Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Last Chance for Menswear and Gently Used Gowns at Minnesota Madness

Dear Clients Past and Present,

In the interest of beginning to move toward my retirement, I have made the decision to eliminate some portions of my business and focus on others.  The biggest changes are:

   1)  I will be eliminating menswear.
   2)  I will not be vending at events any longer.
3)  I willl no longer offer a consignment service for Gently Used costumes.
   4)  Instead of 40-45 projects per year, I will take about 20.

My final event as a vendor will be the Minnesota Madness, October 19th, 10:30am until 8:00pm, at the Medina Ballroom.  The event runs until 10:30, but I will stop selling at 8:00pm.

I will be contacting you all to encourage you to tell me your lowest imaginable selling price, so that I can sell as many costumes for you as possible, without having to contact you for negotiation,  I will mark each gown with the price you name.  I encourage you to think big, because after this event, I will ask you to pick up any unsold gowns.  I will be happy to keep them listed on my website, if you like, but potential buyers will constact you to schedule appointments to try on your gowns at your home.

I will mark my existing menswear down 20%, and may increase that markdown as the event progresses.  Michele is no longer working with me and no more of our menswear will be made.

Thanks to all of you for 28 great years, and I am looking forward to working with you in the final years of Made for Movement.

Fondly, Marsha

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Success for Less for Sally!

This post is to show you that you do not have to spend a fortune to look great on the dance floor.  Sometimes a cocktail dress can become a costume with minimal tweaking.  This great little dress is from Cache, shown at the link in black.  My client Sally found it last fall in Steel Grey, and asked me to adapt it for her as a Rhythm gown.  It had tremendous potential!  The best dresses for adaptation have some things in common.

1)  Made of stretchy fabric.
2)  Fits you beautifully or fits some places and is too large elsewhere.  There is NOTHING to be done if the dress is too small.
3)  Is sleeveless, or if it has some sort of sleeve, you can raise your arms without the dress moving up on your body.  We can add a sleeve cut for movement, but dresses you buy are cut for standing-around-looking-good, and this means you cannot raise your arms to dance if there are sleeves.  Sometimes, existing sleeves can be replaced with something else, or adapted themselves.
4)  Has a lining, which also stretches, and can be made into a leotard beneath the gown.
5)  Has its tags still attached and can be returned if I tell you it will not work.
6)  Is one of several so that a second one can be purchased if additional fabric is required.

Sally brought in her dress, matching all the above criteria, and I gave her a big YES, and she immediately bought a second one to scrap for parts and fabric.  After that first Steel gown, Cache recreated it for Spring 2014 in a fabulous orchid pink, and Sally called again. This is the one I will feature here.  (I apologize, I COULD NOT capture the color in my studio accurately without hauling out the studio lighting, and I didn't do that.  It is a blue pink, not this coral-ish!! As many of you know, it can be very hard to capture neon color with a camera.)

What the Cache dress lacked was interesting movement in the skirt, although the front and back drapes were pretty fabulous.  Also, the straight hemline was tight, and did not allow for kicks and big movement.  So the first thing to do was to cut the hemline diagonally, in sympathy to the lines of the gown, to create a bigger movement potential.  Then I chopped off the overdrapes from the second dress, and they became the drapey skirts.  I installed a bra for suppport, and created a leotard out of the interlock lining, after stablilzing the fabirc to prevent running.

Then we discussed embelllishment.  Rather than weigh down the drapey bits and turn them into spinning Ninja-quality weaponry aimed at her partner, we decided to embellish the parts that did NOT move, in a way that would be visible in motion, but not entirely when standing still.  A peep show of sorts, animated by action.  We both thought floral and tropical, because of the great hot orchid color, and we both scoped out loads of possible images.  I took her ideas, and my own, and began sketching, working to create something that met our joint criteria, and would be reasonably easy to stone and dazzling when finished.

In addition to the peekaboo bits at the left side, I removed the rhinestone cup mesh on the shoulder, replacing it with a shaped piece that boldly stated our motif.  I also wrapped my design diagonally across her back hipline, a place where cuban motion would animate the stoning and call attention the strong action of her back.

