This is a blog, a place where I can post my dress progress, what’s going on in my life, what I’m working on, places I’m going…and also a space in which I can try to tell my story. So here’s my story.
Sewing for other people is not an easy business, especially if they are far away. However, at some point don’t we all try to do this? My first experience was with James and it all seemed to turn out fine. However, my second experience, one I was very excited about, did not turn out so well. Why? Because some people cannot be pleased. You cannot make them happy no matter what. Mistakes will be made, yes. Sewing is perhaps a lost craft, and in today’s world of ready-made, machine-perfected clothing from an overseas factory, it’s difficult for people to understand that a custom made, hand-made, historical garment is not an easy, or normal thing to make. Sometimes things happen – buttons break, for instance – and all a seamstress can do is request the garment be sent back for repair. Do you know anybody who does not make changes and repairs on their costume pieces? This is part of the problem of sewing for other people. The expectation. Also the deadline. Clothes are not made overnight, and hand-made clothes, even with the aid of a machine, take weeks, even months depending.
I don’t even know where to start. I want to post some e-mails I received from an unhappy Mary Spencer, but I feel they need explanation. Mary has made my life miserable. She freaked out and sent me e-mail after e-mail about in-progress photos I posted on my blog, complaining that the photos did not reflect what I said I was going to produce. Obviously she missed the “in progress” text written all over the post. She cried, yelled, and badgered me with e-mails every time something appeared to be amiss. I spent as much time calming her down as I did sewing. Mary also told me many stories of how they’d been screwed by other seamstresses, particularly Fugawee, Bonnie Miss Flora, and The Silly Sisters, well-known and respected companies and individuals. She imparted to me that I was the only one who could make this garment, that it all depended on me. I was confident I could do a good job, and that my years of experience working with clients in the graphic design business would help me handle this one. I was quite wrong.
I received an e-mail from an acquaintance in the costuming community warning me about this client. I did not heed the warning, but boy I should have. When so many reputable seamstresses and established companies have so much trouble with one person, it’s important to take a listen. I can now add my recommendation to these companies: DO NOT WORK WITH MARY SPENCER.
So why did I? I wanted to expand my costuming portfolio. I wanted to make beautiful garments. I needed the money. What I learned is that sewing for money is not well-paid. The hours and hard work you put in do not match what you make on the garment, and if you ask the price you know it should actually be, people flip out. So working for pennies, it only makes it that much more enjoyable when your client harps at you.
The mistakes I made:
- I sewed a collar on not to regular liking. To the client, it was upside down, with the finished edge (the hem) showing, not turned under. That was a mistake, I was wrong.
- I used inferior self-cover button kits to make the buttons. I tugged and pulled on the shanks to test them, but when they arrived to the client, many or all came apart. I offered to replace them, but the client refused and made the new buttons and sewed them on instead.
I could have handled things differently, but when someone calls you in the evening and unexpectedly screams at you about something well beyond your control, after months of being pushed and having to “handle” this person…well, there is a breaking point. I defended myself because the complaint was on a garment that this client had accepted, paid for, and had in their possession for more than a month, and only then decided it was incorrect. I offered to correct the mistake three times, each time they refused, and only continued to yell at me. So at that point, what is the conversation for?
I decided, based on my experience, the unsolicited warning e-mail, and being screamed at on the phone, not to work with this person anymore. We were just about to begin a new project, one I had received materials and a downpayment for. I made this known, without emotion, in an e-mail, at which point I began to receive e-mails from the Mary’s husband Adam (not the client at all!) about how I became “enraged,” and that everything I said was a lie, and that I am extremely unprofessional and like to a twelve year old girl. Of course, I was unable to complete any sentences at all on the phone, as I was talked over and berated – I had no ability to explain anything…and, of course, the client’s partner was listening in on the other line, without my knowledge, a violation of New Hampshire law.
I responded to the vicious e-mail by telling this person’s partner that if they continued to harass me (after I’ve ended business with them and returned their materials and deposit for the next project) I would make it known to everyone I possibly could my experience with this Mary. I received yet another aggressive e-mail this morning, and so I am following through on my promise. I would also like to add that since ending business with Mary and Adam Spencer, they have filed blackening reports with RipOffReport.com, the BBB, and their local police, all because the mailman wasn’t carrying their materials and full refund fast enough. I’ve received countless harassing e-mails threatening legal action, and Mary continues to slam me on her “An Historical Lady” blog, complete with made-up conspiracy theories and paranoid accusations.
