Money-matters during a time hard to think about money

I’ve had a few people inquire over the last several days about if my pricing will change a lot since there’s this event later this year or that next year that they’re hoping to still get to attend.  Since I just read something concerning that I knew was likely to happen, but now have confirmation, I’m going to address this here.  Money is never a comfortable topic, but even less so now that the world has been upended.
Many fabric manufacturers have stopped producing fabrics for the time being. I’m not sure who all retailers and wholesalers those manufacturers ship to, though I do know that Gap Inc (owner of Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy) is among them, and I’m not sure yet what that will mean for us here in the future. Right now, I do have a stash to fall back on (thank goodness–I was called obsessed and crazy and all kinds of things by old friends for my stash…well, good thing I didn’t listen), and will be trying to stock up on anything else I can that I anticipate needing to try to prevent having to increase pricing, and to lower some where I reasonably can, effectively a pay cut.
That’s the short answer.  Of course a short answer means there’s a longer, expanded answer as well.

Continue reading “Money-matters during a time hard to think about money”

Important update, and why big companies can’t just pay people

Not my favorite kind of post to make, but I’d have a handful of people ask a question that I feel a need to address.

Will you be offering discounts like a lot of stores are?

No, I won’t, and I really can’t.  Stores are offering deep discounts, often on brand new items that would normally be full price through May, to move inventory they have on hand and can’t return.  Big companies are scrambling to liquidate right now.  Things in the industry are very, very dire right now. The extremity of this can’t be overstated.  Right now, the Fall/Winter 2020 season is very likely to be cancelled altogether.  That is not just talk or an exaggeration.  The fashion shows are cancelled, designers can’t get things produced, and if they could, who is spending money on luxury goods?  And fast fashion won’t make it up when the stores are closed and not many people are buying clothing that has a very small profit margins per piece.

I get some industry publications, and have been following this for the last few weeks, and let’s just say it’s not a matter of of any companies will fold, but rather which ones and when.  Neiman Marcus is in chapter 11 bankruptcy talks.  Nordstrom just has a very wide retail layoff with much of corporate furloughed without pay and the entire board going without pay until September.  When retailers struggle, they can’t order products and return or cancel shipments.  Those supplies in turn have to cancel their own purchases or cancel then with manufacturers, who in turn have to cancel orders with suppliers of various materials, and those suppliers stop making supplies.  This disrupts the whole supply chain, resulting in retailers having to discount stuff to bring in cash.

This also means that getting materials is going to get substantially harder.  I can’t get fabric from my European suppliers right now.  Retailers and wholesalers in the US can only rely on the stock they have on hand, with no real idea of if they can get more anytime soon.  This means I have to rely on my stash, and let’s say it’s substantial.  I’ve had a lot of people tease me and call me crazy and say I’m OCD (I do legitimately have OCD-tendencies, but that’s not what they’re talking about) and obsessed and need mental help (this will be the topic of another post probably later this week) for my tendency to hoard fabrics and notions and various other supplies.  But I was a tech worker in Silicon Valley at the start of the last recession.  I went through a period of not being able to get supplies I needed (Aria Couture was concurrent with working in tech), and having to turn down desperately-needed commissions.  After that, I began to hoard, just in case, and right now, that’s coming in handy.  I can still make many, MANY things, but the catch is I can’t rely on getting more, and when I can, there’s no telling how much the prices will go up.  So what I have is what I have.  When it’s gone, there’s no telling when I’ll be able to get more.*

This leads in to a question I have personally received, but that I’ve seen asked all over the internet.

Why can’t that company just pay people?  They’re a couple hundred million.  They’ve got the money.

Because they can’t pay people in cartons of clothes.  What a company is worth has nothing to do with how much cash they have on hand.  Worth refers to the value of assets, and that includes cash, but also includes their inventory and other items, whether intellectual or physical.  The very name of a company carried value.  Their domain name carries value.  Their unsold inventory carries value (and that value decreases as time goes on).  A clothing company with a value of $100mil might have $10mil in cash, which really doesn’t go as far as it seems it will when you consider the cost of salaries and all the overhead from rent on locations to the electric bills on down to the supplies to clean the floors, with $90mil in clothing that they sell to make the money to continue paying people.  If the economy shuts down, like it is now, their ability to sell is diminished severely, and they can’t move those products.  No products moving means that that cash isn’t going to last long if they continue trying to pay everyone their full salaries, on top of having to continue paying rent on the retail and office locations, and then they’ll have stale inventory if they can even get back up and running.  And no, retailers can’t just open back up.  They need money to be able to pay salaries when they do, and they need that money before they start.  Spend all their cash on hand at the beginning of a recession, and there’ll be none to pay people if they can remain in a position to re-open.  It’s important that they re-open (yes, it’s important for people to have money now as well) so that they can recreate jobs because people need money they as well.