Sally has been doing her own stoning for MANY years, so she is an application pro.  I sketched the design on brown craft paper for her, and pinning it to the gown in the correct position.  Then I showed her how to cut open my pattern and fold it back to draw outlines for her application work.

I think she danced in it with the back drape hanging down like this, but we had discussed tacking it up as it is shown in earlier images, and for what it's worth, I personally would prefer just to shorten that drape, leaving it free.  But clients should get what they WANT!

I also patterned and made a cuff for her, for her right wrist, to diagonally balance the shoulder piece.

Sally did a great job with following  my stoning plan on this motif, and I am really happy with my design work.  The rest of the gown could certainly be embellished as well, but it is just not always necessary to be dripping in sparkle.  Sometimes having your own unique look is worth as much, or more on the floor.

So here is stunning Sally, and the gown in the RIGHT COLOR!  I wish I could let you see it move.

Due to starting with an existing garment, and Sally's time spent on rhinestone application, the cost was super reasonable on this project, approximately 1/4th of the cost of a new, custom designed and made from scratch project, including the cost of the two off-the-rack Cache dresses.  If you want to give this a try, give me a call and let's discuss how you should shop for some possibilities.  And call right away!

It has been a while since I posted to this blog!  I have two posts started, which I MUST finish, and many more to catch up with.  Being on my own in my studio due to Michele's accident has forced me to focus on dressmaking, but Michele is back, healthy, and ready to work, so make sure you get on the fall schedule if you want costumes for Minnesota Madness, Ohio, Holiday Classic, The Snowball, or anything else this year!  We are filling fast.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Hawaiian Carnival for Rita

Rita is one of the very first dancers I dressed, way back in the late 1980's. She has never stopped enjoying ballroom dancing. She is now retired, and her investment advisor told her she would need to take money from one her investments this year, and her thoughts turned to dance. She decided she would compete at Arthur Murray Dance-O-Rama this month, and wanted a new ballgown to wear for the event.  And she called me!

The criteria we worked with were, soft, flowing, elongated, and elegant.  And Rita had no trouble choosing colors and fabrics.  She wanted lace, and chose a piece called Desire, which I really liked working with.  Since she wanted the result to be soft, we selected a georgette skirt, with a satin chiffon lining.

Rita chose two pinks, a blue based one, called Carnival (upper left, folded to the right), and a more balanced but slightly warm one, called Hawaii Pink (folded to the left side), both from DSI in England.  Blending warm and cool pinks has always been a challenge for me personally, but I really liked this combo. I think the Carnival by itself is near to "Radiant Orchid", the Pantone color of the year for 2014, (although ballroom brighter!) and the blend of the two is kinda magical, much more so in person than what I am capable of capturing in my camera.

We kept the lighter, bluer color (Carnival) on top, in the lace and georgette, and put the deeper, hotter Hawaii Pink under the lace in dance crepe and a satin chiffon for the underskirt.  This is the logical thing to do, as lighter colors tend to move toward the eye, and darker ones, to retreat. (In all fairness, cool colors should receed and warm ones advance, but I think in this case, value trumps hue.) In the rhinestone application, I was able to leave some of the Carnival lace visible, which I think turned out really nicely.  The curvilinear stoning emphasizes the beautiful shapes in this lace, while letting the lighter color beneath it help to pull the pattern forward.

I am also very proud of the matching job I did with the lace in this gown, the bi-lateral mirror symmetry of which is really featured nicely in the back.  I was also able to use the edges of the lace fabric to create a scalloped edge at the bottoms of the sleeves, neck edge and skirt connection point.

At the gown front, where the center seam is replaced by two side seams to accomodate bust shaping, the lace looks more organic, but I am still super happy with the figure placement, and think you really have to look for the seams to see them.

Rita had a necklace she thought might be good with the gown, but it really didn't work out.  The shapes and sparkles were pretty different, so I made her this piece, which I think works nicely with the scalloped edges of the neckline.  I made a couple flowers we did not use on the dress, and attached clips to them for use in her hair.  Those flowers really demonstrate nicely the warm and cool pinks in the gown.  :)

We originally had two layers of the georgette over the satin chiffon lining, but they were too blue, and we reconfigured them to alternate, achieving a really good color match between bodice and skirt.

