Friday, June 29, 2007

Fashion Evolution

Clothes, fashion, the evolution of fashion, who wears what and why - these are chief among the topics that occupy my conscious and subconscious thoughts. Lately I've been preoccupied with how much fashion has evolved in the last 100 years. In fact, I'd estimate that it's evolved about 180 degrees.

I remember years ago seeing - and being surprised by - a baby photo of the wonderful, urbane man who would one day become my father-in-law. He had been born in 1920. What surprised me so about the picture was that he was wearing a dress! I was probably 20 years old at that time and had no idea that boys had ever worn dresses for any occasion.

That's when I learned that boys did wear gowns - sometimes for baptism like in modern day. In fact Susie's kids all wore the same beautiful gown when they were baptized. But going back in history, boys routinely wore dresses past toddlerhood until they were "breeched" - that is, transitioned into breeches, or short pants. Apparently the thinking of the time was that dresses provided uninhibited movement. Hmmm. That doesn't explain why often boys' hair was grown long and adorned in ringlets.

Further, it seems that well into the 20th century pink was the color associated with boys and blue was associated with girls. According to The Child in Fashion:1750-1920, in 1918 The Ladies Home Journal wrote 'the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl." The book goes on to explain that "Pink, being most closely associated with bold, daring red, was considered more masculine, while blue (always an easier color to achieve in dyes) was softer and more subdued. Too, blue is the color associated with the Virgin Mary, and, in the Middle Ages, the color of true lovers and faithful servants." So, there you go: blue for the more subdued gender, the faithful servants. Wow!

By the time I was a young school girl, boys had long been wearing pants since infancy. But girls had not. In fact, my public elementary school had a dress code requiring girls to wear skirts or dresses. During the winter I, and other girls, wore leggings under our dresses to keep our legs warm against those freezing Illinois winter winds through which we'd walk to school (not quite "5 miles, uphill both ways" but long enough in cold winter weather.) In fact, one of my most embarrassing moments was when, having arrived in my classroom I was standing at the coat closet that ran nearly the entire length of the room and was almost akin to center stage. I pulled off my leggings and my panties came down with them. I was mortified and paralyzed by embarrassment. In retrospect, it's likely no one else noticed - even as I finally fumbled to remedy the situation - but at the time I couldn't imagine a more horrifying experience. I would never have believed that 40 years later people would purposefully wear pants so low slung as to show their underwear!

During my childhood days I did wear pants sometimes - for after school and weekend play. And I wore shorts during the summers. But, to this day I still prefer dresses and skirts over pants. Actually, I think those folks back in the old days were on to something. Skirts do provide more ease of movement, at least to a point.

Now, in 2007, the apparel company I've formed is launching with pants - for boys AND girls. For our first season, there's not a dress in sight. (Actually, I see a dress in the Spring/Summer offering. But that's a ways off.) That decision was based on the marketplace. Girls routinely wear jeans and trousers; they're just so practical. So, in 100 years' time fashion has moved those 180 degrees - from boys (and girls) wearing dresses to girls (and boys) wearing pants. It really makes me wonder whether we'll ever traverse that remaining 180 degrees to the point of boys or men in dresses again. Lately I've found myself silently coveting the beautiful, classic diamond stud or gold hoop earrings of some of the men I've seen out in public. And, recently I've seen several men wearing earrings on both ears. Coming full circle may happen some day after all.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