In other words, there’s a whole lot more to it than just writing out paychecks and calling it a day, especially when so much of the value is in something other than liquid cash.

If you see companies deeply discounting things, it’s because they’re trying to offload inventory while they can since some liquid cash is better than none, and they’ll likely use some to pay people a while, but also bank some in hopes of reopening later.  The unfortunate reality is that a lot of them won’t.

Where do I personally stand in all of this?

I’m fortunate.  As of right now, I can skate by.  I don’t have revolving expenses, haven’t hired anyone, have a stash I can fall back upon.  But when this recession is over, how people spend money will inevitably change with a probably emphasis, at least for a while, on sustainable fashion and less on the frivolities I provide. I’m not planning to go anywhere for the foreseeable future. I’ll be staying put.  I acknowledge my privilege that I can do this, but I’m also working on something new that, due to the intellectual nature of it and not wanting a novel idea to be stolen by a larger company that does manage to stick around, I will not be able to get into it very much. I started on patterns for Sarah and Jareth, which will be put aside for the time being.  Hardly seems worthwhile when getting the fabrics for them is so iffy to nearly impossible.  But this new idea I have will, hopefully, actually lead to something that will create jobs for others while not competing with the typical Aria Couture fare.

For some fun, I’m also going to finally go through some of the many thousands of photos from one of my trips to the V&A and start on some analyses, as well as posting photos from the Marvel costume exhibit, and a few other things.  Just because the world is stressed like hell doesn’t mean we can’t try to find some things to enjoy and unwind. I’m also going to start posting more in-progress pics, just completely random shots, just for a little distraction from stress.  I need a bit of relief, and suspect many of you may need it as well.

If there are any questions or concerns or anything, please feel free to contact me.

*Also, I am in the very fortunate position of my husband being with a company that pays enough that his income is what pays our regular bills, and he is in a position that is now vital to the company (there are four people, with him in charge, who were providing support to 525 people, and now there are 475, and they’re now all remote–good luck hiring someone new and trining that person in the ins and outs of the company, remotely, then telling that person to now do the tech and other support without having support….and he’s the only one involved with some security stuff and a few other important projects…basically if he goes, it’s because the company’s folding, and they’re providing some vital server stuff to companies like Walmart, so they’re good).  So I’m in a better position than many.  There are seamstresses right now deeply discounting their services due to being the ones to support their families.  If I were to discount, I could easily compete and likely take away those commissions, and I don’t feel right doing that when I’m okay right now, and so many others aren’t.  A lot of them probably won’t be able to do this much longer, and I want to give them the space to do what they need to do to get by without me trying to fish in the same pond right now.  So I’d rather back up and give them space to try to meet their needs first.

When did the US start using the imperial system (inches, feet, yards, gallons, etc.), and why?

Some trivia for you:

Q: When did the US start using the imperial system (inches, feet, yards, gallons, etc.), and why?

A: Prior to 1965, even the UK was on the…imperial system. The metric system wasn’t even official in the UK until just 54 years ago. The US didn’t change on this. The rest of the world did.

When global trade started becoming more common, there came a desire for a worldwide standard. France proposed the first metric system in 1790, which was met with considerable resistance. Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg were the first to require its used in 1820, and France followed the mandate in 1837. The alternative was the imperial system, which was too closely associated with Britain to be palatable.

In 1875, most industrialized nations, excluding Britain but including the US, signed the Treaty of the Metre. The definition of a metre has changed over time, though, and a lot more recently than most people realized.

Initially, the definition was one-ten-millionth of the distance between the equator and the north pole. You might see the problem with this. The earth isn’t entirely spherical. So which ten-millionth? For which starting point? Thanks, France.

In 1983, the definition moved away from geographical distance to using lightwaves. As far as we know, light travels at the same speed, or some such nonsense that will be debunked a few centuries from now, as everything seems to be.

