Friday, July 3, 2009

The Hell of Taffeta

My cat, Rupert, has ruined two evening gowns with his long claws and slips into my closets whenever he gets a chance. So I bought two huge hanging garment bags to put all of my evening gowns and fancy clothes in.

Now bear in mind as you read this, I am NOT supposed to do anything physically or mentally taxing. My husband went out to a film festival, and I promised him I would sort and hang the gowns while he was out.

The first thing was, it was amazing how many taffeta bridesmaids type dresses I had in my various closets! Where did they come from? Did they breed??? The pile was IMMENSE. Mostly from the 80s, I think. One beautiful one had fallen to the floor, and the bodice was covered with tiny snags.

Then, for about an hour, I wrestled with the first huge garment bag itself until I got it put together properly. Then...I tried to put it in my closet. It was GIGANTIC. I pulled off half the contents of the closet, piled them on the bed. There was still not enough space.

Pulled out more stuff, wrestled it hback in, and started hanging up the gowns. Most of them had been on cheap wire hangers, and when I bought the garment bags I bought good hangers, so I was also transfering them. The garment bag tipped this way and that, and suddenly the whole thing (inside) crashed to the floor!

After staring at it stupidly for a long time, I picked up the whole mess and dragged it out to my front hall, where I have an industrial grade clothes rack. I figured I should sort the gowns by season, and only hang up the ones I can sell now.

So, I put the whole thing back together, which took about half an hour, after scooping all of the gowns out onto the floor. Then I methodically hung the seasonal gowns in the bag, and it's absolutely stuffed. I still have a mountain of other non-seasonal taffeta dresses. I'm debating keeping them for the fall (sold like hotcakes last year) but...WHERE AM I GONNA PUT THE OTHER GARMENT BAG???

By that time I was beyond exhausted. When my husband came home, he was really upset that the bedroom was still a mess. It looked like I hadn't done anything! If only he knew...

When Shipping Goes Wrong...

Last Halloween, I shipped out a lot of costumes, and I do mean a lot of costumes! Some of them were vintage bridal gowns which I dyed silver in the bathtub (using black dye, but synthetics turn silver).

One day I took a load of packages to the Post Office, happily notified the customers to expect their packages, and would like to say I sat back and waited for the positive feedback to roll in. But life goes on, and so I had to go back to listing, measuring, photographing, yada yada yada.

A few days later, I got an email from a buyer saying she had received the wrong dress. When she described it, I thought, "Oh, no." She was buying a fairy princess costume for her daughter, and had received a bridal gown! And needed it that weekend! (Let's call her Buyer A.) I contacted Buyer B immediately, and guess what? She'd received the wrong dress, too!
There was only timely one way to make it right, which was to have them ship the dresses to each other, rather than ship them to me and have me ship them back out again. I immediately Paypal'd Buyer B the money to ship the gown to Buyer A. (Buyer A didn't have a Paypal account, but she wrote to say she'd let me know how much it would be.) Later that night, Buyer B sent me an email with the tracking number of Buyer A's dress.

Still with me on this?

Long story short, the days went by and Buyer B did not get her gown. Meanwhile, Buyer A got her dress the day before her daughter's event.

I pulled Buyer A's contact information when I got no response to my emails, and left several phone messages. Nothing. Then I got an email, days later, saying that an emergency had come up for Buyer A, and she would ship Buyer B's dress immediately. Oh, and by the way, Buyer A got her dress and her daughter loved it.

It was already too late for Buyer B to get her dress in time. But she was a pleasure to work with every step of the way. Besides, it was my fault in the first place, even if I was pretty cheesed at Buyer A. I gave Buyer B a full refund, and she left me positive feedback, which she did not have to do.

After consulting with Trust & Safety (a misnomer if there ever was one), I wrote to Buyer A that if she did not send the package to Buyer B, I would have to file a mail theft claim.

A few days later, Buyer B got her package!
Only the bridal gown was badly damaged, the sleeves shredded. It had been intact when it left here; that is all I will say.

I love my buyers, believe me. Except when they are psycho.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When You Inherit The Wrong Set Of Hands...

I've been selling vintage clothing, particularly plus-sized women's clothing, since about 2003. This blog is about my life as a seller, since it's one of those strange occupations that nobody understands. Perhaps this blog is a cry for help.

I would like to start with my parents. My mother is an amazing woman. She bakes great bread and cookies, is a painter, ceramicist, and makes all of her own dishes and mugs, lamps, wall sculptures, even decoupage. She also sews, and made many of our outfits when my sisters and I were growing up.

Mom even plays the cello, her fingers flying up and down the strings. I did not inherit her hands. I don't mean shape, because they aren't particularly narrow or tapered or even that special looking. I mean finesse.

I inherited my father's hands. Large, capable, and clumsy as hell. My dad built bookshelves, a doghouse, a complete dollhouse complete with electric lights and a doorbell, basic picture frames (four thin strips of wood nailed directly into the side of the canvas), and when I was a little kid, a funicular on cables over the gully behind our house. Every summer on the Jersey Shore, he'd repair things around the house and build stuff. He was also one of the greatest cooks to walk the earth.

Great, yes. But he was always smashing his hands with a hammer, dropping things, or cutting himself while chopping vegetables. When he was cooking, you'd hear a softly muttered "shit." A minute later he would have the damaged digit wrapped in a paper towel, bleeding away on our prospective dinner. At his memorial, my brother summed up my father's handyman skills: "Dad could fix a garbage disposal...with a crowbar." Finesse was not his strong suit.

What does this have to do with selling vintage clothing, you ask? Try repairing--oh, anything--when you've got hands like mine. After my father's death, I found myself at our beach house, slamming nails into separating stairs, fixing furniture, hanging pictures (my brother took over the cooking duties). At my home I fix the furniture, set up the electronics, put up shelves.

But ask me to sew a simple, one-inch split in a seam, and you've got yourself an instantly ruined vintage dress. Somehow, picking up a needle and thread seems to make my hands become three times their natural size. So does trying to pin anything, do up bridal buttons or hooks and eyes, or gently tug on material. There is always a loud "RRIIIIPPP" which means R.I.P. for the garment. Safety pins might as well be num-chucks when I pick them up. I've tried sewing glue and other quick fixes, only to find the glue smeared everywhere (including me). Except for the spot I meant to repair. This is why my listings say, "I don't sew."


Thank God Mom lives in the same city. But there's only so much stuff I can dump into her lap. She has bread in the oven.