The Aria Couture shop in MA/RI IS NOT ME

Please be aware that this Aria Couture is NOT the shop in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  My business is a one-woman operation in Washington State making custom items while they sell off-the-rack stuff on the east coast.  As of right now, their website, AriaCouture-dot-NET, isn’t even working, and hasn’t been for a while now.  That company has been far too happy leaving me to deal with their dissatisfied and confused clients.  I don’t blame their clients, but am furious enough at the company to take it public.  I can’t keep it hush-hush anymore, not with how often people contact me looking for them, or are unable to contact them and want me to help.  They’ve been made aware of this MANY times, and what have they done?  Nothing.

I’ve directed numerous clients to their correct contact information, and have contacted them more times than I’ve been able to keep track on on behalf of their clients who’ve contacted me, and that business’s managers have either ignored me or come up with pathetic excuses for why they “can’t” contact their own clients.  They have chosen to do nothing to make sure that their clients clearly know how to reach them, nor to make sure their clients are even aware that the top-level domain isn’t associated with them.  In a day and age where it’s Business 101 to make sure to come up with a business name with an available dot-com, they didn’t stop to think about how they were going to cause confusion.  (To be clear: Aria is a pretty name to them, but to me, it’s my actual legal real-life legit name.)  Instead of a different dot-com, they chose a secondary-level domain.  A simple “Not associated with” on their cards and website would go a long way toward making their clients aware of the difference. Have they done so?  Nope. They’re happy to take your money, then good luck to their clients if there are problems, and tough luck to me for having to deal with the fallout that belongs on them.

I won’t give prom dress refunds for them, can’t cancel orders for them, etc.  I didn’t receive money for them, can’t access their database, etc.  This company is the sole reason I had to shut off my Facebook reviews.  I was the one getting their negative reviews!!!  And I’m sick of it.  But please, PLEASE be aware that our businesses are entirely unrelated.  I am the very original, and started my business back when most people couldn’t even say Aria right.  “AIR-ea” and “are-EYE-uh” were common mispronunciations at the time.

If they rip you off (and some of their clients who’ve contacted me have done so regarding orders they never received and they’ve been unable to reach the correct business), please contact me though and let’s see what I can do to help you.  I can’t replace orders they don’t deliver, but may be able to work with you on a discount of some sort for something custom to offset your losses with them, but please don’t expect custom work done by one woman in the United States to be price-matched to off-the-rack items made in Chinese and Indian sweat factories.  This’ll be the absolute best I can do.  

Please don’t take your anger at that company out on me.  I am truly a one-woman business operating out of my house in Washington State, not in any way associated with the stores in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The beauty and body-positivity in burlesque

This in-progress corset is for a burlesque performance one month from now. (There will be a non-sponsored ad-ish in this post for a performance.)
There are pieces that go under the corset, bra, and skirt that aren’t drawn in this pic.  Initially I hesitated to say much about burlesque here, but you know what?  I’ve had quite a few people reach out to me since my post a few weeks ago, people who have been feeling bad about themselves and their bodies, people trying to find a way to feel attractive and sexy again, and if they can be so vulnerable with me, then the least I can do is to take the bull by the horns and open up some conversation about something that has been helping me with the same issue.

It can be very, very easy to feel like a mashed potato when we’ve all been stuck at home so long, unable to go out and see real people, having our images of reality shaped by edited photos on Instagram and photoshopped images in magazines, faces digitally altered in real time on TikTok since that’s where technology is these days.  Our mirrors and eyes, however, haven’t caught up, and so we see true reality in ourselves and compare ourselves to the faux reality of the internet, movies, and print media.  I watched my own 11-year-old start to fall down this rabbit hole.

