By Mary Wadland
New to the Northern Virginia area, Darling Betty has exploded into the children’s clothing scene to serve customers with a refreshing array of 1950s vintage reproductions for little girls, all at competitive price points. Owner Kelly Emerton recently launched an online store at www.DarlingBetty.com. The site not only highlights Darling Betty’s summer collection, but also provides fashion-minded parents the opportunity to share pictures of their “little darlings.” Emerton regularly posts styling tips and her retro inspiration in weekly features like “Mommy et Moi Monday” and “Fabulous Frocks Friday.”
“These are the kinds of dresses my mother and my aunt wore when they were growing up,” Emerton says. “I love the look. I’ve designed the garments to be worn with petticoats, to give the circle skirts their trademark fullness.”
At a trunk show hosted by Del Ray’s Studio Body Logic on recently, customer Jennifer Courtien agreed. “I just love this style of dresses for my girls. You can’t find these anywhere, and if you do find something similar, the prices are at least double.”
Emerton says her goal is to provide quality clothing that can be passed down to little sisters and daughters, but that remains affordable. Her key to this model is close oversight of fabric purchases and sewing, even as competitors outsource some production overseas. A proud military spouse, Emerton is out to prove that companies can manufacture garments on U.S. soil and be profitable.
“The idea that domestic manufacturing costs are too high to be sustainable is simply not true,” she says, “It can be done and there are so many benefits in having your production facility here – namely, quick turnaround time, no shipping costs from an overseas facility and no import taxes or hold ups in customs. I can be on my production floor in less than 30 minutes.”
Emerton is also a member of the Del Ray Business Association and believes that the collaborative efforts of small businesses tie a community together. The trunk show this weekend also featured Katie Lewis Photography, which took studio portraits of Darling Betty’s young customers.
“The girls just loved trying on dress after dress – and then they’d run into Katie’s studio to give her a twirl in front of the camera!” Emerton exclaimed, glad that the two small companies could draw in each other’s customers. Lewis provided photography for the Darling Betty website, as well.
Darling Betty is working on developing a made-to-order business model where customers select a desired style, fabric and size and the garment will be made to those specifications in 2-4 weeks.
Darling Betty proudly supports American manufacturing. All garments are cut and sewn here in Northern Virginia from domestically sourced fabrics.
Local Del Ray youngster models one of the Darling Betty creations. Price: $45-$55.
Photo by Katie Lewis Photography