Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oh daddy.

Last Friday, before the traveling circus took off for this trip across the US, I spoke to my father on the phone. I asked him how he was doing and he said: “I am vaiting…”
“What are you waiting for papa?”
“The old man…”
“What old man, papa?”
“The von with the beard.”
“Old man time?”
“Daddy, nobody wants to hear you speak like that.”
“But Feffa, I em so tired.”
“I know you are daddy.”
“It’s so tiring…”
“I know it is daddy. But when you get here, we will have a nice place for you to go where you can relax, and eat well, and I can visit you very often, and no more chaos. So all you have to do is hang with it until you get to Oregon, okay?”
“I love you daddy.”
“I love you Feffa.”

They arrived on Monday. My dad was one hair’s breadth away from death. The trip had taken everything out of him, and my mother’s nurturing care had left him malnourished, dehydrated and completely unresponsive. We got to the care facility and I decided to call an ambulance. He was rushed to the hospital where they said he was not going to live for much longer. His DNR stated specifically to let him pass without further action; he wants to be allowed to die. Of course, in mother’s true caring fashion, she told them to try to resuscitate him. Luckily, lovely Oregon doctors are very much concerned about the ethics of going against someone’s wishes… and they met my mother’s resolve like a stone wall.

My father was admitted and remains in a strange limbo. His organs are failing, his BP is incredibly low, but he is somehow managing to cling on in this really deep, restful snoring sleep. My theory is that having endured that exhausting trip with those crazy people for seven days, he wants to sleep it off first before he embarks on his final voyage. He wants to be rested. I’ve been beside him as much as humanly possibly, despite my mother’s constant and unreasonable claims on my time and attention, and have managed to be there to talk to him as he lies there in a wasting silence, taking strong breaths, never opening his eyes or responding, even to pain. I’ve talked to him about everything I wanted to say. I called my sisters and let them say what they wanted to say, and even my distant, detached eldest brother had something to share. I set up a radio so he can listen to All Classical 89.9—classical music was profoundly important to him; and it was he who instilled a love for it in me. He lies there, slowly fading. It’s heart wrenching, and oddly comforting at the same time. They combed his hair, and shaved his face; the tireless neat-freak that he is would only appreciate how nice he looks. I sang him “You are my sunshine” at my sister’s request—and have told him how much he is loved. And now, we wait.

He never should have traveled. My mother’s selfish lies have brought his already fragile existence to an end. She, ever the black hole of negativity, still thinks she deserves more attention than he does. Today, my filter crumbled and I lost all reserve with her. All these months, the culminated ire and resentment poured out in a volume and harshness I’ve never ever reached before. Her attempts to argue, undermine, mock and dismiss were met with unchecked fury. Whether it had any progressive effect, I am dubious. But it has cowed her… tucked her tail. She knows that to rely upon me, she has to be civil and rational, or I am finished with her forever.

When my brother is in care… and my father safely lifted away from the hell of a life she put him through, I am done. My mother will be free to wreck her life as she pleases. I am through. She all but killed my father with years of neglect and cruelty, and then wants to take away even his final wishes and the chance for his daughters to offer him the love and respect he deserves at this time.

I’ve been off work trying to get her life in order because all the planning for the move that we did was somehow undermined and ruined by her complete lack of responsibility. So I am forced to spend time I should be at my father’s side helping her get settled in her rental; setting her up for phone, TV and getting her groceries and what she needs until the movers finally arrive—all the while enduring the endless complaints and abusive, meanness. It occurred to me that part of this might be because she is ‘detoxing’ from not having any alcohol for a week. Today, my husband took her to see my father, and she made him stop so she could buy wine. I am so disgusted by her. My husband has been incredible—putting up with her BS and helping with everything; at my side this whole time, holding me when sometimes, I feel like I can stand no more; sleeping in a hard reclining chair in the hospital room while I try to doze on a cot next to my father’s bed.

This week has been pure hell. All I can hope for is that daddy can let go and find his peace—and that mom will finally give me peace after I am able to find a situation for John.

You asked for an update, Christine. You got it. ::sardonic smirk::

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Driving Drama

So, my mother is on her way to Oregon from New Hampshire. At least, somewhat on her way. They rented an RV, and are driving with my ailing father and traumatized brother, a family friend and a nurse’s assistant.

They left at 8PM on Monday.

This morning, at 10AM, they were near Erie, still in upstate New York.
They are now in Erie, Pennsylvania.
My mother insisted on stopping to rest at a hotel this afternoon.

The nurse phoned my sister today to insist that she is paid and additional $1,000 for “being forced to deal with this delusional crazy woman.” This woman is an Iraq war veteran, and my mother has pushed her over the edge.

