dressmakers so badly?

So what is this behavior?

This current story goes like this (I have made things a bit more obscure to protect the dm, NOT the client who should be locked in the stocks and pelted with rotten eggs): The dressmaker sold a semi-custom dress 3 months ago, an OTR (off-the-rack) that was bought during construction, so it was fitted to the dancer and a couple of time-consuming design enhancements were made at their request at no extra charge. At the final fitting, 2 days before a feis, they asked for another whole “addition” to the dress and that was delivered, also no extra charge. Should have been the end of the story.

The client called not long ago to say she was dissatisfied with the dress as the side panels were not laying flat. She wanted it fixed in less than a week. The dm offered to look at the dress to see what needed to be done, not wanting to have a dissatisfied customer sharing her opinion with all who would listen. The problems were OBVIOUSLY caused by the dancer – an obvious crease line across the panels from being sat in and side panels that were distorted because of the dancer’s particular way of pushing forward with her arms. The dm agreed to take the dress to flatten the panels and pull it up a bit at the side seams to make it harder for the dancer to distort the panels as she danced. Then, the mother says that the (emergency) “addition” was not what she had asked for.

Here is when the dm should have said that seeing as how the “addition” had been thrown in free of charge, if the client wanted a new one, she was going to have to pay for it…and the alterations she was about to do. But she did not. She spent more of her own money, spent valuable time fixing the dress, and gave it all back. At this point, even though our dm had not said up front that there would be charges for her work, an ETHICAL HUMAN BEING would have asked what the charges were. But this piece of work simply took the dress. THEN the dm saw her at a feis, and the client mama from hell and her dancer complained that the “addition” still wasn’t what they wanted -they liked one her friend had better- and they told her how to make it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The dm had one last question for us: “Do you other folks think I have any obligation to spend another day and $20 in materials to make her another gift???”


Here’s another: The dressmaker spent hours consulting with an entire family on a dress. (Right there, Susan would have fired the clients!) The dm went out of her way to help them, spent hours searching the world for their desired fabric. She made a mock bodice which fitted perfectly, did two fittings, and at the final one, the girl had the dress on for at least half an hour. There was never any mention about the dress being tight, uncomfortable etc. 6 months later, they are not happy with the fit of the dress. And this is all her fault, and they want the dm to alter the dress. For free.

This dm is getting ready to tell them a firm NO, thank goodness. She says, “I provided a well tailored, perfectly fitting dress made to their requirements. (Dealing with this dress is) NOT AN ONGOING SERVICE. It is not my problem if the girl has had a growth spurt or wants the dress to be as loose fitting as her pajamas. This time I am going to be firm and not be taken for a ride.”

One of my dressmaker friends had a former client come to her to say that the dress did not fit and it was her fault…although they were happy because it fit “so perfectly” when she danced in it at the Southern Region Oireachtas 6 months earlier! And, in the same incredibly long and convoluted email, the client went on to blame this dm for the fact that a dress she had bought from her 18months EARLIER was not selling…and she really was hoping not to have to resort to telling folks what a bad dressmaker my friend is!! It was the weirdest piece of deluded rationalization I have ever read.

Idiot dressmaking clients (if you are not an idiot, please disregard this question), would you call Gavin or Siopa Rince or Elevation or etc, etc, etc to tell them that you no longer like the cape/applique fabric/lining/tutu or that the dress that they made for you 6 months ago/ 1 year ago/ 18 months ago does not fit now (because your daughter grew, but you don’t admit that) and that IT IS THEIR FAULT AND THEY HAVE TO FIX IT? FOR FREE???!!! And then threaten them with smears on their reputations if they don’t? No, of course you wouldn’t! So, why do you do call your lone dm and tell her that? Why is her work of less value? What is it that you think she owes you?

I choose to believe that this kind of client is not the norm…if it was, there would be no lone dressmakers. I have really been lucky with the clients I have worked with so far, knock on wood. But, I know there will be a time that a loony gets by Susan’s PITA radar (she IS my first line of defense), and it will be my luck that the fireworks will start after Susan is done with her part, so I will have to figure out how to handle it myself. I know it will not be easy, believe me.

After writing this, I am thinking I should finish my contract and state very clearly where and when my obligation stops. Perhaps we all should.

Irish Dance Dresses: Beginning of a Revolution?

