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I have a beautiful granddaughter who was born with Down syndrome. She has enough challenges to face in her life and I want to make sure that finding appropriately fitting clothes will not be one of them.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December Turns Out to be a Great Month!

It’s almost Christmas and I must say that December has been an incredible month for Downs Designs.  I couldn’t be happier these days.  It seems like it’s been awhile since I have felt so good.  We’ve had so many setbacks this year, but I think we’re about to forge ahead now.  Reflecting back on 2011, I feel that it was a year of learning what NOT to do.

December began with a change in our office staff.  Jillian is my only designer again and it will probably remain that way for quite some time.  I want to say that I couldn’t be more proud of her either.  She has blossomed over these last two years and her work has been amazing.   She is truly the creator of our clothing line and I look forward to seeing everything she designs in the future.

Here’s where we stand so far:

Jillian finished designing the little boy and little girl basic jean patterns.  They are both at the factory now in production and I hope to have them in our shop by mid-January if all goes well.  My first order will be a small one, only 35 pairs of each size and there are seven sizes of each (at total of only 490 pairs).  I want to be sure that these are a good fit before I order any larger quantities.  (That’s one mistake I won’t make again.)

I made a major decision about the waistbands.  The waistbands have been our major problem all year.  There is no doubt that all our jeans (and all casual wear) will need to have an elastic waistband, but I want them to look fashionable as well.  I originally started out with the ribbed waistband in our first samples.  They fit well and looked good but I tried to have them designed in denim and it just doesn’t work.  There is too much gathering when you get into the larger sizes for older children and adults and they are not as comfortable.  But when we use a soft, ribbed material instead of the denim, they look and feel SO MUCH better.  This is a picture of how the waistband looks, but the finished product will have belt loops and rivets with a Downs Designs button for looks only.  For the youth boy, teen boy and men pants we will offer two styles; one as pictured and described and the other with a partial elastic waistband which will have a working zipper and button fastener.  

Our clothes are being designed for people with Down syndrome, so we have to make them special.   I have spoken with hundreds of mothers and even teachers who work with children with special needs, and they almost all have requested an elastic waistband.   It’s been a struggle but I’m now at peace with my decision.   Our ribbed waistbands will be standard on all our casual wear.  In this picture you see a sample pair of our "dip downs".  Remember we make our samples in muslin, not denim.

Jillian also finished designing the jeans patterns for our youth and teen sizes and she is now redesigning the men’s jeans pattern.  She made all the muslin samples for both boys and girls in the youth and teen sizes and last week I sent them all off to the factory to have them made into denim prototypes.  We should have them by the end of this year. 

Then the factory will be closed for about three weeks and we have to be patient.  While they are shut down, we will be testing the youth and teen denim samples on our models and hope for a good fit.  Once the factory is back to work, then we can begin again.  I’m hoping that our first denim samples will be good, but there is a big probability that we will need to make a few changes.  If we do, that will mean more samples would have to be made which would take about 3 weeks. So realistically, we probably won’t have the youth and teen sizes until late spring, but I can’t say for sure at this point.  I have learned that things take time and I want to get them right.

Another wonderful thing happened this month.  CNN posted a story on their website about Downs Designs.  I am writing another chapter about that story but the response was amazing.  So I can say with joy in my heart that the year 2011 has ended on a very positive note and I look forward to 2012.  I feel that we are making big strides now and I am confident that there are many more good things to come.


  1. Hi! I am so excited to find you! My daughter, Kelsi is almost 22 and very fashion conscious. She doesn't care to wear long sleeves (even in winter)...she gets hot she says, lol. Not only does she want to look good, it has got to be comfortable no matter how good it looks. She doesn't care for jeans with an elastic waist and as you already know, if it doesn't have elastic - it just won't work. I found some amazing jeans several years ago (have since been discontinued) that she loves. The waistband is like a normal jean but either side is elasticized instead of in the back. I am not sure if you might have anything similar but very interested if you do. Thank you for all your efforts in trying to help us clothe our sweet loved ones. It is much appreciated.

  2. I am very excited for the youth boys jeans to come out! Finding, fitting, and altering jeans for my son is insane. If the waist fits everything else is outragiously huge. We can't fit the legs/length because their is nothing to let out in the waist so we have been forced to fit the waist and cut everything to hieght. It looks terrible all baggy in the hips and knee taper all wrong. Finally, I will be able to get some jeans that might fit. Don't even get me going on sleeves. He like long sleeves but his short little arms are a challenge. They all end up rolled up, cut off, or looking like a straight jacket that came untied.
    If you are ever in need of a 12 year old male tester...who will undoubtibly put the durability to the test :) let me know.

  3. To answer anonymous, after working with hundreds and hundreds of people with Down syndrome, we must try to serve the greatest needs. We spent the last year trying to figure out how to make the waistband look right and feel right. For most, we MUST make elastic waistbands as it is my number one request, but making it look good has been the biggest problem. Our final solution has been to use a soft, ribbing material. Your daughter may change her mind when she sees them. The ladies' jeans we have available now have both a zipper and a hook. We thought the hook would be easier, but have I come to the conclusion it is not. So when we remake the ladies jeans, we will change them to our newly designed waistbands. Why don't you call me and I can talk further with you about this. My phone number is on the website and I would love to discuss this with you. Karen Bowersox, owner.

  4. To respond to your comments, Peter, thank you for offering your son to be our "tester". Our youth sizes should be ready in the next 3 or 4 months. I will keep my fingers crossed that we have met all his needs. I know for sure they will be durable enough to survive him and I know the length will be perfect because we will hem every pair to order. Our waistbands will be soft and stretchy and you will order specifically by his measurements. So let's hope we meet all his needs. I'll be anxious to see the results of all our hard work when they are finally available. "I think all our customers will be great testers!" lol