Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Still Live?

After our last computer 'blew up' - I wasn't sure I could still get into this Blog Site to post.  Looks like I can after all.

Monday, January 25, 2016

New Pics for Website

It's been a crazy year for Beauty & the Beast Costumes' store manager Susan Stringer.  With the new Star Wars movie on top of all the normal Christmas hustle and bustle, you may think that the website was forgotten.  That's not exactly true, but there was very little time to work on it.  After all the Santa
suits and other Christmas merchandise and decorations were put away, it was time to pull out the new mannequins and start doing a photo shoot of new and overlooked rental costumes.  Imagine Susan's surprise when she realized that many costumes from Wizard of Oz had never been photographed.  Many of the photos that had been taken years ago were either lost or of such poor quality as to render them useless.

With School Play season coming up soon, our faithful Gal Friday tossed a sheet up on the wall and grabbed a camera.  After a few embarrassing moments getting caught with half dressed dummies in the front room... at least they were NOT customers!... Susan had almost a hundred images to plow through.  Most are photos of the child sized animal costumes which aren't normally out on display.  Now the long process of cleaning up the photos and posting them to the website begins.

There were just over a dozen new photos posted to the website this weekend.   Some were used to start new pages for plays like Annie and Sound of Music which aren't complete.  These are just 'place holder' pages until the rest of the costumes can be photographed.  Others were quietly sliding into place like the Frozen Princess on the Disney page or Fifi the French maid on the Beauty and the Beast play page.

Other corrections were done such as adding links to the individual play pages from the "Rent School Plays" page list.  Arranging some pages in alphabetical order.  Finding a few more typographical and spelling errors.  Things are starting to move toward completion, even though the site will never be totally complete.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Transition Week

Most pop up 'Costume Shops' leave town right after Halloween. Chain stores pull everything thing down over night and spread Christmas out over that 'Seasonal' area.   Both put their employees to work marking down the damaged items and things that will be discontinued by the chain, then pack up all the rest and send it back to their ware house.   

At Beauty and the Beast Costumes, Chattanooga - We do LAUNDRY!   It's kind of one of those things that people don't think about.  When you send out over a hundred costumes for rental, all those things come back dirty and have to be cleaned. 

So how does that happen?  First, we sort all the items into the 4 dressing rooms.  Fur suits in one, then Colored, Black & White into the other three... and we start running the washing machine.  We hang all the clean clothes on the rods as we put costumes with multiple pieces back together or just try to find places to move the back out to the rental racks.

Mascot heads and unsorted laundry 'hide' in the clearance area until the coat hangers can be removed and the clothes sorted into the correct piles.  The heads have to be checked over, repaired if necessary, spot cleaned and sprayed with disinfectant before their next trip out.

The large rolling rack of Santa Hair & accessories comes out of the back room.  This is much more difficult than it sounds.  The rack is stored in the very backity back of the store house.  A path has to be cleared through all the piled up boxes, empty and partially full, that collected since the prior Christmas and were jumbled in the rush of Halloween.

And then there is the issue that Beauty and the Beast sells and rents the same stock of costumes all year long, so there is no joy of just pulling it down and packing it in boxes, it has to move to a different part of the store to make room for Santa and his friends.  This means the costumes off the two front racks have to be squeezed into the back racks, or carried upstairs, or to the back room where we can (hopefully) find them for customers who always seem to want something right after it was packed away.

All the Christmas Costumes have to be carried down from the attic and hung up.  It's always rather funny to people to see the jolly red and white costumes on racks under left over Halloween displays.  All the masquerade masks barely seen on the left edge of the photo above had to be pulled down and moved to the other side of the room.  The peg board that was covered in Halloween masks and accessories had to be cleared off and the most popular masquerade masks took their place.  All the packaged Santa Suits, Mrs. Claus, Elf, Gingerbread man & Snowman costumes that we sell went up on the larger wall vacated by masks. 

The entire store has to transform from Halloween to Christmas in  one week with all the work done by just one employee.  Plus, she was doing laundry!  Hard work does pay off, we've already sold our first two Santa suits of the year and sold several Masquerade masks and costumes for two big parties held the first weekend of November.  We're just not through changing all the mannequins' clothes,  and decorating.  Give us a minute.  It's not even Thanksgiving yet.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

No Custom Orders

In a discussion on social media with some friends who are expert seamstresses, we fell into a fairly normal topic of "Why we don't do Custom Order work."   The true answer is that most of us have had very bad experiences with people who don't understand that our time and labor aren't free.  The vast majority of people who want to have custom work done, will ask for a quote, and then change all of the parameters and expect the original price to remain constant. 

