Mini Sewing Project #1: Draft Blocker

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While it’d be awesome to be able to sew this flawlessly and right out of the gate, I’m trying to be realistic.

 

In my quest to create an Agent Carter costume, I knew I’d have to undertake a few smaller projects along the way.

I just finished my first one: a draft blocker for my front door!

Skills acquired:
– Pinning fabric along a seam
– Sewing in a straight line
– Re-threading the needle
– Using a seam-ripper
– Changing a broken needle (yup! Broke one on my first trip out!)

Lessons learned:
– Oh my god this is going to take so much patience.
– No, really. SO MUCH PATIENCE.

wpid-0301151455.jpgSince I didn’t start off thinking I was going to make anything useful, I kind of just folded over one of the fabric remnants I’d bought last weekend and started sewing. It fast became obvious that I had to actually pin the edges of the fabric together if I wanted to have something that didn’t taper into a point at the far end.

Enter the seamripper. It took a little googling to figure out the most effective way of using it, but once I had that down, easy-peasy.

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Next, the tedious part: pinning along the entire outside of the folded fabric so it wouldn’t slip and become uneven as I sewed. That took about ten minutes. I played videos on Hulu while I worked on that.

wpid-0301151526.jpgOnce that was finished, it only took a couple of minutes to sew the seam, then flip what now looked like a sock flag inside out – so the hem would be on the inside. Not bad!

wpid-0301151534.jpgFinally, I stuffed it full of actual socks, those with holes and some that I’d lost the mate to, until it was long enough to fit (almost) all the way across my door. Since I didn’t feel like getting back up to grab a needle and thread and finish sewing by hand, I just tied off the very end, which I think is kind of cute anyways. And – ta-da!

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My suit fabric is meant to arrive tomorrow, so I’m hoping to share a few photos of my supplies later this week. I also have a second length of fabric and one more door that could use a draft blocker, so I might try and do that later this week-  though I’ve used up all my dead socks, so we’ll see how it goes.

For now, I’m feeling pretty accomplished. So accomplished, in fact, that I’m going to go eat a bagel pizza. Nom!

FOMO, Writing & Creativity

FOMO, in case you haven’t heard the term, stands for “Fear Of Missing Out,” and I think it’s something every artist – every person, really – feels from time to time.

Back when I used to buy each year’s edition of the Writer’s Market, I would pore over its pages for hours on end, highlighting the magazines and publishers that sounded like good matches – thinking wild thoughts about how I could submit to each of those opportunities, but never finding the time to act on what I had selected. And meanwhile, the things I did write seemed impossible to match to a market.

wpid-img_20150110_011616.jpgThe internet has only intensified this problem. Along with constant updates of word counts and projects and successes from other writers (and I’m happy for them, don’t get me wrong) there’s a constant deluge of opportunity  – and without having pinned down a calendar of those opportunities that lets me plan ahead, it can be tricky to take full advantage of all the opportunities on offer.

Playwriting opportunities, calls for work with low pay but fascinating concepts – there’s almost never enough time between finding an opportunity and writing down (let alone revising) my work into something I can send out, which isn’t helped by the fact that I see most opportunities just days before their deadlines. And when I do end up with a workable idea, I’m just as likely to save it and self-publish (like with Short Frictions, purchase link to the right), which is a terrible habit that I need to break. At the very least, I should be sending those pieces out to online (and print, though it seems there are fewer of those every day) venues in the hopes of making sales before collecting pieces and publishing them. (For example, after sitting on Blutnacht for over a decade, I saw an opportunity it would have been perfect for…but it doesn’t accept reprints, so that’s that.)

wpid-img_20150222_092153.jpgPart of the problem is my attention span – which is, I’ll admit, woefully flighty at times. Part of my excitement over The Peggy Carter Project is that it’s going to stretch out over time, with enough small pieces, that I can flit from makeup to hair to sewing to shoes to lipstick to other details as I please, constantly working towards a cohesive, finished product.

wpid-img_20150110_181302.jpgBut part of the problem is that I have a hard time anchoring myself in one piece for as long as it takes to complete, these days. There’s so much I want to do. And recently my creative outlets have been non-verbal just as much as they have been about the written word.