It had been changed in the meantime between 1791, when the first meter was officially set, and 1983, when it was set at its current length, the most recent prior it 1983 being 1960. The 17th Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures now defines a meter as:

The weight of the kilogram has also changed over time, including in the past few months, but I don’t work in weight, making this really irrelevant, though still interesting. Here is a starting point for your own research on this, and how there are three keys kept in separate locations that all must be brought together to access the official kilogram, which is a physical object kept under a series of bell jars, Whoville-style.

Seriously.  It is.  The real one rarely sees the light of day because Science, but this is a replica.  Now off you get to do your own research.

Consider this your  moment.

The devil went down to Portland, he was looking for a soul to steal

He was in a bind ’cause he was way behind.  So he was lookin’ to make a deal.

And whoever lost that deal doomed Vancouver as well.  It is HOT.  Miserably so.  It is after night night and still almost 80 outside. My makeup melted off ages ago. When I got up off the leather couch in my sewing room, it hurt because I was stuck to it. My grandma always said that horses sweat, men perspire, and ladies glow. I’m not sure which could be blamed for me being glued to my seat so that I had to painfully pull myself off of it. I’m a Californian, and this heat is reminding me of being a kid and cursing the existence of summer.

Hot Aria says bonjour au monde!

Not sticky and icky now, so almost time to resume sewing. Finishing a corset, then a fitter for the Belle bodice, then to redo part of the elevator gown, the part I had finished right before finding new photos.  Because that happened.  Years of no new photos, only low resolution photo with the original white flower, and the flash in the movie, and then there is a new photo.  In the words…word…of John Oliver,


Effects of tariffs on textiles

Well, I woke up to some greeeeaaaaat news from a few of my fabric suppliers.  Since I like to run Aria Couture with as much transparency as possible, here is another oh-so-fun business post.  Sarcasm is dripping.  March of next year will be 19 years that I’ve had my small business.  It has been through a recession.  It’s been through me being homeless.  (Try sewing without a home–it’s incredibly difficult.) It’s been through me being very sick.  This is the first time I’ve genuinely worried for the future of Aria Couture.

Due to anticipated new tariffs, pricing of fabrics is going up, or, in a couple cases, went up overnight.  The National Council of Textile Organization is actually pushing FOR tariffs, despite the lack of infrastructure in place in America to take over production.  The list of items about to be hit with new tariffs is disheartening.  It includes not only fabrics, but a lot of supplies, including things like bobbins, plastic spools, cardboard spools, thread, all kinds of eyelets, yarn (do you like to knit or crochet?), and more.  Even diaries and journals and notebooks are on the list.  Companies and importers aren’t going to eat these costs.  They’re going to get passed along to the next in line.  This means that I will pay more to buy supplies.  Small things like extra tariffs on needles (they’re metal, and metal is already hit) and corset boning (steel, also already hit) are not overly difficult for me to absorb due to the relatively low cost (an extra $20–steel is a higher tariff–for corset boning  isn’t a make-of-break for me), but fabrics are another matter.

Fabrics are already expensive, and when using many, many yards (I’ve used as many as 300 yards in some gowns), even a dollar per yard very quickly adds up to quite a hit.  That would be the added tariff on fabric that is $10 per yard at a tariff of 10%.  Unfortunately, most fabrics I use aren’t as low as $10 per yard since I use mostly natural fabrics, like silk, which is already notoriously expensive, and I use high quality silk.  No, all silk taffeta isn’t the same.  The bolt pictured is silk taffeta that is sitting in my supply room.  Let’s say I use that fabric for a regency gown, and use five yards.  At a 10%-tariff, that’s an extra $50.  Remember when I broke down the costs of a dress to figure out the hourly wage?  Let’s do that again.  There is a huge reason for this.

Since I compete with seamstresses who use the cheapest available (I don’t because quality is a huge issue for me) and are willing to take just a few dollars per hour, I can’t charge more than I already do.  Typically I charge $400 for a regency round gown in silk taffeta.  At $50 per yard for five yards, this is $250.  At a payment processing fee of 3.5%, that’s $14.  Social security tax is 12.4%, for another $49.60.   I’m down to $86.40.  Due to how much hand-sewing silk taffeta needs, such as hand-sewn hems, I can spend 8-10 hours on a gown fro drafting to finish.  On the lower end, 8 hours, That’s $10.80 per hour in a state with an $11-minimum wage.