This is a warning. Do NOT try to work with this person. It will lead to frustrations, battles, and heartache you cannot even imagine. It will lead to false reports filed with the BBB, RipOffReport.com, the police, and constant threats of litigation. It comes with defamation of character, direct abuse, sincere attempts to destroy one’s business, and all kinds of stories that get more and more colorful as time passes. It is not worth the money. It takes a force of nature to deter me from working with clients, and I can safely call Mary Spencer person a force of nature.
So there it is. You may judge me as you like. If you think this was an unprofessional thing to post on my blog, then know that it is out of self-defense as well as in an effort to warn the historical costuming community against this person and others like them. Thank you for reading this.
The Laced AngelSeptember 10, 2010 at 7:16 PM
Amen. I have a hard enough time working with people I know, like and have close at hand for fitting purposes. Figuring out what mental picture someone has in their head and attempting to reproduce that fantasy image without mindreading powers is difficult even when both parties work together nicely. It's especially hard when clients have unrealistic expectations and are bitches to boot. Congratulations for being, professional, keeping your cool as long as you did and for knowing when to cut and run.
ÉlisabethSeptember 10, 2010 at 7:17 PM
What a pity! It's not the first time I see such experiences with stupid customers… What a shame!
AnonymousSeptember 10, 2010 at 7:22 PM
I dunno, I've gotten a lot of compliments on the work you did for me.
Lauren RSeptember 10, 2010 at 7:26 PM
Well, I've learned my lesson. After finishing the stays for Olympe (which I'm petrified about), and the alterations to your stuff, James, I'm throwing in the towel. No more sewing for other people. I guess it doesn't matter then if this person smears my seamstering reputation.
dale-harrietSeptember 10, 2010 at 7:36 PM
I cannot sew. Oh – it's neither my intelligence nor lack of machine; it's because of a ridiculous leftover baggage item from a mother who was a brilliant seamstress (but didn't like me). So I beg, request, pay, barter – for all of my 18th or 19th century clothing. I am SO grateful for everything….and am aghast that someone would behave as you describe. Blessings on you.
Lauren RSeptember 10, 2010 at 7:38 PM
Awesome, now she's slandering me! Check it out, guys. And please note that her there was NO signed contract, and that her materials are in the mail on their way back to her as we speak:
Stephanie AnnSeptember 10, 2010 at 7:45 PM
It happens. People who don't sew, frequently don't realize what is feasibly possible. I think that sizing issues are always there, our bodies change especially over the long time it makes to make a costume. Perhaps the outfit was ordered a little too small if the buttons broke, even cheap ones need a good push to break. I'm sorry that this happened to you, they should not have been mad, I'm sure you made every effort to fix the problems. This is the kind of thing that makes me wary of starting a business.
AnonymousSeptember 10, 2010 at 7:46 PM
Maybe this client needs to realize art takes time and the little differences not mistakes make the garment unique. People like you are amazing and if by chance you brilliantly sew again for a lucky someone make them sign an original that will be completed in time document. No one should deal with this. Creatively carry on!
AnonymousSeptember 10, 2010 at 8:35 PM
I adore the baby fox Marie Antoinette T shirt!
Lauren RSeptember 10, 2010 at 8:37 PM
Ah, Wendella, that was you! I'll pop your shirt in the mail later today :-). Thanks for your support :-).
I filed a rebuttal on that "Rip Off Report" site. Hopefully that'll help set things straight. I can hardly believe this is happening. Thank you all for your kind words.
Better than StuffSeptember 10, 2010 at 8:41 PM
That's terrible to hear! Your work is beautiful, and if you offered to fix the mistakes, then there was no reason for her to get that upset. She completely crossed the line with the irate phone calls and harassment.
Unfortunately, these customers crop up from time to time. It's happened to every professional seamstress, and has driven more than one costumer to closing shop. I wouldn't let one bad egg keep you from doing something you love.
Perhaps some of your other clients could post rebuttals to the ripoffreport?