7 Nights of Sleep Until My Next Blog....

Hello everyone, I hope you are enjoying the summer so far. Last Thursday was my day to do anything I wanted, do you know what I did? I went shopping, grocery shopping that is! Yep, I did chores instead of playing!! I went to at least 4 different grocery stores, and Shopko for pull-ups. If you knew me personally you would not be surprised whatsoever with the choice I made. When I know something needs to be done, I don't rest until I take care of it. We needed groceries and it was sooooo much easier without the kids in tow! My friend Catherine seemed to do okay with everyone, and the kids had a blast. She took them yesterday also, they went to the park for a picnic, that's all I heard about all week-end. They started a countdown on Friday that seemed to last forever. They were keeping track of how many times they would go to bed before the picnic, how many times they would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner before the picnic. They even tried to estimate how many times they would swing before the picnic!!! Needless to say, they had a blast with her yesterday, added bonus, her hubby was there too. I bet you're wondering what I did, well, I went to the cemetery and planted flowers in front of the monument, the side that didn't have any. It looked lopsided and Pete from Everlasting Memorials told me he is sending people to look at his work, so it needed to look decent. By the time I was done and got home it was time to pick the kids up, so I didn't play yesterday either!! Next Tuesday is my next day, I have an eye doctor appointment, I think I need reading glasses. One of these times maybe I can get someone to meet me for lunch, or even a movie. If I schedule something then I have no excuse not to play, I think that's what I need to do.

As Sherry mentioned, I will not be at the conference the first week-end in August. That does not mean that I didn't want to be there, I would love the opportunity to meet some of you, but I really need to have a night of no worries! This past year has been a difficult one and it just got a little harder. I have remained strong for my kids, even when I didn't want to, I have had a huge responsibility on my shoulders, I need one night to feel free and not have a care in the world. I'm looking forward to spending the evening with old friends. My good friend that grew up around the corner from us is spending the night with me in the hotel. We had lost touch with each other and just recently she ran into my sister-in-law and gave her phone number to pass on to me. We talked for about 4 hours that first night, and we have had many conversations since. She has gone through terrible times with her ex-husband(he abandoned her and their two kids), and so we feel like we are in the same boat, we got there on different paths, but we are still in the same place. Does that make sense? It will still be a hard week-end for me considering where I was a year ago. I will make the best of it, I will stay strong, and I will definitely try my best to have a good time! With a room full of old friends, how could I not?

Helen started summer school yesterday, the bus is such a nightmare!!! He was late yesterday, and today his bus broke down, so of course he was late! I got a message from her summer school teacher that said she was such a nice little girl and she was cooperating and trying really hard. She then thanked me for sending her, which was very nice. I then wrote back and said, "I hope you still feel that way a month from now!!!" I then explained how Helen will be when she feels comfortable with them. She is all sugar and spice right now but as soon as she settles in with the new teachers, she will show her stubbornness, her silliness, and her need for the slide!!! This summer will be interesting from that aspect, I can't wait to see what the notes in the future will read!

Tomorrow I have a ton of cleaning to do, I worked on the garage today since my car was in the shop. It needed new back brakes, the front brakes had a malfunction (I had them done in Feb.), oil change, fuel filter change, and one of the belts was squeaking. Hopefully I won't have to do anything with the car for awhile, besides the oil change of course. This week-end is Greek Fest, I think we will go on Sunday, I'm hoping my sisters-in-law will come up and join us. Last year it was the week-end of Father's Day, Peter had his biopsy the prior Thursday, we had received the results that Saturday. He was feeling up to it so we went for dinner on Father's Day, the kids had a blast, little did we know, it would be his last.

I'm hanging in there.
Until next time-
Take care,

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Monday, June 25, 2007

The 35th National Down Syndrome Congress Convention

I am very excited. I will be attending - as an exhibitor - the 35th NDSC National Convention in Kansas City August 3rd through 5th. Susie won't be able to attend, since that's the weekend of her 25th High School Reunion. She really needs the pleasure of that experience. My daughter, Blythe, can't join me either; she'll be at band camp. Our niece Meghan, who's nearly 20 years old, may be joining me.

At any rate, I can't wait to meet those of you who will be there and other parents who aren't aware of us and your children. I hope we'll have sample jeans available, but that's not my goal in attending. My goal is to meet parents and talk about their children, their needs, their desires, their ideas. I also hope to get some measurement data.

