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Arrrrrrrrgh!

Originally published at RavenDreams - Confessions. You can comment here or there.

Just finding it really hard to try and sell pants when the world is falling apart. Just so many juxtapositions of BLUSH IS THIS SEASONS NEW COLOUR vs TRUMP TO ADOPT 20% VAT TO BUILD A WALL to WHAT MODELS REALLY EAT vs MAY TO SELL OFF NHS TO THE US. I just want to scream all the time! And the number of people who are just gormless with each new announcement!

Let me clear things up for you.

  1. No one likes Trump ESPECIALLY not the GOP. Their pick for president is Pence. So they are supporting and letting Trump do whatever he wants so they can later have cause to hang him. LITERALLY as hanging is still on the books as punishment for treason. So no one is stopping or pointing out the huge hypocrisy (these are the things he had the Repblican nation shouting LOCK HER UP at Clinton) of Trump’s recent gaffs:
    • Using private email servers
    • Linking government social media accounts to non secure private email accounts. Staff publishing secure passwords online…
    • The prolific use of Executive Orders to create new policy (major argument for Obama corruption)
    • Outright and provable lying
    • Pissing off the press (notice how Pence is keeping clean in all this – being seen as the good and reasonable guy?)
  2. Pence is the GOP choice for president. They are using the antics and insanity of Trump to groom Pence in the eyes of the public. Already we are seeing papers like NYT and WP (will find refs for you later) stating they would rather see Pro-lifer Pence in office. Prime example is the Hamilton twitter battle. Trump went off the deep end while Pence issued a statement saying 1st amendment rights are a good thing. Pence is beginning to look like the voice of reason and sanity – This is the biggest gaslight of them all!
  3. Brexit. What a fucking mess and now we have the same sort of American shenanigans starting up here!
    • Tories have been hell bent on selling off the NHS before this mess and now they are using “watch what the left hand is doing to mask the real action”.
    • May only wants to be PM so she will play the Pence role whilst setting up pillocks like Boris and Farage to take the fall for Tory policies.
    • Corbyn using the 3 Line Whip to force through Article 50 so that the public will hate the Tories and blame them for the economic fail that has already started, the sale of the NHS, transportation fares skyrocketing, and infrastructure government and industry falling apart. Let’s not even start with the environment.
  4. Civil Disobedience. So you had a nice day out in Washington? Have a souvenir hat? GREAT! Because that is the same amount of effectiveness that Occupy Wall Street had will less litter!

    “Yet I’ll never forget talking with the banker in his crisp suit and air-conditioned office, looking out the window at the protesters below and just laughing, laughing, laughing. Because he knew they’d eventually be gone and nothing would change.” By Petula Dvorak, Washington Post speaking of the Occupy Wall Street movemnt.

    Protests are really missing a trick here!!!!! With all the many millions of women marching around the world there was no unified message, no unified slogan, NO UNIFIED ACTION! No the action was not the march! It was what you did after! Michael Moore attempted to give focus by creating a Phone Campaign (202-225-2031), but there is no central agenda, groups like Pant Suit Nation who created the March are doing NOTHING to move forward in any kind of a timely manner. The GOP are DEPENDING on momentum being lost and worse yet dissipated into other issues. There are burgeoning acts of civil disobedience from the State Department top brass quitting, to scientists refusing to remain gagged and opening up on twitter.

We are all screaming at every new twist and turn of policy being blasted out by our governments. But here and this is the real point. Nothing they have put out so far is an action either… It’s all hot air! This is testing the wind and public opinion. Let’s take the wall. First Trump announces Mexico will pay, but actually it’s taxes generated on goods coming from Mexico paid by the American people at 20%. Once the screaming started they judged the way the piss was falling and then announced that it was only one of many ways the money to build the wall could be generated. The hunt for the actual policy to protest is exhausting.

The GOP and the Brexiters are DEPENDING upon us all becoming jaded and losing initiative as we spend all our outrage now. Sure there is another march in April about Trump’s taxes – but numbers will be down and the next march? And the next?  We need to focus on the war not all these little battles which are actually diversionary tactics to wear us down.

