February Message from the CGW President

President’s February Letter

I hope that by now the “wrapping station” has been cleared away, the holiday decorations are packed and put into storage, and once again you are able to see the top of your cutting table (or kitchen/dining room table, like most of us) and you are starting the projects you spent January dreaming about.  I am going to have to dream a bit longer as our house fell out of escrow in December so we took it off the market for the holidays.  We are currently painting the kids’ bedrooms and re-sprucing up the house (carpets and windows professionally cleaned again) so we can put the house back on the market January 18.  I am also packing up my shop as it will be closing on January 31. The business will continue; just the public shop will be closed.  Needless to say, there will be no sewing for me for a while.

The Costumer’s Guild West Board of Directors held an all-day meeting (I got back into my car at 7:39 pm after getting out of it at 8:30 am to set up) discussing many of the concerns expressed on the Internet and via emails over the past couple of weeks.  A statement was made on all of our websites and Facebook pages, but I felt it was important to answer some of the concerns here and also be able to expand on some of those answers.

One current issue we can address is why Costume College tuition was raised by $20.00 for 2020:  because the hotel raised their rates by 10%.  Hotels usually raise their food and beverage rates along with their general conference rates 7-10% each year and Costumer’s Guild West has absorbed this increase for the last few years.  The last time the rate for Costume College was increased was in 2017.

What we can also report on at this time is that our photography and service animal policies will be on our website within a week.  While we have always tried to follow the most current rulings on service animals, we realized we had never published this in our registration books or on our website.  This will now be published on both.  As for outside photography, we currently provide a designated space for DIY photos at Costume College, a set room at Costume College for a Costumer’s Guild West sanctioned photographer and, as of last year, a Guild sanctioned roaming photographer at Costume College while also allowing members/individuals to photograph each other in the public areas.  What we haven’t done in the past is to provide a written policy which also covers those individuals who wish to take pictures of our members in the public areas and charge them for said pictures.  By the time you are reading this in Squeals this policy should be up on our website and will be included in the 2020 Costume College Registration booklet.

Planning for the first Costume College was started in 1992 and one of the driving forces behind the event was the spreading of costuming knowledge.  As most of the Costumer’s Guild West members at the time were costume enthusiasts rather than professionals working in the field or teachers of costuming/fashion, Costume College’s first teachers came from its membership.  Almost no one was credentialed, held an advance costuming degree, had been published, ran an international costume related business, had a brick and mortar, employed several employees in a costuming related business or was a “known” costumer/costume designer outside of the Science Fiction/Fandom convention world.  For most members this was their first time teaching beyond their local sewing circle or group of friends.   In its early years, Costume College focused on historical costuming, as the Science Fiction conventions of the day focused on fantasy and non-historical costuming.

Costume College gave many members their first chance to teach and also to hone that ability as they returned year after year to teach.  Because of their Costume College teaching experience many members were asked to teach/lecture at other venues, gradually working up to paying talks as the guest or keynote speaker at a variety of conferences or events.  Until 2008 no reimbursement of Costume College tuition fees was offered to our teachers.  By 2008 Costume College had reached a size (420) that allowed the Board to offer a reimbursement of tuition to the teacher based upon the number of hours taught.  (Teachers have never been required to pay for Costume College tuition if they are coming to teach and not attending any other classes.) In 2014 teachers started getting a voucher in their packets for a free lunch at the “pay and go” lunch cart for each day they taught.

 Membership stayed between the high 300s and the low 500s through 2016, jumping to the mid 500s in 2017.  (There was a good sized drop in attendance after the October 2008 financial crisis, and it took a while for the numbers to slowly climb back up again.)  Membership jumped to 604 for the 2018 Costume College, due to both social media and the “royalty theme”.  It was after our 2018 Costume College that we met with our legal team to see if we could raise the reimbursement to teachers if the membership stabilized at around 600.  We cautiously waited to see what our membership would be for 2019, and when it was at 687 at the close of registration (June 2019) the board approved an increase of tuition reimbursement for our teachers who were Costume College members.  A chart* with the tuition reimbursement laid out was included in every teacher packet on a yellow piece of paper and reimbursement checks were sent out after Costume College to each teacher who had paid membership, along with a letter of thanks for their service from our bookkeeper Natalie Myer.  Those teachers who did not attend Costume College beyond their teaching time were given free parking at the Warner Center Marriott for each day they taught as well as their lunch voucher(s).