Robin GallowglasSeptember 10, 2010 at 8:46 PM
Poor Thing! I've worked hours on garb just to have a non sewer annouce that it's not "rocket science" to sew nice historical garb, then not an hour later she asked me to make her a gown. Pft… not in a million years. Just try not to stress over this too much, some people just thrive on drama. Take care of yourself above all.
Jane CarlstromSeptember 10, 2010 at 9:07 PM
Oh Lauren, how awful for you. Hugs and best wishes. Jane
SarahSeptember 10, 2010 at 9:18 PM
I'm sorry you've had to go through this. In this business, there are always those out to cheat us. Listen to your instincts and those you trust. If you've lost your enjoyment, by all means, sew only for yourself. You are the only one who can obligate yourself. One person's 'bad' experience will not ruin your reputation. Those who know you and your work will be there in force to refute it.
JennySeptember 10, 2010 at 10:42 PM
I can't add anything to the supportive things that all of the above people have said, except to heartily agree that there is no excuse for people (especially non-sewers who know they can't begin to do themselves what they requested of you) to behave in such an awful way. I gave up a commission recently when I saw that my vision and the client's vision were not even close to what she had initially described and we first agreed on! I handed it over to a mutual seamstress friend who did a wonderful job and thankfully we all had a happy ending. I'm sorry you had such a rotten experience. Don't doubt your wonderful skills (sewing, people, blogging and more!) for a minute!
K. WaltersSeptember 11, 2010 at 2:11 AM
Lauren – saw this on FB and honestly, you cannot please everyone all of the time. This is one client who is obviously mean, vindictive, petty, and utterly selfish. I know what it takes to make these clothes having done a few myself and it is painstaking, back breaking work that takes its toll on the maker – you are just hoping and praying all of the measurements are right, that it fits when done, and that you please the client. Count how many pleased customers you have and those that are not and DO NOT LET HER WIN by pulling away from your talent. The hobby does not have many really good seamstresses and you cannot pull out because of her. Your fans will not let you!
Anna AmbroseSeptember 11, 2010 at 2:32 AM
That is absolutely horrible how she treated you that way! From what I've seen in pictures, the things you make are *gorgeous*, and since you offered to fix the mistake three times and she denied your help, what does she expect you to do? What an idiot.
(BTW, who receives a commissioned costume piece in the mail and doesn't inspect it until a month later?!)
Anna AmbroseSeptember 11, 2010 at 2:34 AM
And I think you SHOULD post those emails.
Gail Kellogg HopeSeptember 11, 2010 at 3:36 AM
I KNOW this woman. She's awful. She'll tell you that your work is wonderful then trash you to everyone else, she lies & says things fell apart but won't send anything back to be replaced or repaired – and then wears them for years (and strangely enough they are in great condition).
She demands hours of your time, research & labor & then says you didn't do a good job.
She even had the nerve to tell me that she cried when she got my work, that it wasn't what she wanted… after she approved the design… which she changed 4 times! and then to thank "me" for it the next Christmas (she wrote to my mother rather than me knowing full well who had done the work).
She also cries poor & tries to get you to give her a price break & then changes the design.
I do not sew for her anymore. Not under any circumstances. She almost broke me. Fortunately she is an excellent learning experience & I think if we all got together we could create an excellent business class based on "how to deal with a problem like M."
And if her e-mails to you were anything like the ones to me, you couldn't fit them on a blog.
Margravine LouisaSeptember 11, 2010 at 3:59 AM
Ah, to be stung by a customer – sooner or later it happens to everyone who is self-employed. Unfortunately, in business, the mantra is often "the customer is always right". HOWEVER – in creative endeavours, I believe the artist is always right. Lauren, it is YOUR ART, YOU own it. Not everyone will like it, that is THEIR problem. It is dissapointing when they resort to vitriolic email and slander to make themselves feel in control of the situation, and best to exit as gracefully as possible (which you obviously tried to do). NEVER GIVE UP SHARING YOUR ART – YOU HAVE A GIFT THAT VERY FEW POSSESS- IT WOULD BE SUCH A SHAME TO TAKE THAT AWAY FROM THOSE WHO WOULD TRULY APPRECIATE YOUR GOOD WORK AND CREATIVITY!this will pass – God Bless
AnonymousSeptember 11, 2010 at 4:23 AM
I understand every word you said above. People who do not sew just simply can never understand the amount of work that goes into it. It takes hours and hours and hours to make or reconstruct a beautiful garment. And then to get a difficult person on top of it all. Horrors. I am so sorry she slammed you on the web. That has got to be the worst. I did professional alterations for a while and found it extremely difficult to get paid for my time. Good luck to you in the future!
