Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Prototyping - Going On Seventeen

I get really excited when customers ask me to create new and fun dress ideas they have. However, I've learned something about this that is sometimes detrimental to the first-time creation process, as this past week's experience has revealed.

I was asked to create the pink dress Leisl wears in the film version of The Sound of Music. Gorgeous dress.. wonderfully flowy, in that late 1930s style. I really wanted this piece to showcase, so I accepted the challenge not knowing how challenging it would become. (I suppose this is the reason not many reproductions of the dress exist, that I have seen.. done well anyway.)

There is a lot of gathering and aligning and layering of materials in the bodice. Chiffon is a tricky material to work with as well. It's very light weight, frays easily and tends to move or stretch a lot. Little about the construction was very forgiving the first time around ;•)

After many, many hours of doing and redoing certain elements, making the pieces work when the pattern shapes I created weren't quite perfected yet, here's my first prototype and first order for "Going on Seventeen," Leisl's dancing dress:

It's quite lovely.

But I've decided that prototyping orders is not necessarily worth the customer's time, depending on the order of course. I felt that my ability to spend hours and hours in trial and error was limited by a due date, which isn't entirely fair for myself or the customer.

For the time being, I will not be offering "prototype-is-the-order" projects that require totally new pattern creation (thus requiring a great amount of time to test it and get it wrong before getting it right). I'd rather do this on my own time outside of the order process. And I would rather sell things that I've had much practice with, so the customer knows they're getting something that has been worked out completely.

I'm not ashamed to say that trial, and mostly error, sometimes makes an artist temporarily question their abilities until they find the incredible value in such trials. I am very grateful for this experience though. I'm also thankful for an understanding customer, as not all of them may be so kind.

"Going On Seventeen" will be available for custom order on our new website, hopefully coming later this month!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Importance of Website Design

So you're browsing the interwebs, when all of a sudden you approach some God-forsaken mishap resembling something of this nature :

See it in action here.

Obviously I did a search for the worst generic thing I could find, but there are plenty more. It would be a lifetime's worth of corrective surgery for designers and developers!

I place poor designs into two categories, bad Bad design such as Yvette's Bridal, voted worst website in the world. You really do ask "Is this for real?" It's sad when yes, it is for real. The second kind is bad Good design such as Charming Charlie. I question how a store based on color and style organization can have such an unorganized feeling website. Perhaps it was just over-thought.

I don't know about you, but my immediate reaction is to get out of an ugly site as soon as humanly possible! You've probably had the same reaction. Sometimes you may stay just to awe at the incredible lack of care put into a production like this. It really is amazing how many sites have not caught on, though... who don't seem to care one flip about their public representation.

Unfortunately for them, business may suffer greatly from such a demise. Despite some popular websites with bad designs { Craigslist , Wikipedia , Drudge Report } most others I could pretty confidently say would see a great increase in profit by having a much better website.

Here's my little model of website MUSTs that are absolutely essential :

• Credibility
A well-planned functional design makes it obvious, without question, that your company knows what they're doing and that you can trust them with your business. It shows planning, communication, stability, care for their customers, and confidence in their brand.

• What You See Is What You Get
The feeling your visitors get when they see your site is how you want them to feel about your product or service. This connection is made almost immediately, and first impressions are important!

• You Get What You Pay For
It's common for people to devalue the usefulness of a good, functioning design with the poor pocketbook excuse. Cheap is doable, but it's exactly how you'll be represented, and that's how visitors will view you. Dirt cheap websites exist, but often have very limiting features and non specific designs, or they use a Flash template (as many Photography sites do) which do not display on many popular devices like iPhones and iPads. A good design with excellent functionality takes time and talent to create and develop and it's creators deserve to be paid their worth for an outstanding service that will bring the client an enormously greater return.

• Language & Copywriting
It's good to add your own personal touch in the language of your content, but if ANYTHING IN ALL CAPS and "!!!!!!!" show up, I'm afraid you've shot your credibility and the visitor looking to spend hundreds or thousands on your product might be a little put off by such nonprofessionalism. Word usage (proper grammar and spelling!) falls under the Credibility category ~ it is so, so important. Also, the average person does not want to read a book. Condensing text is important if you want crucial content to actually be read.

• Organization
Visitors do not deserve to be put through the maze of an unorganized website to get a simple piece of information. Navigation and location of certain links are very important.