It can be startlingly easy to forget that images meant to sell us something, whether that’s products or the pretty view of like that bloggers and bloggers wish was their life every moment, are in no way representative of reality, no more than reality TV is reality.  Yet this is what we’ve had for a year now.   But it’s not like self esteem issues only started last March.  The very first corset I made back in 2004 was for someone who wasn’t comfortable unclothed with her partner because she couldn’t see herself as sexy since she wasn’t a size 2 (neither was I at the time).  So I made her a white silk corset with caribou trim, and she refused to take it off the first time she tried it on.  She left my house will wearing it. 🙂 But even that wasn’t the start of it.  Self-esteem issues suck, and go back to probably the beginning of time.

Me in burlesque class
February 23, 2020

Before the lockdowns started, I was getting my toes wet in the burlesque world, hoping myself to find some way to accept myself.  I have a lot of scars and a body that has betrayed me.  It’s hard to feel attractive when you’ve got my medical history of missing organs, your body attacking itself, and spending an extraordinary about of time on a daily basis keeping your body running.  The prettiest car body in the world can make the owner never want to look at it again if the engine requires extensive maintenance to do basic errands.

But I was still so worried about what others would think that I told absolutely no one what I was doing. I told Cody he’d find out on April 20th, and to please ask no questions.  I was starting to feel a little okay, though still exceedingly nervous.

Then the instructor I had said some things that destroyed what little confidence I had, but literally just half an hour or so after I met the producer from another company who was his polar opposite.  I wasn’t sure if I was even going to go through with any of it anymore.  I went from starting to feel okay with myself to feeling like crusty days-old mashed potatoes left on the counter too long.  I suppose it was for the best that the world shut down mere weeks ahead of that.

Last month I started being a show kitten.  Show kittens are show assistants.  (Yes, there are in-person shows, but they are distanced, held outdoors, masked, etc.  Temps of the performers and skeleton crew are taken, etc.  These shows are also viewable online for those who prefer to stay in or who are too far away.)  And I had a chance to talk more with performers who have been performing anywhere from just a couple months to years, and the level of care and acceptance and support is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.  I’m sitting here not even sure what words are strong enough to convey just how much.  I’ve watched people of all body shapes and sizes and genders across the spectrum get out there and do everything from staying entirely clothed to ending up in pasties, with performances ranging from the funniest things I’ve ever seen onstage in my life to touching performances about deaths from cancer not stopping living.  And do you know what you notice the more you watch?  That these amazing people, whose bodies are more like mine than like catalogues and movies, look more beautiful than anything.  The joy on their faces, even during the most heart-touching of numbers, is everything.  It’s a celebration of being human and enjoying it.  And if they can look that happy and be that beautiful without filters and airbrushing, literally more beautiful for it, then why can’t I?  Why can’t you?  Whether that’s onstage or at home.

And you know what else?  My daughter turned 11 in December, and had already been wanting to lose weight since she sees herself as fat.  She sees me eat like crazy (I go through major calories), but has still picked up on toxic messages that you have to look a certain way to be okay.  She has seen some burlesque performance videos, and watched the Broadway Takeover production online a few weeks ago.  Guess what her reaction was.  She doesn’t care about dieting anymore, just about making food choices that make her body feel good.  I was literally having to force her to eat sometimes.  Now she’s not worried about that, because she thinks that the performers she saw look absolutely…in her words…”so cool…when can I do that?”  (When you’re 18, kiddo.) It’s helped reinforce to her that the body is art, not something to be ashamed of.

I think burlesque is often misunderstood as just stripping onstage, and there’s a lot of stigma against it.  Incidentally, that stigma tells us that we should be ashamed of our bodies.  That stigma needs to be broken, and whatever someone chooses to do with their body respected as their choice, instead of people being made to feel ashamed.  Making others feel ashamed makes us feel ashamed.  How we try to make others feel is how we will make ourselves feel.  But if we believe it’s okay for others to do it and look beautiful and sexy or silly with fake mustaches or all of it together and everyone is happy, then it’s okay for us to try for ourselves, even if we only do it in our bedrooms at night.

