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Amid a moment of evolving gender norms, Batsheva Hay — a former litigator — is looking to spin an empowered narrative from over-the-top modesty. In a single season, her namesake dress brand, Batsheva, has found a following, nearly selling out at Opening Ceremony.

Batsheva’s pastoral designs meld elements of Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ashley, and Eighties neo-Victoriana. Ruffled sleeves, collars and hems extend from mid-neck to knee. Hay’s dresses have found popularity among young downtown types, who pair the designs with old trainers and mussed-up hair.

For fall 2018, Hay has expanded the line to include an assortment of matching fabric handbags — each fashioned to look like small babushka pouches.

Hay, the wife of photographer Alexei Hay, embarked on the project as a post-partum hobby. “After quitting my legal job and having two kids I felt like I was wasting my intelligence and energy. I just had the desire to make some clothes I wanted to wear,” the native New Yorker explained.

“In motherhood I had a weird identity shift and body shift and I didn’t enjoy shopping anymore, I didn’t like anything except my old vintage clothes. They were in complete disrepair and I went to remake one of them with the simple idea to try to make one creative project for myself. But I got hooked,” Hay added.

Her daughter then became envious of the designs, and thus Hay began designing miniature-sized companions for children.

The success of Batsheva’s modesty could be taken as an example of shifting feminine ideals, particularly as the #MeToo movement heralds new favor for oversize silhouettes — eclipsing the form-fitting, more suggestive fashions that had been favored recently.

“Just becoming a mother and getting older, all of this stuff made me think how I didn’t want to be showing everything off. It’s tiring having to worry about things popping out. This you just slip on and it feels like a smock or robe — its comfortable but also adventurous and quirky,” she said.

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Laila, the blue rose in Cairo

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Hay admires Eighties and Nineties brands such as Laura Ashley, Betsey Johnson and Norma Kamali for their level of quality and design integrity, relative to their prices.

“They have a real point-of-view, it’s the kind of brand that’s not cheap but they are accessible. I could save up for them as a Queens girl.” She has found inspiration in this pricing structure, marking her own dresses between $300 and $500. The brand’s new handbags will sell for $175. They will be stocked on Matchesfashion.com beginning in May.

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