My sister was screaming for Helen and me to help, because she’d bought $900 non-refundable tickets for the nurse and the family friend to go home. They are for the 26th. ::glances at the map, and then the calendar:: Mmhmm… that’s gonna happen. <--note the sarcasm. I’m not quite sure how she expects me to help with that situation. I am permanent bad-ranger. If I said “hurry up, mom,” my mother would deliberately slow the process more just to spite me. My poor sister Anna is upset because my mother hung up on her for the first time. My mother habitually hangs up on me and on Helen, almost EVERY time we speak. The language and name-calling from Anna’s mouth would make a sailor blush.


Just got off the phone with my sister Helen. I haven’t laughed until I wheezed and tears rolled down my face in a very long time. My sides hurt.


[Office Special: I thought I'd draw beavers today. Don't know why.]

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Moaning and Groaning

Damn. It’s Monday. I have a busy week ahead of me and as usual, I cannot focus. All I can think about are the ‘what ifs’. I’m SO tired. I am thinking about the idea that my mother will be moving to Oregon. I’m contemplating ways to move back to New England, or the Yukon, or the International Space Station, or perhaps find us a droopy old ivy-choked stone cottage somewhere back in Europe, where I can ride my horse for miles along canals, and write my pulp Fantasy by a window while watching my dogs try to figure out a hedgehog. If only.

These past months since Daddy got sick have been insurmountably difficult and I can safely say that if it weren’t for my horse, and my husband, and a couple of good friends, I probably would have cracked. I’ve found the people who said they will step in to help to be too embroiled in their own lives and pursuits to do as they promised; I find my interest in anything pleasurable to me to be non-existent right now—except a certain hooven beast I post a lot about.

I’ve sort of let the ORS take the back seat for survival purposes. I can’t dedicate the time and energy needed to hunt down venues, negotiate for reasonable prices and start pulling people together. Nobody else really has the time or resources to do it in my stead, so it’s just resting entirely on one of the chapters to keep the ball rolling for now. I haven’t sewn anything to speak of since my birthday… and I’m finding the motivation to be difficult to tap into—especially with my husband home and his dislike of the sewing mess.

He has yet to find work. Oregon’s job situation was bad before the recession, now it’s bloody hopeless. We laughed the other day because he was browsing Craigslist, and found a job for $10 per hour requiring a bloody Master’s Degree. LOL! They probably will find some poor sap to take it too, desperate people, taking jobs they are overqualified and underpaid for… because there’s simply nothing else. Truly pathetic.

I feel irrevocably trapped—trapped by health benefits and a 401K, by a decent salary and incentives. I know it’s selfish to feel this way; when other people would kick themselves for what I have; but it is a family curse. We are never content if we are not challenged, if we are not engaged; if the situation is rote. I am depressed. Heavily. Debbie Downer at her best. I spend a lot of time just fighting back the sense of hopelessness and bouts of ‘is-this-all-there-is-itis’. I have little things that keep me from sinking deeply… but this economic situation is pressing heavily on me, my husband and my family. My sister Helen struggles still to find work, TWO YEARS, she’s been fighting… and she’s a brilliant, qualified person with tremendous skills. She’s been picked up by possibilities and then thrown down because there’s always someone more qualified.

The solution is going into business for ourselves. But we require that little windfall—that little ‘good thing’ that will finally happen. I can’t think it won’t because if I do, I become so despondent I could cry. I can only hope that the good thing will happen—that what’s really meant to be will be, and I will wake up one morning feeling okay with what faces me, and not oppressed by it. I can only know how much lighter my heart would be if I liked what I did every day.

My blog is a blend of the intensely personal and the inexplicably silly. It is me. I apologize for my down attitude lately; it will perk up, I promise. I will get a handle on my Monday-blues and be office-specialing again sooner or later.

Have a decent week, for what it’s worth. It’s sort of hard to see decentness when it’s Monday. Maybe tomorrow things will look brighter—but the idea of Satan (aka Mom) being a few miles closer to me doesn’t make me feel any better. Argh.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sometimes I just can't believe...

I got THIS for FREE!!!!!!

Really? C'mon? Seriously!!

Can you believe it?

How lucky can someone be?

Tag got his feeties trimmed today, and his shoes done. Mark works very hard for his money, because Tag has never been shod before and is kind of a jerk about it. Mark Dietrich (of Foothills Farrier Services) teaches at the Oregon Farrier School and is pretty damned excellent at what he does. He managed to squeeze in an 'emergency trim' for a teeny little three-year-old mare that the barn owner rescued. Her poor feet were splayed out and cracked horribly. Mark quickly trimmed and rasped her down into normalcy and went back to dealing with Mr. Difficult. :) Mark had a student working with him (the fellow holding Tag's lead rope)--he was apprenticing and learning. Sweet kid!

But with fine newly trimmed feet, Tag happily went back into the carrot-mugging routine. What a nice Saturday. He's so beautiful.

