Thursday, January 17, 2013

For Shame.../ How Chicago Went

Where have I been?  The truth is that I have been so busy - I'm too busy now to be writing this, but there you are.  Or here I am.

 What happened? You ask.  Did I get to Chicago? Did I make it on The Fashion Star?  Here are my pictures:

Waiting Outside

In the holding area (Thanks Emily - my new friend in line from Iowa - for taking the pic!)

Inside Macy's - going to the 7th floor

Getting the racks ready before going in.

This was a two print chiffon dress featured in my audition.  A lot of designers had real model with them.  I'm thinking of bringing children with me next time.  ;)

Satin pants with a cumber bun waist - one of my designs I showed.  The maxi skirt I wore to the audition was another design featured.

This is me the night before wearing a jersey color blocked sundress I made, scoping out where to find Macys.

So...Ben and I went to Chicago the night before.  We stayed at a really nice hotel two blocks away from Macy's.  I stayed up through the night sketching as many designs as I could for my portfolio.  The next morning, I arrived to a line outside Macy's with about 100 people (was actually 101 in front of me as my number was 102).  When the store opened, we all headed to the elevators to the 7th floor where another line formed.  I can't remember how long we had to wait, but it wasn't that bad.  I made a friend in line and we amused ourselves by checking out the competition.  I was getting some mean looks, which I took as nervous jealousy from my competitors.  Some designers had models with them, which was a nice touch.  Some "designers" did not belong there.  I did feel like I belonged.  

After waiting in line, we were taken to a holding room where we waited our turn to hang up our garments on racks, which we would then take into the judging room, nine designers at a time.  In the judging room were three rows of three tables with racks next to them.  Each row had a judge.  

When it was my turn, I set up my portfolio and pictures on the table and hung up the little bit of sample work that I had managed to get done in time for the audition.  A judge, named Bobby, took a long time looking over my work (I noticed that I was the only one with any children's wear).  He asked me about my label and about my story.  I apologized for my lack of actual pieces to present, although I had pictures and sketches, siting that the Cobbler Has No Shoes!  But he liked what I did have enough to have me wait around a while to talk to someone else.  Now, not everyone was asked to wait, some were just told that if they didn't hear back by midnight, then they were out.  A producer lady then came over to talk to me and look at my stuff.  We spent a good deal of time talking.  I got kinda emotional and almost cried.  She told me that the next step was that the designers who would move on would be contacted by the producers in about two weeks and would be asked to submit camera footage of them at home.

Ben had gone to an art museum and met me afterward.  I was on top of the world.  My heart raced for two whole weeks.  Two weeks came and went.

I was not sad.  I am so glad to have gone and am excited to watch this season (starts in March) and see if there is anyone I recognize from the Chicago auditions.  I also know what to expect next time and I plan on having more work to show.

So, here's the rest of what I've been doing since I last wrote.  I'm going to illustrate with pictures.

 A little girl in California had a pretty Birthday dress to wear that matched her brother's shorts and her doll's dress.

An old grade school friend commissioned me to make these for her adorable girls.

Upcycled sundress for Lucy

Below are a lot of

oh and this bright one too:

 Next is a doll dress designed to match a flower girl dress (it still needed hemming when the picture was taken).

Then I took my kids and my mother to Florida:

Then I did a bunch of interior design sewing for a new restaurant in downtown Cincinnati (KAZE) as well as I designed the cocktail server dresses which were kimono inspired but feature a stiff collar matching the print on their obis (sashes) with a hidden pocket ta boot.  

And so 2012 ended.  Mousebee Couture quadrupled its business from its previous year and is on track to do even better this year.  I've got nine orders for dresses and inquiries every day.  I'm expecting another interior design commission soon and a reporter from Cincinnati Magazine will be coming to my house on Tuesday to interview me.

So, see, I haven't been lazy, or sulking.  But, I promise to not wait so long until my next update.  

Whomever you are reading this right now, whether my friend or family, or just someone passing through, thanks for taking the time and I wish you an amazing 2013!

AJiem (- this is what my name looks like when I type too fast. hehe.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Kittens Are Not Toys, and Will I Make it to Chicago in Time?

The busyness of this spring was a surprise to me. I have tripled my dress sales from last year in just five months.  This year's orders for First Communion dresses, graduation dresses,  and other formal dresses knocked me out as I struggled to keep up as well as work part time waitressing and be a mom.  I cut back my hours at the restaurant to just on the weekends and had to stop taking orders for dresses.  After May, the orders slowed down and were left to a handful of Flower Girl dresses.  I stopped taking orders for the summer as well as I needed some more family time.  Here are some of the dress I made this spring:


Life outside of sewing update:

I hosted 30 family members for Easter this spring which was bittersweet.  It was a good get together and we enjoyed having my cousin's family come in town, but one of my cats, a 2 year old tabby went missing in all the commotion.  Three weeks later, my second cat, a purebred Oriental Shorthair disappeared.

