How one woman turned her childhood abuse into a business.
“I share this hoping that it will encourage others to speak out, help and heal.” – Cynthia Jamin, CEO and Designer of TwirlyGirl
I didn’t set out to be a fashion designer. When I was young, my passion was dance and acting. I was lucky enough to have worked in both industries, including dancing in the Grammy awards and being cast as a recurring character on the sitcom Friends. I met my husband when I guest starred on Just Shoot Me, where he was working as a staff writer. Just a typical Hollywood romance… except for the fact that we’re still happily married.
Shortly after getting married, I got pregnant with our first daughter Roxy. A year and a half later, Lola came along. So I left show business, and became a stay-at-home mom. It was the most magical time of my life, and I’m so appreciative for those years.
When our girls started preschool, I found myself with enough time on my hands to enroll in a sewing class. This turned out to be a wonderful outlet for my creativity. For my first project, I felt compelled to make my daughters a special twirly dress. For some reason, I really wanted this dress to burst with childhood joy and innocence. It would be soon revealed to me why.
I didn’t have much of a childhood. From the ages of 7 to 13, I was abused. As my daughters approached the age of 7, it was impossible not to imagine myself when I was that age. They were so innocent and fragile… I must have been just like them. It hit me in a very real way how my own childhood was taken from me. I felt a profound sadness for all that I missed.
Along with this grieving came a realization. I decided that it wasn’t enough just to protect my girls from the evil in the world. I wanted them to retain the joy and innocence of childhood for as long as possible. As I sewed them their dresses, I decided that all their clothes should radiate the pure exuberance of being a child. It shouldn’t just say “childhood joy.” It should scream it! I never felt carefree enough to twirl around in a pretty dress. The abuse took that away. I felt ashamed, and ugly, and unworthy of feeling that much joy. So this dress wasn’t just a gift to my daughters. It was a gift to myself. It was for little Cindy who grew up way too fast.
My sewing teacher helped me create a unique design for a reversible twirly dress: one that had all the itchy seams tucked away from the body. The prints, colors, and softness of the fabrics were crucial. I spent hours exploring the fabric warehouses in the Los Angeles Fashion District. When it came time to sew, I bought a special Serger Overlock machine that used four threads instead of three, just to make the seams extra strong. Like their childhood, I wanted this dress to last forever. Everything about my creation cost more: the fabric, the stitching, the design… but so what? This was a special dress, and I wanted it to be perfect.
When my design was finished, my daughters absolutely loved it. They even wanted to sleep in it! Soon other moms were asking me to make dresses for their daughters. I was so honored. I sewed each one on my dining room table. Before I knew it, I had a thriving business on my hands. TwirlyGirl grew so big that I had to hire local sewers to keep up with demand. These were professionals who had worked for years sewing for major brands, but I was unhappy with the work they did. Believe it or not, there are lots of ways to sew a garment, and I found their technique to be a little quick and easy. Here I was, a newbie, telling them how to do it better. To be honest, I was almost too timid to correct them. But what can I say? I wanted these dresses sewn exactly the way I sewed them for my daughters. I wanted them to be perfect. Thankfully I found a team of sewers who care just as much about quality as I do. Whenever we add a new design to our collection, it’s made with the same love and attention to detail as the Original Reversible Twirly Dress.
Today, TwirlyGirl is worn by children all across the world. It was never my dream to run a giant business. My dream is the same as it was years ago: to create girls clothing that is truly special. Something that captures and celebrates a period of life which is all too short.
Cynthia Jamin, CEO and Designer of TwirlyGirl
Cynthia’s daughter, Roxy Jamin, also designed her own teen line and is a recent winner of the $10,000 Grand Prize in Design from the Young Arts Foundation. Way to go Roxy! You can check out her Teen Clothing Line Here.