Here's some advertising for my excellent Farrier: Mark Dietrich of Foothills Farrier Service. Cell: (503) 991-9810. Standard fees (for teeny American horses: Trims $35, 1/2 Shoe $65, Full Shoes $85) For drafts, it's a few more bucks. Ask me if you want pricing--I can find out what standard pricing is (I have Mark do hot-sets and other such things, so I have my own pricing). Not a lot of farriers will do draft horses, and a lot of them are VERY expensive. Mark isn't. And he does a TREMENDOUS job. And to top it off, he's adorable, and loves to read so he's very interesting to talk to. ;) All the girls at the stable think he's dreamy. ::teehee::

Friday, April 16, 2010

Personal Battles on a Happy Friday.

I’ve made it no secret how I feel about my mother. I have a lot of latent and not-so-latent anger with her. She is a terrible mother, and always has been. And I think it’s momentous for me now to actually acknowledge this. I often spent a lot of time giving her the benefit of the doubt; and apologizing for her, and making excuses for her. I grew up somewhere along the way; and had to come to the hard realization that yes, she’s family, and yes, she’s my mother, but connection by genetics and blood are sometimes not enough of a reason to continue fighting for a relationship with someone who is damaging and toxic.

It doesn’t mean I don’t have a relationship at all; but at some point, the dam broke, the ability to internalize all my resentment and my words just went away—and I just started calling it as it was. And it was then that my mother stopped being intimidating to me, and actually she became wary of me.

It started after I moved to Oregon, after she pretty much ruined my wedding. It was a few of years ago when she had come to look at houses. She was staying with my aunt. Now just so you get a picture; my mother is a narcissist beyond measure. She has no sense of consideration or kindness unless it directly benefits her. She is always to the rescue, but mostly so she can be the amazing rescuer. She’s mean, and manipulative; and for some reason, she can never just love all of us, there always has to be a ‘Bad Ranger’ as well have dubbed it; one kid who just isn’t quite up to muster upon whom the blame for just about everything falls. She taught us everything we know, you see, and any successes we achieved are thanks to her. She created independent and intelligent daughters, yet how dare we go off and live our lives?… And whenever anything comes up, or anything happens; it is always about her. "You broke your leg? How could you do this to me?"

My father got very ill back in August—and has been slipping since. Just so you have an idea of the toxic, self-absorbed person she is, she has professed that my father got pneumonia, Parkinson’s and all his other afflictions simply to spite her. Seriously—she believes this. “He is doing it because he likes the attention… that a**hole is doing it on purpose because he wants to punish me and make me change his sh*tty diapers!” she exclaims to me on the phone in a voice so full of vitriol and bitterness, I am ashamed she is my mother. My own thoughts hearing this is, “who is this person? Who can be so horrible as to have ZERO empathy for someone who dying? Who can’t even get over herself long enough to at least allow my father to have some decency in his final days?” But growing up in their marriage, I know how unimportant my father was to her and how little regard she had for him at all. Mind you, daddy was no angel, but seeing how starkly inconsiderate and self-centered my mother is, through the eyes of an adult and a (occasionally) rational thinker, I know now how my father must have been made crazy by her vapid choices and her utter lack of consideration for anyone other than herself. I understand his anger, because I feel it too now. Of course, I choose not to resolve it in the way he did… I simply verbalize the truth. And so in part, I've finally earned the distinction of

My mother’s behaviour during that visit was reprehensible. And this was the final time I lost it, and I totally lost it. Before then, I’d had confrontations with her before where I actually managed to come out of it feeling somewhat victorious and leaving her slack-jawed and unable to utter her oh-so-important last word, but those were few and far between. This time, I laid it out with the truth most painful. I did it in a moving car where she couldn’t storm out and slam doors and leave when things got too hard, or she couldn’t drop an accusation and then run away before you could answer it. I’d trumped her attack and retreat tactic that is so overused and has allowed her to always escape accountability for her words. I answered her accusations with an honesty that tore into the very core of her selfishness. And since that time, things have never been the same. My mother is distant to me. Now, when we speak, doesn’t say anything to me directly that is accusing any more; instead she pours out her bitterness about me and this tirade I went on to my sisters, which trickles back to me eventually, over which we all have a good laugh. If she has a bone to pick, she talks about it as if she’s complaining about my other sisters, but she stays away from subjects that might make me reply with unsympathetic, rational truth. My mother has become… well… afraid of me. Afraid of the truthful replies she will get from sensitive subjects.