The flowers were not part of the original design.  The gown probably would better meet the "elegant" part of the design criteria without them.  But listening to Rita in her fittings, talking her performance nerves, and about being encouraged to be more expressive and joyful in her dancing, I thought she might be best served  by both providing a focal point on the gown, and by offering a little whimsy.

Best of luck to Rita , who has practiced in the dress and seems happy with the results!  I am so glad to have the opportunity to be a part both of the beginnings, and the maturity of her dance career.  Are you wondering about that first gown?  Styles and construction have changed over the years, but it's still a pretty thing

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Prayers for Michele

Many of my clients have met and worked with my seamstress/tailor Michele Kielsa.  I would ask you to keep her in your thoughts, and offer prayers for her today.

Last week, Michele's mother had heart valve replacement surgery, which went well and her mom was able to go home on Thursday.  On that same day, Michele fell from a ladder in her garage.  She fractured her arm in three places.  The upper break was clean and set immediately.  The fracture at her elbow required surgery and two metal plates, with many screws to hold everything in place.  The fracture of her wrist requires additional surgery, scheduled for April 10th, with a hand specialist.

In addition to all this, Michele's son-in-law posted to his Caring Bridge site yesterday that the Hodkins lymphoma that he has been fighting since before his wedding to Michele's daughter has returned for a third time.

Please send Michele and her family your prayers, healing thoughts and positive energy as they work through all of the difficulties in their paths.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tracy's Emerald Vine

It's easy to make a beautiful gown for a beautiful woman.  Tracy fits that description.  The ideas for her gown came from video clips on You Tube, featuring one of her favorite Latin dancers, in three different but similar costumes.  We picked and chose components from each of the gowns, she chose her color, and we ordered Zircon dance crepe and stretch satin from Dance Sport International in England.

Most of the fabrics I use come from England, where ballroom dancing is a much bigger part of life than here in the US.  It is very hard to find fabrics in this country that meet all of the requirements of competition dancewear, and there are no suppliers devoted specifically to the needs of the ballroom.  First, we need richer, more purely intense color than is available for street clothing, since the objective is generally to be easily visible and vibrant.  Secondly, I usually need fabric of several different kinds for each gown, and usually I want these fabrics to match.  For example, this gown required a supple, soft stretchy crepe for the bodice, and a shiny, lightweight poly satin for the skirt.  Neither of these things is available at my local fabric shop. Finally, I need fabrics that have been created specifically for the rigors of competitive dance, and will stand up to sweat, not tear in aggressive movement, will travel without wrinkling, and wash easily without needing to be dry cleaned.

In the upper right, my usual favorite nude mesh, and in the forground, the same mesh with a gold metallic finish.
In this particular case, one of the fabrics we used came from a New York City supplier, Spandex House.  Tracy wanted a portion of her gown to be sheer and appear to be nearly nude.  But Tracy is a modest woman, and wanted her nude sheer not to look TOO nude.  So we used a metallic gold stretch mesh for the right side of the bodice.  The metallic sheen helped the eye focus on the surface, and not so much on what was just beneath.

This gown is also conservative in terms of visible skin, but by no means a gown that is not exciting on the floor.  The high back allows the design elements to lead the eye around the body, plus there is a wide "slit" of sorts at the skirt attachment at the left side, that is decidedly sexy.   The over-all impression is that of elegance, with a touch of racy indifference.  It was super appealing on the dance floor!  Let me show you.

From the right side, this gown has an elegant feel, because of its strapless look and length.

From the left side, this gown has a sexy flirtiness, and in action, shows lots of beautiful leg. And that metallic gold is clearly gold, and not skin.  Tasteful, but tempting, I think!

I apologize for the quality of my iPad photos.  When I am trying to both man my costume display and sneak into the ballroom to watch my clients, there is not much time to set up a tripod and deal with appropriate camera settings. But I think you can see what I mean.  And she is a beautiful woman, no?