*Costume College 2019 Teacher Tuition Reimbursement Chart

  • 1 – 2 hours taught                      20% tuition reimbursement
  • 2.5 – 5 hours taught                   45% tuition reimbursement
  • 5.5 And up hours taught            75% tuition reimbursement

The 2020 Teacher tuition reimbursement must be reflective of the enrollment/tuition paid for Costume College.  (This topic will be discussed in greater depth next month, along with how both the Costume College and Costumer’s Guild West budgets work).  We are currently PROJECTING the teacher tuition reimbursement to be as follows, based upon current enrollment trends:

*Costume College 2020 Teacher Tuition PROJECTED Reimbursement Chart

  • 1 – 2 hours taught                       20% tuition reimbursement
  • 2.5 – 4.5 hours taught                 45% tuition reimbursement
  • 5 – 7 hours taught                       75% tuition reimbursement
  • 7.5 hours and above taught       100% tuition reimbursement

Parking at the Warner Center Marriott will be covered for those teachers who are not members of Costume College, not staying at the hotel and who are only attending Costume College to teach. Parking will be covered each day that the teacher is teaching.

As teachers are a vital part of Costume College and one of the reasons our students return year after year, we realize that more is needed to make sure our teachers know they are appreciated.  While teachers have always had the “fast track lane” to get their packets on Thursday night, in 2020 they will have a Teacher Welcome Reception in a “to be determined room” before the start of the Thursday night Pool Party where their teacher packets will be available for pick up.  (Those arriving on Friday, Saturday or Sunday will be able to pick up their packets at Information the same as always.)  It has also been brought to our attention that being able to use the lunch vouchers in the hotel restaurant or bar area (for food) would be helpful and we are working with the hotel to have that in place for this year.  As Starbucks is independently run, using them there is not possible at this time.

Teachers have asked for copies of the feedback on the survey forms and we are selecting an “onsite and beyond” teacher liaison team to make sure not only that this happens but that teachers have a “go to” person(s) during the weekend.  This team’s job would start Thursday evening at the Teacher Welcome Reception, where they would be introduced and meet the teachers and would end after the surveys have been collected, information sorted by teacher, and that information sent out to teachers.  Volunteers anyone?  Let Dean Geri Rex or myself know if you are interested in being a part of this team or heading it up.

We also understand that some of our longstanding Costume College policies are not known by many of our members and need to be outlined on our website.  These additions will be made within the next few months as we assess and update.  This will take time and we appreciate your patience.  As we do update, I will be writing expanded versions in Squeals, often with explanations or background on each item in order to help further understanding.  (Next month will be budgets and end of the year Profit and Loss charts. Not sure if that sounds like a fun read.)

Please remember that any Costumer’s Guild West member can contact any one of the Directors at Large or any board member when they have questions or concerns.  Our contact information is always on the website and at the end of each issue of Squeals.  We do ask that any questions or concerns regarding policies and procedures be directed to a board member so that the issue can either be answered promptly or placed on the agenda for the next board meeting.  Currently the next board meeting is scheduled for March 8, 2020. The Costume College Year Round Forum on Facebook is designed for questions among members, especially new members who are unsure about what to expect, what to wear, etc.  It is also for discussions concerning what you are currently sewing on for Costume College and problems that are arising that you may like advice on from another member or the sharing of costuming information related in some way to Costume College, Costumer’s Guild West (even though there is a Facebook page for that), or its members.

–Mela Hoyt-Heydon, Costumer’s Guild West President