I can stand in my kitchen and throw paint on a canvas for an hour or two and have a finished result that I can hang up to decorate the walls of my house. I can spend half an hour gelling and pinning up curls then laze around the house waiting for them to dry, then wet my hair down again and tackle the problem spots (which I’m still maintaining revolve around my hair being shorter than is ideal).

wpid-0217151935.jpgI’ve even started to resurrect my old interest in creating complicated, nuanced cocktails…even though these days I barely ever drink them.

I’m not complaining about any of this – not by a long shot. But it is a re-adjustment, to go from being creative with my words at home, at night, and feeling like a total zombie in my previous day job, to having a fulfilling day job with exciting projects that engages my creativity and then coming home at the end of the day and feeling like I’ve gotten a lot of words out, had some fun, and can explore other avenues of artistry. (Again – this is NOT a complaint – I know how lucky I am to have a job that doesn’t leave me feeling sick with dread every Sunday night, with colleagues who are engaged with what we’re doing, where I’m able to be a creative writer for a living every day).

wpid-0217152332.jpgAll that said, I have a writing project right now – a sitcom about expat Americans in Scotland – that is in desperate need of a rewrite and a second draft. So at some point this week I want to print that out, and that way when I’m practicing my pin curls next weekend I can double-task and go through a full rewrite on that. (Though it wouldn’t hurt to be working on a computer that ran at faster than a crawl to make that happen, quite honestly, since Final Draft isn’t available for Chromebook and I’ve yet to find a comparable program.

Anyways – more updates on pin curls and makeup tutorials coming soon – probably later this week – but I wanted to take a minute to pause and talk about the other kinds of creative work I’m up to just now.

How do you balance your creative outlets? If you’re a writer, do you maintain interests in other art and craft forms? If your “home” medium is more visual or tactile, do you explore other ways of expressing yourself? And for those of you lucky enough to be working on passion projects for your day job, do you get all your creative juices flowing at work or are there things you save just for yourself? Looking forward to answers in the comments.

The Peggy Carter Project Continues

So. I wrote this morning (though this blog is scheduled to go up on Saturday) about preparing a costume for Halloween-slash-maybe-ComicCon-slash-maybe-other-cons as Agent Peggy Carter, SSR. Thus far, I’ve ordered a hat, a pattern and some dynamite shoes.

Now for the more ephemeral steps: hair, makeup and…learning how to sew.

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Hair: According to the interwebs, pin curls seem the way to go, and while my hair is currently a bit shorter than it would need to be (no more cuts till October, other than teeny trims!) I’ve decided it’s better to get a jump on things and just give it a lot of practice. This tutorial was the first that came up, and while I remember trying to do pin curls for a night out in Edinburgh seven or eight years ago, I also remember that being a disaster. I’m pretty sure this will also be a disaster, but it’s my first night. Cut me some slack.

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“You’re wearing my brand.”

 

Makeup: As I looked for makeup tutorials, I learned that the actual lipstick used on the show is available from a boutique in LA. Since I have a friend in LA who’s willing to stop by and pick the lipstick up for me and ship it out here, that seems sorted. Eye makeup will come along in time.

The sewing machine of Doom.

The sewing machine of Doom.

Sewing: OK, fine, I admit it. I’m actually typing this just so I can avoid going to try and figure out how to use the sewing machine a friend so generously gifted me earlier this year. My new mantra being, “What would Peggy do?”, however, I know I have to dive in and get the job done. So far, I’ve watched a tutorial about what kinds of supplies I’ll need to buy – I actually have some of them, but it seems like a trip to Joanne Fabrics is probably in order to pick up the rest. And I feel like I should have some idea of how the sewing machine will work before I head to Joanne’s, just in case it turns out that I need to get a dumbed-down version of a sewing machine for myself.

The Suit: I got a lovely email from the eBay seller I bought my suit pattern off of earlier today, saying she’d put it in the mail and I should get it early next week. Meanwhile, the same friend who bequeathed me her sewing machine has some ideas about what kinds of fabric might work.