Here's that left side, looking odd on my half form, but I wanted to talk about the gold mesh portion.  We debated whether or not to do any imagery on the gold, and initially thought that it might just be encrusted with Light Topaz AB stones.  But the Light Topaz AB and Crystal AB and very near to each other in effect, especially from a distance, and I wanted to make sure the Crystal AB swirl pattern was neatly visually isolated.  So I created the vine graphics, with an eye to making sure that Emerald AB stones sat at the edge of the Crystal AB swirl to help it pop. We also debated skirt shape and length, as there were slightly different skirts on each of the three original gowns we drew from.  Tracy's teacher Scott had some concerns about how much skirt there would be, ("that looks like a LOT of skirt") and I think we landed on a happy medium.  Notice our sexy slit hangs closed at a standstill, but opens in action, something Tracy appreciates, I think. The weight of a longer skirt would force it to hang open.

Tracy has bangle bracelets for this gown, but no necklace.  I appreciate jewelry can be warm, and one more thing to think about, but I would love to make this gown a necklace for the elegant side.  The flirty side probably likes its shoulders bare.  :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Leslie in Aqua

I have made many costumes for Leslie.  Each one, different from the last, and yet uniquely hers.  I always ask my clients to provide a word of phrase that we can use to narrow the visual focus of the gown, and Leslie asked me to choose for her.  Good thing I kinda know her dancing!  I told her that for me, the best thing about her dancing was her partnership with her husband Lee.  They are really lovely to watch together, and their power for me is in how they relate to each other in their movement.  I suggested that we try to emphasize their partnership in her costume.  She brought in a crocheted sequinned shawl in a beautiful soft aqua, and told me that this was the color she was imagining for her gown, and I thought that sounded great as well.  Plus she brought me a pile of photos from magazines of things she liked that might be encorporated into a gown.

Her personal style always has a "1950's school girl" vibe for me, and so I was not surprised to see a retrospective of Princess Grace Kelly's fashions represented, (lower left corner) and, note the soft aqua satin of the gown pictured.  Just above that image, (left top) is a gown with high-contrast lace applique in black on a pale mauve.  That jumped out at me right away, as a great chance to feature the black of Lee's dancewear on Leslie's gown, drawing a neat visual parallel.  Certainly, there is an abundance of floral imagery in this pile of clippings, and lots more of the dark figure on light ground.  I particularly like gown on Lucy Liu, (tiny image in the center) as a great example of dark floral on light blue.  All these things fit neatly into Leslie's desire for pale aqua, and my goal to emphasize her partnership in her gown.

She is beautifully proportioned and fit, but not my tallest client, so we wanted a long clean look for this gown, to allow us to see nice lines without any horizontal distraction   She also wanted her embellishment to spill well onto the skirt of her dress, so we decided on a lycra gown, to accomplish both the long clean lines and lengthy detailing, without having the embellishment disappear in folds of frothy skirt.

Not every gown goes along smoothly, and some clients have a very hard time visualizing the end result from the sketch and at early fittings.  In all fairness, it is really hard to stand and look at yourself in a BIG mirror for an hour, while I poke, prod and pin.  But Leslie freaked out entirely at our first fitting.  She was convinced that we had both the wrong color and the wrong fabric.  SO... she went home to think about it, and decided she wanted to proceed with the gown as designed.  I felt really badly for her.

For prospective clients who might be reading this post, I will say add some advice here.  When we finish our design meeting, and agree to a goal, we begin a series of decisions, some I make on behalf of my client, and some we make together.  The process of buying materials, patterning, cutting, sewing, fitting, and finishing each gown is FULL of forks in the road.  And when we both understand the desired end result, we can make these choices with reasonable ease and agility.  Once the design train leaves the station, have faith in yourself and your ideas, and in me and my design and construction experience and ability.  Our process will go smoothly, and I will do a better job on your behalf, and we can work together toward our mutual goal.

We talked about using feathers as accents on this gown.  They are a recent trendy detail on many gowns, and I arranged all the large flowers in the applique lace so a few delicate feather stamen and pistils could sprout from each one.  Leslie decided against this, but was in favor of feathers at her shoulders.  I did these as removable bits, and I do not think she has ever actually worn them, but I would love to see them throughout the gown.  I like it without them as well!

