Without exception, every little girl’s first sense of style and fashion comes from playing dress-up in her mother’s closet. My imagination was allowed to roam even more freely than most because my mom, a haute couture buyer for a major department store, was always bringing home designer label mark-downs and remnants from the wedding/bridesmaid department for our latest neighborhood stage production.
Back to the notion of playing “dress up.” There’s something undeniably evocative in hearing the rustle of crisp crinoline or the swish of tulle that most kids these days just never experience. Ask a teenager what the term “gossamer” means and they may tell you it’s a big, hairy Looney Tunes character in Chuck Taylors!
You’ll think me a throw-back – an anachronism. Trust me, I’m as hooked on “ath-leisure” as the next gal (see p. X). But this is a LIFESTYLE magazine, so permit me to wonder, what does it say about our fractured, agoraphobic culture that the events for which kids are called to “dress up” top out at church and prom? When what kids think of as “fashion” is gleaned from TikTok and music videos?
There are all kinds of reasons why no famous kids clothing designers come to mind. Little girls are little for seemingly five minutes before they’ve outgrown their favorite sweater. So, it could be seen as an extravagance to invest in something beautifully designed and impeccably fabricated for children. Yet, for those who can afford it, and who will, hopefully patronize the “vintage” and “thrift” stores that are all the rage for young fashionistas, the moments a photographer or our mind's eye captures of kids wearing something truly extraordinary make memories that last a lifetime.
For those moments, there is Rachael Marcian, When we spoke, it was against the backdrop of her a wall of colorful fabric in her home-based studio. At her left was the sweetest little outfit designed for “Christmas in July.” The gingerbread colored bodice was adorned with shiny silver buttons and a flounced skirt designed to make its wearer feel they could twirl right into the Nutcracker as a gingerbread girl. It’s the kind of whimsey that has marked her creations since she began creating extraordinary children’s clothing in 2012.
She now calls her lines Everlasting, a nod perhaps to the fact that both memories and photos of childhood are exactly that. Her website (http://https://everlastingbyrachel.com/) says the brand “celebrates that fleeting and so special period of childhood when twirls are in abundance and hearts are set aflutter at each new bittersweet stage.” There’s both an “Everyday Special Occasion Collection” to make an even an ordinary day special, and an “Everlasting Couture Collection” that kicks things up an extra notch.
Because of the many hours and high-end fabrics that go into making the couture collection, they’re not inexpensive. Rachel has a small cadre of clients with children most of whom fall between age 12 months and a size six, but who can go up to size 12, and don’t bat an eye at the expense. Such parents have invested in many special gowns for their daughters. Fans actually hang out on a select number of Facebook pages that cater to this clientele, and are treated to previews of what she and other likeminded dressmakers are working on.
She did, for a time, look into the prospect of leveraging the popularity of “Rent the Runway” attire by creating a standing wardrobe for professional photographers who specialize in crafting exceptional children’s photography. Such a concept, while workable in a few test cases, also took time to administer and took time away from doing what she loves, which is imagining and then making her next creation.
Her first customers were her friends, so she didn’t charge what she knows she probably should have for her creations. Still, their enthusiasm was priceless, and encouraged Rachel to believe that, on the web, the kind of customer willing to pay from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for really exquisitely made creations might actually find her.
Once she had a few samples assembled on her Instagram page, it was easier to describe the kind of work about which she was passionate. Custom orders arrived and she had fun creating a dress for a girl about whom her parents could only say, “She likes Cookie Monster.” But she doesn't do what you might call custom creations. She needs leeway to exercise her imagination.
She creates, then posts a sales calendar in her own Facebook group. Mothers gather there and at a handful of other likeminded sites, then buy. They might say, “I’d love that in a size 2,” but often the dress is made with back elastic and gathers that make it adaptable for a small range of sizes from age 12 months to a size six.
She thinks of these Facebook groups like family. More than one customer are repeat buyers, and Rachel will often know what sizes to make her next dresses based on the anticipated growth of her small clients. “You can’t help but appreciate the enthusiasm from people who are familiar with your work,” she says. Depending on the intricacy of each, she can make as many as 40 dresses per month.
Still, the concept of doing all this in person does nag a bit. What if there were even quarterly parties for kids that called for more fashionable attire? Would parents bring their kids to see a trunk show in a lovely park or garden, followed, say, by someone like Dance King teaching kids how to dance?
Cotillions have gone the way of the Dodo thanks in part to their reputation as being reserved only for a community’s elite. But, again, what if wealth wasn’t a factor, and groups like Women Giving Back and special clothing drives could make a kind of one-time, ready-to-wear event an option for anyone? Sprinkle in some exceptional photographers, maybe make it a fundraiser.... How many more great memories could we make? Whatever evolves, the fanciful imagination and couture creations of Rachel Marcian have paved the way for something a little more elegant than every day. As she puts it, “You don’t wear something like this and not remember it.”
Where to “shop” Everlasting: Rachel's own Facebook Group (“where most of the action is”) is EverlastingbyRachel; her Facebook business page is EverlastingbyRachelAllenMarcian. She posts a weekly sales calendar on her own Facebook groups, but is active in the following groups: meatlessmondaybst, landocolors, theheirloomcottage, littlelizardkingshowcasegroup, Handmade Designers Group / Handmade Fashion for Kids (937907226265307), The Handmade Society, A Boutique Showcase (195347244426030) and Magnolia Lane Handmade Showcase (VFTShowcaseBST). Note that all photos are from Everlasting by Rachel Allen Marcian's Couture Collection.)