We need a list and we need to check it twice. And we need to start kicking the Democratic Party.

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Bad Reviews

I can always tell when I am going to get a bad review… Thankfully there have not been that many, but they do really hurt when I get them. Maybe this article will lose me clients or get me more bad reviews. Invariably bad reviews are for a handful of the same reasons.


  • Bad attitude. Client comes in with a bad attitude, they leave with one no matter how far backwards you bend over for them. No matter what you do it will never be enough.


  • Unhappy with the Fit. Plus size women will not measure themselves. A measuring tape is a thing of ultimate fear and humiliation. If you do not measure yourself accurately or worse yet get creative with the numbers – it wont fit and there is nothing I can do about it. This is happening more and more often and I have recently had to add a size chart to every listing on every platform because a link to the size chart is not enough. Now while I can deal with the 10cm problem (4 inches between sizes), having incorrectly measured by 3 sizes is not helpful. And then to complain publicly that the fit is wrong, or the material is not stretchy enough… In each case I have offered to remake the item – that’s money out of my pocket for their mistake – and they still give me a mediocre review. See above.


  • Time wasters. These are the ones who never buy. They are the most populated group and it happens about twice a week. They ask a million questions and want alterations to the design and materials. What they really want is the attention they are getting from a professional that makes them feel special and listened to. The fantasy of owning the item is another big part of the dream. But they don’t have the money. They just really want to be your friend. Which is fine and nice – but I work to pay my bills and having these discussions is a huge time suck. Doing the research on alterations to designs, finding fabrics in different colours, new laces, etc. it takes hours that wont be recouped in the sale of a single item. Where the break even is in the sale of a second or third item in the same pattern, colour or materials. I do a lot of custom work but the only people who complain are the ones who when you draw the line and ask them politely to order, get angry that I am not grateful for their patronage and then blacken my name and brand to everyone within the reach of their social media accounts.

What makes this so frustrating is the some of the eCommerce platforms don’t allow you to respond to the criticism. The bad crit stands unanswered. I want to make my clients happy – no – ecstatic, but I have to realise that that wont always happen for reasons I have no ability to fix or fight. It really does hurt me personally every-time there is a biased comment about my work. If I have screwed up and made a bad garment, then I deserve it. But to be lambasted for doing my best for people who aren’t doing theirs… I can’t stop the unreasoned bad reviews. Maybe I should start being more firm and stern with the clients who don’t hold up their end of the conversation/transaction.

What do you think?
Should I remake items when I have been given the wrong measurements?
Should I entertain the time wasters?
Should I continue to bear the bad attitude with silence or call them out here?

WTF Am I Doing?

People, when asked after an earthquake, what it was like when the final tremors stopped responded, "Is it over yet?" That's how I feel about UK Plus Size Fashion Week. #UKPSFW did a lot to focus me on what my vision is, on what my goals are and what message I want to put forth as what identities not just my brand but what I personally stand for.

First some hard truths. RavenDreams Plus Size Lingerie is a one woman show. There is only me (and a great group of friends whom I love and cherish who are nuts and willing to do silly things like get naked in front of cameras and fashion shows and sit in London traffic for 7 hours to get me there and talk bollocks to complete strangers... etc.). I am the Designer, Manufacturer, Web Developer, Photographer - you name any job in the company, it's me. This is what Indie Business truly is - hard slog. I get the credit for the success of a project and all the blame of a failure. For a while I have been using the royal "we" to make it sound like RD is somehow larger and therefore more reliable a company. UKPSFW showed me that I don't need to do that and that stops today.