On the message boards lately there have been posts about the cost of dresses, the cost of competing, the fact that there have been a couple of feiseanna that have prohibited solo dresses…as you can imagine, the ranting can really get going. Here are a few links to some of these discussions:

Main board #1, #2 , #3
Southern region board
Board for UK, Ire, Eur (The post here was removed by the moderator because things apparently got nasty. Gotta love that moderator! But I have included this as a link to that board.)

This is the first time since I have been doing this that I think a change may actually be in the offing. And then this morning, I read this:

Our TC would love to see simpler costumes and is aware of costs. Our parent org. pays for entry fees to majors, warm-ups, etc. Classes are very reasonable. However, the costs to compete are beyond her control. We are not compelled to buy new dresses but, you reach a point in Open and PC when it is obvious to break the ceiling you have to shell out for a Gavin or Siopa Rince, also, have seen a middle of the field placer suddenly take the podium in a new Gavin. have to believe it is just not my imagination! — Mo Dance Mom

Have some guts, Mo Dance Mom! Say no!!!! You are feeding into the psychology of it and that influences your daughter.

I find all of this very interesting, because believe me, if I was not able to make solo and school dresses for my own daughters, we would not be dancing beyond the recreational level. Yes, I make Irish dance solo dresses, and yes, they can cost a pretty piece of change because of what folks want….but they do not cost what a Gavin or Siopa Rince or an Elevation or a few cocky others cost, and even better, when it comes to my daughters, they love what I can do. They have yet to look at one of those other dresses and swoon. Because I am clear about the must-have-because-I-will-win psychology of the BN dresses, my divas are VERY clear that the dress will not MAKE them win!!!!

My perspective:

What is driving this market for expensive dresses?
I do not have a definitive answer. From my perspective, I see a few things.

First, there is that such a mystique has been built around the BNs (big names) that we have a severe case of the Emperor’s new clothes permeating our gullible ranks. (Look under Rants if you want to read more of my squawkings about these folks, and no, that’s not me on the boards posting about the Emperor…I was so taken with the analogy that I now use it.) And for better or worse (and perhaps more power to them), the BNs are riding the wave. For now. I do believe a backlash is in the workings.

Then, there are the teachers (TCs). You read time and time again about TCs insisting that students buy their solo dresses only from the BNs. And for parents that accept this CRAP, this means that they HAVE to pay what they are told to…for a dress that they probably have no input in, will know nothing about until the day it arrives, and if it does not fit (which seems to be the usual case), they are stuck because the BNs do not take returns or fix their mistakes. We are paying the TCs for their Irish dancing expertise, not their dressmaking abilities. (Just in case it is not implicitly understood, I am not including TCs [or ADs] that are also dressmakers in this category…I think the reasons are obvious.) I give our TC the respect of passing ideas by her and she is working personally with her students that need new solo dresses, but not only would she NOT insist on spending outrageous amounts of money, I would not agree to it! One of the discussions that I posted links to above includes a post that says their TC accepts commissions on all dresses she gets her students to purchase from a particular dressmaker…not the first time I have heard that. And this is actually pretty common practice at non-Irish dance studios that put on end-of-year recitals…but those costumes are usually less than $100 a pop! I am thinking that making money is getting in the way of common sense and ethical behavior. And it brings me to another thought that has been percolating in my brain about teachers as gurus…but that is for another day.

One of the above links also includes posts about adjudicators who think that WHAT a dancer is wearing is very important. Perhaps I am naive, but I truly find this hard to completely believe (quiet, Susan!). Ok, at the very top, when dancer A and dancer B are so good that you cannot decide, maybe the dancer in the soft floral dress appeals more to one judge than the amazon in the modern black dress…and vice versa for the next judge!!! And yes, I had one very credulous TC tell me that she had changed her stance on solo dresses for her school because 1 (ONE) adjudicator told her that she looks at the dresses before the dancers even begin and decides who to watch and who to ignore. What makes me MOST INCREDULOUS about this is that this TC did not see this adjudicator for the twit she is! I know this ridiculousness exists, but you also read time and time again about (and I have witnessed) dancers who place first in school costumes or out-dated costumes. I choose to believe that the majority of adjudicators are looking at the dancing first and foremost. Aren’t we here for the dancing?

