When you get started in anything new, you need different kinds of supports to see you through. For Petit Peony founding owner and designer Kate Bowen, one of her most important supporters from the beginning and still today is friend and Petit Peony customer, Becky. Kate and Becky met when they lived in the same building in Charlestown and their husbands ended up working together. Through numerous moves, job changes and children, the two couples have remained fast friends. Kate refers to Becky and her children Madeline, Ellie and Will as Petit Peony’s first “test-market.” They were there to provide support in the form of feedback from when Kate first learned to sew, to when she turned the attic of her Vermont home into a Petit Peony studio to create garments to sell on Etsy, to today where Petit Peony is in over 100 boutiques, sells online and has opened its first brick and mortar store in Duxbury.
Kim: Kate is inspired by your style. What is your personal style? Do you share that same style with your children?
Becky: Ha! She is so flattering; I have never thought of myself as someone who has style. I guess I have moved from a very preppy New England girl, to a bit less prep and bit more Anthropologie. I have learned as I have gotten older what works for me, which is not necessarily what is “in style” at the time. I have the same thinking when it comes to my kids. The clothes I buy them are more classic, less trendy pieces that work with their active lifestyles. I think it speaks to that idea when I can put my youngest in things I bought for my almost 8 year old and they still work. I do laugh when I realize that the girls and I have pretty similar wardrobes (minus Petit Peony)... You guys need to get more women’s tunics in stock!
Kim: Kate calls you a “one women focus group.” If Becky likes it, then she knows it’s good. What was it that sold you on Petit Peony the first time you laid eyes on the clothes, and what keeps you coming back?
Becky: I love the prints that Kate picks and the simplicity of the the patterns. Each piece stands on its own or can be paired with another piece from the
collection. There is nothing loud or harsh in any of her lines, so the girls always look pretty and like little girls. My oldest can sometimes put together outfits that need to be “adjusted” before heading off to school. She is reaching an age where I worry about length, and the amount of skin showing. When she is in a Petit Peony tunic and leggings, I never worry that she looks inappropriate. In an age where she is starting to notice what older kids are wearing, I love that she still is comfortable and confident in her Petit Peony clothing.
I think for Kate, she is able to look at my oldest and get feedback based on girls a few years older than the Petit Peony sisters. Things that girls in Kindergarten will select to wear will ultimately be different than second graders. A great thing about Kate is when I give her feedback based on what my girls think, or how something fits them, she does not take it personally, and instead sees it as a place she can improve Petit Peony. This season for instance, the Classic Tunic is in it’s third generation of fit and cut. Each season she has taken feedback from her customers and adjusted her patterns to make the dresses the best they can be.
Kim: Besides being a fashionista, you had a very successful business career. What drove your decision to become work part time and spend more time at home?
Becky: I was extremely fortunate right out of college to join a small company when it was in its first years. It became a family for me before we had one of our own. After we had our third child and my oldest was in Kindergarten, I started to feel like I was missing a lot at home and that I was not giving enough of myself to work or to home. I needed to make a change, and the right decision for us was for me to go part time and be home with the kids. It was the hardest but the best decision I have made for our family. I love to be able to be a bigger part of my kids schools, and enjoy their childhood with them. At the same time, I love that my kids still do see my working and balancing the two.
Kim: Do you have any advice for moms who are transitioning from working outside the home to being stay at home moms?
Becky: Gosh, I don’t know! I struggled with the change and still do. I don’t know what I expected, but being home with the kids full time really wore me out the first year. I think learning to ask for help and not being so hard on yourself are key. I think it’s easy to compare the way you mother to other people, but every family is so different, go easy on yourself. Be the best mom for your own kids. Advice that I can give, but do not follow, don’t book up the schedule (hard when you have multiple kids). When I find myself the most run ragged is when I’m running from one activity, to car line, to the next activity- nagging the kids to hurry up and keep moving. I wish I could slow it all down and enjoy it more.
Kim: Kate says you are incredibly talented. In her words you “rock at everything.” Will you share with us something you feel like you really don’t “rock at”? Where in life do you struggle?
Becky: Then my charades are working! Kate is sweet. I think similar to above I try really hard to be the best mom, friend, sister, daughter, cook (ha!), cleaner, gardener, you name it. Where I struggle is accepting that I can’t be. And then accepting that is ok.
Kim: Your mom passed away almost 8 years ago. You love to tell stories about her. How do you think she influenced you as a mom? What are the hardest parts of raising kids without her?
Becky: Talk about being a rockstar. My mom loved being a mom- simple as that really. I am one of four and we were very energetic, active kids who gave her a run for her money. She was the queen of homemade birthday cakes and halloween costumes, notes in your lunch box, songs and back scratches before bed, a smile that could brighten any bad mood, and her hugs - she was legendary for her hugs.
One of the hardest parts for me is knowing how amazing of a grandmother she would have been. She passed away when my oldest was 4 months old, and I do feel so happy that she at least got to be a grandmother for a short period. I talk about her everyday and make sure she is still a part of my kids lives. They talk to her when they forget to add something to their Christmas lists, or when they need a sunny afternoon for a playdate or snow for skiing. As someone who loved to garden and be outside, it is somewhat fitting she has taken over the role of “mother nature” for them.
~ I love the beauty and simplicity of how Becky’s mom truly impacted her. Becky gave advice about not being over-scheduled, but recognized that this is difficult to achieve. In a world that in so many ways demands us to be so busy, Becky unwittingly gives beautiful advice in her remembrance of her mother. Hugs, cakes, notes and scratches: the most meaningful moments for our children are the simplest ones that are made from nothing more than love.