Suzette Turner was talking on the phone with her daughter, Sarah Pate, when she had a life-changing idea.
It was the summer of 2005, and Pate was working at Disney World as parade audience control. She told her mother about how overheated the children in costumes looked.
Little did Pate know, her mother’s wheels were turning. Turner envisioned providing children with a breathable alternative for princess-themed play wear. A month later, their family business was born.
Today, Chameleon Girls is a Baton Rouge children’s clothing, finger puppets and handmade toy business. It’s named after the chameleon Pascal from the Disney movie Tangled. Pate and Turner specialize in play dresses inspired by Disney princesses, each product designed and hand-sewn by the designers from their homes. They have created dresses inspired by Star Wars, Frozen, Mulan and The Princess and the Frog. This month, they also plan to add stuffed animals to their shop.
Each clothing item is made of cotton, designed to be lightweight and comfortable. The handmade toys and finger puppets are produced with eco-friendly felt made from recycled water bottles. Lively details like eyes, mouths and hair patterns stitched from colored threads bring the toys to life.
Many of the felt toys are educational. A sliced pepperoni pizza toy teaches kids about numbers. A spinning wheel allows children to practice the days of the week. They can layer and reassemble a felt rainbow to learn colors.
With no background in sewing or toy making, Pate and Turner never imagined Chameleon Girls would be where it is now. Turner can’t spend a day without sewing. She and her bursting tote bag stuffed with materials, thread and tools are inseparable. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. For the 50-year-old designer, adventure awaits just on the other side of the sewing machine. etsy.com/shop/ChameleonGirls
“I get to play at work. I’m making kids and mamas happy. To see a little girl twirling in one of our dresses or a little boy playing with a finger puppet—those are the highlights of my day.”
Pate and Turner sell their clothes and toys on Etsy and pop up at the Mid City Makers Market every month. Customers can also shop their creations at Junior League of Baton Rouge’s Hollydays event Oct. 16.
This article was originally published in the October 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.