And then there are the parents. I have read posts that blame the current state of things on the “mamas with the checkbooks.” Yes…but no. First of all, I would assume that most parents trust their TCs and follow their advice. Remember this post of mine about the dress that need “jazzing up?” Case in point…yet what I appreciated about this mama is that she came to me to hear another point of view, I gave it to her, and she compromised. And, I do understand how those of us who take our daughters to feis after feis can get caught up in the look, the pageantry of it all. But, I do not blame parents…most are simply trying their best to make sure that their daughters feel and look their best. Why? Because we love them to distraction, and a happy dancer has happy feet.

But, as the post above reminds me, we as parents have got to keep this in perspective so that our children can. Ok, so a mid-level dancer suddenly won in a BN dress? I am venturing a guess that she felt pretty spectacular that day and danced that much better…is it the magic of the dress or the magic of the idea of the dress? Don’t know about you, but I feel it is my job to make the difference clear to my divas.

Do the BNs charge too much for their dresses?

I am going to go way out on a limb here and make this statement: Because they do not make them as well as I do…Ha! I have now put that in print! And I am not the ONLY one who creates well-made dresses. My experience has been this: until this weekend, every time I have examined a dress made by a BN, I have been amazed and appalled by how poorly made they were. (Go here for that first rant.) And dress after dress on the for-sale racks that do not tell you who made them are beautifully made – neatly, precisely, carefully. (I have already posted about the SR dress I saw this weekend…beautiful and totally unlike the others I have inspected… except for that zipper!) I think most of us lone dressmakers are driven by our own demons/angels/neuroses to do good work.

Here’s the thing, though: if the BNs took the time to craft their dresses as carefully as most lone dressmakers do, their would be no question that their dresses are worth the price. Why? I am looking at this answer from my perspective which is this: wherever it comes from, clients now want so many bells and whistles that Vera Wang would tell them to mortgage the house! (I know, I know, which came first? The BNs or the bells and whistles? The chicken or the freaking egg!?!) There is a simple fact here…the dresses are so complex, made from such expensive fabrics that take such great care to use well that the labor alone is expensive. It is time that ID dress consumers understand that FACT!

Some clients come to you and want all the bells and whistles that they see on the BN dresses…but they do not want to pay the same amount. I now set forth my basic price list (and it is rather detailed) so that clients get a good idea what it will cost to get what they want. And I think it is fair. I could charge more…if I actually charged what my inner Donald Trump thinks I am worth, my dresses would cost as much as the BNs. But I do not do it…mainly because I love doing it and do not want to price myself out of the biz! The point is that what clients now want (because of the BNs!) is costly! And this brings me to this:

If you want your dresses to be cheaper, work with your dressmaker to CREATE a cheaper dress.
What makes a dress cheaper? Many things, but ultimately it all comes down to how long it takes to create one of these wearable pieces of art: all the embroidery & applique; the expensive fabrics and overlays; engineering the stiffness of all the various skirt styles; the expensive threads & crystals & feathers & beads, etc, etc, etc, etc…

You cannot cut down on the price of a good design…but you can cut down on how much of the dress it covers which lowers the embroidery costs.

Good fabric that will last is worth the money, but are you going to turn around and sell it in 6 months? No one will care in this market now how much you originally spent. Having trouble myself with this mentality. If you plan on keeping your dress for quite awhile, invest in the good stuff that will stand up.

Do you need that $30/yd overlay, those $99/yd sequins? Do you know that it costs more to make a dress like that?

Can you apply the crystals yourself? I have good sources for the supplies and it will cost you less if you do it.

How about taking a risk on a soft dress…you know, the way they used to be way back when!?! I will charge you less if I do not have to keep working out to deal with the wrestling matches aka attaching that damn skirt!!!!!

Ultimately, what is important to you? I understand wanting to satisfy the daughter’s inner diva…but we all have to remember who the parent is. I know, easy for me to say…but I am resolved to continue instilling in my divas a sense of the dancing being most important, not the dress. I would love nothing better than for my daughters to dance in simpler costumes. If I have the guts to make it, maybe they will have the guts to wear it. Perhaps I need to put my money where my mouth is, eh?