But…increase the cost of fabric by 10%.  That’s an additional $25 out.  So I’m at $61.40 for labor, which is $7.67 per hour.

I said there is a huge reason for this breakdown.  Textile companies are already raising prices in anticipation of tariffs being approved.  And it’s not at 10%.  Here is the old versus new pricing of one of the lower-priced fabrics I use.


This is what I woke up to.  Depending on whether I buy 1 yard or a full bolt, this is an increase of between 29% and 44%, and yes, it is in response to the tariffs according to the emails sent out about this.  Yes, this is higher than 10%.  A little known fact is that the US is one of the world’s top exporters of raw cotton and raw wool, and when that goes into some of these countries, like China, it’s getting hit with tariff, which raises the costs for manufacturers there.  Even without US-added tariffs, this alone would increase prices here.  But when the finished yarn and fabrics are sent back here, it’s getting slammed with higher tariffs (textile tariffs are already typically between 14% and 62%…yes, 62%…and these new tariffs are on top of that) on a higher cost.  This is double-tariffing, if not triple in some instances.  Tese higher rates are potentially disastrous.

Let’s apply a difference of 29% to my little breakdown above on the assumption that this will be the new normal.  Instead of $250 for fabric, that would be $322.50 for fabric.  That leaves $13.90 for labor, which is $1.73 per hour.  My options would be to work for that little, or to raise the cost of that gown by $72.50, or try to find middle ground.  Commissioners don’t take kindly to increases in costs.  I’m still competing with people using the cheapest supplies and who are willing to work for peanuts.  For some brevity, $13.90 is enough to Amazon Prime a container of peanuts with $1.81 left over.  Literally peanuts. Wages for most Americans is either stagnant or falling.  How can I raise prices when wages aren’t going up?

Thankfully, I have some time to figure things out thanks to doing something that other seamstresses told me was a waste of money.  Why buy more than is needed for current commissions?

This is some of my stash.  The case to the far right there is all silk, and the rest are cottons, all bought at prices not yet affected by tariffs.  So I can keep my prices stable for a while.  But after that, I just don’t know.  If I’m lucky, fabric suppliers will only raise prices by 10%.  I can justify doing this for $7.67 per hour.  But $1.73 per hour is too close to the line that there’s a risk I’ll lose money, especially on Etsy sales (the fee just rose to 5% and includes 5% of shipping, so take out $20, and I’m losing money out of pocket).

By the way, don’t think that store-bought clothing is safe.  These tariffs apply to that as well.

I don’t know what to do, folks.  I can keep prices as they are until I’ve gone through my stash, but beyond that, what should I do?  I just don’t know.  Since this has the ability to affect everyone reading this, I think it’s only fair to welcome input, whether through comments below, through my Contact page, or through my Facebook page.  Should I raise prices?  Keep them the same?  Compromise on quality of fabrics or production?  Keep everything as is and hope for the best?  Please let me know your thoughts.  Thank you.

Decreasing quality in supplies

In the past, I’ve alluded to declining quality in fabrics and trims as the options dwindle.  Well, I have a very clear example of that that I think shows up in photos.  See, usually, when I know I will use a lot of a supply, I will buy full bolts of fabric or rolls of ribbon or trim, often enough to last for a couple years at least, if not more.  This is how I’m able to provide the same lace for many corsets, or the same fabric for many robes.  So I miss the small, incremental slips that acclimate people to changes over a longer time, and get to see the full leaps.

Tonight I didn’t have enough of an eyelet trim I needed for a corset, and ran off to the store.  I managed to find the same patterned trim, but it felt…thinner.  I bought just what I needed for this corset.  If the quality was slipping as much as I thought, I didn’t want to buy a full, pricy roll as I’d rather find something newer and high enough quality to meet my standards.

Well.  Well, well, well.

The lace is indeed much thinner.  The lace on the right is the older lace.  There are three notable differences.  First, yes, the cotton is definitely thinner. This isn’t meant to be delicate, in which case thinness can be good.  The second is related to the first.  Take a closer look at the space between the flowers.  In the newer trim, there is more pulling.  The cotton fabric isn’t substantial enough to handle the embroidery without stabilizer, though the older fabric could.  The third irks me to no end.  The edge of the older lace is pretty clean while the new lace has frayed edges.

Here is a closer look at the fabric and the embroidery.

I’m pretty sure that you can tell which is which.