I'm having a great time planning what the booth will look like, what materials we'll have to share with attendees, etc. Since we won't have product to sell, this will be a wonderful opportunity for me to just meet and listen and learn. So, I envision something more social than commercial. I would love to hear from you guys. Are you going to attend? Any suggestions? Have you attended past conventions? What do/did you enjoy most?

I'll mention the convention again, as the date draws nearer and I know what our booth assignment is. In the meantime, as always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I hope all of you dads out there had a Happy Father's day. Peter's monument was put in last week, just in time for Father's Day. It is the most amazing, beautiful monument I have ever seen. I had our picture etched into the stone, it looks just like us. Pete from Everlasting Memorials is just amazing, the workmanship is flawless. I feel much better with the monument in place, now everyone can see the wonderful man who is buried there (there was just a cross marking his grave before). It was a year ago we were at the Mayo Clinic for his biopsy. At this point last year we were meeting with the local doctor's who would eventually take care of him. It was 19 years ago we had our first date, a movie and dancing at the club where we first met, his 25th birthday.

My nephew, on Peter's side, had his graduation party this past Saturday, it was huge!! My sister-in-law is so good at doing party's, I think she should consider being a party planner. It was put together so nicely, everything just flowed. The decorations, the tables, everything was just so...amazing!! My in-laws are Greek, so picture My Big Fat Greek Wedding with the lamb on the spit and relatives everywhere. The only difference was, we were in the backyard!!! (Maria if you read this I mean it in a good way, you are... amazing!!!!!) We had a very nice time, I couldn't get the kids to leave, we got home at midnight.

Teddy, Robbie, and Katie started Bible Camp yesterday, they are enjoying it. Helen starts summer school on Monday, it's only for a couple of hours in the morning, but I think she needs it. It will keep her brain active and everything fresh in her mind for the summer. She really enjoys school, every morning she will ask me if she has school, even on the week-end. I'm having a tough time with her lately, she is having quite a few accidents in her pants. It was happening mostly when she was outside, so I figured she didn't want to come in the house to take care of business. Today she had a couple while inside, I just can't figure it out, maybe it has to do with my mom's death. Helen would go into my room where my mom was staying and sit on the bed and sing her songs. Sometimes she would just go in there, sit on the bed and be silly. Either way, she went in to visit Grandma and now she is gone. I don't know, maybe that's what it is.

My good friend has offered to take all of the kids one day a week so I can have a day for myself. The first day is Thursday, I hope she will survive!!! That is a lot to take on when you are not used to it, that is definitely a true friend. I haven't decided on what to do, I need to run errands but I don't want to waste my day on chores. I am hoping to maybe catch a movie, I will just have to wait and see how things go. I will let you know.

Still hard days.
Until next time-
Take Care,

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Friday, June 15, 2007

A Week of Progress

At the risk of sounding maudlin, I will share with you my perspective on how to cope with my Mom's death. Rather than curl up into a ball, which is my first instinct, I have chosen to find strength in this situation. I am determined to make this business the success that my Mom knew it would become. She was so happy at the notion of her two daughters working together on this labor of love. She'd often ask how things were going, she had Susie read the blog entries to her, she loved the idea of the business and looked forward to when we'd be producing clothes that were perfect for Helen (her namesake), she loved the idea of giving a percentage of profits to support groups, she loved the business name, the artmark, everything having to do with this initiative. As Susie explained to me, when I felt that I couldn't go ahead with the Measurements Party just days after Mom died "Mom would not want to be the reason that you didn't go forward." She was absolutely on target with that observation.

So, Mom would have been proud of this week. Here are the top 4 highlights. (I need to hold back a little in case I need something to write about next week!)

- Patterns are complete! The pattern for the girl's jeans is finished. So is the pattern for the adorable dress we'll offer next Spring/Summer. It's based on a dress that I found in Paris this past Spring.

- It'll Fit'll has a boy fit model now! An adorable boy with a sweet and smart mom is our fit model for the boy's line, as of this week. We're moving ahead to get the boy's line underway and I'm certain we'll have that pattern in time to have boy's pants available in the fall, as we'd planned.