And what's my message to the world? It's fashion week all around the world and I can't help but agree with the Daily Fail (erm Mail) that's there is nothing new on the catwalks. What little innovation there is has been swamped and marginalized by the conglomerate ready to wear. I am really disappointed by what I have seen that the press have covered. And here's the thing - that the "press have covered". Plus Size Shows are so busy finding funding that they are forced to go to big Ready to Wear companies who then hog the catwalk and I suspect force true design out to the margin to prevent being shown how awful their products have become and often always were. Even "bold new" lines are ... unimpressive. Ex: All I had to do was type into google black lace halter bra... abd there were hundreds of them. This was just the first result )on sale at New Look for £12.99). Addition Elle - now don't get me wrong - bringing "On Trend" items into the hands of plus size women is laudable but don't start calling it new or high fashion. And it is still as the DM said, "They're just not good enough. For the most part, they are simply scaled-up versions of something a person who's a size 10 might wear."

not what I call haute couture

 

Sure, I would love to make a bra like that for the line - but IT'S COPYING! Fashion Week is for Haute Couture to inspire ready to wear(R2W - tired of typing it out)! Something has gone terribly wrong in Plus Size that R2W is running the trend and innovation and design just isn't there. (Btw, that halter bra isn't even on sale in Addition Elle as of this publication date.)

So, what's my vision? Innovation; new shapes, new patterns, not trend lend. RavenDreams is a Couture Experience. I am not here to be "on trend" - I will be the design two years in front of the trend. So far I have been creating pieces for my own needs, like the Melanie, and I will continue to do that. Piece by  piece, I intend to up the bar on the quality and fit and shape of plus size lingerie. I fully expect to be copied. But that's the point of Haute Couture isn't it? To Inspire!

My mission? (I should really put that in all caps but CBA...) To change the way the industry looks at fit. Or at least start a meaningful conversation that isn't ignored. So, I am going to use this blog to rant. No one is safe, especially me. As Eminem said, "Tell me something else I don't know about me." To all you plus size bloggers out there feel free to join in! I am not after your market share - I want to change the world through fit and design. Weigh in with what you want!

So - Innovation, Design, Couture, and taking no prisoners!

Be afraid. Be very afraid!

 

 

PS. those with no sense of humor need not apply ;p

#UKPSFW JOY

I feel really humble at all the love I experiences on Sunday. I am just completely blow over at the reception the collection received! From the moment they public entered the hall it was FULL ON.

I really expected that people would just wander past the booth and look down their noses in a high fashion, British superior way and calmly deliver sarcasm in cold buckets over my head. It was the exact opposite! People were lined up in the booth waiting to talk to me. They were taking clothes off the rails to photograph them, and LSI (long suffering intern) Jess and I were nervous people would take them! But it was just so many happy, smiling, joyous rabble of bloggers and press and boutique buyers from all around the world thrilled with the lingerie! I have never been so ... validated and welcomed!

This is not an experience I am used to! Being the youngest of five siblings it was always a fight to bee seen as myself and then to be seen not just as a woman in the tech industry and with my children fighting the educational system for special needs provision and to not be seen as just another parent or my ex's wife. As women we seem to be fighting all the time for recognition - and on Sunday, not only was my hard work acknowledged - but celebrated and embraced! Once I get over the exhaustion there will be a good cry in LUSH bubble bath and a glass of presecco. (Yes, women drink in the bath. Its a "thing".) I woke up for the first time this morning not clenching my jaw (always going to have nightmares about the collection - just give up on that. hehe)

12009671_10153510002096233_7926881180079771786_nI want to thank all these lovely women bloggers who were just the loveliest, enthusiastic, passionate women I have met - and as fed up as I am at the lack of couture that we DESERVE AS A HUMAN RIGHT! I have never felt so warm and fuzzy and that I had met like minded women. As I said before, I am not here to become rich (ya, like couture alone will do this hahahahahaha), but I am here to rule the world. I am here to MAKE ready to wear take inspiration from indie designers and up their game! There is now NO EXCUSE!

I also want to thank two women who were the first to believe in me. Holly Jackson the first blogger who talked me and told her dear friend Cora Harrington about my mission. I am ever amazed that they were so kind and generous of their time and interest. these women are truly inspirational in their work to even the playing field for all women (and all LGBT) and enlighten the entire world through the internet to small designers everywhere. You both really shout out for the underdog and excellent design. Thank you! These are brave women who take chances that other don't. They inspire me everyday.

