Client Spotlight: Sarah G.

If I were to have a patron, Sarah would be it.  Over the last year she has commissioned several skirts from me, choosing the most whimsical, geeky, STEMy fabric imaginable.  As a client, she is a joy to work with.  So, when she approached me about creating a Miss Frizzle cosplay, I said yes without hesitation.

What Sarah wanted was simple in it’s vision: a matching skirt and shirt that would look like a dress, with the wide elastic of the skirt acting as a belt.  Being a busty woman, Sarah wanted to avoid the problems she’s had in the past with fitting dresses to her figure.  We talked at length about what kind of shirt would work best for the costume.  Though she was hesitant when I brought up a button down, she said she trusted me to make it work.

I understand her trepidation.  Button down shirts can be difficult for women with large breasts.  Not only is there the button gap issue, but in order to fit a shirt to your bust you often end up with a garment that looks like a tent.  In this case I had the advantage because I would be sewing the shirt from scratch.

Simplicity 9818 Pattern
For an all purpose button down shirt, this pattern is about as easy as they come.

I chose a pattern I already had on hand: Simplicity 9818.  I’d used the pattern before to make a shirt for myself, so I was familiar with the instructions.  The pattern itself stopped two sizes short of Sarah’s measurements.  This is where having multiple copies of a pattern on hand helps.  Using pattern paper I first traced the largest size, then I slid the pattern paper over, matching the markings with the smaller, inner size, and traced the larger size again.  From that pattern I made a muslin to make sure the sizing was correct.

If I were making the shirt for every day wear, I would have added bust darts up from the waist to make it a bit more tailored.  Since it was going to be tucked into the skirt and needed to look like part of the dress, I didn’t.  When she got the costume, she told me she was over the moon with the fit.  For once she had a button down shirt that fit her measurements.  Her trust in me had been well founded.  And it’s responses like that, the feeling of pulling on a piece of clothing that just fits like it is supposed to, that make this job so satisfying.  As someone who got into sewing because I hated going clothes shopping, I love that I can help others in that regard.

Microbes - Lime & Teal by Erin Hayward
I love the retro future design of these microbes.

The fabric Sarah chose, Microbes by Erin Hayward, is what really made this outfit work.  The design is recognizable for what it is, and it has just the right cartoony look to it.  With her wig and plush lizard, Sarah said that people at DragonCon immediately knew who she was.

This is an aspect of cosplay that I really love: going out in a character that other people relate to on a personal level.  To see a beloved character in the flesh, so to speak, to be able to interact with them, get a picture with them, connect with them, even if only for a moment of pretend, is one of those small moments of joy that help offset the horribleness of our current reality.  There are shootings and poverty and people without health care or power and natural disasters and suffering the world over.  Those things need our attention and help.  But we also need to have moments where we can retreat and recharge.  And this one small action, dressing up as Miss Frizzle, had ripple effects.  While I made the costume I felt happiness.  When Sarah dressed up, she felt happiness.  Those who saw her, not only in person, but in pictures posted on the Internet, felt happiness.  That is no small thing.

I’m already working on more skirts for Sarah.  I’ve sewn enough for her that they almost warrant their own post.  For now, I leave you with pictures of Miss Frizzle, out and about at DragonCon.  I hope seeing them brings you a moment or two of happiness.

Miss Frizzle Cosplay
Look at that wig! Look at that lizard!
Miss Frizzle Cosplay
I love the saucy pose!

SLCC: The Good, The Bad & the Ugly

I headed back to Salt Lake City this last weekend for the Salt Lake Comic Con.  It was me, Stephan, our kids, two checked duffel bags of inventory, and a determination to sell handmade geekery to the masses.

So how did that work out?

Let’s start with the good.  Despite a mishap that saw myself, the kids and luggage on the train to the hotel and Stephan left behind at the station, the trip there was relatively uneventful*.  Ben managed to keep his chaotic energy to a minimum while Charlotte played numerous games of Solitaire on her phone.

We got to our spot in the Salt Palace Convention Center with little difficulty and got set up in record time.  Stephan provided extra lung power to get Johanns Rex inflated and ready for his convention debut.  I forgot to pack clothes pins so I had to improvise a hanging solution for the skirts with binder clips.  All in all, I think the set up was good.  Especially later when I raided the empty space next to me for another table for the dice bags.

Stephan inflating the giant T-rex.
You know what they say about a man with big lung capacity, don’t you?
When not modeling bustles in the booth, Johanns T-Rex pilots an airship crewed by raptors called The Clever Girl.
When not modeling bustles in the booth, Johanns T-Rex pilots an airship crewed by raptors called The Clever Girl.