Still no ideas for the blouse.

Well, there’s no more putting it off. Time to go read the sewing machine instructions and have a play around with some scraps of fabric around the house.

As soon as I top off my beer and start playing Captain America.

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Somehow, I think Agent Carter would approve.

Edit: The pin curls were not a disaster! My hair is definitely too short, and I need to figure out how to make them curl properly on one side of my head so I don’t get a great spronging curl sticking out at a 90-degree angle to my scalp on the right, and the part definitely needs work…but the left side actually looked pretty good! So I’ll just keep practicing and at some point may even wear them out in public! I used bobby pins instead of the duck clips the tutorial I linked to recommended, because I’m not going to go out and spend MORE money just yet, but as I get better at it if it turns out that it’s something I want to do more of, I may go out and spring for the duck clips after all. Also, I used a really nice argan oil/shea butter soft hair “moisturizer,” and it worked well, so hopefully that kept my hair a bit healthier than the grocery store gel they were recommending in the tutorial. Though a friend whose mom grew up in the 40s said they used to use beer to set the curls, too. May have to give that a shot just to see what the difference is like.

Other edit: The sewing machine is not as scary as it looked; I couldn’t find the box of transparent bobbins my friend gave me, so today I have to go out in the cold and search the car to see if I left them out there.

Agent Carter & Aspirations of Craftiness

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Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Agent of Awesome.

Are you watching Marvel’s Agent Carter? If yes, awesome, we can still be friends.

If no…well, okay, we can still be friends, but I highly, HIGHLY recommend you get yourself over to your online video purveyor of choice (it’s on HuluPlus and Amazon Prime, go now, this blog will still be here when you get back) and start watching this show about a woman who’s kicking ass, taking names, and saving the world one dude at a time.

Because Agent Carter (the show) – and Agent Carter (the character) – are both awesome.

The show has an 8-episode run this spring, with the finale airing this coming Tuesday (like I said, get on it), and while watching the penultimate episode, I made a decision.

I’m going to make myself an Agent Carter costume for Halloween.

For those of you who haven’t done Halloween with me in the past, here’s the thing – for about 18 years straight, I was either a witch or a vampire or a witchy vampire or something similar to one or both of those. Only in the last couple years have I started doing “costumes,” and they’re generally the kind where it’s October 25th and I suddenly realize I have plans, and run to the closet and start rooting around for something I can wear.

“Rachel,” I hear you saying, “Calm down. It’s only February.”

Well, perfection takes time, and the sheer awesomeness that is Agent Peggy Carter deserves NOTHING LESS THAN PERFECTION. I am not going to half-ass this costume. I am going to whole-ass it. And I have a fair amount of ass with which to do so.

First up: Iconic Peggy Carter red fedora. 

Fucking. Iconic.

Fucking. Iconic.

First step was locating the red fedora. Because red fucking fedora. I posted a link to Amazon on my Facebook page, and (in a thread that’s currently 80 comments deep and still growing) asked for advice as to which of the many available choices most closely matched Agent Peggy Carter’s. I was thrilled when one of my friends – apparently he takes his costuming pretty seriously – was able to find a hat that was as near as anything we could find to something that a) ought to fit my gigantic head (HOLD THE COMMENTS ON THAT ONE, PEANUT GALLERY!) and b) was the right kind of fedora. Apparently there are multiple kinds of fedoras and this was the one that had the most-matching of brims:

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Pretty goddamn fucking iconic.

Hat. May need some doctoring vis a vis the band to get the colors right, but otherwise, check. It’s an XXL, so it may fit my giant head. Also? It was the last one the seller had in stock. 

Click. Buy. Done.

Now, panic set in, because step two is a little tougher.

Step two: The perfect 1940s skirtsuit.

Two issues, here.