But really, what is the difference?  Stripping in the sense of strip clubs is solely to titillate, which is absolutely fine when those performers want to be there (that’s a loaded topic for my other blog), but burlesque has a story, whether it’s as Tina from Bob’s Burgers as an adult baring her butt or a fully-clothed drag king lip syncing to a number from Book of Mormon the world or just to say “I feel damn sexy tonight,” and how much comes off or stays on will depend on the message the performer wants to convey.  It’s a variety show in the truest sense of the word.  And think about this–burlesque shows on the 1920’s and 1930’s and 1940’s were literally no different than burlesque today except for one key thing that I’ll cover in a few minutes.  Watch some I Love Lucy and see the examples of burlesque numbers Ethel and Fred talk about and do in the show itself, and pay attention to the things they talk about doing that would have been incredibly racy for the time, but that we now see as no big deal.  Here, watch part of a sketch from one of the show’s most hilarious episodes (you can hear Desi Arnaz off stage laughing like crazy at times during this episode):

That bit was a well-known burlesque sketch going back a few decades by that point.  But this breathtakingly gorgeous piece, which isn’t at all funny, is also burlesque.

And here is another that is very much a cross of the above, a bit racier and also humorous.

Three very different acts, all burlesque. The only thing that’s really changed is that anybody with any body is welcome. If we can appreciate looking back on these videos now, then why can’t we appreciate it when there is no size barrier?

In just the short time I’ve been a kitten, I’ve found myself being kinder to myself and seeing myself better.  I think maybe a part of the solution to feeling so much like left over mashed potatoes isn’t to hide more, where we privately nitpick at ourselves, but to free ourselves to be ourselves as we are, and at burlesque shows, no one is nitpicking flaws, only looking for the good.  When you see these performers on stage and a mistake is made or a zipper is being a pain, you don’t sit there thinking they look stupid.  You cheer them on as they figure it out and enjoy that they’re sharing themselves with us.  The more you see this, the more you think, “That looks like so much fun.  I could do that too.”

And maybe…just maybe…

Next month is a Little Lioness Productions production with a Disney theme, and you can watch in person or from home.  Most performances will be on stage, and a couple will be via video.  This actually adds to the overall fun of shows.  Since I prefer to lead by example instead of just telling others what to do or to try to try to find confidence, I’m…in the show.  I’ll be Snow White.  If you’d like more info on it, the Facebook events page has some, and if you’re interested in watching either in person at Big Legrowlski in Portland or at home, tickets are available here.  It is Saturday, March 20th.  Doors open at 7:30, and the show starts at 8:15.  You do have to be 21 to attend in person, though all ages are welcome to watch online.

I encourage you to go ahead and give it a watch.  A lot of the numbers are still being choreographed, but what I know so far is there will be silliness and sexiness and possibly some touching numbers, just a bit of a lot of things.  My own number initially had more comedy in it when I started it last year, but we have to keep at least 6′ away from the audience now.

Helping people feel beautiful and sexy is something I love to do, and this is something that has been helping me, definitely enough that I’m actually doing it.  I was once in your shoes, thinking “There’s no way I could,” but then I pushed myself and started watching.  Modern burlesque is such a celebration of the human body as an art piece to tell a story and it’s just wonderful.  If you don’t end the night feeling a bit better about your own body and what it can do, then I may end up having to channel someone else whose career started in burlesque…

Some underbust corsets on an actual person

Just a heads up that this post will contain pics of me in a corset, and not in the historical sense.  No nipples will be showing, but all the same, I know there are people out there who are offended by photos of people in corsets.  Seriously.  But after my post yesterday about nixing the pricing structure I had, I had quite a few people message me about underbust corsets (I have enough inquiries now for corsets at the example price range that I really don’t think I can do more at that pricing right now) for boudoir and to try to feel sexy and attractive again after a year of being locked down without being able to go to gyms and do other things that fall under the self-care umbrella, and several included inquiries about if I had photos of any of my underbust corsets on people.

Howdy, world. How ya doin’?