AnonymousSeptember 11, 2010 at 4:26 AM
BTW, you are obviously a very dedicated, well educated, professional! No question about it!
Louise CSeptember 11, 2010 at 4:35 AM
Funny how she names you on "Rip Off", but does not use her own name! How terrible this must have been for you, Lauren, but it's good to see you firmly and honestly challenging her with the truth, especially on that "Rip Off Report".
Your website is wonderful, the tutorials clear and beautifully illustrated, and the links helpful. Sew on, sister, sew on!
Olympe de la Tour D'AuvergneSeptember 11, 2010 at 5:06 AM
I just got a very long detailed e-mail from this woman and her husband/partner, since my commission is posted here and my e-mail is listed on my own blog. As a seamstress myself and someone who has had both good and bad experiences sewing for others I know what that can be like. I'm looking forward to following the progress on my stays, and I encourage you not to give up sewing if you love it.
The Laced AngelSeptember 11, 2010 at 5:39 AM
Seriously? She is going out of her way to find your customers and contact them to complain? This woman is bent. Sorry you have to deal with someone like this. At least it sounds like she has such a reputation of her own she can't actually destroy yours- if anything, you'll get street cred from seamstresses in the know just for having survived her!
Gail Kellogg HopeSeptember 11, 2010 at 6:01 AM
Lauren, my dear… if you have business cards I will set them out in my own store. Your work is that good. You come highly recommended not only from your customers (I know a couple), but from your fellow seamstresses.
Trust me when I say this lady is not worth crying over. She has bad-talked me, my friend Missy (one of the leading women in the industry), my friend N. who also sent everything back, and if you were following the thread on FB you can see how many others she has tried to crush over the years.
The worst part is that she's such a nice lady. She really, truly is… until something doesn't go her way. But you are not the only one she drives absolutely nuts. I know a lot of people who hear her name, roll their eyes & duck for cover… and I'm not kidding about that.
Fortunately you will rarely run across folks as nutty as her. They are out there… but far & few between.
American DuchessSeptember 11, 2010 at 7:35 AM
I cannot rightly convey to all of you how much your support has meant to me. When something like this happens, it causes one to question everything. I am new to the seamstressing business and I was very excited about it, and very excited to be working on these beautiful things. It all seemed to be going so well, and my head is reeling at how it went so bad so quickly.
Olympe – I am very sorry she contacted you to smear me. I am confident I can make a great pair of stays for you, and despite the business aspect of my relationship with this client going badly, I am still proud of the work I did for her.
A learning experience, yes, very much so. I will look at it as that. You have all been amazing in reading my story (I know it was long-winded), and in helping me to get through this. Gail – your notes in particular, as it's important for everyone (and myself) to know that this has happened before!
IsisSeptember 11, 2010 at 10:04 AM
What a truly horrible experience!
It is always a shock to encounter people who behave this way. It's so totally out of the way from normal behaviour and that makes it very hard to handle. It is easier to doubt yourself than believing tat people can actually behave like that for no reason at all. But they can.
I hope you won't let this break you! *HUGS*
JennySeptember 11, 2010 at 10:23 AM
Awful! So sad that people behave like that. 🙁 Keep calm and have a cupcake. 🙂 This will soon be merely an unpleasant memory, and since you have behaved so well, you are the winner here. We love you, Duchess!
HeidiSeptember 11, 2010 at 2:13 PM
Personally, I'd like to know who she is so I can avoid her in the future. This sounds like it could border on criminal harrassment. Have you spoken to the police?
Unfortunately, there are people out there who have no understanding, morals, or manners. I sympathize with you. I hope you continue to do what you love. Your garments are beautiful.
Have you considered putting together a contract? I would clearly outline the procedures and penalties for changes made by the client after the initial agreement, a solid return policy that includes a handling fee for your time and effort to resell the item, a time limit for inspecting and rejecting the garment(I wouldn't give them more than 24 hours and they can't wear the item in public before returning.), shipping policies(You'll probably need to ship the finished garment with delivery confirmation or signature required to confirm when the client received the piece.), and a policy for handling mistakes. Its too bad we have to resort to such tactics but society isn't what it used to be.