When I needed anything. the number of amazing wonderful friends who stepped up and just GAVE! I really need to thank my models (all their data will be at the bottom of this post). It was just amazing from the first moment I saw them on Sunday. They are my friends. My bricks (in  big brick houses - Muppet version of Brick House - Eva you're Animal). They are the wall I beat my head against (You wish!). When I first saw Indie Fox, who helped LSI and I schlep a naked Matilda* across London's tube system, and Loula Cherry, it was greeting sisters I had not seen since the last family circus! These are my girls, to keep it 80's, my girl posse! And the new girls, Steff and Eva, just slotted into the dynamic in such a mad way, they really fit my aesthetic! (If you haven't guessed it's fabulously dressed, sexy as hell, mad cat woman.)

RavenDreams Women

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And they are as insanely hilarious as any Couture House could wish for! This is when they (LSI, Eva, Indie and Loula with Steff taking the picture) discovered that Loula's arse IS the flyer! Willing to get naked at the drop of hat - but only for me :)

Look mum! My bum!

My last grateful thank you(s) go to my children and Dave, my partner.  Both Jenny and ESPECIALLY Brian who have always shown unconditional (despite everything) love and Brian, a very talented illustrator at Cambridge School of Arts, who created all of my ads and look books. Jenny moderates my insanity and Brian encourages it. I love you both sooo much!

And now for the one I wear it all for ... Dave was our hero on Sunday! He drove upwards of 7 hours around London detours to get us all there and home again. I could not have done that. He is the strong silent (Ya, right. More the quiet sarcastic) type of myth and legend - and HE'S MINE! So hands off!

 

And here are MY girls deets!

Loula Cherry
https://www.facebook.com/MissLoulaCherry

Indie Fox
https://www.facebook.com/indiefoxmodel
http://purpleport.com/portfolio/indie/?referrer=indie
https://twitter.com/Indiefox_x?s=09
http://indiefox.wix.com/indiefoxwww.instagram.com/indiefox_x/

Steff Benton
Bye bye bailey

Eva Martins
https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=349887235126142
https://purpleport.com/portfolio/missrainbow/?referrer=missrainbow
What does this mean?

To me: Way less of a profit margin. You may be thinking, "Well, ya! Lining your pockets at our expense." That's not how it works for Indie designers.

There are two reasons why prices are what they are...*

1. What the Market will bear.

Prices for luxury and couture/handmade items are set by the big companies. They have done all the expensive research to test what the market can bear and is willing to pay for each item. If you look at the big names (Agent Provocateur, La Perla, Rigby and Peller...), a pair of panties averages at £85.00. Want silk and the price to go up significantly. With fixing the prices in the range it creates an expectation in the buyer that this is quality. Paying anything less creates an expectation that the item is less exclusive, more cheaply and therefore less expertly made and therefore less desirable. So basically, when you see a price you associate a value and a quality with the item.

2. What the item costs in terms of materials, packaging, distribution and time.

We all know that Big Companies can make items at a FRACTION of the cost of the sales price. They can do this because they buy in bulk direct from the producers and use mass production methods in China, India and anywhere the workforce is cheap. It's the difference between Couture and Ready to Wear.

Couture is all hand made in the studios of the design house, like Chanel's latest catwalk show. Look at the video below - it shows all the hand work done for each piece. As opposed to Ready to Wear, which is simpler, is mass produced and usually made out of cheaper materials. What Indie designers do is Couture. While we would LOVE to charge Couture prices, we are small businesses trying to capture your attention. But we don't have the name, the cachet, of the Big Companies so we have to select where we hope our items will fit into the market and sell alongside. Mainly that is selling Couture at Ready to Wear prices. This means that often at these prices Indie designers don't get paid for our time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cDhTzoMj_s

But here's the thing... Psychologically - to you, the customer - Something cheap is not worth buying. Something free is not worth having.