My most memorable example was a woman who needed a couple of southern belle dresses made to promote a business.  She explained that she would need the dresses to relatively comfortable and machine washable for multiple uses.  She pointed out one of my rather simple rental dresses, which is shown above but no longer in the regular rental line.  The customer asked how much would the labor cost be to make a dress like that one if she provided the materials.  I quoted about $100 - $150 figuring that I could make the dress in about a day and knowing that most people will bring yardage but no 'notions' like lining, interfacing, zipper, hooks or thread.  So I left myself some 'wiggle room' and knew she would be happier if the job came in under budget.

A few days later, she returned with a trash bag full of hastily folded yellow satin (which is NOT machine washable) a giant tangle of lace, loose silk flowers and random ribbons and other trims.  She proudly announced "Here you are!  And I even have the pattern."  She handed me the pattern shown below and wondered WHY I told her that it would cost at least three times more.  She had no concept that the job had suddenly become 10 time harder and that $300 or more on the labor would be a bargain.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween Stress

It's 6:45 am on Halloween day and I'm sitting at the computer with a cup of coffee hoping that we can make it through just one more day. 

I'm Susan, 'The one with a pony tail' who keeps roaming down the isles picking up things that have fallen off hangers or peg hooks or that have simply been left abandoned by customers who thought those items might be fun, but changed their minds.  I answer questions, dig through boxes to find things, make suggestions, find accessories, give directions to the bathroom.  I run to the stock rooms and come back with arms full of merchandise to try to fill up empty boxes or pegs, climb ladders to replace the masks that were sold.  I laugh and joke with many people, hug customers who have been shopping with us for so long that they became friends somewhere along the way.  I glance at my mother behind the counter and hope that she makes it through just one more day.

It's rough on me, all the running back and forth, climbing ladders, stepping over boxes in the stock room trying to find one more costume in the size a customer needs, hunting for 'please Lord just a little more white make up'.  Sometimes the answer is just "No, sorry.  We're sold out."  Sometimes it's a personal victory to find the item that will make the day of a bright eyed child, a hopeful teen or an older person who has never lost their version of Peter Pan's heart that will never grow up.  It's just as much fun for me as it is for them to find that perfect thing... almost as much disappointment when it's just to late.  My ankles feel like broken glass, my knees sometimes give way unexpectedly, my thighs burn and my mind reels at the expected pain of climbing those attic stairs again, but I'll make it through just one more day.

The customers come and go.  Most are happy and thrilled to be shopping for their favorite holiday and can't wait to get home with their newly found treasures.  Their joy is palatable and infectious to all around them.  I live for those people.  Many shop alone or in small groups, find what they want, pay for it and slip away without notice.  I do try to at least speak to each person and offer assistance.  Some wave me off like I'm an annoying sales call that rings the phone in the middle of their favorite show.  Most have a few questions which are easily answered and they are delighted to be aided on their quest.  Some just seem to be lonely and want someone to talk to for a little while, even if it's just crazy woman with a pony tail and an arm load of stock that needs to be put away.  Sometimes, those lonely people seem to need a smile from a stranger and maybe a pat on the arm or a quick little hug so they can make it through just one more day.

And then there are the few, the luckily far apart who seem hell bent on destroying the store and everything in it.  The 'brats' who don't seem to think that rules apply to them.  The tall young men who take down all the masks then half way put them back on the heads and randomly shove them back on the top shelf where I need to climb a ladder to straighten things back out.  The bored youngsters who play with the hats and drop them in the floor or try to put them back as they push full stacks of other hats off the other side of the shelf.  The people who pull everything out of the boxes and cram the packages roughly back in as if the plastic bags with bright photos have deliberately vexed them in some way.  The 'hard to fit' young women who feel compelled to try on every single costume in the store looking for one that will actually make them look like the Photoshopped model on the front.  The ones who bust seams or break zippers in the costumes, lose the accessories, tear the bags, wad up the photos in the front like yesterday's news paper.  I clinch my teeth and clean up their mess and try to find my 'zen' as I repeat in my head like mantra that I only have to make it through one more day.

Through it all, I'm the lucky one because I am on the move.  When someone really starts to get on my last nerve, I can walk away.  I can 'run after stock' in the cool, quiet back room and take a moment catch my breath and clear my head before going back out into the Bedlam.  I can find that ever present friendly customer who smiles and appreciates that someone is honestly trying to help them.  I can get my grove back by simply remembering that 99.9% of my customers are wonderful people and joy to work with.  I can shake it off and move on, happily working through that one more day.