Issue one:
I get really, irrationally T’d off when I read those “looks like” fashion/decor pieces that say, “Hey, this $50 Ikea lamp is *just like* this $600 Restoration Hardware lamp!” and you look and it’s like, no, the Ikea lamp is an Ikea lamp and the Restoration Hardware lamp has visibly better construction, higher quality materials, and the details of craftsmanship that make it cost an extra five hundred and fifty bucks. (Is it worth the extra cost? Probably not, from all points of view that make fiscally responsible sense. From a design standpoint? You are not getting the same thing.)

Given this, I do not want some knock-off cheap “vintage” suit that is sort-of-but-not-really-the-same as the awesomeness that is Peggy Carter’s blue skirt suit. (You saw the awesomeness of that skirt suit in the above pic, right? Because go back and look. It’s freaking awesome.) I want a suit that is as close as I can possibly freaking get to that awesome suit without spending a fortune.

After a bit of reading, I learned that the best option was, therefore, an actual vintage skirt suit from the 1940s, preferably sourced from some kind of thrift or vintage store. Which brings us to…

Issue #2:
As mentioned above, I have got a fair amount of ass with which to whole-ass the execution of this costume. And while I fully intend on continuing my healthy eating streak, so may have slightly less ass by the time we get to the end of October, I know damn well I’m not going to be fitting into any 1940s-era clothing any time soon. Modcloth and other vintagey stores just weren’t cutting it – the lapels weren’t right, the material didn’t look right…

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That’s right. Ebay, baby.

…and then I hit on ebay. Now. Compare this silhouette to the suit in the first photo.

Per-fect.

(Okay. As near to perfect as I’m going to find. And the pattern itself is for plus sizes. SCORE.)

There’s just one hitch.

This is going to require sewing. The last time I did an honest-to-goodness sewing project, I was about ten years old, and it was a puppet or something. You know: cut out the felt, sew around the edges, presto, done.

Luckily, while wandering the internet in an insomnia-induced haze earlier this morning (what, you think I have time to write blogs like this on a regular day?) I found this site, which says it shows you how to sew in step-by-step videos that start off with like, 20 videos about how to get the right equipment and how to cut a thing before you even get to the point of oh hey here’s some fabric and a thing you can make.

I keep telling myself, I have eight months. That’s like, one or two videos a day, with time for practice projects. I have eight months. I can learn how to sew a thing in eight months. Eight whole months!

If I repeat this enough times, I may actually start to believe it.

Added bonus: my mom just emailed me in reply to a note I sent her last night and said she will help me, so if I run into real problems, help is only a 2-hour drive away.

So. Suit. Sort-of sorted. I’ll have to figure out how to pick a fabric, but um, I’m going to bask in the achievement of having found the suit pattern for a day or two first. And please don’t ask me about my blouse plans yet, ‘cuz I haven’t got any. (If you have ideas, though, feel free to share…)

All of which brings us to…

Part, the Third: Heels In Which To Kick Ass.

Now we have a real issue. Thanks to last year’s back injury, I will not be wearing any stunning 2-3″ heels any time in the near future, including eight months from now. Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.

BUT.

A month or so ago, when I was having a really rotten day, a friend of mine (bless her ever-loving heart) sent me a gift certificate for Zappo’s. And in an hour-long trawl across the interwebs this morning at 4am, I discovered…

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Close-e-bloody-nuff.

…these absolute stunners.

They’re not as high or as strappy as Peggy’s fantastic pumps, but you know what? Contrary to my earlier rant on delusional “this is actually that” cost-saving measures, I will compromise on aesthetics if it means not setting myself back into screaming (literally screaming) agony by re-aggravating my back injury. And these really, really aren’t that far off.

So there you have it. Obviously, this is going to be a hell of a trick to pull off. Obviously, I am nervous as f*ck about whether I’ll be able to do it at all. But I keep reminding myself: I have eight months till Halloween, I have a mother who made all her own clothes when she was younger, and even if this ends up being a complete disaster, well…

Fucking. Iconic.

Gratuitous iconic hat pic.

…I’ll still have the shoes and the hat.

