Nestled in an old forest, surrounded by raspberries and roaming livestock, is a place where a girl can feel like a princess.
For Elaine Craig, it’s her fairy tale dream come true as she brings to life a passion she’s been inhibiting for decades.
After many years of working in retail and making clothes, Craig opened up her own wedding and formal wear boutique this past March named Foxy Lady Dress Shop. In a revamped trailer beside her log house in Kleanza, she’s created a comfortable space to help women look their best on their special day.
“When the girls leave, they’re so excited, so happy and that’s what this is about,” says Craig. “They come out, with the dresses on and it’s just fantastic. They feel like a princess and they are a princess, you can see that everything just lights them up right then and you know it’s the one when they start doing the happy dance.”
Naming the formal dress shop after a family of foxes that lived on their property, Craig says it all started coming together after L J Dresses in Terrace closed down. She had been working there for many years and loved putting looks together but when those days ended, she knew this was something she had to keep going in the community.
“I said to my husband, this is really needed here and it’s just not really noted how much it’s needed. To have a place where the girls can come and not feel threatened, to not be pushed into anything and they can be themselves,” she says. “I want to treat people with the respect that they need.”
She says her family is made of creative people so as a child she naturally began to draw up designs and cut up clothing. Both her mother and grandmother had gone to school for seamstressing and always had textile projects on the go at home. She was eager to learn every stitch and sowing method.
Despite having nine brothers, she realized how empowering clothing can be for women and quickly became the family’s closet helper. Dazzled by colours and shapes, she would help her female cousins style their outfits and lived off the joy that came from them that moment they looked at the mirror in awe.
Having lived throughout B.C. in her early years, she settled in Terrace 30 years ago as she says she fell in love with the landscape and the helpfulness of people. She wanted to be a part of the community and helped run the regional “Welcome Wagon” services where they prepared free care packages for different occasions, from those becoming new mothers to starting new businesses.
Through that, she saw how these significant milestones in people’s lives mattered and how important it was for them to celebrate it. By going out of their way to make those days memorable, Craig was taken aback with the number of people that never felt special in the Northwest, especially as the services weren’t always available to give them that extra oompf.
“That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing here because this is part of it, this is keeping the North healthy, this is the beginning of new lives,” she says. “I’ve always been community-minded.”
Working at L J Dresses and other similar retail jobs before, she noticed how flustered many women were coming into the store as they didn’t know where to start. She says choosing a dress for a big day is overwhelming, and customers were hesitant to make a decision with the limited dress shops they had in the Northwest. Even then, Craig says she would offer advice and go over their ideal styles, offering to make readjustments to make sure everything was a perfect fit.
When Craig finally opened Foxy Lady Dress Shops, she didn’t want to just sell dresses — she wanted women to have that memorable experience. She’ll book an afternoon with the bride-to-be and company to carefully go over every detail, along with their accessories and shoes. She takes their measurements and works with a dressmaker to create a custom-made dress, not stopping until they can leave stress-free, she says.
She also offers designer wedding dresses straight from the runway to offer more options. And yes, some of these dresses even come with pockets.
Although her business is not in the downtown core of Terrace, she says many people appreciate driving the distance to a calmer setting where they can make a sound decision without having anyone interrupt their time or the worry of getting a parking ticket. Amongst nature, she says people automatically relax as they enter her property, where they can also stroll through her gardens and even hold chickens for the first time.
“People just love it because it’s laid back, it’s easy-going, it’s calm,” she says. “It’s kind of a retreat almost in some ways. One lady once said to me, ‘I needed this’.”
Craig says the feeling of helping someone feel good never wears off and when somebody does the “happy dance” in her dress shop, she’s thrilled to have done her part. With less than a year into her business, she’s already had people coming in further than she’d imagine. Visitors from Haida Gwaii, Prince George and even Kamloops have made the trip to her dress shop.
Alongside the dress shop, Craig is thinking of creating an outdoor space on their 92-acres property for wedding parties to take pictures at, plus has started partnering with local businesses to make customized bouquets and other items.
She’s also seeing a curiosity in her craftsmanship and wants to eventually offer seamstress classes for anyone that’s willing to learn. She says she wants to pass on the craft so they too can feel that magic of creating something great.
“I always love teaching people things because you can’t put a price on knowledge like this,” Craig says. “These are essential skills that we are losing.”