- I've begun to plug into Chicago area apparel industry resources! I met with the President of Chicago's Apparel Industry Board for a mentoring session on Wednesday. She gave me some great contacts and advice and was very encouraging about the progress we've made to date. I have contacted the potential sewing contractors that she recommended and Susie and I have tweaked our launch plan a bit to incorporate a couple of her suggestions. I had expected to use a sewing contractor in Texas, but it will be nice to work with a contractor close to home.

- I received the denim fabric sample bolts that I ordered! Hurray! Now I can do shrinkage testing, to assure that the pattern accounts for the proper amount shrinkage. And, better, we've got the fabric from which our sample jeans will be made. The samples will be made from the industrial pattern and a session with the fit model will confirm the pattern is ready to go into production (or to be tweaked a bit...)

I'm beginning to feel the thrill of momentum. On one hand I wish Mom were still around for this exciting It'll Fit'll ride, but on the other hand - I think she is.

I hope everyone has a nice, relaxing Father's Day weekend.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007


These past couple of weeks have been very difficult, and overwhelming. I thought I would be able to sit down and write about my mom, but I can't. I haven't been able to write in my journal that I started when Peter got sick since the day before he died. I have been told that writing would help with the grieving process. I think if I were to write it all down it would be that much more real, and I'm not ready for that. Every day I am amazed at the strength I get from my kids, they are the reason I get up each morning and face the new day. I can say this much, I was very blessed to have had such a wonderful woman for a mom, and a wonderful man for a husband. This past week-end was especially hard, it was Peter's birthday on Saturday. It was also a year ago we were in Houston at MD Anderson getting a second opinion. We had such a wonderful day before his appointment, I believe it was a gift given to me, and I cherish that memory with all my heart.

Helen's last day of school is tomorrow, the other kids were done last week. We went to see the awards given out at her school yesterday, she got one for most energetic, why does that not surprise me!!! She has really made great strides this year, in spite of all the bad things that happened to us. I have seen her mature this year, and I am thrilled that she is starting to listen and behave when we go on outings as a family.

The days have been so hard.
Until next time-
Take Care,

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Monday, June 11, 2007

The It'll Fit'll Artmark

There are some goofy shadows and shade gradations in these photos. Sorry! I think those are shadows of me, taking the pictures. In real life, these pieces of art are perfect - no strange color inconsistencies.

A short while ago I wrote about the name It'll Fit'll - what it means, why I think it works for this initiative, that sort of thing. What I didn't write was the process of coming to that name. It was a long and thoughtful process. I brainstormed and contemplated and considered and consulted with friends, family, advisors and tweaked and finally settled on It'll Fit'll - the name that seems perfect for this business, a reflection of the lightheartedness with which I'd like to live my life, and a rejection of the staid and predictable.

The It'll Fit'll artmark was a different story. It was more the result of knowing and feeling than thinking. I had the feel of what I wanted to convey with the company logo/identifier, but I couldn't create it myself; I'm no designer or artist. I wasn't sure I could communicate it to a designer, either. Then, I attended the One of a Kind Show in Chicago in December of 2006, wandered into the booth of fiber artist Susan M. Hinckley, and knew that I'd found the person who could develop the perfect It'll Fit'll artmark - if only she'd agree.

I love the whimsy and humor of Susan's pieces. Beyond that, the work is beautiful. Each piece is 100% handstitched and includes fascinating embellishments - beads, rick rack, tiny background stitches. Studying the stitches in her pieces is as interesting to me as studying the brushwork of a master painting. Further, the framing is ideal for these detailed pieces: double mattes of white surround the piece, which is mounted on a matte in the same white. The wood frames are handpainted by Susan. The frame of the It'll Fit'll artmark is painted in a checkerboard of alternating shades of blue. The other two frames are adorned with circles.