Guest Post: “A Response to ’21 Tips on How to Be a Perfect Girlfriend for your Guy’, by a Normal Guy

I’ve been focusing on some writing projects (more on that later, so make sure to subscribe to the blog with the submission box at right so you don’t miss it!), so apologies for the lack of updates the last few weeks. The following is a friend’s response to a practically medieval article about how women can change themselves to be the “perfect”girlfriend. I hope you enjoy it!

“A Reponse to ’21 Ways to Be The Perfect Girlfriend For Your Guy'”
By Peter Randall

1. Remember that we fancy you NO MATTER.

If you are dressed in a tracksuit and have make-up streaming down your face from when we argued last night, we fancy you. If you are dressed as a duck and have actual poo on your face, we still fancy you. Although maybe get the poo off. The point is, we find you attractive physically because of who you are much more than what you look like – imagine if that wasn’t mutual? We would have no chance. So yeah. Let the mud stay in your hair for a few days. Who cares. We still think you are the most beautiful woman in the world.

 2. Remember that your smell is the hottest smell.

Perfume is great and everything, but the best smell is you straight out of bed in the morning.

3.  Keep nagging and complaining

We are pretty rubbish. As the great Receivers of the Patriarchal Advantage, we are used to having our own way, having things done for us and everyone agreeing with us. Keep working at us. Don’t let us get complacent or turn into typical misogynist arseholes. Nag at us continually until we grow up or you have had enough and you leave us.

4. Don’t say anything you don’t mean

Don’t go all gooey if you don’t feel like it, just because you think we might need some man-couragement. We are adults (most of us) and we need to deal with it.

5. Don’t worry about asking us stuff

Saying “do I look fat?” is not annoying. We don’t think you’re fat. We think you are perfect. We wouldn’t change you for the world. We are in a relationship because we are a team, and if you need that help then you will get it.

6. Remember we are men and therefore jealous

If we get jealous, it’s 99 times out of a 100 not anything you have actually done wrong. Our engines run on testosterone, which makes us ‘brave’ and shit but also makes us jealous and angry and grumpy and all the other annoying stuff we are. So remember that although we might need to be reminded that we are the only guy for you, we should also be trying to CALM THE F*CK DOWN and be normal.

7. Don’t feel like you have to like our friends

Our friends are not us and so you might not like them. And that is fine. Do we like all your friends? Probably not truth be told. Does it matter? Does it f*ck.

8. Don’t do stuff in the bedroom just for us

If you get a kick out of something because we do, then that’s cool – but putting yourself through something for us and thinking about when it’s over? Not cool. For anyone. We aren’t actually interested in dating a pornstar. We are illogical. Men always want someone who knows what to do in the bedroom and then they get jealous because they wonder how their partner learned all that. IT MAKES NO SENSE. DO NOT WORRY. Do what you want to, for yourself, for us, for both parties. It is fun.

9. Never cook. Get takeaway.

Cooking is something that we have to do in our twenties because our metabolisms have slowed and now we are fat. But please, let’s get pizza just this one time.

10. Love is not in the details. Love is in the functionality of the everyday existence of our prostituted lives.

Now we are all working for “the man”. Our great victory is not in receiving little presents but loving each other as strongly as we do in a hate-fuelled world. If you can come home from respective shitty days at work, smile and laugh, it’s good. No one needs “a small token”. Big ones are fine.

11. Do not say thank you for thank yous, we will become evil.

If you show your appreciation every time we get off our hairy arses and actually do something for you, we would end up only being nice to you because we expect something back. Just take it if we are nice, and move on. We don’t need any more spoonfeeding than society already gives us.

12. “Stroke his ego”

Nope.

13. Don’t make us feel like we have to “be the man” in a relationship.

My girlfriend earns more than me. All year round. Does this make me not feel like a man? Nope, still got a cock and balls. Still feel like a man. My girlfriend is far more intelligent than me, and wins most debates hand down. Still feel like a man. My girlfriend knows her way around Central London better than me. Still feel like a man. The list goes on. Ultimately I feel like a man because I am a man and there isn’t really much else to it. I would still “feel like a man” in the relationship if I was in a relationship with another man. Because, biologically, I am a man.

