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Behind the scenes: How Foundations and Wardrobe work

Every single Saturday, without fail, come Christmas, come vacations, Easter, weddings, funerals or illness, we always publish a 2000-3000 word in-depth article at each website, with 25 or so images. That’s no quick tutorial on slapping something basic together. It’s nitty gritty, the stuff you really need to know to create great, professional historical costume, corsets, bras, and lingerie, in detail. How does it happen? Who's behind all that?

Six months in advance of publication

Marion McNealyEditor Marion McNealy (left) books a writer to produce a specific article for us. Sometimes writers offer article ideas (Bra making guru Mark Garbarczyk often comes up with killer article ideas of his own, for example); sometimes she commissions certain authors to write on something specific (as in the case of Katherine "Koshka" Caron-Greig's Soutache Braid article). Sometimes she has a subject but no writer, and puts out a call for interested authors to get in touch – she might find an interesting pattern that invites a test run and publication of the pattern, the experiment and the results. Occasionally someone will put themselves forward and ask to write for us (but not often enough – don’t be shy!)

The article goes into her Master Schedule, and if the writer is new, they then need to fill in a contract and a tax declaration form. Marion sends these out, and my assistant Polly Aron fields what comes back, ensuring it’s all filled in correctly, signed properly, filed away logically, and logged in our records. The writer also provides a biography and photo for our writers’ page (if we can convince them to do so).

The writer then goes to work, with a deadline of one month before publication. We are often astounded at the quality of the material that comes back to us, especially considering that we can only afford to pay $100 per article; we plan to increase that, if we're around for long enough.

Other times, writers flake out on us, and Marion has to don her superhero cape and find something else just as good at the last minute, or move things around so that no-one notices and we don’t miss a week. To date, she has never once failed to come up with something, even if it means staying up until 3am just before the deadline, writing the article herself!  


One month before publication

Elizabeth LicataThere may be discussion, there may be revisions. Marion liaises with the writer to make sure the article is as relevant and useful as possible, and then the finished articles, one for each website, go to Noelle Paduan (pictured below right) and Liz Licata (pictured left) to be uploaded to the sites and formatted properly.

This is no mean feat. Noelle and Liz have the unenviable task of re-sizing a gazillion photos and ensuring all the images in the article can expand to produce a blow-up of the same image. If you’ve ever organised a blog post with a ton of images, you’ll know where I’m coming from. They do this every week.

Noelle and Liz are generally done by the Thursday before publication. Marion takes a final look to check the articles on each site online, and then Polly does a final proofread of both articles with a fresh eye on Friday night to check for typos, readability and images being in the right places. 

At midnight in England Polly sets the articles “live”, and on Saturday morning she sends out an email and a Facebook post on my behalf to announce the new articles on both sites.


But that’s not all.

Polly AronPolly (pictured left) is also our social media guru, and she’s the first port of call for customer service issues, manages claims for eligibility for student and senior memberships, she manages the comments on the sites, ensuring that the writers see and respond to them, and she manages a spreadsheet that ensures the process of getting invoices from writers and paying them happens smoothly.

We can currently only afford to pay Polly for ten hours a week, which is why we’re having trouble meeting that web standard of answering all emails in 24 hours. That's also on the to-do list... if we make it past the next eight weeks and grow to allow it, we'll be able to pay her for more of her time.

Noelle Paduan in her Iron Man Bustle DressNoelle (right) is, as well as article formatter, our newly-appointed web guru, with knowledge and advice to offer on layout and usability. She is officially responsible for the important role of freaking out over image margins, line spacing and smooth movement around the site. She isn't happy with the sites yet, but she’s slowly whipping us into shape. We hope to be able to continue taking her advice to improve your experience of Wardrobe and Foundations... if we survive.

In addition to her crucial Editorial role, Marion takes care of all the technical details behind the scenes. When she’s doing this job well (ie always), you don’t even notice she’s doing it. She ensures that backups are made, servers don’t crash, software is updated, hackers are foiled, and a bunch of other tech adventures I hardly even understand.


I know what you’re thinking.

Cathy HayWith all this dedicated effort going on, what the heck is left for me (pictured left) to do? Well, in short, I’m at the pointy end. I’m responsible. While my team fuel the ship and keep it running, I’m on the bridge, steering. I’m looking ahead. I’m anticipating what comes next and making changes.

That’s the theory, anyway. In practice, I’m more like Kermit the Frog, keeping the show running smoothly and freaking out in the wings, but somehow it always turns out alright.

I advertise, I promote; I write the contracts and make the rules. I manage my team and ensure, as best I can, that everyone’s happy. I deal with disputes and make it work. I manage relationships with other businesses. I’m the public face of this thing. The buck stops with me. I do the accounts, pay the team and keep the money in check, deciding what we can and can’t afford to do next. And today, I need to appeal to the sixth member of my team: you.

By my current calculations, Foundations Revealed and Your Wardrobe Unlock’d have approximately eight weeks left to live, unless something changes quickly.

In my next post, I’ll explain in more detail what’s been going on.


In the last 24 hours we've jumped from 508 to 562 members - thank you! That's a great start, but we still need your help to make it to 750 and beyond. Help Your Wardrobe Unlock'd and Foundations Revealed to survive and thrive:  SIGN UP HERE, share this post on social media, and keep up with how we're doing by checking the counter at the top of the page!


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