YPSILANTI, Michigan. For Marci Epherman, this past Valentine’s Day was the last straw. “My husband Todd brought this thing home from Victoria’s Secret that didn’t have enough fabric to make a pot holder, and he expects me to wear it and ‘deliver’ in the middle of February,” she says, rolling her eyes so hard she sprains her left brow.
So the mother of two young children, an industrial designer before she became a stay-at-home mom, turned the couple’s combination den/sewing room into a top secret “skunk works,” exiling her husband to his wood shop in the basement. Once a motion-sensitive security system was in place, she set to work designing what one department store clothing buyer has described as “the Iron Maiden” of women’s sleepwear: a line of nightgowns and pajamas marketed under the brand name “Flannel Fortress.”
“What was it Louis Sullivan said–‘Form follows function’?” Epherman says, recalling the influential Chicago architect. “I designed my line to give women what they want, not some horndog fashion designer who gets his ideas from the centerfolds of spank-the-monkey magazines.”
Each item sold under the Flannel Fortress brand comes with a one-year limited warranty against unwanted entry, and has cutting-edge features to make sure the company never has to pay out a claim. “All of our buttons are standard half-inch in diameter,” Epherman notes as she holds up her top-of-the-line “Virgin Queen” nightgown. “All of the buttonholes are a quarter-inch.”
Epherman says her husband has been a good sport about her new business venture, an attitude based in part on her promise that the current hiatus in the couple’s sex life will come to an end in the spring of 2020. “That doesn’t sound like such a long time, does it honey?” she says as she pats his knee. “Although spring comes very late in this part of the country.”