The one comment I get the most is that while you love everything, you can't afford it. I want you to buy my clothes! I want you to feel empowered and sexy and amazing and exactly how worthy you are of feeling great at whatever size you are! I want you to be able to buy my clothes! The only way to do this is cut the margins down so low that for all the extra detail work - I sell Couture at LESS THAN Ready to Wear.

So for the foreseeable: Most items have had a reduction from £20 to £30 pounds. And there can't be any more big money off sales...

But I can't go any lower and not lose money. I can't go any lower and not lose your respect for the quality. So what do Indie designers do? You tell us!

[caption id="attachment_463" align="aligncenter" width="400"]Each stage taking hours. First sewing in each pearl. Second creating the form in leather and silk. Third hand attaching each individual rose. Each stage taking hours. First sewing in each pearl. Second creating the form in leather and silk. Third hand attaching each individual rose.[/caption]

 

* and not just another rant about how the Big companies rip you off at 15% of sale price being cost and spend the rest on marketing and catwalks and champagne...

Melanie – the story

Originally published at RavenDreams - Confessions. You can comment here or there.

As you will have guessed from my many other rants articles, I am passionate about redesigning shapewear to fit real needs not thought of by men. Like:

  • How do you get in and out of it when you need to pee?
  • The same goes for inconvenient times of the month.
  • How it fastens and where. Can you reach the closures? Are they in a comfortable location or does it shove a load of hooks in the most ridiculous of places?
  • Does it sit smoothly under your clothes and not roll down, ride up?
  • How to make this sexy – because currently it is a choice between unsexy sausage tubes which totally ruins the illusion that this is the real you.

I have been playing with the concept of playsuits and body shapewear for a while. I started out with soft supportive cups in the Kate line of babydolls and progressed with redesigning knickers with the Jane panties. So part way there!

I have always felt that the best way to learn good design was to look at bad design. Hooboy! Not currently at a loss for choice with the offerings in the general market! Ok. So keeping in mind the above list, I sat down and looked at the engineering stresses of conventional shapewear and asked what part of these contraptions were necessary and which were psychological.

looking at tension across the front of the body
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Shapewear is there to give you a smoother profile, take out all the lumps and bumps. In some aspects slim waist and flatten abdomen. Some also lift and shape your bum. The lovely Matilda above shows how I started with the most problem areas. I was looking at how to use the grain of fabrics and cut in the first image to flatten, in the second to lift the bum and flatten the upper back and in the final image sooth the hips to create a waist and support the bust. What I noticed was that unless you are intentionally cinching the waist, any excess material in the back and you get uncomfortable bunching and worse it makes whatever you are wearing look really amateurishly made and cheap (but not in a good way). This is one of the main reason to avoid dresses with zippers down the back.

The next stage was to drape. But Matilda is a cold herd hearted woman with no softness in her and is unforgiving. Off to the phone tree to friends and clients who volunteer as fitting models. They are a courageous group of women who will happily (or with a little grumbling) will stand in weird positions near naked in my workroom gossiping while I stick pins in them. The result of that first attempt was a powermesh playsuit called the Elizabet (after the Countess of Bathroy because of the deep red colour chosen. Almost decided to do the photo shoot in the bath…;) The fit is lovely, but it is a playsuit as opposed to shapewear.

The Elizabet

With what I had learned from the Elizabet, I began to draft what I hoped would be something you could wear under a business suit – The Melanie, for the working girl in all of us.

The basis for any pattern when working with stretch materials is the fabric choice. So long before I even started drawing I had been trawling the world for excellent lycra and elasticine based Chantilly and levers lace in black. It had to stretch, be strong and durable and gorgeous. Lace on its own isn’t strong enough to shape your body and and be uncomfortable having a pattern imprinted on your skin! So mounting the lace onto a super soft, super strong powermesh is an ideal solution.

For this iteration a lot of consideration and experimentation went into the details. I wanted it to be sexy, but more than that I want to be able to wear it under a dress OR a pair of trousers and not have to get undressed whenever I needed the loo. Traditional bodies will have hooks or spans in the centre of the crotch.