Should the ID commission ban solo dresses?
That’s a tough one. I do think that suddenly making plain costumes mandatory, as some folks are calling for and some feiseanna are trying, is a bit heavy-handed and reactionary. As with any change, it goes over better when it is phased in slowly. But I am not sure we fractious, independent Irish would take all that well to being taken in hand that way. Many are frustrated with the way the costume rules are written now…maybe they are written so obliquely on purpose. For those that need rules, they are there, but for those who chafe, we can laugh that they really do not seem to say much!!!

And considering that the commission did set rules about what levels allow solo dresses, maybe they are thinking ahead. Maybe there will come a day when they set a deadline for having simpler dresses in place at the champ levels.

Would I mind that? No. As a dressmaker, this would mean a change, yes, and dress prices would fall, but I am sure I could make more dresses in the time it takes me to make just one now. As a parent, I would love to see more of my divas when they dance and less of the dress.

What about the current dress glut?
Interesting situation. And it reminds me of the housing situation here where I live. Between one road and the next, there are 14 houses for sale. And they have been for sale for a long time. These houses were bought when the market was booming and houses did not stay on the market for a day! Folks bought them thinking that in a few years, they would turn around and sell them for 3 times what they paid! Well, it’s not happening. Folks are in a panic. Each house goes up with an astronomical sale price…and then they sit there. They drop the price…and sit there. If they really want to sell, they will have to drop the price to something attractive to people and get over what they wanted to make off of it. Every once in a while, an owner takes the house off the market and decides to stay for the long haul.

Seems to be the same for the dresses. I do not think the glut of dresses will abate any time soon. Perhaps we should live in our dresses for a while. And wait.

There is something frantic in our Irish dance world right now. That is what struck me like a runaway truck when I walked into that feis this past weekend. The energy that greeted me was not happy, it was agitated. Have we let things get too out of control?

Zen-master wisdom

Susan sent this to me tonight with the attached note, “For you, Zen-master.” Set off a few fits of giggles. Just the right blend of Zen and smart-ass…Irish wisdom.

1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me the hell alone .

2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a leaky tire.

3. It’s always darkest before dawn, so if you’re going to steal your neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it.

4. Don’t be irreplaceable. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

5. Always remember that you’re unique. Just like everyone else.

6. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

7. If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

8. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.

9. If at first you don’t succeed…… skydiving is not for you.

10. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

11. If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

12. Some days you’re the bug, some days you’re the windshield.

13. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.

14. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put back in your pocket.

15. A closed mouth gathers no foot.

16. Duct tape is like ‘The Force’. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

17. There are two theories to arguing with a women – Neither one works.

18. Generally speaking, you aren’t learning much when your lips are moving.

19. Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.

20. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

Brain Warp

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(Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSmart ass alert.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket)

I received a phone call this weekend from an Irish dance mom. She was told by her daughter’s teacher that her competition dress needed jazzing up. The child is 9 or 10, and the dress is new, made especially for her. The color is perfect for her, and she looks gorgeous in it. She is in the preliminary level which is just one level away from the top.

This young dancer just placed first in her level.

And the teacher thinks the dress needs to be changed.

To make sure she places…to make sure she gets first…the dress she just wore when HER DANCING was deemed worthy of a 1st place needs to be changed…so she wins…

Can you see my problem here? I am warping my brain trying to understand this.

The teacher says the dress needs a shaped hem and a jazzier neckline…so the dancer places.

I am on the verge of running around my neighborhood, laughing hysterically, ripping off my clothes…but I don’t want to be arrested.

So the dress arrives yesterday…ID mom and I stand there and look at the dress. We look at each other and then stare at the dress some more. I finally give her my opinion: shaping the hem on this dress will not make her place better than she already has…1st place. She says that’s what she thinks. We stare at the dress a bit more. There is plenty of sparkle, but I volunteer that perhaps we could put some crystals around the neckline…so that she places first…again. The mom’s mouth is beginning to twist a little as she asks if I really think that crystals will help her place first…again. I think about it and then muse on the possiblity that the judge watching her might be susceptible to the hypnotizing abilities of the magic crystals that I will place on the neckline…so that she places first…again. After all, everyone knows that Irish dance judges are not very bright and are easily influenced by Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucketsparkles.Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

ID mom finally laughs, takes a breath, and says no to the shaped hem and yes to a few crystals. Just in case the magic in them can really help her daughter to place first…again. She went home to call the teacher, and since I have not heard a thing, I shall work my magic with my neckline crystals.

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