Obviously society tends to get the vapors about this sort of thing, so I haven’t shared any previously, only on dress forms which tend to lose a lot of the effect.  So I decided to go ahead and share some of my own.  If anyone’s going to take heat for photos like this, I’d rather have the heat directed at me (might save money on my electricity bills since it’s cold…so aim that heat here, please!) rather than to ask anyone I’ve made this style of corset for to send pics for me to share.  I’m pretty sure it’s understood why many people would be shy about doing that.  Body confidence is hard…incidentally, I had more of it when I was 400 pounds than I do now…and there are many cruel jerks on the internet who get off on being mean and trying to tear people down after downing a handful of red pills.

But I personally don’t care and will eat incels for breakfast, so I post my own photos online, if you get my drift, yet am giving you that big long teal deer explanation anyway.  Insulting me only makes me post more to spite those infected ingrown hairs on horses’ butts.  I started to do it partly for the same reason as most of the inquirers–to try to not feel so blah over a year of not getting to do anything.  (And yes, I know there are people who live in various states of quarantine every year–I don’t get into my own medical history too much, but suffice it to say that I’ve got 28 years of experience and scars from my body rejecting some of my own organs, so I understand VERY well.)

To disclose, all photos of myself are selfies.  I don’t have the confidence to let others take pics of me.  Ironic, I know.  C’est la vie. Just mentioning that since I’ve had some people surprised that they’re selfies and I just want to be clear that I’m not withholding photo credit from anyone.

So you can see the very different fit on me versus on the dress form.  Even though it’s super dense foam, the lack of a skeleton means it looks crinkly.  This is one of my two primary underbust corsets that I have photos of.  This one is silk with more money than I care to admit being spent on Swarovski crystals.  The embroidery on the ribbon is only on the ribbon, and the design comes from the wedding gown at the end of the live action Cinderella movie.  To be extra, the modesty panel in the back is also embroidered and fully crystalled.  Speaking of modesty panel, is anyone else amused at the name?  As if that’s what makes corsets modest.

You can see some of that more in this video, which is on a weird spot on the page and I don’t know what do about that.


And the other I’m sharing is my silk dragons corset, with silk velvet binding.  I don’t have photos on a dress form for this one.  It is underbust.  What appears to be a corset top is a bra.  I do wish I’d enameled the busk gold as I did for the one above.

The back of this corset comes up a good bit higher than usual, as you can see in this one and only photo I could find from the side or back, though I could have sworn I had more. It’s similar to the back of the crystal corset though.

So here are just a couple of the underbust style.  That specific cut.  I didn’t expect so many people to be so interested in this same style at the same time, but I actually think it’s pretty awesome.

New pricing structure

My previous structure was:

+estimate cost of fabrics and supplies
+estimate hours times direct labor per hour
+a universal fee that covers things like wear and tear on machines and other costs not covered by the supplies and labor, like time researching and sourcing

When a quote would be requested, this is was my starting point.  If fabrics or other supplies came from my stash, I’d use the approximate price I paid, which means that things I stocked up on while on sale would some with a bit of a savings, and sometimes I could use antique supplies, like easy 19th century trim, that I wouldn’t be able to find spur of the moment.  And then creating things would have priority when it came to my time rather than come after other things.  If I missed an event for my daughter, then I did.  If I missed volunteering for something, then I did.

But at this point, supplies are just sitting there, and time is an abstract concept.  The only scheduled thing is some performing I’m working on and show-kittening.

My new structure, for the time being, is that there isn’t one.  If there’s something you’re interested in and don’t have a close or strict deadline, let me know what it is, and your budget (either in one lump or in payments), and I’ll see if I have the supplies already and either comp them entirely or discount them steeply.  The more free time in my schedule, the more I can come down on pricing.  I need a reason to get out of bed by 2 in the afternoon. 😂 And you need something more to look forward to than endless nothingness, just…who knows what there is to look forward to in the future when we don’ know if we’ll even get to have the holidays this year or if it’s another year not seeing loved ones.  So let’s put at least something out there to look forward to.