Kathy HueySeptember 11, 2010 at 4:46 PM
Personally I wish you had posted her name. My daughter is a junior in costume design at Wright State and if she had to put up with someone like this they would be dealing with me. I am not a seamstress myself but I know the expertise it takes to be one. You should never let someone else ruin your dream. You obviously have many clients that are extremely proud of your work. That should be your focus. If this woman behaves so badly, you should post her name and information so that no other unsuspecting souls have to deal with her. She obviously doesn't deserve the products of your talent. You could at least keep someone else from having to go through the same torture that you have had to endure. Thanks for sharing. Keep sewing with love and it will return to you in kind.
Lady CarolynSeptember 11, 2010 at 5:13 PM
Oh Lauren, what can I say that hasn't already been said? As someone who is your mother's age. I am just sending you a big Hug and Kiss, put you to bed and everything WILL be better in the morning. Unfortunately life is not a non-toxic world and you will run into this type of person through life, but you will be stronger and wiser. So my dear
xoxo, enjoy the day and sleep tight tonight, Carolyn
lahbluebonnetSeptember 11, 2010 at 6:55 PM
How sad. You don't know me, but I am a fan of your blog and some of the others here. I quietly read and study and try to attempt an eekling of the beautiful work you and others craft, while I try to recreate period costumes for my kids and myself for our history presentations for homeschooling. I do know the hours of research and labor, even for my simpler costumes. Few of my friends/family understand how labor intensive this wonderfully addictive hobby is. Of course you are dealing with intense discouragement as you deal with all of this now. I hope this can resolve and dissipate so that you can return to your love of sewing. I love looking at your pictures of your incredible costumes. I'm a picky gal and your stuff looks great! I hope you keep posting about what you sew for yourself (and hopefully others) because I have a lot to learn! =)
UnknownSeptember 11, 2010 at 9:29 PM
I think it is only fair that you post her name (so others know to avoid her) since she posted not only your name, but your address and phone as well. A very dangerous thing to do these days with all the crazies on the internet. She is a coward for not posting her information or a link to the phone conversation. Ripoff.com seems to me to be a site for cowards if you are able to slander someone anonymously with no apparent recourse. If you love sewing for other people at all, you should keep going and not let persons such as her stop you. She is just one, lonely pathetic whiny voice crying out in a most immature and self defeating way. She has way more issues in her life she needs to deal with first than a costume.
American DuchessSeptember 12, 2010 at 1:07 AM
My wonderful friends and supporters,
As much as I would like to fight back tooth and nail against this, I cannot state the name of this client because I do not want to stoop to her level of slander, which is very serious in the eyes of the law. I know I am right in this situation, I know that I only told the truth, that I stole nothing, that I did nothing wrong, so I am the bigger person here in responding as gracefully as I can without allowing her to walk all over me. I have had two clients whose projects I blogged about – one was James, the 18th c. velvet suit – and the other was this person. The entries following this person's commissioned garments can be found in recent posts and in the tags, and that is all I will say. Yes, it makes me incredibly sad that she did this not just to me, but to multiple other seamstresses, and that she's apparently now preying on another! From what I've read and the information people have sent me, the pattern of behaviors is shockingly identical to what happened between me and this person, but now I know that I will survive it as they did, and that the greatest punishment of all for this person is having to live with themselves.
StephSeptember 12, 2010 at 7:17 AM
I found your blog after you left a comment on mine, I cant' wait to dig around. At first, I found myself reading with a little relish, dirt is always interesting, isn't it?
Now I'm just plain mad. I agree with the person who said the artist is always right. I had a crazy woman like this sign up for one of my sewing classes recently. She came to class all in a snit, I was kind and pleasant and encouraging. She told me a sob story about being thrown out of a sewing class several months previously, I should have known then…
After a few weeks, she jumped down my throat for correcting her technique. She literally called me out on the carpet in front of my own class and another class nearby full of women I know and respect. She called me unprofessional, arrogant, I can't even remember what all she said. It made me want to vomit, it was so unprovoked. I just let her spew until she wore herself out, I finished the last hour of the class, then I went in the back room and had a nice time being hysterical.