WHY?!!!!! Who the hell ever thought that would be a good idea?!! The gymnastics to grab both ends alone are just unbelievable! And then put it WHERE?

Again, taking a page from Victorian lingerie, my thought was to create an overlapping open gusset to provide modesty and comfort. The back sections of the pantie  hook together in the centre providing lift and smoothing the hips. To go to the loo, simply unhook the back and open the gusset. The added benefit is the ability to take this from the office to playsuit… not necessarily changing location.

melanie_fr
melanie_sd
The Melanie


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All the pretty colours!

Originally published at RavenDreams. You can comment here or there.

Pink, lavender, ivory and laces! What’s left of today’s massive cutting session. New designs and new concepts on the way!

scraps

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CODDC – the Prototype

Originally published at RavenDreams. Please leave any comments there.

Yes, I did finish the piece in the time limit. No, I haven’t posted until now… Life got in the way.

 

pj3
pj1
pj2

pj4

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The Pros

Extraordinarily comfortable! Doesn’t get tangled when  constantly toss and turn in my sleep. It is pretty, sexy and sexy. Did I say sexy? And yet, as long as I didn’t turn around, I would be happy to answer the door in them. Very modest from the front ;) The fabric is the right kind of weight and texture. I upgraded the lace for something softer tot the touch and classier to the look and more robust to wash.

The Cons

Designing a really posh hospital gown… It’s not exactly warm.

What will I do differently?

For the next version I want to add some of the ideas that can be found in this gold lame/silk evening dress from the 1920′s.

1920s gold lame evening dress via Stockholms Auktionsverk

 

The sleeves were too long and a bit too voluminous so I nee to take them in. I don’t like the hospital-ness of the back but do like the openness so I will look to angle the back towards the front and not have a straight drop. It definitely needs MORE LACE! At the neck, at the sides – I want to emphasise the angles ala Deco. Also not entirely entranced with the waistband on the knickers so that will need to be refined.

I will be using a ballet pink silk satin and ivory lace for the next one! So stay tuned!

 

Love, Abi

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CODDC – PJS, the patterns!

Originally published at RavenDreams. Please leave any comments there.

Ok onto pattern cutting.

So I am using non-stretch fabric in the main bodies of both the top and knickers. This means I have to think about ease. What is ease? Ease is the space between you and your clothes that allows for “ease of movement”.  When you move your clothes to pull, cut, bind or rip (when you bend over…). Mostly in lingerie you work with negative ease – stretch fabric needs to be stretched to fit and this requires a lot of Maths! So I will recheck a standard UK20 measurements and add 4 inches/6cm to the overall measurements as waist, hip and bust. I will also add a couple of inches to crotch and the rise.

first draft patterns

These are my first drafts. They will change at each stage. When I cut out the draft pieces I will redraw the shapes with my scissors. When I cut out the fabric I will redraw. When I sew I’ll redraw with the sewing machine. Changes will be made along the way and when I am finished those changes will be transferred to the original drafts and then redrawn again. This is a process and being flexible is key.

At some point when cutting out the French knickers I decided to make them ouvert.

And here’s my first fabric choices from stock fabrics:

stock fabrics

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Originally published at RavenDreams. Please leave any comments there.

Ok – so life has been overly busy  and in the tradition of having a gazillion projects half finished… Great design comes from necessity.

The heat is driving me potty and I need sexysexy pajamas that are comfy in this heat!

Pet peeves:

  • I hate bunching around my legs
  • I turn over a lot and hate non-flexible straps that then cut off the circulation in my arms
  • …also get twisted around my body so that I have to stand up to re-sort everything

Problem solving:

So French knicker shorts sorts the bunching problem. On open backed T-shirt design will hopefully stop the twisting and strap problem. The brevity and looseness of both will help with the heat.

Now how to make it sexy? A very light weight black satin with side lace see though detailing…

Here’s my quick sketch

Quick sketch for pjs

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