Remember I said I have a harder time making decisions of my client's behalf if I am not confident about what their goal might be?  Well, I had a really hard time stoning this gown.  I think part of why I love those feathers is how very black they are. And my initial plan was to use Jet on the lace.  But Leslie also needs a gown that will "compete" with other gowns on the floor for attention and status, and I felt the Jet might be too quiet. I initially stoned most of the black lace at the gown front with Crystal AB, trying to get to "championship gown", because Lee and Leslie compete at that level.  But after a few hours, I felt I was losing the black, which was really the overall intended visual impact

So, I picked those all off, (on my own time, and deleted the hours of application as well) and switched to Jet AB, hoping to maintain championship sparkle power, without sacrificing the beautiful black-on-pale contrast that is the core of the gown design.  I also put more space between stones, to keep the black visible, and then surrounded the diagonal banners of lace with Aquamarine AB to boost the sparkle power, switching to Swarovski's new color Light Turquoise for the remainder of the gown.

Leslie had agreed to bangle bracelets, but when it came time for the necklace, I threw caution to the wind.  She had asked for a symmetrical piece, and I felt it was badly out of harmony with the asymmetrical neckline.  I created a necklace from lace scraps and decided she could buy it if she liked it and if she did not, I would keep it.  She bought it!

I thought she looked splendid at the Snow Ball, and danced beautifully with Lee.  She tells me she likes (I think her term was fully embraces) her new gown.  Personally, I hope the next project follows an easier, more joyful path.  But no matter how we get there, success in the end is worth the process.  And I am always ready to try again.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Condiments for Julie?

Julie is one of my all-time favorite clients.  She is a professional dancer, teaching and competing with her students.  She is also a retired a professional competitor, and that helps to explain the fact that this is our 53rd project together, by my count.  She picked up her new gown at the Snow Ball this weekend, and laughed in the dressing room, telling another dancer about looking at this gown at one point in our process and seeing ketchup and mustard!  Hence the silly name for this post.  

I am particularly fond of the buttons on the cuff detail. 
Julie was not on my schedule for the Snow Ball, but was taken by surprise just before Thanksgiving when both of her ballgowns sold to another dancer.  She called to explain her situation, and despite being VERY booked for the Snow Ball, I could not say no to Julie.  Our design meeting was mostly about the hunt for, and discovery of, an interesting piece of ombred fabric.  With only the vaguest of sketches, I talked with my salesman about the fabric, to confirm color and vibrancy, and sent for a piece of it.  While the ombre flew across the pond, I basted together a leotard, since we knew Julie wanted a portion of the gown to be rhinestone-embellished nude mesh.  When the fabric arrived, Julie met with me and we wrapped it around her body and watched our design flicker into life. She is a beautiful woman and this photo, while illustrating our process, does not do her justice.

Julie's confidence is a tremendous asset in design and fittings.  Even in a moment of doubt, (like seeing condiments instead of flaming gorgeousness!) she is always willing to move ahead from where we are.  I appreciate her calmness and ability to be patient until a great next step presents itself.

The design lines and details of this gown are simple, in the interest of allowing the color shift to be the eye-catching aspect of the work.  We both felt it would need an awesome piece of jewelry to provide focus and cohesion.  We tried out a few of my patterns and Julie liked one she felt was "Amazon" in character.  I reconfigured it to allow it to drop in a v-shape, both in the front and at the back, allowing it to synchronize with and support the neckline in three dimensions. Then I devised a simple means for it to attach to the gown that allows it both to move with Julie and stay neatly in place.  After testing, my paper pattern was drawn onto nude mesh fused to ultrasuede for comfort.  I edge-stitched for durability, and painstaking cut it all out.  Here it is, ready for my syringe of adhesive and the rhinestone embellishment.  As you can see, there are also a couple of bangle bracelets and a pair of as-yet-un-trimmed earrings, at the far left of the shot.

Here are the finished bangles and earrings, and a shot of the necklace connection, which I hope you cannot see!

And here is the gorgeous Julie, modeling the finished gown.

And with her awesome husband, and amateur competitive partner, Ken, wearing one of our suits.

Gown and Ballroom Suit by Made for Movement
I have not been the best blogger in 2013, and have written about only a few of the gowns I created.  I am gong to try and play catchup, (ketchup???) starting with my most recent work, and over the next few weeks, I will see if I can't get most of last years work posted so I can move on to some things I am really excited about for 2014, among them a DRAGON DRESS!  Thanks for reading and if you are imagining a 2014 project, call today to reserve time on my schedule!