My boss (an incredible student of human nature) gave me a drink and asked what had happened. I told her. Fifty other people could have told her. Apparently this woman took it upon herself to find my boss (who's known me for years and gives me complete creative control and keys to her shop) and tell her what she'd said to me.
Boss lady explained that some people have so little control over circumstances in their own personal lives that they have to tramp all over other people in order to feel important, and those people are to be pitied. These people have become embittered, to the point they don't even necessarily know how wrong they are. I think, unfortunately, you ran into one. Chin up!
SarahSeptember 12, 2010 at 9:33 PM
Oh Lauren! How horrible! People truly do not appreciate how much work, love, and research goes into things like this. I've had a similar experience with a customer who knew NOTHING about the history behind the clothing and was critical of every little thing I did. Then she had the nerve to say she wasn't interested in seeing one piece till the other was completely finished. Don't stop making beautiful things for people who truly appreciate it! That's letting her get the better of you. Don't let stupid people bother you, dear! You did everything you could and sometimes that's not good enough for snotty people.
American DuchessSeptember 12, 2010 at 9:57 PM
I am sorry to hear of other experiences with this client, and other experiences you all have had with other people! I just don't understand how people can act this way. Maybe it's the long history of abuse to seamstresses that is still persisting! Ugh. Well, I'm working on Olympe's stays and I realize that I really do love doing this. Still haven't decided if I want to keep going with taking commissions. There is always that fear – will it fit, did I get the measurements right – and even if you know those are spot on, there's always the "will she/he like it?" And if they don't, what do you do?
MrsC (Maryanne)September 13, 2010 at 1:43 AM
Goodness. Lauren, I used to have a bridal shop and I have made hundreds of wedding dresses, evening gowns and costumes and I have worked for every kind of customer, including a few like this one. Most of the people I have sewn for have been utterly lovely – patient, appreciative and joyful. A very few viragos however can leave one with the seamstress equivalent of shell shock!! This is why those women who run wedding shops often seem quite hard-boiled, because you cannot be doing this kind of work with your heart on your sleeve.
PLEASE, take it from an old war horse who is not just offering empathy but has been there, done that, and still shakes at fittings, back yourself and let this go (which I think you are well on the way to doing) and learn from it but don't let it deter you. Be a bit 'hoity', do a bit of google stalking, even ask for references if you have to – have the honour be on them not on you. Put your prices up – I don't know what you're charging but it sounds like you're not building enough in to cover the not so obvious costs of calls and communications. Charging big money keeps time wasters away, it really does. And it buys you the luxury of time, which is what you need to do what you do so well. 🙂 Don't lose you noive, sweet heart, even though it is sorely tempting to do so. You do great work and never forget it!
MrsC (Maryanne)September 13, 2010 at 1:50 AM
PS, I just went and peeked at her website out of curioisty and it is dripping with pics of her in that gorgeous jacket you made. She is smiling happily in all of them. Very, very odd. I'd go with the evidence not the attitide! 😉
DadaHyenaSeptember 13, 2010 at 7:52 PM
I've dealt with some completely unprofessional and abusive clients before, but this is one of the worst I've ever heard of. This awful client has no right to do this to a hard-working, well-meaning artist.
American DuchessSeptember 14, 2010 at 8:18 AM
Mrs C, you're so right. A bit higher price will keep the nasty ones away, huh. I'm finally learning to account and estimate for all the unseen costs in my illustration business, so I can carry that over into quoting for costuming as well.
P.S., I'm still getting very encouraging e-mails and comments on the Facebook page that are so supportive and eye-opening. Thank you again!
Victoria ElyseSeptember 14, 2010 at 9:53 PM
Oh you poor poor dear 🙁 This is no good at all!! Thank you for the post… But, I am sorry you have had to go through so much :'(
I hope the rest of your week/month is far far better! <3
AnonymousSeptember 15, 2010 at 2:48 AM
Lauren, so sorry to read about your troubles. These people have done this many times, and have been in and out of at least four reenactment groups in the New England region in as many years.
You unfortunately had to deal with someone who has serious mental health issues. Just know that you are in very good company. Many of the best seamstresses, tailors and reenactors have been the subject of their irrational and hysterical ravings. You took the high road. Don’t get too discouraged, you are a very talented artist.