My mother is not so lucky.  She 'celebrated' her 85th birthday standing behind a cash register for 10 straight hours with very few breaks to even eat or go to the bathroom.  It's been like that six days a week since the middle of October.  My mother, Mary is the accountant so she comes in early to count the drawer down, get it set up for the day, fill out all the forms and run the bank deposit down the street before the customers arrive.  Even the people who are nice to me as the sales person are rarely nice to the cashier.  After all, she's taking your money.  She's the one dealing with a slow credit card machine that takes forever to process checks and those cards with chips, the agitated and embarrassed customers who's card got declined, customers begging for discounts on items that are already marked down, customers who want to split methods of payment or change their minds in the middle of a transaction - or find One More Thing after she has already run the card.  All issues that are normally no big deal, but it starts to wear on anyone after a dozen times a day with irate, tired, busy people standing in line glaring at her.  She ends up being the default complaint department.  She's not a young woman anymore.  She has high blood pressure and diabetes.  She stoically tries to just handle each problem as it comes along, but it takes a toll.  If my soon to be 55 year old bones are hurting, I know hers with an extra 30 years on them have to be misery.  Sometimes, it just gets to be to much and she snaps at people a little to harshly.  Luckily, only one of those has lost her temper and found the need to track me down, get in my face and yell at ME that my mother snapped at her child.  It was all I could do to not go all "Mama Bear" on that woman at scream "I only pray that MY MOTHER will LIVE to make it through one more day."

This is not a happy blog post to celebrate Halloween.  It's just a therapeutic moment for me before I pull on my clothes and go back to work.  It's a story to explain that while I am the one who loved Halloween and playing dress up so much that I dreamed of running a costume shop.  My mother loved me enough to make it happen.  She pays the bills.  She keeps the doors open.  This was not her dream, it was mine, but she's there every day, 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year.  In October, she works more than 60 hours a week dealing with people who are frequently angry and unkind to her.  This is a gentle reminder to some that if I catch them being rude to my mother, they should feel lucky that I let them live through one more day.

Friday, September 18, 2015

New Mannequin, New Photos

 Beauty and the Beast Costumes, Chattanooga recently received three new "Unbreakable" plastic mannequins.  One is female, two are male.  Why should you care?  These are much lighter weight which makes them easier to move around and, as the name implies, they don't break.  The male mannequins also have arms that are just a little bit flexible, which is the really big news.  It is much easier to change the clothes on these mannequins than our older fiberglass styles which were heavy, inflexible and difficult to balance on their make shift stands.  Since we no longer have to worry with removing the arms to change the male's shirt, vest or jacket for photos, we can finally get around to photographing rental options that have never been seen on the web or in our rental book before.  It also means that we can update some of the very old photos that were taken under less than ideal conditions.

Keep an eye out for more "Villagers" and unusual male options in the coming weeks.  Using the new mannequin is allowing us to photograph even the kind of strange, whimsical items that we can put together for school plays that have always been difficult to describe... Like an enchanted carpet that can follow Beast around his castle or the March Hare to have tea with the Mad Hatter.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

New Shipment!

New Shipments are always fun!  They bring us new things and replace the favorites which have been sold out.  This week has been a little of both PLUS some new, freshly made costumes coming out of the back room.

Highly anticipated new rentals include a new Colonial Boy to join the Taft / Roosevelt suits which were finished up last month.  These are expected to do well for upcoming school projects.  As more and more schools are discovering the fun "Living Wax Museum" technique of studying American history, the demand is growing for better quality and more variation for male costume rentals.  Beauty and the Beast Costumes is stepping up to the plate to provide what our customers want.

 As many of our followers know, Mr. Mouse went for a walk on the wild side this spring and didn't find his way home again.  Miss Mouse has been quite lonely, but no more!  A new mouse is in the house and he's got longer, shiner fur than the last one.  We are sure he will be out on the town with Miss Mouse attending birthday parties and events as soon as people see his bright, fresh face.

Liquid Latex!  $18 a Quart

Many of our customers will be happy to know that the less expensive Liquid Latex is back in stock!  At $18 a quart, this is a favorite for Zombies and make up artists who like to make their own prosthetic appliances.   The quality is very close to that of the Merhon brand which sells for $27 a quart. 

Product is actually packaged in an easy pour bottle, however photos of that bottle are not currently available.
Hot new "Milady of the Castle" costume sells for $56  and looks fantastic!  Whether you are on your way to a Renaissance fair, convention, a party to find your Knight in Armor or just watching Game of Thrones - THIS is the dress you want to be wearing.  It's one of those you really do have to see in person to understand how exquisite it is.  The gold brocade in the center front is spun with golden metallic threads.  The pinkish trim on the collar and framing the golden panel is a delicate floral with sparkling magenta metallic motif.  Top it off with plush faux fur cuffs and you can't go wrong!  Available in adult sizes Small, Medium and Large.
Are you more of a horror fan than a princess?  The new Annebelle costume is the perfect Halloween outfit for you!  This long, shimmering costume satin dress is scaled to fit a man, but girls like it too!  At $47, it includes the mask and wig so there is no muss, no fuss getting dressed.  While there are plenty of creepy and broken dolls out there - NONE of them can compare to the original doll from hell... ANNEBELLE!

Not really in the mood to be a superhero?  Then be the ultimate villain in the new Ultron costume for $56.  It includes full body suit with padded accents and high quality, durable face mask.  It comes in Standard and XL so you can terrorize all the Avengers you see on the streets.