To provide a glimpse into the humor of Susan's work, I've posted photos of the two pieces that I bought. When I happened upon Susan's booth and studied each piece, I knew I had to have one of those fun pieces in my home - but which one? That was the challenge. I ended up buying "Be Merry 2" - the one that reads "drink" and presents the woman with the coffee cup head and cup handle arm. She was accompanied by a piece called "Be Merry 1" - that said "eat"- and featured a woman whose head held a colorful meal that I remember as salad. I enjoy coffee to the extent that I'm often teased about it, so the "drink" piece resonated with me. Plus, the colors of the piece blend perfectly with my yellow kitchen. So, I bought that one. I'd really have liked the complementary "eat" piece too, but I've got a business to fund and couldn't justify that purchase.

Nevertheless, I couldn't stop thinking about the piece titled "Unpenned". Susan had found, and bought, 3 old word flash cards at an antique shop. The words on them were "squeal", "zoom", and "glee". They inspired 3 new pieces, each piece incorporated one of the flash cards. My piece - "Unpenned" - incorporates the word "squeal" and pictures a woman joyously riding a winged flying pig through the air and exclaiming "wheeee". The "zoom" card was used in a piece of a dog driving a sports car. The "glee" card inspired a piece named "Happy Thoughts" of a cat with a bird on its head, singing a song.

I love the message of possibility in "Unpenned" and the little details - the 3-dimensional curly tail, the gossamer wing of the pig, the floppy pig's ear, the tiny little silver bead/buckle on the woman's shoe. Also, I've been known to use the term "when pigs fly" and also to squeal sounds like "wheeeeee" and "yeeee haaaaaaaa" when I'm flying my minivan - my kids aboard - down our empty rural roads. So, I had to have that piece too. Luckily it was still available after the One of a Kind Show. Now it's hanging in my living room and I smile every time I look up at it, as I'm doing now while I write this entry.

Anyway, back to the It'll Fit'll artmark....given the humor and warmth and uniqueness of Susan's work, and the fact that her medium is textiles, I knew immediately that she could create a piece of art that would serve as the visual representation of the company's identity. I recently read a great book called Extraordinary Knowing about the "power of awareness to transcend the limits of the linear mind." Gut feelings, hunches, intuition; I believe that they can be predictors and I think some people are just more attuned to them than others are. Just as the idea of this business came to me nearly fully formed, so did the understanding at the One of a Kind Show that Susan would create an ideal, timeless, piece of art that would represent the business perfectly. I explained the idea of the business to her and asked if she would create the piece. To my delight, she agreed. We discussed the piece in the most general terms and I described the one element that I wanted to be included in the design.

When I packed brown bag lunches for my children, I wrote notes on the napkin. I'd also draw a topical picture on the napkin....animals for a zoo field trip, an open book for the day of the Battle of the Books Tournament, a drawing of Lincoln or Washington around Presidents' Day, etc. On days when nothing notable was going on, I'd resort to my fall-back drawing: a ruffled heart with a piercing arrow. So, I asked Susan to include that heart in the artmark; it's a familiar expression of love for my children and so an ideal representation of this newest labor of love. I also explained to Susan that the piece would be the clothing hang tag, so it shouldn't be either overtly feminine or masculine since our customers will be both genders. I told her the company name, the tag line, and our font - Garamond. That was it. She took it from there and created the ideal artmark.

The It'll Fit'll artmark is a little piece of art, created from fabric and featuring a heart and telling our story in a few simple words. It is the centerpiece of our business card, our stationary, our clothing tag, our commercial web site. And that's perfect because it represents the heart that Susie and I are putting into this company and into the clothes that we'll produce, each of which will be like functional works of art to us and, hopefully to you as well.

Susan can be contacted via email at

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Monday, June 4, 2007


Susie and I and our brothers, Rick and John, are heartbroken. Our Mom - Helen Burke - died on Friday. She was the best possible mother and a wonderful mother-in-law too. She gave us each the great gifts of laughter, a sense of humor, a spirit of generosity, a deep appreciation for each other and the value and comfort of family. For me, though, the best gift was that I always knew that I was loved unconditionally. Too, my Mom was prouder of me than reason could justify. A child could not ask for more.

