If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself—or you can get Varenia Jensen to do it for you.
Jensen, 31, has run Whole Grain Baby out of her Costa Mesa home for two years. A refuge for those seeking anything but the bland, uniform, mainstream and Gap Kids, Whole Grain Baby offers handmade children’s clothing with fun, contemporary, bold prints. A completely self-taught seamstress and mother of four (ages 6, 4, 2 and 10 months!), Jensen had always been interested in fashion and styling, but it wasn’t until after she had her two oldest kids that she decided to start sewing her own clothing.
“I remember being so frustrated with hunting for fun, modern clothes. Finding something unique and stylish for a little boy at that time was like Mission: Impossible,” she says. “But I was also very surprised to find that even though there have always been many more clothing choices for little girls than little boys, I felt like I kept seeing the same thing over and over again. And I was suffering from pastel overload! Where was the color? The whimsical prints?”
After Jensen started sewing clothing for her own children, her business grew through word-of-mouth. Suggestions to open up an Etsy online storefront followed soon after, and WholeGrainBaby.etsy.com debuted in February 2008.
Whole Grain Baby’s distinctive use of juxtaposing bright prints is really what gets the clothing noticed—and it’s no wonder that Jensen’s inspirations include midcentury-modern design, 1960s and ’70s vintage clothing, Orla Kiely, and Lilly Pulitzer. Prints that seem like they just wouldn’t go together actually do on Jensen’s kid-sized shift dresses and swing coats. A repeated-white-duck-on-orange-background print shares the same space with yellow-green cap sleeves on the Duck, Duck, Goose dress ($30). On another dress, garden-gnome-print sleeves complement a red floral pattern ($30). On the (reversible and seamless!) swing coat ($49.50), an aqua graphic floral print is complemented by lime-green and brown lining. It works. And it’s unbearably adorable.
“I’m inspired by children’s art and children’s play,” Jensen says of her color and print usage. “Some of my color or pattern combos have come directly from my 4-year-old’s sketchbook or from the way she’ll put a dress-up outfit together. She has an insanely amazing eye and will tell me, ‘See, Mama, I told you this would work.’ And it always does.”
Though Jensen makes it a point to keep her clothing as reasonably priced as possible, an almost-instant request from other crafters for sewing patterns emerged, which are also readily available on Whole Grain Baby’s Etsy store for $9 to $12.
Oh, and also? Another thing you notice right away on the Whole Grain Baby Etsy storefront, other than the beautiful clothing? The totally beautiful kids modeling them.
“My kids inspire a lot of what I do, and I do tend to use them as models for my work,” Jensen explains. “They’re easily accessible, and they work for lollipops. What more can you ask for?”