Tonight Kbatz is in stitches with seamstress Susan of Dress Your Dreams, a historical clothier in Manheim, Pa.
How did you get started in the Renaissance Faire circuit and making period garb? How has the costuming and role play niche changed since you started?
I started as a volunteer working behind the scenes at a small Faire in Central Jersey…sewing and prop making, mostly. I had a few people ask me to make something for them for personal use, and was paid for sewing, which I loved to do. I had a season or 2 of running my own shop before the Faire folded, & was seen by the vendor coordinator of Professional Actors Resource Forum (PARF) and invited to vend at their event (Celtic Fling) so they could see if we would be a good fit for the Pennsylvania Faire. The event was a blast; I pretty much sold out of clothing!!
The biggest change has been the influx of factory made costuming copies of individual shop designs, and the speed at which that now happens. 15 years ago, a vendor might design an item, have about 3 years of being the only vendor making that item, and then see knock-offs coming from China or India or Pakistan. Now the market has the knockoffs arriving 6 months after a designer creates a new style. From dresses to menswear to corsets, you might get 1 show season before the knock-offs appear.
On a positive side, a designer can be as creative as they wish, since there is now a greater market for unique clothing…either garb or streetwear, everyone feels freer to wear what they feel like, instead of copying a particular era or look, so I just make what I feel like making, and sooner or later, the item will find its owner!!
You have a shop at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire during the summer festival season. Are patrons up for dressing in medieval garb or do some ‘norm’ folks take convincing to get into the spirit?
We get a good percentage of patrons who garb & even create a persona for the garb; I’d like to say about 60% or more come dressed in garb. There is a greater number of non period garb & fantasy creations recently, which delights me!
One way to get non-garbing patrons in the spirit is to encourage the children, who frequently ask for something (I wanna be a pirate! …princess !!) so I make it a point to have some flexibly sized pieces to create an outfit within a 20-30$ price point, since that seems to be the average a parent will spend for a child’s outfit ! Once a child has dressed up, parents sometimes get in the spirit as well!
Recently, you’ve branched out from Faire fashions and Pirate styles to Victorian and Steampunk designs. Are the eras more similar in style than we realize? Which period is your favorite to dress?
The eras use different designs and fitting, but some clothing pieces, skirts in particular, can be interchangeable. The Faire styles I make are within the merchant/peasant level for the most part, & for Steampunk the style is chosen by the characters class level as well, so the similarity runs in clothing choice. I really don’t have a favorite era as much as a favorite style choice…easily adjustable sizing with elastic & drawstrings & versatility in use from character to character. I will admit to favoring separates over 1 piece dresses.
Courtesy of Shecktor Photography
What do you say to people who don’t understand the fair and costuming lifestyle? Have you ever had a negative experience or do you have a favorite Faire moment?
I recently saw a comment on the internet that said everything about cosplay vs. other fandoms perfectly…. It was the one that showed a picture of a sport fan with paint on his face in the colors of his team, wearing a shirt with a team logo & number on it, holding a pennant, and the comment was, “why is this fan, with a home filled with sporting memorabilia, considered normal, yet this fan “ and a picture of a costumed Star Trek fan, & a picture of a wench at a Faire “ considered weird?”
I have been at a few shows where the parents didn’t quite get why people were dressed up in different outfits, but once they saw that the fans were just enjoying being with like-minded friends, they not only appreciated the efforts of fans, but of the vendors as well. I’ve even sold garb clothing to people who have never been to a faire, because they saw the comfort of wearing some of garb designs as daily wear!
I have had moments in the shop where I hear the dreaded comment “why is this stuff so expensive, I can get a Halloween costume for $10 at Wal-Mart!” But I just say to myself “different strokes for different folks!” and smile, and keep right on giving attention to the shoppers who are really looking for what I make!
Every show, if I am lucky, there is the moment where someone, who has been looking for something special, sees a piece of clothing I made on the rack, picks it out, sees that it fits (even if we need to tighten the elastic!) & falls in love…& the price is within her reach…tries it on…& twirls!! The happiness on that customers face is my high point of any day! Each piece I make, I’m waiting for it to be found by its owner …& I love when it is!
Where can customers – er costumers! – find you online?
www.dressyourdreams.com is my website, and while the items there are mostly basic garb pieces, you can email a question with a picture of what you are looking for & I will be happy to see what I can do.
On Facebook, I have a page for Dress Your Dreams, and a group as well. Even my personal FB, Susan Belloff, has pictures of Dress Your Dreams at shows ( my favorite personal cosplay is Ursula the Sea Witch from Disney’s Little Mermaid, and I have posted pictures of my work there too.)
Thanks for the opportunity to share my work & fandom with your followers !!!
Thanks for chatting with HorrorAddicts.net!