The good came in many different forms: Several friends stopped by the booth to offer support via food runs, helping to hock wares, and entertaining children.  Charlotte spent a lot of time in the booth drawing and running the Square.  Everyone who heard the refrain, “All the skirts have pockets” squealed with joy.  At least three men picked up a business card because their wives weren’t at the convention but they were certain to be interested in the skirts.  At one point, a woman pulled a skirt on over her leggings, paid and then twirled out of the booth.

Skirts and bustles ready to cover some geeky butts.
Skirts and bustles ready to cover some geeky butts.

The bad, though, was pretty bad.  At the end of the con I joked with myself that the awesome thing about capitalism is that it could enumerate just how much of a failure a person is in dollars and cents.  I had come out to the convention with the optimistic goal of $10,000 in sales.  That number would be really hard to make, but I had twelve grand in inventory, plus I expected to get lots of commissions for the skirts.  Based on what I made at SLC FanX in March (almost $1,500 with half the number of attendees) I could reasonably expect to make $3,000.

Readers, I pulled in a whopping $915.

Saturday night, as I broke down the booth, I had a hard time keeping Jerk Brain at bay.  Every single horrible thing he has ever said to me felt true.  I was a worthless loser, a dumbass who chose the wrong thing every time.  I was stupid and irresponsible and lazy and a burden to my family.  Why did I keep deluding myself into thinking I could support myself and my family by sewing?  If anyone could do it we wouldn’t be buying cheap T-shirts from sweatshops.

Sunday wasn’t much better.  I became intimately acquainted with the hotel bed while Stephan and the kids spent time with friends.  I deactivated my Facebook account because I couldn’t face people with the weight of my failure.  Monday we flew back to Chicago with me dragging behind my family every step of the way.

I kept thinking about how I had proven myself a failure, how I would have to give up the sewing and the idea that I could make a living from home.  I was convinced that the only thing I was good for was taking up space.  Back home, once I was sure that Trixie still loved me, we had unpacked and gotten the kids off to bed, Stephan poured me a glass of wine and we talked.  And he pointed out that really, all I proved was that I shouldn’t do conventions right now.  The benefit of a host of potential customers in a small space wasn’t actually manifesting.  I handed out a lot of business cards and got people signed up to my mailing list, but that was something I could do from home.

Stephan talked me off of the ledge of giving up on everything.  We came up with a new game plan that focuses on non-event related sales and marketing.  And this morning I started listing those skirts that didn’t sell on my Etsy.

You would think making a tenth of what I was expecting would fall under the category “Ugly” and, yet, this isn’t the case.  One of the things that I like about Salt Lake City is that people are very nice.  When the train fiasco happened people were kind to help me get luggage off the train at the next station to wait for Stephan.  A man stopped by and checked up on us when he saw me and the kids sitting out on our own late at night.  That friendliness was in attendance for the most part at the convention.  The flip side, however, was a level of bad behavior I’ve never experienced at another convention.

I learned when I started vending not to use the line “Everything here is meant to be touched.”  While most people would understand that I meant the stock in my booth, there was always one or more men who would cock an eyebrow and say “Anything?” in that gross aren’t-I-so-clever way.  On Friday, I learned that the behavior cannot be stopped by using the right words, or is even limited to just men.  My friend Kyra was helping a lady and said “You are welcome to touch things in the booth.”

The woman reached out and touched Kyra’s face!

This … this is not appropriate behavior for life, let alone a convention.  I didn’t see it happen, else there would have been a body shoved under the table.  The woman fled when Kyra told her firmly, “Not me!”  Good thing I’m not going to do conventions for a while, else I’d have to make up a sign that read, “Please do not pet the staff.”

Poor Kyra bore the brunt of the bad behavior that weekend.  At one point a guy walking past yelled at her, “I’m in the need of some discipline, will you discipline me?”  Again, something that won’t be an issue if I don’t vend at conventions, however I am now imagining how I can weaponize my belly fat so I can just start whapping such dude bros.

Because this kind of thing always happens in threes, I overheard a man yelling that he only wanted the two hottest girls from a group cosplay in his photo.  Chalk one more person up for a hit a run by my thunder thighs.

So now it is back home time.  Ben is now in full day kindergarten, which means I now have dedicated hours to sew.  And that’s what I’m going to do.  I have a few commissions from SLCC to work on.  That should also mean there will be more posting here.  First up, I’ll get a tutorial for the skirts posted in the next few days.


*We flew from Chicago to SLC.  The train I mention was from the SLC airport to the hotel.  At $10 for a one way trip for four people, it was well worth the late night Griswold-esque adventure.