Warm thoughts from New England
Kathleen CrowleySeptember 15, 2010 at 9:00 PM
I really love your blog and have it linked to mine so that I can go read it all the time.
Ive been doing this kind of work for years, and from time to time, someone will come along who makes your life miserable, but if you persevere, you realize how much your time is worth and while its hard to get what you are worth out of a costume client, it isn't impossible. Raising your prices and having contracts goes a long way towards ridding yourself from these ridiculous people.
There are crazy people in all walks of life and you just have to learn to protect yourself from them. Under no circumstances should you have had to deal with a button issue after months of wear.
We've all been in your shoes. Hang in there! Many of my customers have become good friends!
MeganSeptember 15, 2010 at 10:23 PM
I'm only an occasional visitor of your blog & Facebook page, but all that I have ever seen of you is professionalism and care to deliver an excellent product, whether it is a post, a project for yourself or a customer. I have handled conflict resolution a few times in my career as a counselor, and I think you handled yourself very well and set up appropriate boundaries with your customer. Kudos to you for not using their low-handed tactics of name calling and lies!
It is unfortunate this person vilified herself and her partner to the costuming industry; as knowledge of her mannerisms gets passed around (and rightly so), she will find it increasingly difficult to find anyone willing to work with her. Time will only tell if she is willing to work on herself and make herself more pleasant or continue to alienate others.
I'm sorry you had to experience this person's over-the-top wrath, but you are stronger for it.
Keep on being you. <3
The DreamstressSeptember 16, 2010 at 6:10 AM
Oh gosh Lauren, I can't believe I missed all this when it first happened!
I'm so, so sorry you went through all this, but thank you for warning the rest of us.
I hope that the rest of your sewing commissions are smooth sailing!
The DreamstressSeptember 16, 2010 at 6:12 AM
As an add on, my first word capture was 'Squit', which seems the perfect word to describe this sort of person.
Lauren RSeptember 16, 2010 at 7:02 AM
Thank you all for the continued support. I think you are right – she will defeat herself, and it's best if we all just get out of her way. I've spoken to the police, I've received a letter from the BBB, and in both these cases I've had the chance to respond and set the record straight. She makes her own case against herself with the rants and the complaints, especially when these authorities are given the actual timeline of events: all these complaints and reports only two days after her items were mailed! I am confident it is clear to the police, the BBB, anyone really, that this is a waste of time and an empty case.
AnonymousSeptember 16, 2010 at 6:04 PM
I'm another anonymous from New England who had a terrible and frightening experience with Mary Spencer. I stopped buying her antiques because they were junk—–then she REALLY got mad!!! Harassing phone calls, threatening letters. It went on for months. Finally, she moved on to another victim.
Stay strong and keep on fighting against her.
AnonymousSeptember 17, 2010 at 12:32 AM
Just found your blog today, I've always made my own clothes and am about to start costuming and corset making. I empathise with your horror story. My mother was a dressmaker (retired now) never charged enough for her work and had some nightmare clients including one who never paid for her wedding dress simply because she knew she could get away with it – not worth the cost of legal hassle. My friend's mother was also an excellent dressmaker but was tougher and refused to deal with troublemakers. People who don't sew don't understand the labour involved and have unrealistic expectations especially regarding their own weight problems. Some people also have the notion that something made by hand at home should for some reason be cheaper! Bespoke craftsmanship should of course always be more expensive. Your work looks beautiful to me. Don't let the turkeys get you down!
Bridgett McGeeSeptember 20, 2010 at 1:54 AM
my dearest Lady, feed this issue no more, know that you and your work are adored by many.
Tis not worth lowering your dignity. a moment.
Put the beast to rest and press and sew on…put all your love and attention to this hobby that you hold so dear into enveloping a miss in the loving wrap of a wonderful stays. Do not let the misled will of one alter your course in such a way ever again. Claim back your power and feed this evil entity no longer.
Helen from HobartFebruary 20, 2011 at 6:00 AM
I have just found this lady's blog. She is not worth bothering about. I was astounded to discover she doesn't make (or even adjust to fit) her own re-enactment clothes.
A leech on hard working seamstress artists like you.