Do you think the cost is going down to reflect this, or even staying stable (which would amount to the price going down due to inflation)?  Either of those would be mildly acceptable.  But no.  The price has nearly doubled.  Since I usually buy full rolls, the rolls I have in my supply room have the prices on them.  So I’m not relying on memory for this.  Fairly recently, I shared how the cost of fabric is drastically increasing as choices shrink.

Fewer choices, rising costs, decreasing quality.  Sometimes I want to rip my hair out over this.

Why are seamstresses undercutting each other?

More and more, I’m seeing seamstresses undercutting each other in prices to try to get business.  This is really sad, but it’s due to people expecting us to compete with cheap prices out of China.  The reality is we can’t do that.  The costs out of China are often less than the cost of even cheap, poly fabrics that we seamstresses can obtain.  I’d like to go over the expenses of one of my dresses, and that one that I will use is my Tim Burton/Disney Alice in Wonderland dress.

The cost of the French cotton organdie, which I bought in Paris, that I used is 60€, which is about $75, and the child-size took 5 yards.  $375.  The cotton for the layer underneath was a total of 50€ for the full piece, about $60.  I got the striped fabric for the petticoat on sale, and paid just under $50 for it all.  The horsehair braid (not really made from horse hair) was about $80.  The buttons were another $35.  The rest of the notions, such as the cording I used as the core for piping, the embroidery thread, the stabilizer, etc., was about $50.  Stabilizer an embroidery thread are not cheap.  So we’re at about $650.  I very much underestimated it in my Etsy listing, now that I’m adding it up.  In silk organza and silk taffeta instead of the organdie and fabric I used for the petticoat, the differences would be about $$200 total for the organza, and $180 for the taffeta.  This is a savings of only $105.

So let’s use the lower price, $545 in silk instead of $650 for the French fabrics because, frankly, probably no one else happened to be in Paris and to have found that fabric, making that purchase an anomaly.  Right now, I have this gown listed at $1200, which leaves $655.  The child-size took about 60 hours of skilled labor.  Before all taxes and Etsy and payment processing fees, this is a whopping total of $10.92 per hour.  Most Walmarts are now starting at a higher pay.  Self-employed people have to pay the full 12.4% for social security tax alone.  Employers pay half, when your pay check comes from an employer.  Our expenses, such as the fabrics we buy, or the fees we pay, are no longer tax-write-offs.  So we now have to pay tax on the entire total we charge, in this case, $1200, even though the amount we earn after supplies an fees is less than half that.  But let’s just deal with the social security tax.  $148.80 is the tax owed now.  That comes out of that $655.  $506.20.  Payment processing fees are on the entire amount as well, and is about 3.5%.  There’s another $42.  Etsy fees are about the same.  Another $42.  $422.20 is the net, before even considering income taxes.  So, after just a few fees and one tax, this is $7.04 per hour.  Even if you want to try to say, “but everyone’s wage rate is before any taxes come out,” please remember that no one else has to pay taxes on the supplies.

But if you insist, let’s add that $148.80 back in.  At $571 after the payment and etsy fees, this is still $9.52 per hour.  A fair wage would be $25 per hour, especially since we have to absorb all the taxes on even the supplies, and this would put a dress like this at just over $2,000.  The absolute most I’ve seen it listed for is $1,500.  About $16 is better, but still very low when you start knocking out about 7% for etsy and payment fees, which is another $105, and then $186 for the full social security tax.

We also pay processing and etsy fees on the shipping, and we have to pay taxes on that shipping since that is no longer able to be written off on taxes either.  We also have to buy the machinery that is needed (my embroidery machine was $5,000 alone…).  We have to pay for maintenance, and for the extra utilities, and for the studio space in our homes.  $9.52, and we have to pay for so much out of that.

Yet I’m seeing this particular ensemble being listed at $1000, even $900, and one listing for $850, and these are all in silk.  Take a look back at how much the supplies in silk cost.  $545.  Before payment fees, taxes, or anything else, that listing at $1000 is going to be $455 after the supplies.  I’m a faster seamstress than many, but let’s still use that 60 hours.   $7.58 per hour.  At $900, that’s $5.92 per hour, and at $850,  that’s $5.08.  Again, this is for skilled labor, and is before payment processing and etsy fees.  My $9.52 per hour seems like good pay compared to $5.08, but it’s still $1.48 below my state’s minimum wage of $11.  I’m in Washington State.  In Oregon, a stone’s throw from me, minimum wage is $10.25.  So not only does Walmart pay more, literally every job pays more.