14. “You are partners, not enemies”

Oh yeah? You try holding on to those covers at night. You try getting the last chocolate out of the box, or picking which side of the bed you want. My girlfriend is constantly my enemy. And I love her for it.

15. Have a life and Passion.

Or, in other words, be a human being.

16. Be better than all of his ex’s combined.

Wow. Way to totally dehumanise everyone else involved. Ultimately, most people’s ex’s and current partner will have some things in common because they have that person in common. They would probably be besties in another life. Well, maybe some of them. Be better than all of them combined? At what? Playstation? They are ex’s because they weren’t compatible, or they cheated, or they got cheated on, or they moved on, or your partner was a dick to them or something. Jesus Christ. Not because they weren’t “better”. They are PEOPLE. Christ. Just… yeah.

17. Do be a menace

You know what? It aint normal to not know where your partner is for an evening. Because you talk. So even if he says “going to the pub with some mates” like he doesn’t want to say who the mates are, it is perfectly normal to ask who they are. Or where he is going. It’s called conversation. And also, earlier on, there was that whole “give him a reason to trust you by not flirting or hanging out with other guys” and then now it’s all “just try and trust him if yo get all up in his grille he’ll just snog someone else” I mean fuck off.

18. Having a pleasing personality – OR BE HUMAN

“A woman with a pleasing personality puts your pleasure first”. What the actual fuck. Seriously. I can’t even take the piss out of this. Seriously.

19. Take him for granted

He loves you. You don’t need to be on your toes. You watch a ‘ton of tv’? Well, to be fair, you did that anyway, just in secret. ‘Got fat’? Great, more of my favourite person to love.

20. “work out regularly”

Yeah, please don’t get heart disease and die, work out a normal amount so you don’t die. What, you’re working out for me? Why? So you don’t die? No? Because “you’ll be the perfect girlfriend in my (his) mind”? Yeah, you sound MENTAL.

21. Don’t worry about being feminine, because you have all the right bits and we fancied you for some reason anyway

You know what? I don’t need to explain why this is ridiculous. It is madness. It is terrible. It is all kinds of shit.

Guest blogger Peter Randall also writes poetry, which can be viewed on his website at http://poemobile.com/.

 

 

Using Canva to Design Your Own Book Covers

Some time ago, Hugh Howey wrote about canva.com, a tool authors could use to create book covers for their Kindle and other e-book releases. (The site offers plenty of templates for other online uses, as well.)

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you already know: cover art is the big hold-up on pretty much all of my e-books (not to mention the print versions). And if you’ve tried creating a cover on your own, you know the complications go far beyond coming up with an image to represent your story – there’s also sizing, resolution, thumbnails and more to consider.

Canva eliminates about 95% of these worries. Work with their premade templates for font placement and selection ideas, drop in your cover art (easily created with Pixlr and a few copyright-free art searches) and click “download.” You’ll be stunned at what you can create. For example. see the comparisons below: the covers I originally posted for PIC, Mousewings and POST, compared to their Canva-created replacements. (Click on each thumbnail for a full image; if you want to make a purchase, use the links on the right-hand side of the blog)

Evidenced by the above, even the least graphically gifted among us can create something worth showing of with Canva. Think you’ll give it a try? Leave a link to your designs in the comments!

Beyond Disappointed in Dorothy Perkins

As all plus-size ladies know, when you find a clothing retailer who makes outfits that flatter your figure, you stick with them. Such has been the case with me and Dorothy Perkins, a UK-based retailer I discovered nearly 15 years ago while studying in London. Since moving back to America in 2007, I’ve made a point of ordering multiple dresses from the retailer almost every year.

Unfortunately, inept customer service has now all but guaranteed that I will no longer be ordering from the retailer.

Ordering from Dorothy Perkins’ website has never been easy. When I first returned from the UK, the company had no US shipping presence. This meant ordering from their UK website and paying international costs to have the dresses sent from overseas; the last couple of years, they’ve added US distribution. Unfortunately, with the US distribution center, I’ve noticed a steep downturn in the quality of Dorothy Perkins’ service.