Wasn't she beautiful? She never thought so. She was 20-something in this picture.

I think I will write about Mom later this week. Right now, I can't think clearly enough to put my emotions and reflections in writing. Right now I'm still feeling my way through it more than I am thinking. I will say this, though. My Mom believed in me and Susie and our ability to make It'll Fit'll a success. When she was recuperating at Susie's house, she'd sit in a chair next to the computer and have Susie read the blog entries to her. Susie's daughter, Helen, who's the inspiration for this company, was named after Mom. Now we are inspired by 2 very, very special Helens to make this vision a success.

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Friday, June 1, 2007

It'll Fit'll...for very special people.

Ta daaaaaahh!

Yep, It'll Fit'll!

That's the name of the business. It's short for "It Will Fit Well." That's the premise and the promise of the company. The clothes will fit well. And the clothes are made specifically for very special people. Hence the tag line that says just that. So, there you are:

It'll Fit'll...for very special people.

The name is a little whimsical and it certainly isn't the generic descriptor that many people think is the best way to name a business, especially an internet-based retailer/"e-tailer" in a search-engine-centric world.

But, in my opinion, following that rule results in business names that are as dry and dull as dirt (which is not to insult people like my brother John, whose degree is in Plant and Soil Science!) But, really - a name like "Down Syndrome Clothes" - may explain the company's product clearly, but it's just not fun. It's perfect for a blog name - great from a Googling perspective - hence the name of this blog. But if you're going to live with a company for a very long time, and that's my hope with this venture, you ought to love the idea and the name of it. Well, I do love the idea of this business and I love the name too. And, as for the generic descriptors (like ""), I've registered those domain names and they'll be directed to the It'll Fit'll web site when that's up and running. Right now they are directed to this blog site.

There are upsides of a name like It'll Fit'll. First, I think it's fun and allows for a good bit of playfulness in future marketing. If we ever do products for babies (maybe baby gift baskets with books and educational toys, since the clothing fit issues don't arise until much later...) anyway, that line would be called "Little It'll Fit'll". Instead of an "It" girl, we'll have an "It'll" girl - who, right now is my niece Helen, the inspiration for the business and who's pictured in the top left corner of this blog. When I'm not particularly productive, I'll say "I've done diddly squat on It'll Fit'll!" It provides plenty of room for word play.

Another upside is that the meaning of It'll Fit'll will be an understanding between friends. It'll be just between us. You guys are able to remember what It'll Fit'll means. That's all I need. Does it really matter if analysts, or anyone else, like it or recall what it means? By the way - who knew what "Osh Kosh B'Gosh" meant in 1895?

I didn't have to worry about the domain name being owned already or the name being trademarked. So, the website (and .net) were mine for the taking! (For the buying cheaply anyway.) Note, there are no apostropes in the web address; they're not allowed. Oh well, a downside. But that doesn't seem to hinder the Lands' End folks. The trademark was also wide open.

OK, that's probably enough about the name and the origin. I could go on and on, and sometimes I do. Like to my 16-year-old daughter, whose take on the name was "I think it's weird, but whatever." I think any name I chose would likely elicit a comparable response from her. But, whatever! If you, like Blythe, don't like it or think it's weird maybe you can just do what I often ask my children to do and at which Blythe has apparently not yet become adept: "Just humor me please."

Beyond the name, I am also crazy about the artmark which is posted at the top of this entry. The artmark is a piece of art that is the visual representation of the company. It will be the front of the business card, the clothing label, the image on the web site pages, etc. It was created by fiber artist Susan M. Hinckley ( I was thrilled when she agreed to the commission and even more thrilled when I received the final product. On Monday I'll write about how I discovered Susan, and post photos of the two other pieces of hers that I own. I'll talk about the heart on the piece and why that was the one design element that I required.

Until then, toodle-oo from It'll Fit'll!

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