I’ll be blunt: When prices get low enough, there’s an incentive to start using different fabrics, such as poly organza, and hope that a client doesn’t know the difference.  I wouldn’t dream of doing this, and will even tell my clients how to tell the difference if they want to know, but I personally know someone who does this on occasion, and justifies it as “she’s paying me almost nothing for my time, and I really need to make something out of this to be worth it.”  No, that’s not okay, and she has gotten mad at me when I’ve told her she’s risking the reputation of this industry by making seamstresses appear untrustworthy if one of those clients find out, but it is a risk that you take when you start to look for the lowest price, or when you try to influence a seamstress who is already making so little to keep going down in price.  I’ve literally seen some things listed for less than the cost of the stated fabrics and fiber contents.  Barring someone destashing or using something they’ve had in their stash for a while (as I do on occasion, and I will openly state that as the reason I’m listing something for what it is), I can nearly guarantee you that you aren’t going to get what you’re paying for, and that those are probably seamstresses who are not making enough to get by, but who don’t want to give up on what they love to do, and so are hoping you won’t know the difference between a silk satin and a silky satin that they listed as a silk satin…or it may be possible that they found a cheaper polyester listed as silk (follow that link to see a chilling example of a very-well-known fabric store, one of the world’s largest and best-known, titling a polyester fabric as silk), and are hoping to use that as plausible deniability.

So please, when you’re looking for a deal, please keep in mind that many of us are already working for less than minimum wage, and then have to pay income taxes and social security taxes on not only that wage, but also all the fabrics and supplies we have to buy.  So please, please, do not try to get us to underbid each other.  It’s not fair to us.  We deserve as much of a living wage as anyone else, or at least minimum wage, especially considering that we pay taxes on even the supplies we need to buy.  We do this because we love to do it.  But here’s the catch–even if someone were to not pay taxes as required, this is still less than pre-tax minimum wage.  No one making minimum wage is only going to take home $5.08 per hour, yet that is the pre-tax for at least one seamstress, and that’s before the processing fees that she can’t get out of because, whether she’s using Paypal or Square, that’s taken out automatically.

I have friends making baby tutus for $15 with $5 in supplies.  That’s about $4 after shipping and fees, and even then, they’re being told that someone else will do it for $14, so will they take $13.  (There are a lot of Facebook groups for custom-makers to support each other, and yes, we discuss these things in furious detail.)  I know people making custom die-cut invitations for $3 each, or $2.50 if you buy 50 or more, and are being told that’s too expensive.  Folks, I made my daughter’s birthday invitations this year, using my die-cutter, and it cost me about $2 each, and that is just the card stock I had to buy (the gold–I had the parchment on hand and don’t count that in the cost) and surprisingly-expensive, surprisingly-short-lasting blades.  I made 60.  It literally would have cost me less to have someone else make them and use their labor than I spent on just two of the supplies I needed.  Something’s wrong with that, with them being told $2.50 or $3 is too much.  It’s really too little.  Thos invitations and tutus are almost an act of charity.  Yet $3 an invitation is too much.  $15 for a tutu is too much.  $1200 for a dress is too much.

I implore you, please do not try to get us to undercut each other.  I will not play along.  I, unlike some others, can survive losing a commission.  My husband’s income supports our household necessities, and I’m in a very fortunate position for that.  Some others aren’t so lucky, and would rather take $5.08 than nothing because they can’t afford not to, and they can’t because of how much prices are expected to be dropped when labor prices are often already below minimum wage.

It’s disheartening.  And yet we’re still expected to try to undercut each other.  And some do, because they can’t afford not to.  Please, folks, don’t expect us to work for less than you’d accept for your skilled labor, especially considering we have to pay high taxes and payment and etsy fees on even the supplies.  Doing what we do is already an act of love, and a bit of pride, but mostly of love.  Please, in return, love what we do enough to not make us have to undercut each other.

Gift Card FAQs

Q: Why are gift cards paper cards?

Two main reasons: So you can gift them to someone else if you choose, and because digital gift cards are a hassle to keep track of.

If cards were digital, and someone were to gift the code, what do you think happens when one person redeems it, and another person tries?  Unfortunately, it reflects on me to not honor both, especially if the person the purchaser gave it to uses it first.

