Monday, October 29, 2012

My Second-Favorite Holiday

I love Christmas.  As a girl who loves happy endings and cheery stories, Christmas is the perfect time of year.  The lights, music, movies, and stories are all filled with hope.  I love giving and receiving gifts, and that is the biggest gift-giving holiday of the year.  And as a Christian I get to celebrate the birth of my savior.

But I love Halloween!

Part of it may be because my birthday is October 30th (nope, not telling you what year), so I have a birth connection to this time of year.  I have always loved spooky stories, though with a "Disneyfied" spin, such as Hocus Pocus or The Haunted Mansion.  No Friday The 13th or Paranormal Activity for this girl!  And I love dressing in costume.

For someone who loves wearing and making costumes, Halloween is the perfect holiday.  Other than a geeky, cosplaying girl like myself, this is a time when otherwise normal grown-ups can dress in the most outlandish outfits and be socially acceptable.  The kids get to look like their favorite character and beg for free candy while the adults get to hang out in equally fun costumes and admire each other.

Maybe that's why I've grown to love going to cons like Dragon*Con so much.  Halloween is only one day of the year.  When I'm at a con I'll wear 2 to 3 costumes, and sometimes have worn multiple ones in the same day.  For cosplayers, we get to enjoy the most fun parts of Halloween multiple times per year.  It's ironic that the same people that stare at us as we pass by on the streets during an event are likely the same ones who go to Halloween parties in costume.  I think they're just jealous!

I hope that everyone enjoys their Halloween events.  And remember, I'm always available to make something special for you for next year!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Business Of Costuming

I'm a good costumer.  I've learned how to create new patterns by piecing together existing ones, as well as creating patterns from scratch.  My sewing and creative skills have grown over my several years of doing this and I have a growing portfolio of great work.  However, I still have to learn how to manage a business.

Honestly, I think the hardest part of being a costumer is figuring out how much to charge.  I know how expensive custom work can be, having priced it with other costumers.  So I've always wanted to make costumes at a reasonable price, allowing more people to enjoy the cosplay hobby or be able to simply dress up to have fun.  However, I've had to balance that cost with my time and expenses, making sure that I don't lose money on materials as well as being worth my time to do.

I have a formula that I use to give people a price quote.  It takes into account the wear-and-tear on my sewing equipment, the cost of materials that I use plus a mark-up, and an hourly rate for my labor.  And I've had to tweak that formula several times over the last year as I realized that I was significantly under-charging, especially for my time as a seamstress.  That's not an easy thing for me to do, as I've had people inquiring about price and then complain about the quote.  One person argued back and forth with me via email until I broke down the exact costs, showing that I wasn't really even charging for labor costs with the deal I was giving her.  She shut up after that.  And I learned that I needed to charge more.

It's a balance that I'm still learning.  I don't want to price myself out of the market, driving down the business.  At the same time I know that hand-made custom costumes are not something you can walk into a store or even Ren Faire and purchase off the rack.  I have become very frustrated with certain commissions because I was spending a lot of time working on them yet getting little financially in return.  Though I enjoy sewing and being creative, it also takes time away from my kids, husband, and keeping house, so I need to be able to make it a worthwhile endeavor.

Thankfully my husband manages a business and has been helping me through all of this.  Well, to be honest, he's been nagging me a bit about my pricing structure.  With his help I'll continue to develop my business skills, and though I may make fewer costumes, I'll have more satisfaction for the ones I do get to create.

I never knew that starting a business would be so challenging.  I'm just glad that I work out of a home office and don't have to worry about renting space.  I have new appreciate for entrepreneurs!

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Family Affair

When I started my costuming business I had planned on it being a one-woman affair.  Just little ol' me creating things for other people.  But it didn't take long for me to realize that one person can only stretch so far.  That's when I roped in some helpers.  And the best helpers can be family.

My mom taught me how to sew and enjoys doing it as therapeutic.  So of course I called on her sympathies and started having her help with some of the overflow and simpler things.  Now, she doesn't completely "get"  geek events and interests, so I keep the odder things for myself.  But she has been intrigued by some of the costume concepts I do and I think under different circumstances in life may have headed in that direction herself.  It certainly takes a lot of stress of me to know that I can rely on her skills when I get overwhelmed.

My sister is a professional stylist and knows how to make and work with wigs.  That is often an important part of costuming as certain roles require a different hair length, style, or color than is natural.  I have quite the collection of wigs, so much so that at some cons people haven't been able to figure out what my real hair looks like since I wear different ones each day.  I can do minor wig crafting so it's nice to have someone who really knows what they're doing.

My daughter has started learning how to sew and is one of the biggest geeks in the family, even though she's only 9.  She's done some minor work but I can easily see her getting more into it as she gets older.  Who knows?  Maybe A Touch Of Magic Costumes will become hers one day.

One thing that I've discovered is that doing costuming with my mother, sister, and daughter has brought us together in surprising and wonderful ways.  It really is a family effort even though I'm the front-person.  I couldn't do it without them!