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This week's Chicagoan: Ruth Smith, seamstress for plus-size children

"If they had just another inch, my baby could wear this: 'Well, maybe mama can move the button.' It just wasn't enough. They was still a little bit snuggie."


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A first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford.

"I knew I wanted to sew part-time, but I never thought of it as a business until I had my plus-size child. Going from store to store, looking for clothes for him, seeing how sad he was, it just hurt my heart. All we needed was an inch more. If they had just another inch, my baby could wear this: 'Well, maybe Mama can move the button.' It just wasn't enough. They was still a little bit snuggie.

"Some stores do have plus sizes for kids, but if you not the first one at the rack, you still in trouble. I'm like, 'OK, maybe we can run there and be the first one,' and you get there and somebody has beaten you.

"And one day, when he came out of the dressing room, he said, 'Hey, Mom, it fits!' with the biggest smile on his face. I said, 'You know what, baby? Mommy is going to start sewing for plus-size kids. You just named the business.' You know how some kids say, 'No, mama, I don't want nothing that you made. I want something out the store?' He was pleased to wear the outfits I had made.

"In the neighborhood, people started saying, 'You know what, I know this lady that sews.' I made about five or six dresses and took 'em to my son's school, and all of 'em went right out the door. I was like, 'Wow, people appreciate what I do.' There was more and more parents coming to me, and I don't mind sewing one piece, but I'm not the type of person who sews the same piece over and over.

"I was like, 'This is where manufacturing comes in at.' I found this guy, Justin Holland, on the west side of Chicago, and he made a few items for me, and I put 'em online, and they sold right away. I'm like, 'OK, so this could be a legit business.' A young lady told me about Kickstarter, and I said, 'I'm going to do this.'

"I had did a nonscientific survey and asked some parents where are they struggling at. What would they like to see? And I also asked the children, 'What kind of style?' It doesn't have to be necessarily what the other kids was wearing. Something that was fancy, glitzy, colorful—not the dull, dark colors.

"We would like to offer something comfortable. Of course girls love leggings, so we're doing something a little special with leggings and just a nice decorative top as one of our first outfits. And for the boys, we're doing a jogging suit. I plan—hopefully and prayerfully—that we can open up a store sometime late next year.

"You know, when we look nice, we feel good about ourselves. Are we saying that these plus-size kids should not be clothed? Are we saying that they shouldn't look good in their clothes, that no one should focus on them? Of course we should. They feel horrible, they don't want to go to school, they feel other kids are looking at them. But when it's your child, that's when it makes the difference. If no one has walked this walk, they would never know."


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