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Article: Going Back To Our Roots Part 3: More Than Just Dresses

Going Back To Our Roots Part 3: More Than Just Dresses

Going Back To Our Roots Part 3: More Than Just Dresses

. {noun} 
activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation, especially by children. Children are truly the best teachers of this. If you ever watch how children play, they seem to never lack for ideas or creativity, and enthusiasm for play.

As I have gotten older, I am increasingly aware of the need for "play" in my own life. As a mom, business owner/designer, and wife, my days are often filled with lists of tasks that I must complete in order to keep the household and business running. I have felt exhaustion and burnout, and have left myself with little time for leisure and fun, if at all. 

About a year and a half ago, I was so burned out with everything that I made a difficult decision to pause the business. I couldn't imagine pulling the plug on the business (our second baby), so I thought pausing to reflect was the right decision. In reality, this decision haunted me more than I had expected. We were in liquidation mode, selling our dresses for so little that we barely made our cost back. But I was determined that we needed to stop operating, and I needed to rest, at least for a while. 

While grappling with the why behind the burnout and the why of what I do, I had an impactful conversation with a good friend, who shared that his word of the year was "play" (We were going around amongst friends what word we felt like God was giving us for the year to aspire to). He proceeded to share that he had been so stressed by his work that he decided to make a list of things that he would love to do, that he used to enjoy, so that he could pursue those things again. His list was 40+ things long.

The haunting part for me was this: I was so stunned that my friend had such a long list of things he would actually enjoy, while in my mind, I had none -- nothing came to mind for me that I would enjoy or want to do. Sure, I used to enjoy creating and sewing garments -- but that was no longer a passion because it had become so deeply associated with the business. I felt like I had lost something big. Somewhere along the way, what used to be "play" for me had become "work". 

I knew I needed to rediscover my love and passion again, for this thing that I once loved, and didn't feel like work as a result. I realized that next to design and sewing, I loved playing the piano, so I started piano lessons again for the first time since high school (I had played my entire childhood until college). Putting my fingers on the keys of the piano and learning new music felt like play, with no expectations of producing anything. 

Our first EleStory shoot in 2013, where these darling girls were just playing!

As I started to reaquaint myself with the piano again, it brought me back to EleStory and the earlier years and collections that I would create. I remembered what I loved about it -- the whimsical prints and colors that I used to effortlessly put together and loved, seeing, through the eyes of a former costume designer, all the colors of the collection working together, when the curtains would lift, the super fun hoodies/jackets and the twirly dresses that I created that made me think about my own childhood.

That's when I decided -- it was time to go back to our roots. The roots of what once felt like “play” to me in designing and creating, and feeling inspired by the playfulness of children. 

It felt so appropriate to name this new casual line PLAY, as it encapsulates for me everything that I have been learning to do for myself and for my kids. So, as I embarked on this journey designing this new collection, I was inspired by children and their playfulness, how uninhibited it all is -- the innocence, the whimsy, the joy, and freedom of play. The color palette is soft yet bold, the prints we developed are of things that both children and (most) adults love -- whimsical flowers, fruits and animals (we developed birds, bunnies, and unicorns which we may debut someday)!  

For the dresses in particular, I kept the silhouette simple, reminiscent of our all-time bestselling Fall ballerina dresses, but without the tulle overlay and the sparkles. I added pockets for all those rocks, sticks, and leaves that every child seems to like to collect, and for the solid color dresses, the challenge was to not make them plain dresses -- so exposed pockets and neck binding in the same floral print give an understated elegance to them. 

Since I was designing with my little girl Caris in mind, I opted for a thicker/medium weight organic cotton knit. I always joke that she is my boy in the disguise of a little girl. Compared to big sister June, Caris is the kid that just keeps going -- exploring and grabbing everything she sees, and climbing onto every surface she is able to get onto, and is rough with her clothes!

Our first organic knit prints arrived about 1.5 years ago! It's been a long development process.

Honestly, for a long time, I debated between using an organic knit vs the regular knit, and ended up falling in love with the thicker (230gsm) organic knit - despite the higher cost, I feel like that she would likely be wearing it daily and I wanted something that was better for her skin (she grew up with eczema and has skin sensitivity to materials) and also highly durable. We got her sample dresses made and she took them for a test run -- basically wearing them so much that I would wash them every couple of days. And they washed beautifully - the color stayed vibrant and the fabric only got softer with each wash. 

The women's dresses were also inspired by ballerina-styled dresses we had done before, but I took the idea of two knit dresses I owned and what I loved about both, and basically created a new silhouette with it. I love the flare and drape of the women's skirt, how flattering it feels, as well as the bodice -- I doubled the layers on the bodice to see how it felt, and immediately liked that over the single layer sample, which I felt was too thin and showed the undergarment more easily. And of course, mamas always need pockets! 

I hope that when you look at our PLAY collection, that you see more than just dresses and pieces of clothing - I hope you feel the playfulness and whimsy of it all and see how it inspires a sense of play and imagination in our children and within ourselves.

Mamas, here's to learning how to truly play!


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