Selling Rocky Costumes

I'm going to jot down a few things I've learned along the way for anyone else who may be interested in selling Rocky Horror (or other) costumes - this is what you may be in for!  This list is based on my personal experiences over the last decade.  Overall it's been a very positive experience, and I've built friendships and felt very connected to the Rocky community.
  1. You probably can't make a living at it - at least not in the beginning.  It may take you a while to figure out your price points based on what materials you can (consistently) procure and how long it takes you.  You will, of course, get faster after you've made an item several times.
  2. I recommend making samples up front to show/sell before taking commissions.  eBay will get you a lot of visibility, but there are plenty of other options out there without all the fees.  It's easy to spread the word on social networking sites, and PayPal makes it easy to sell from your own website or blog.
  3. Take nice pictures of your work;  well lit, not wrinkled, no pets or junk in the background.  If you don't have a dress form ask a friend to model it - but really model it and take photos of different sides - not while they're performing in it.  Photograph the details, too.  You don't need an expensive camera to do this.
  4. People are going to submit crummy measurements.  Sometimes you can spot them and ask them to remeasure (and provide them with more specific instructions), but there's always going to be discrepancies - make sure you're policies are clear how you intend to handle them.  Some people will still be difficult so be prepared to stand your ground.  Fortunately they are few and far between.
  5. People will ask for substitutions.  Some may seem benign (a different fabric for a Janet dress), some will be ill-advised (spring-weave sequin fabric for a tail coat), and some will end up costing you hours of frustration.  It's up to you if you want to go there, and how much extra you want to charge for it.
  6. Deposits are tricky and I prefer to avoid them after a hard lesson learned.  If something doesn't work out (can't get the fabric, death in the family, yeti attack, etc.) you're not beholden to an angry customer (or lynch mob).
  7. Whether you take deposits or not never ship without full payment.  On large orders I give about a week's heads up.  Otherwise I send the invoice when the costume is finished and ready to ship.  The handful of times I shipped costumes without payment had mixed results and some have never paid to this day.
  8. People will want things fast.  Your queue could be 10 weeks long and growing, but someone will want to know if there's any way they could have something next weekend for a very special performance.  Hey, it's your headache.  Just know that demanding people will continue to be demanding - they don't ever chill out just because you did them a solid.
  9. Communication.  Respond as quickly as you can to e-mails (yes, people will panic over Rocky Horror costumes). Try to keep your correspondence in one place.  It's frustrating when half a conversation is in your in-box, some is on Facebook, and the rest is in a text message on your phone.  
  10. People will love you.  People will hate you.  People will forget that you're just one human being and not some sweatshop of magical sewing faeries.  Things will happen.  Machines will break at the worst time, the post office will lose your packages, you'll get sick or injured, etc.
  11. Mistakes will happen.  It's how we learn, but it doesn't have to be how we define ourselves.  Pick yourself up, move on.  A sense of humility - and a sense of humor - will get you far.  And when all else fails make Rocky Horror voodoo dolls with your scrap fabric.

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