It started small: instead of listing the UK sizes (which I was familiar with, given that I’d, you know, lived there and worn the clothes), they listed the US ones (which are typically a size up from UK). Early on, this wasn’t made clear, so ordering clothes from the site started involving a fair amount of guess work. I had a couple of misses, but overall was happy to get a couple of dresses a year that fit far better than anything I could get from US stores. The cuts and fits suited a plus-size figure, and eventually items were even offered in “tall” – perfect.

But the last few times I’ve ordered, I have to say – it’s been a disappointment. And with my most recent order, my faith in Dorothy Perkins has been utterly shattered.

Things started out okay. Midway through December, I took a gander at the sale section of the site, picked a few dresses that looked like they’d be my size, and placed my order. The free shipping option guaranteed that the items would be in my hot little hands by December 31st. Great!, I thought, no need to worry about shopping for New Year’s Eve attire! Maybe I’d be lucky and the dresses would even arrive ahead of schedule, since the 31st was quoted as the latest date the dresses would arrive. But as the days wore by and we passed Christmas, crawling towards 2015, I started to get nervous.

Still. The site had said the dresses would arrive by December 31st. So it wasn’t until the mailman came and went on the 31st that I started to get annoyed.

I tweeted at the retailer’s social media accounts (@Dorothy_Perkins and @Ask_DP, and does anyone else think it’s weird that retailers always have 2 separate accounts for answering customer service issues, with the one that actually responds rarely including the brand’s full name?) asking where my order was. They asked me to follow @Ask_DP and send my order number. I did, and was told that the order couldn’t be tracked (well, yes, I know, because when I got the tracking number in my initial confirmation, it said that orders beginning with the three letter code “RML” were un-trackable). When I expressed aggravation and disappointment, I was told – essentially – to sit tight and wait, and that the company wouldn’t be offering any sort of compensation for the lateness of the package’s arrival because of their terms and conditions.

Never mind that if they hadn’t quoted a definite delivery date of Dec 31st at the latest, I’d have sprung a few extra bucks for faster delivery.

As the days passed, I kept tweeting about how my dresses hadn’t shown up yet. Each time, @Ask_DP would tell me to follow them and DM them my order number. Each time, I’d say I’d already done that and they hadn’t been helpful, and if they had a different answer to let me know. Each time, they’d fail to reply to that request.

Well, the kicker came yesterday, when the dresses I’d hoped to have for New Year’s Eve turned up on my doorstep almost a week late…and in the wrong sizes.

To clarify, I don’t mean they arrived in sizes that didn’t fit. I mean they arrived in sizes I hadn’t ordered. All three dresses. Still, I know there are discrepancies between UK and US sizing, and I know that different designers have different sizing (though one piece was labeled almost five sizes larger than what I’d ordered), so I tried the dresses on.

Dress number one was a cute maxi dress with a black top and polka-dotted skirt. The sleeves kept slipping off my shoulder. Definitely not something I could wear, and definitely not the size I’d ordered it in.

Dress number two? Well, let me just say I have no idea how a designer would think that someone would have that much on top and that little on bottom. The skirt barely covered my behind, while the bodice of what was supposed to be a form-fitting dress was loose, not fitting at all. If you’ve ever met me, you’ll know I’m not exactly lacking in the bust department, so I was pretty shocked to see that this was the case. Of course, this was the dress that was nearly five sizes larger than I’d ordered, but still. There must be some really short, REALLY chesty size 26’s out there.

Which brings us to dress number three. A gorgeous pleated maxi dress, black. The neck on this one was a bit more fitted than the other maxi dress, and it was a flowy style, so I really hoped it might somehow work out. I pulled the dress on, straightened out all the various layers, and…realized that the cord that was meant to tie it at the waist – the cord that would give the dress some shape, rather than making it a pleated mumu – was missing. It was definitely supposed to be there, because there were small loops to hold it in place and the image on the website showed a shaped dress, but there was no cord in sight.

wpid-0106151658.jpgI tweeted Dorothy Perkins’ accounts and raged about the fact that they’d been so unhelpful in regards to the shipping, then raged some more about how on earth my order could have been so badly mangled. (Remember: arrived late, wrong sizes, BROKEN DRESS.) I got a reply asking me, AGAIN, to send my order number so they could help me work things out.

