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Elkridge cape-making business takes off worldwide

Callie Lippert’s third birthday party almost ended with a Cinderella-versus-superhero smackdown.

When Marloe Lippert of Elkridge invited six of her daughter’s friends over for a Cinderella dress-up birthday party, she made sure she had plenty of crowns and jewels to go around. Since it was a co-ed party, she included several superhero capes made by her neighbor Holly Hagen.

“The girls loved all the princess stuff — until they saw the capes,” Lippert recalls. “They all started fighting over who was going to wear the capes, and I ended up having to put them away. If I’d have known they were going to be such a hit, I would have bagged the Cinderella theme and thrown a superhero party.”

Hagen wasn’t surprised. “Something magical happens when you put on a cape,” she says, and she should know. Since 2009, the Elkridge resident has been designing, sewing and selling capes for children and adults online and at craft shows as part of her business, Creative Capes. The business — with the slogan “Find the hero within”— has taken off over the past year, and Hagen often sells close to the entire 2,000-cape inventory she travels with.

The daughter of an artist, Hagen was always encouraged to be creative. Over the years, she tried her hand at stained glass and jewelry making, among other things. But it wasn’t until she sewed a cape for her nephew that she realized she might be onto something.

“I watched him put this cape on, and he became another person,” Hagen says. “He was striking poses and running around so confidently and looking for ways he could help people. You see someone’s self-esteem just go through the roof when they put on a cape.”

On a whim, Hagen created 100 capes, took them to a local craft show to gauge interest and watched them disappear. She slowly grew her business, and earlier this year, she quit her fulltime job to devote herself to Creative Capes. What was once a formal living room and dining room on the first floor of her home is now a custom-built studio, complete with Husqvarna Viking sewing machines, cutting tables and a mailing station where she packages her capes for customers as far away as New Zealand and France.

Hagen’s family members pitch in whenever they can. Her husband, Thom, drives the truck to and from the craft shows and staffs her booth at the shows, while teenagers Erika and Chris snip neck holes and help with social media and online orders.

Creative Capes are made of dress-quality satin and come in three sizes and a host of colors and patterns. They sell for $30 to $40, depending on the size, or $60 for a set that includes a cape and matching eye mask, belt and wrist cuffs. You can order them at creativecapes.com.

“What I love about these capes is what it teaches kids that you don’t have to be a specific superhero,” Hagen says. “You are special and wonderful and unique, just the way you are.”

That’s what attracted Anne Kerns of Silver Spring, who ordered a purple cape set earlier this year for her niece Violet’s fifth birthday.

“I like how a cape empowers creative play,” she said. “And I really liked Holly’s message of ‘Find the hero within.’ I wanted my niece to hear that she can be her own superhero. She doesn’t have to be a princess waiting around for someone to rescue her.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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