Want an icy blue silk Victorian corset with some silver embroidery on a couple of the panels and can pay $150 (they usually start at $500) and I have the supplies? My thought process: the busks I use and have right now, are German steel spoon busks that I had custom made for about $40 each (made in Germany, custom, no cheap but amazing), and the particular boning I use works out to about $40 per corset, and the silk was 60€/m, plus other supplies like grommets, lining, coutil interlining, etc..  The cost of supplies are more than that $150, meaning technically a financially loss to me whenever I get around to restocking, BUT they’re also just sitting there doing on one any good and I don’t foresee the economy bouncing back to the point that I’m likely to need to restock soon anyway.

So…you got it!  Custom embroidered silk corset for $150 and something to look forward to, and I have something to help me keep on some sort of schedule for my sanity.

Want Christine Daeé’s mirror robe in a soft cotton for $250 (usually starting last $750)?  My thought process: I have the perfect cotton, so that one would depend on if I have the lace already.  That one uses a lot of it, so I might have to add in the cost of the lace, but otherwise…sure.

There will be some reasonable limitations. Want something that would take 300 hours, and 18 yards of French silk taffeta for $500?  Or 100 cotton face masks for $100?  That’ll be a No, so please understand that, while I’m very willing to scale back a lot and comp a lot more than usual, there will still be some lines beyond which I will say no.  Still, go ahead and send your inquiries and offers, and you might find a Yes where you’d expect a No since what I’m considering reasonable is quite far down right now. I’m pretty sure the difference between a corset that’ll take about 15-20 hours, include custom drafting and embroidery, and $150-ish in supplies I already have sitting there several times over, for $150, and something taking taking 300ish hours and $1,400 in supplies that would use all of that fabric that I have left, for $500 is kinda apparent.

If you send an open inquiry, I’ll reply with what my normal quotes would have been or with a link to this post.  Right now, it’s less about a for-profit business (if you knew how much time and supplies I donate to non-profits in a usual year, you’d question if this is actually a for-profit business anyway, considering I put more money and time into 501(c)3’s than I actually talk about, and I’m lucky to be in a position to do so), and more about let’s just all try to help each other get through this and have some reasons to smile.  The for-profit-ish side of things can wait until life is back on track.

Let’s see who gets the reference in this image, which was going to be my closing line to this post until I amused myself by singing it. 😂

In fact, I dare you to send those offers you’re thinking right now. 😁

Announcement of a pricing structure change

I may be walking into a virtual minefield here, but between the magazine I flipped through mentioned below, this HuffPo article, and couple things that happened on the way to a book store yesterday, I decided to go ahead and do what I wanted to do last fall and throw my pricing structure out the window, and scrap even discounts, and instead move to a new system for a while.  I’m going to post about it tomorrow.  For right now, I just want to explain the reason why because anything to do with money right now risks making people mad.

Since last fall, when I predicted this was going to go on for quite some time (and was called out as “pessimistic” by people in my personal life who thought the end was going to be before Christmas…), I thought about lowering prices to reflect what’s happening, but then worried that that would be seen as opportunistic.  The FTC even had to come down on MLM hunbots who were trying to poach people’s stimulus money, making price-adjustments more iffy.  So I nixed the usual Black Friday/Cyber Monday stuff I’ve done every year for many years.  It didn’t feel right, but I did it.

At about 3am or so yesterday, I read that Huffo article and read every comment on Instagram and Facebook, and it was sad.  I think we all know that society in general has just hit walls.  It’s hard to feel any reason for continuing to exist when there’s nothing more to look forward to than vague “one day, when this is over”‘s, and there’s so much shaming of people who want to celebrate anything, and even for those who can ignore that shaming, there are still a lot of financial issues for so many because of extremely obvious reasons.  So it’s just running repeatedly into a wall and breaking into apathy.  It resonated deeply and descried pretty well how I felt at the worst of my illnesses growing up.  I kept mulling over some of those comments though…