A paper gift card is harder to duplicate.  You do need to keep track of them and not lose them.


Q: How can I redeem a gift card?

You need to return it to me.  Make sure to redeem using a trackable method, and to take a photo of the card with “REDEEMED” written on the face with the card number visible in case the card gets lost in the mail.


Q: Can a gift card ever be digital?

No.  However, what can be done is you can pay for an item for someone else, and we can get it on my schedule at the time.  I’m not set up to keep track of digital gift cards on an open-ended basis.  So if you want to give someone a digital gift card, contact me and we can set that up as a commission right away instead.


Q: Can I use multiple cards on an order?

Multiple full-price cards can be.  Promotional and discounted cards are limited to one card per item.  So you can redeem two promotional or discounted cards that are for different items in the same commission, but not the same item.


Q: Do I need to use a card all at once?

No, but there is a caveat to this.  You do need to return gift cards to redeem them, but if you are willing to pay a new shipping fee out of the balance (see the next question), I can issue a new card for the remaining balance, or sent a new card with your item.


Q: Why do gift cards have a shipping charge more than $7 when it just takes a stamp?  Bigger places like Amazon don’t charge shipping.

I used to not charge a shipping fee.  A good while back, I paid out of my own pocket to have gift cards sent using delivery confirmation.  DC used to be a mere 35 cents on top of a stamp.  Then the post office nixed that, and started charging more than $7 and consider them to be Priority shipments.  So I went with the next least-expensive tracked option, which was certified. I came up against the problem of people not being home, cards being returned, and then either having to refund them, or pay again, from my own pocket, to send again.  Since this was a headache for all involved, I stopped paying for tracking for gift cards.  That’s when I came up against the big problem of people claiming to not get cards, me reshipping, a new claim of not getting them, and me having to refund them.  As a small, very small, business, I can’t afford to sent out hundreds of dollars in cards, especially twice, and then have to refund them anyway.  Those cards are still valid.

The new solution is to charge a delivery confirmation fee to the purchaser of a gift card.  These can be left in your mailbox if you aren’t home.  Amazon and other larger companies that don’t charge a fee are multi-billion-dollar companies that could afford to take a hit of a few hundred dollars, but they don’t.  Instead, they have automated programs to closely track gift cards, and can cancel them easily and reship them if someone claims to not have gotten their card.  I can’t afford the hits, and I can’t afford custom programs.  Everything I do is manual.

The delivery confirmation fee is to help cut back on this new issue of claims of not getting untracked cards.

If someone still claims to not have gotten a card, and has their bank do a chargeback, I can use the tracking to disprove the claim.  If the bank errs on the side of their customer, I can invalidate the cards associated with that payment.


Q: Why can you invalidate card numbers, but not track lost gift cards?

I technically can, but don’t.  This helps prevents fraud.  If someone buys a card, claims it’s lost when they know where it is or gifted or sold it, and I cancel and reissue, it’s going to reflect on me if the cancelled card was gifted/sold/otherwise transferred, and I don’t honor it.  So either I honor duplicates and end up run into the ground, or I don’t honor it and someone who received it from the purchaser is stuck.  Both make me look bad.

As far as invalidating cards associated with a chargeback, if someone tries to use it after receiving it, I can tell them exactly who got a refund and when.  It won’t reflect negatively on me if I have that kind of information.  It will reflect on the purchaser to have given or sold a card they got a refund for.


Q: What happens after a chargeback?

Sellers have very little recourse since banks usually err on the side of their own customers.  So anyone who does a chargeback without contacting me first will be banned from purchasing gift cards in the future, and if the card was already redeemed, will be permanently banned from commissioning anything at all from me.


Q: Do gift cards expire?

Gift cards purchased at full value do not expire.

Promotional gift cards, meaning those that are 100% free for gift bags and such at various events, do.

Discounted gift cards or gift cards for specific items are on a case-by-case basis.

Expiration dates are addressed on each card.  Cards that don’t expire will state that.


Q: Why do some expire, but not others?

A gift card paid in full is cash that’s been prepaid.  The actual price paid for a card does not expire. There are even laws preventing gift cards from expiring beyond their purchase price.

Promotional gift cards are cards I receive literally nothing for, and in fact, lose money since I receive nothing to cover supplies.  A supply item that costs $5 today could cost $50 in a year.  An expiration date protects me from being financially torpedo’d.