I'm not sure if we have coyotes or what happened to them.  But after weeks of a cat free home, I was beginning to feel a part of me was missing.  I felt guilty that I thought they would be ok playing outside sensing all of the joy it brought them - I kept imaging them returning -the scene in my mind went a lot like that "running slow motion through a field, arms outstretched" scenario.  So, I decided that kittens were in order.  I played with the thought of buying a purebred again (this time a Turkish Angora - a white one with odd colored eyes!), but I would have to be on a waiting list and the kitten would be $800.  So I then thought it good to get two kittens from the shelter.  After visiting Cincinnati's SPCA looking for my missing cats, I discovered they had a lot of kittens.  But when I made a call to see if any were available for adoption, the curt woman on the phone told me they had no kittens!

My need to fill my kitten fix was growing stronger by the day, by the hour.  I enlisted Lucy in this quest as her role was to soften her Daddy's heart to the idea as he was rather enjoying the kitty litter free home we were now inhabiting.  He was a bit keen on the idea of a little white kitten and agreed that you can't get just one.  Plus, he thought it funny that Lucy wanted to name her cat "Chicken!" So, sensing an opening, I went for it and fate complied.  I found kittens through our local Craigslist and made arrangements to take Lucy to a nearby amusement park for most of the day, followed by going to pick up two kittens that late afternoon - a pretty awesome day for a four-year-old!

We paid $20 total for the two remaining kittens from a litter of seven.  One was a little white runt boy, and the other was a skittish, huskier creamy orange tabby boy.  Enzo and Oscar, respectively, have been with us for about a month and have cleaned up nicely and are doing great.  (The name Chicken was dropped as I feared it would predisposition the kitten's temperament) Enzo is still smaller than his brother, but his personality would have you think he thinks he is a tiger.  Oscar is my special little cuddle buddy after the kids go to bed at night.  I have found myself saying too often to my kids "Kittens are not toys!"  They haven't quite got the gist of it, but at least Lucy has stopped putting Enzo in her riding toy's little trunk.

I'm going to keep a good eye on these two (you can take that to mean my kittens or my kids)!  There will be no outdoors for them, either.   I just felt like I had more love to give after I lost my first two, but I guess I needed to get more love, too.

Now, a very quick note about Chicago.  I am trying very hard to get two flower girl dresses done, and create at least three samples of a collection from my portfolio in the next two weeks.  But the irony of me being a seamstress/fashion designer is that in my case "The cobbler's kids have no shoes!"  I rarely get the opportunity to make myself or my kids anything, so I have very little to show.  On Sunday, July 22 is an open call casting for Fox TV's Fashion Star.  I will need to organize a lookbook/portfolio to show as well.  I am a crazy person to take all of this on, but we'll see, right!?  I needed a break from the mad rush to get things done, something to clear my head and thought my about my patient little blog awaiting me and how it would be a great revitalizer to fuel me up.  I'm glad I took the time to update this blog and will let you know how things turned out.

And a final update from me.  Right before Easter, I received a call from my Aunt Cathi that she was diagnosed with a form of terminal cancer.  She passed two weeks ago, aged 52, leaving behind my uncle, and her two daughters, and all of the rest of us.

I feel a part of me is missing again.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Now Casting!

So my beloved Project Runway is casting up until March 15th.  (big sigh)  I won't be applying, at least not this season.  But...eleven has always been my lucky number - and that will be the following season's number.  So, I finally have given myself a deadline.  Also, the application that I have been working from is the same as they are currently using; same questions and requirements.  The major hold up for me is that I will not have ten completed looks done in time.  Currently, I have twelve dresses ordered, so I am busing doing them.  The fun part is that I will be doing three new designs, which I will post pictures of as they are completed.

I completed the order of nine dresses and got them shipped in time.  I think that they turned out great.  I have heard little feedback, though, as the buyer was not happy with the amount of money that her Country charged her to import the dresses.  It was very frustrating for me, as well, as I wasn't aware of the amount to claim (a reasonable amount had to be claimed so I could insure them as they did represent two months of work done).  It will be a lesson learned on my side.  Here is the finished work:

After the nine dresses were completed, I did a dress for an eight year old's Baptism in California.  It was a similar design, but in white silk and lace.  I surprised her by making her a gift, a matching dress for her American Girl doll:

It was a hit!

Next in line are the remaining orders, what did I say? Thirteen? Twelve? Anyway -I have Erin to help me until she is off to New York City for her next coop at the end of March.  Business is good, I have tripled my business from last year and it is only March.  At this rate, I told Erin, I could pay her if she wanted to do her last coop this Fall with me.  It may work out.  We had the idea of throwing our own fashion show next year, an opportunity for the seniors at her school to showcase their designs as well as bring in other talent in Cincinnati.  Our little city has much talent to offer!  I'm putting this idea here so that it doesn't go away and so I'm held to it.  A huge part of my Project Runway dream is my imaginings of what my fashion show would look like.  The thought of it almost makes me cry each time.  I get so filled up with joy/pride/humility/passion/etc. that I could just "pop."

Speaking about happy thoughts, my next blog will be about my recent vacation to St. john and how it gave me design inspirations!

Take Care!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Update On My Update/ I Love Erin!