• Making Connections
Social media is so easy to implement these days, and it's free! Make a Facebook Page and add a "Like" button to all of the product pages on your website. For every "Like" that item gets, hundreds of eyes from that liker's friend list will see your product.. and you'll gain lots of new visitors. Plus almost everyone uses Facebook; it's a great place to advertise.

• If You Build It, Will They Come?
Some of the worst websites are very hidden.. deep within the bowels of the Google search. This is because they use none or a poorly planned method of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This is HOW people find your website when they are already looking for what you offer. The words you type in the Google search or Google image search box bring your site (or images from your site) up for people to click on. I've found that image searches work very well.. but only if they are tagged correctly. "DSC038741.jpg" will do nothing for you. Name your file "Mint-Green-Vintage-Dress.jpg" and it will appear in searches when people search for "mint" and "vintage dress".

These items are ones I consider most important as I work with website clients, aside from just good communication with them, and keeping in regular correspondence as a project unfolds.

Yes, one•little•m is not just a dress shop :•)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Upcoming Fall 2011

you're going to do something, make it right and make it as good as you can. Don't waste anybody's time, especially your own."

As I discover our business growing, I find myself running on this idea very often, but also not forgetting that making mistakes is part of the process and is in fact very crucial to achieving a desirable end. (Read Failing Forward by John Maxwell, it's great inspiration). I've had my share of mistakes and mishaps and let me tell you ~ they are not encouraging. But you get through them, you keep on. Improvement is ongoing. If I'm doing well, it's a sign to challenge myself more and more. Healthy growth consists of always moving, never being satisfied, always learning, and making mistakes yet always improving.

This fall feels like an exciting turning point for us. We've taken a lot of time to focus on many tiny details to improve our process and branding. It has been difficult! We're rolling out a fresh new website in the fall that I feel will more strongly represent quality, who we are and what we're about. It's overwhelming how much effort goes into the production of everything ~ while keeping the above motto in mind. Research, product creation, information organization, copy writing, graphic design, packaging design, product photography, contracts, policies, pricing! I've been challenged. But when it's done right, it feels great!

... on to the exciting part ...

In preparation for our new launch this fall, I will have the opportunity for lots of firsts! I'm currently designing my first clothing line! It will be fit-to and modeled-by myself and two very charming friends of mine: Kristen Morton of Chattanooga, TN and Beka Rund of Marietta GA.

Loren Malin Photography will be capturing the session, and I'm very much looking forward to working with her to achieve the very soft and sweet look that is one•little•m.

I'm very much looking forward to hanging out with these girls, and to have all kinds of fun with the entire experience.

The clothing line of course is a secret until it's revealed! ~ hopefully in late September. However I think sharing some general details is harmless :

Dress 1 : "Debussy"
Model : Kristen
Fabric : Gorgeous silver, gold and sage floral brocade
Style : Flattering full skirt, formal, modest

Dress 2 : "When It Sizzles"
Model : Myself
Fabric : Peach satin
Style :
Hubert Givenchy reproduction, casual/formal

Dress 3 : Title Undecided
Model : Beka
Fabric : Tan suiting with ivory satin trim
Style :
Fitted wiggle skirt, 1950s neckline detailing, modest

Dress 4 : Title Undecided
Model : Myself
Fabric : Ivory chiffon
Style : R
omantic gathers, sleeved, formal/casual

I cannot wait!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Laurel - Felt Hair Fascinator

I've been wanting to try my hand at a hair fascinator piece. Looking through Etsy, I got a few ideas but was a little disappointed by the variety in selection I found. There are a number of felt flower hair clips and headbands that use a variety of flower styles - which I found out that most of them are either from widely viewed tutorials on YouTube or are pre-cut shapes from crafting machine thingies. I'm not really interested in these types of typical headbands and hair clips.

My desire with this line of hair accessories is to create pieces that you don't see everywhere. Things that aren't so templated in their creation process. I asked myself, how should I do this? What can I add to these that others don't? I reflected on my studies in art and art history. And I also have to tell myself : Don't copy what others do. Think of something you want and make it new! (And I'm delighted that little motto rhymes.)

Anyway, over-used templates are out. Hand-drawn illustration is in! I thought for a while about what I wanted to illustrate for a hair piece. It's challenging to try to break the mold. So for my first project in this line I figured I'd tap the mind of a master for inspiration, and found this piece by Alphonse Mucha entitled "Laurel" :

Mucha's use of similar tones, soft and bold colors, and wonderful line quality are definitely a gorgeous inspiration for my project ...