Then yesterday morning at around 9am (no sleep FOR THE WIN…and it’s 4:35am and I’m awake still) I was walking through the fabric store yesterday getting spray paint, as one does when getting spray paint, and walked by the magazine display.  I saw a magazine for weddings*, and decided to flip through it really quick, and was struck by how much thinner the total magazine was versus issues a year ago.  I get it.  Really.  When so many people can’t travel or are afraid to even in areas where local rules make it okay, big weddings just aren’t happening.  It’s a social gathering, and where I am, those are limited to 15 people, but only outdoors, and some states and localities still have stay-at-home orders altogether, or bounce back and forth between having them or not.  Hard to plan anything when what’s allowed day to day is iffy.  So who wants to rush ahead planning weddings?  So what’s happened is pretty much most people who wanted big weddings either scaling back altogether because why bother having any part of they dream, or pushing it back until 2023 or later. It made my heart sad since, for some people, weddings are their ultimate way of declaring love, and they can’t. (*I know weddings aren’t for everyone…stay tuned for an upcoming post about this.)

The two thing that pushed me over the edge into deciding to go ahead and do this happened when my daughter and I were on our way into Portland to pick up some music books.

Let me preface this by saying that she was just cast in an Oregon Ballet Theater production last year when the lockdowns hit.  That was taken away.  The horse camp she and her Girl Scout troop worked for was taken away.  Everything she worked for was taken away.  Nutcracker.  School.  Halloween.  Everything.  All because Covid makes it so that literally everything in children’s lives is now subject to being taken away.  Why have goals?  That’s been severely depressing her and has had her in suicide watch at various points.  That’s how I lost my dad in 2003, and so this has been especially hard for me too.  Something as simple as a goal to look forward to, that can’t be taken away…

So in the car I played a Lord of the Rings song for m daughter that she said reminded her of Star Wars, and she wished she could play it on her flute.  Well, the books we were going to pick up were flute music books, which she didn’t know at all, just that we were going to pick up a few things, and one of them?  STAR WARS.  They’re beyond what she can do right now, but she got so excited and said it’s something she can work for that can’t get taken away. Just…a simple goal.  Something to look forward to.  No student concerts, no one will see, but it’s something she can work toward and reach now.  I thought about the magazined I’d looked at and how wedding goals were smashed.

Without thinking, I told her to look up Galadriel on her phone, and she did, and said she wanted the dress Galadriel wears.  I hadn’t made her anything in a year because…why?  What for?  I decided that, since I still have some of the fabric left over from making one before, and nothing the foreseeable future, why not offer to make it, even if only to do some photos.  Sure, it’ll be a financial bloodbath (something like $400 or yard…ouch), but the fabric is just sitting there, and if it could potentially make her even a little happy…

Folks, she was over the moon.  So over the moon that it seared itself into my head in the way that I can tell you the exact spot of the interstate we were on   Just the prospect of a pretty dress to wear, even in our backyard, lit her up.  A goal that couldn’t get taken away, and then a dress.  It gave her a distraction from the doldrums of daily life, and just…something to look forward to.

I decided then to do what I’d been wanting to do for months now, even though it will undoubtedly make some people try mad and think I’m being an opportunist.  It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  Raise them, and you’re taking advantage if people, lower them, and you’re an opportunist.  What my plan is will probably result in a net loss for me, but eh.

Regardless of what’s happening in the world, we all need reasons to be happy and to have something to look forward to.  (Don’t even start on “but people are dying”–unless you know the extent and severity and length of my medical history, you have less than no room to lecture me on this.  None.)  That’s what helps get is through the rough times, something positive out there in the future to reach for and to pull us through the quagmire.  So I’ll be doing that in the way I know how.  If that makes some people mad, so be it.  For others, it might be the boost needed to look forward with some happiness, and that’s more important than trying to keep some people from getting mad.  More people need to get to feel what Charlotte felt today, and I hope to get to make that happen.

So I’m going to write up the new stuff and get it posted by tomorrow.