So yesterday was very important in that Erin, who did an intern stint with me back in 2010, came over.  She has agreed to take on some work to help me finish all my ordered dresses on a commission basis.  It's like having an employee.  She is still in school finishing up her Marketing and Fashion Designs degrees, so I am lucky that she is fitting me in to her schedule.  It seems we always have the perfect timing for each other!

What I love about Erin is that she went back to school to pursue her dreams.  I love living vicariously through her since there is no way I can go to DAAP (the awesome design school here in Cincinnati) because I'll never have the time to do so.  I would love to take the classes there to learn new skills and perfect my current ones, but I will have to stick with my books and online resources.

I also love how well Erin and I work together and am looking forward to our future sewing connection!

So, currently I am working on the nine dresses that will be heading to Ontario.  I am really excited about how they are turning out - I'll post a picture when one is perfectly complete.  Also I have two more orders for dresses and 13 possible orders!  Things are going great.  My sales are more than half of what they were for the entire year last year and January is not even over.

This is all great, but I admit that I have a tinge of remorse in that I do not have time to pursue my projects to further my journey toward Project Runway.  I believe that this year the application process will start soon, but it is not the year for me.  But who knows how long the show will continue?  Will I be too late?  I must set a goal.  I will apply next spring.  I will do my projects between orders.

There you have it!

Monday, January 16, 2012

What's Going on...

Hello blog, I miss you!

Right now I am creating nine dresses for a dance studio in Ontario that are to be completed and shipped by the end of February.  I cannot wait to show you all pictures.  But, needless to say, I am very busy.  I am enjoying watching Project Runway All Stars and have been playing along in my mind, but am not able to draw along and post about it due to my time restraints.  Also, Tim Gunn was in Cincinnati this past weekend and I enjoyed imaging running into him, which included me slipping him a note with this post's address on it.  :)

Ok, back to work for me!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fashion Forward

ssThe Holiday was good to me in many ways.  One way in particular which will foster my fashion journey, was that it provided new educational resources for my library:

I received six books total:

For inspiration and historical reference:
 - 100 Dresses
 - 100 Shoes
both of the above are from The Metropolitan Museum of Art
100 Unforgettable Dresses (by Hal Rubenstein)

For Design Reference:

Fashion 101  (by Erika Stalder) - This is an extensive encyclopedia of each type of clothing as well as each's history

For Design Training:

101 Things I learned in Fashion School (by Alfredo Cabrera with Matthew Frederick)


Fashion Design Course (by Steven Faerm)

So, I have already dove right into the books and am currently working on designing my first dress.

I am still finishing up a couple Monster Hoodies as Christmas presents for friend's kids:

But my children's wear will have to be put on hold for a while.  I still have my Etsy shop and will continue to take orders, but I will limit how many I take on. 

I am looking forward to making fashion for me.  I am Fashion Forward For Me!

The time has come to stop thinking about and learning about fashion, but to just do it.  I will make dresses, slacks, tops, jackets, etc. etc.

2012 here I come...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

While The Boy Naps...

I'll take this opportunity to get caught up here.  In an organized fashion, let's tackle the following topics:

1. Completed sewing projects.

2. Currently.

3. Future Outlook.

1. So, the first project completed was Lucy's Princess Dress for Halloween:

I like how it turned out and she loved wearing it.  I listed it on my shop adding that I can do any color variation, but knowing that it is time consuming, I made it an expensive item.  It is fully lined and well made, so worth it.

The next items which took up most of November, was Sarah's Flower girl and jr. bridesmaid dresses.  The Flower Girl was easy, but making a bigger one was not.  I actually started all over on the jr. one as the first was not long enough in the torso and I wasn't in love with the design.  The girl it was for was taller and more slender and more "hip" for the first design.  She was a size 13, but I was using a size 8 dress form which I had padded, but you can still get an idea of how it looked.  

Flower Girl

Jr. Bridesmaid

2. Currently I am working on Christmas gifts - which I cannot elaborate on now, in case a relative or friend is reading this!  But I will update you after the holidays.  Also, I have been corresponding back and forth with several potential clients via my shop on Etsy (  They have been planning First Communion and Flower girl dresses, mostly.  However, one woman, was interested in me doing dance recital dresses, ten total.  If that happens, I'll have to take time off work to get them all done in time (February) and I'll have to stop taking any other orders until then too.  So, it would be a mixed blessing.  

3. I had to raise my prices in my shop because I can only take on so much as I have been working more and making good money at the restaurant.  It makes me sad because I do think that I could make it a real business if I had the time and money.  I often day dream about it: having a shop and employees and new designs and samples and an awesome website.  Maybe someday.  For now, I'll take on what I can and make each one awesome.  I still am wanting to do more of my own projects though.  I ordered four fashion books for Christmas for myself that I am anxious to get a hold of.  After the holidays, I will reavaluate my agenda and  make a list for the new year.  For now, here's Lucy in a holiday dress I made last year.  It is a super light and crisp dark green taffeta skirt with a festive green and gold striped cotton bodice.

Happy Holidays!