I re-followed the @Ask_DP account and re-sent my order number. That was this morning.

I’m still waiting for a response.

At this point, I’m glad I held off writing my initial complaint to the Better Business Bureau, because @Dorothy_Perkins provided me with plenty more to include in the letter. (Like, say, a copy of this blog.) At this point, I want them to pay the return shipping on the two dresses that were wildly outsized, and expect some kind of markdown on the third dress – which I can at least buy a ribbon or cord for on my own – since it wasn’t delivered in the state it was advertised.

I’m profoundly disappointed. This is a company I’ve loved and shopped with for over a decade. I have dresses from them that I’ve owned for nearly that amount of time. And yet, they failed so completely to fulfill this order. That could be excused if not for the cavalier attitude they showed when I raised my inital concerns about shipping times, and if they were able to get their website in order so it didn’t promise unrealistic shipping dates to customers.

So, it’s with great sadness that I have to say: I can no longer recommend ordering @Dorothy_Perkins online to other shoppers, unless those shoppers don’t need their clothes within a set timeframe and don’t mind dealing with the hassle of returning incorrect items. It’s a shame, because they’re one of the few retailers whose offerings have been flattering and of decent quality, over the years. If you live in the UK and can get to their retail outlets, by all means keep up your purchasing. If, however, you’re trying to take advantage of the brand from afar…

Well…caveat emptor, because apparently they don’t hold themselves to the standard of fulfilling their website’s promises.

I’m still tweeting @Dorothy_Perkins and trying to get a refund on my items, and a markdown for the one dress that may be salvageable. I’m also in the process of looking for the executive in charge of customer service, as this entire experience will likely lose a loyal customer and informal brand ambassador for the company.

Should the company choose to re-engage with my inquiry, I’ll update this entry to reflect that, the steps they take, and the ultimate resolution of this issue.

2:10 p.m.

Update: I’ve now received a DM from the company via Twitter, asking me to send a photograph of the missing piece so they can determine an appropriate discount. Since the piece is missing, I’m not sure what they think I have in my possession to photograph, so have sent them an image of the dress as shown on their website. I’ve also finally managed to create a return slip for the other two dresses, without any guidance from the company’s social media team on how to do so. A request for information on how to directly contact their customer service department, also contained in the DMs, has thus far been ignored.

Update: Have just received an auto-return confirmation from the @Dorothy_Perkins website, saying I should allow up to 28 days for them to receive and process my return. Unbelievable.

3:53pm

Update: Repeated requests for a direct email address for the head of customer service have been answered with a catch-all customer service address by @Ask_DP.

Update: A couple of friends have read the blog, and recommended two alternative retailers: City Chic, based out of Australia, and Asos (which I didn’t realize carried plus sizes). Just two ideas for anyone who’d like an alternative! I haven’t tried them yet, but definitely plan to.

 

UPDATE: Jan 7, evening

I received an email this morning from someone claiming to represent customer service at Dorothy Perkins, apologizing for my experience and stating that the company is willing to expedite my return and expressing their wish to follow up on this experience with the the appropriate members of staff. They have said they are willing to pay for return shipment and reimburse costs associated with the return of the items to the warehouse. I’ve been told that I can use the email address as a direct line to a specific customer care adviser. I will be mailing the package back in the next couple days, and will update once the matter has been concluded. I really appreciate everyone who read and shared this account of what happened.

OVERDUE UPDATE: March 3, 2015

I’m pleased to say that after a few phone calls and a few more emails, I was able to return both ill-fitting dresses to Dorothy Perkins. The company also let me keep the dress that arrived without a waist tie (and refunded the money), so I’ll be looking for options for waist ties some time soon. The parent company (Arcadia Group) also reimbursed the cost for sending the package back to them in the UK. Thank you again to everyone who commented and shared!