Discounted cards depend, and any expiration dates will be disclosed before money is accepted.  The reason is the same as the promotional card.  An expired discounted card will retain its purchase value.  Groupon does the same thing to spare merchants and service-providers from financial harm as their costs rise.

In some instances, discounted cards might not expire, usually non-specific item cards, or cards for items made from fabrics that are a part of my normal stash, such as something made from plain white cotton.


Q: Are gift cards refundable?

No.  You need to make sure to provide a valid shipping address.  Returned cards will be mailed again to you.


Q: Do gift cards mean you’ll make my order right away?

Unless otherwise specified, all items are subject to normal scheduling.  If I couldn’t rush your order if you were paying in cash, then I can’t rush your order for using a gift card.


Q: What if I have other questions?

Please contact me, and they’ll be added to this FAQ.


When I need measurements, these are the charts I usually use.  I usually don’t need all the measurements on any one chart, and usually also ask for base of next to the floor.  Measurements can be in inches or centimeters.

When measurements are taken, please be very careful.   Providing incorrect measurements can result in something that can’t be altered well.  Don’t provide your dream-measurements, no matter what.  Incorrect measurements, whether by accident or intentionally (a lot of brides intend to lose weight, but don’t succeed, and I’m not responsible for this) happen with some frequency.  A great-fitting ensemble requires accurate measurements.

Corset chart:

Female-sexed body chart:

Male-sexed body chart:

Miscellaneous chart:

Dresses and trims workshop package, part 1

Madame Nora pondering a pattern alteration for Miss Ruth

Nora of A Baronet’s Daughter Designs and I are co-teaching a workshop on regency dresses and trims.  Today we held part 1, headed by Nora, focusing on construction.  I will head part 2 on February 4th, focusing on some popular trim methods.  We scheduled this workshop a few months ago, and as luck would have it, there were many marches going on and several people who were interested were unable to make it.  All the power to them!

If you missed today’s workshop, you are still welcome to part 2.  Bring a dress you’d like to trim, or just come to learn how to do folded Van Dyke points, shark tooth trim, and more!   Please contact me for a supplies list that is customized according to your interests.

Me taking a brief selfie-break while Miss Mary sews in the background

Please see this page for more information.  We’d love to have you with us on February 4th!  There is a modest per-student fee to cover the rental of the space.  Nora’s and my time is donated.

Today’s event was held at a charming shop in Portland, Pioneer Quilts, as will part 2.  This is the sort of shop that welcomes you with a crock pot of hot cocoa and marshmallows when you walk in from the cold winter air, with a knowledgable, kind staff, and the feeling of a grandmother’s house.  It’s comforting and warm, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that they have a beautiful selection of French General and Moda fabrics!

So as expected, we did have a small turn-out, as might be expected.  However, we still consider to be a success.  Our two students traveled a few hours from Seattle to join us, and quite a bit was accomplished.

Miss Mary tracing out a pattern

Through modifying a custom pattern to fit their measurements, and making muslin testers, and then back to the drawing board, Miss Mary and Miss Ruth, whose pictures are used with consent to being online, learned a good deal about armcythes and fitting busts.  Both of these points are easy to overlook when making gowns inspired by the regency era.  At the end of today’s workshop, each had a custom pattern to take home (this alone is worth the fee) so that they can make more gowns as their leisure.

Also many shenanigans were to be had.  What that entails…well…what happens in workshops stays in workshops.  It involved New Kids on the Block and other bands taking us back to the 1980’s and 1990’s.  Sometimes girls just wanna have fun. 😉

Miss Ruth pinning a couple pieces together

I must comment on Miss Ruth’s machine.  She brought in a beautiful vintage Necchi machine.  Once upon a time, these machines we the “It” machine for couturiers to use.  Everyone from Coco Chanel to Christian Dior used these graceful, beautiful workhorses.  But alas, like so many other well-known brands, the good ol’ days are behind us, and we are left with not even a ghost of the greatness we once had.  Avoid modern Necchi machines, but if you get the chance to get one of the vintage ones, snap it up!  They’re not easy to find, but are highly desirable.

We do hope you’re consider joining us for part 2 of this fun workshop series.  If you missed part 1, don’t fret.  We are planning another for sometime in the spring.  Be sure to subscribe to this blog in the footer of this page to get notifications when that workshop and others are planned.

Madame Nora…being Madame Nora