So here is my "Laurel" felt hair fascinator:

I really love this piece ~ how the hand-embroidered leaf textures give it a sort of youthful look, but the colors look grown-up and sophisticated. It's definitely a bit more of an autumn piece, but I think there's enough green in it that it could be worn with a matching outfit for any season.

Note : JoAnn Fabrics does not have a great color selection of felt sheets. For future projects I found a variety of shops that sell color bundles! such as : SweetEmmaJean on Etsy, Aetna Felt Corporation, or Giant Dwarf on Etsy. It seems to be a challenge to find felts in a bundle for less than $0.34/sheet though, which is what JoAnn sells them for.

You can buy the "Laurel" Hair Fascinator here !

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Zooey Deschanel's Dress : "She & Hem"

Dear Zooey Deschanel, We're gonna make your dress! Here's how :

First, get all celebrity crushy and collect as many photos of different angles of Zooey in this dress as we can possibly find on the internet. This random directory I found was pretty helpful. The first photo I found of this dress was the above which had been colorized. But I really love that vibrant green, even though the actual dress is blue.

Next I collage the best views with a simplified sketch, which I make in Illustrator.

I started with a pre-made bodice pattern I had already for the general shape and size, and edited it to fit the shapes of the bodice pieces in my illustration. I like to fit the tissue paper pieces to the dress form to make sure my shapes are drawn & measured correctly.

This is a process of many edits ;•)

Here are all the bodice pieces pinned to the form, mostly ready to go.

All completed pattern pieces are laid out.
And I made my first pattern envelope to store them all in!

All the pieces have been laid out on the fabric and cut out.
(I ended up not using the pocket for this first-time prototype).

There are 3 layers of bodice that get a bunch of darts in them. I think next time around I'd like to come up with a way to simplify this step, and reduce the amount of bodice thickness.

Here's the inner-most part of the bodice with the gathered edge, sandwiching the shoulder straps. The gather is made very loose because if it's too tight, it alters the shape of the bodice in ways we do not desire :•)

Now the skirt gets attached to the bodice. I like using pleats. It gives a slimmer waist effect, and allows you to more easily cinch the bodice to the skirt perfectly.

Almost done! The zipper and then the hem are the last steps.

And here's "She & Hem" completed!

She can be custom-ordered here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Remember jelly shoes?

I had a pair of these colorful plastic/rubber shoes when I was little. I always loved the dainty tapping sound they made when you walk in them.

My husband and I were shopping for shoes for him last night and I found a pair of Jelly shoes, for adults! I was pretty excited! *childhood revisited* They look similar to these below (only more clear/less silver) and they have a cotton sole so your feet don't get sweaty :

A coworker complimented them on me today, which brought up a Jellies discussion about how much we love them. I looked them up at various online spots, and didn't realize how many Jelly styles there are! There's a Brazilian company called Melissa that makes a bunch of them, too.

Here's some more!

They're like cartoon shoes! I'd love to visit a Jelly factory and watch how they make them. I hope their logo is a jellyfish wearing shoes, too. Wouldn't it be fun to be a Jelly shoe designer?

Melissa Plastic Dreams is one of the jellies they discuss in this video, designed by a Brazilian architect. Vivienne Westwood is another jelly designer, for the more "punky European" style.

I've been planning to make some shoes in the near future... not of "jelly", but fabric. I think it would be a desirable accessory to sell in the shop. Plus I have the same sentiment about shoes for sale these days that I do about clothing : I can never find what I truly love and want to wear! ... except for these jellies :•)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May The Plush Be With You!

I get absolutely ecstatic when people have baby showers, and those people are way into something as nerdy as I am. Necessity gifts are fine, but a stuffed lightsaber lasts forever! *bzzz!*

The "Baby Lightsaber" is made of dove gray broadcloth adorned with sheer black ribbon for the handle, with hand-embroidered texture details. The laser is a snuggably soft pale blue flannel, doubled up for stronger seams as I imagine in time this toy may receive some brutal sessions of playtime haha.

I'd love to sell this in the shop, but I'm not sure if it would offend Mr. George Lucas. I've seen lightsabers, lightsaber knock-offs and "lazer swords" all over Etsy. Anyone know anything about copyright laws with this stuff? If there are, a lot of people apparently don't know about it, and as far as I can tell, Etsy is fine with it.