This is both good and bad. Good because I am less concerned about how she thinks of me finally, after all these years--and I'm a lot healthier about speaking my mind and standing up for myself. But as a result, she now allows her pride to stand between us getting anything accomplished—she is in this mode where she’d rather flounder than accept anything that I’ve done for her. But I kind of don’t care anymore, except that there are two souls under her ‘care’ <-- (and I use this word VERY loosely, the woman is no nurturer) that I need to be concerned about. Now that she’s coming to Oregon (unless she once again balks at being expected to do anything again), I realize that I have just brought this destructive force closer to home. Hopefully, my permanent bad ranger status will remain in place, and once Daddy’s in good care, and my brother in a live-in program, I can callously write my mother off to the occasional quick visit and not further inflict my life with the unnecessary stress and toxic negativity she brings. Are there good things my mother has given me? Of course. There are qualities I admire of her, and some good memories here and there; and it was her that brought horses into our lives. But in truth it took me thirty years to realize that when someone is a bad person, and they are a negative force in your life—it doesn’t matter who they are, sometimes you just have to step away, and be okay with that. And you really need to develop a sense of humour about it when you’re still forced to interact with these toxic people. She’s such a piece of work, that when my sister was discussing moving arrangements with her yesterday, she told my sister, “and make sure that Stephanie cleans the house (a rental she’s been holding here for months), makes up the beds (which I am apparently supposed to conjure out of the ether, for they do not exist) and that she has some ice-cold Diet Coke in the fridge for when we get there, if she could impose herself…” After having a good laugh about that, I made this to circulate to the sisters:

I also recorded myself singing loudly to the tune of “Major Tom” by David Bowie:

Ground control to Major Mom
Commencing countdown engines on..
Get your Diet Coke and may God’s love be with you….
This is major Mom to Ground Control… you’d better clean and make the beds..

I sent that to them too. This whole moving thing and the situation with daddy has been such a horrid strain on ALL of us… caused a lot of trickle-down negativity to flow between us when we should all be leaning on each other… that sometimes crazy humour is the only thing to remind us that we still have one another.

[The Office Special] A quickly sketched office-special today. Nothing major.. just a gel ink pen and copy paper. The baby bunnies are a travesty. It’s spring… I’m all about baby things lately.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I've gone and done it. I finally roached Tag's mane. there was a definite majority in the poll, so I felt it was time to go ahead & roach his mane. I think drafts look awesome with shaved manes. Look at that beautiful, thick, cresty neck! So I did it. Not four hours ago. Well, more accurately, another lady at the barn did it for me because she had these mega, heavy-duty clippers. Tag's mane is in the blue bin (some pieces braided up and in my tack locker. I think he looks AMAZING. One of the guys there said I had shaved off his manhood, and I said "No, I shaved off his flowy Hippie mane and turned him into a marine."

I had another fall on Thursday night. Tag panicked as I was mounting him; fearing another horse, a tiny Paint named Spirit was going to kick him. I was on him, and didn't realize Spirit was stamping his feet and swishing his tail at the time, and kept preventing Tag from moving out of the kicking radius, getting upset that he wouldn't sit still. He freaked out, backed up and smashed into the side wall then into another wall, and then into Spirit... he ended up hitting the barn gate, and then fell back, sitting down like a dog. I slid out of my saddle, over his croupe and was deposited with a thump on my bum sitting on the hayloft ramp. I now have a horizontal bruise on my backside. Yay. I got on him right away, and made sure I rode him until he'd run his beans out. He's been really frisky and energetic these past few weeks; spring will do that to these guys.

He needs some more exposure to life, this poor sheltered boy. I wonder how a horse that weighs around 1400lbs can be such a big giant chicken. Seriously! He's scared of a 15 hand Paint that he could probably snap like a twig if he wanted to. You'd *think* a horse his size would be lazy and slow... but no such luck. Tag is 'hot' as they call it, a spirited dancer. He's eager to please, but he also fights me on occasion. It's the greenest horse I've ever owned, so we're both learning.

Anyway, I spent Saturday feeling REEAALLLY sore. Today we spent the early afternoon with him. He's so beautiful, I still cannot believe that I got this amazing creature for FREE. I look at him and I just feel so damned lucky. He's playful, sweet, gentle, energetic, graceful ... I just love him so much. And Dan loves him too. We made these movies today... he chases Dan around like a dog. LOL. Enjoy.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Benefits of the Bib Front (and Happy Friday!)

NEW UPDATE: June 22, 2013 -- I have created a pattern for this gown (finally) which is available for sale.  The pattern is $8.50 -- it can be downloaded and printed at a local Kinko's for about three dollars. Download includes the large-format pattern, plus instruction sheets on normal 8.5x11 paper.  You can download it from the margin widgets to the right, or scroll down to the bottom of this page where the widget has been added. 
Happy Friday all! I noticed I tend to keep most of my Regency, millinery and sewing posts limited to the Oregon Regency Society's blogspot page or the RSA Community Board. So today, I thought I'd just post my ode to the Regency Bib-Front gown on my own blog today. It's a happy Friday, and I posted a HUGE post on men's Regency costume on the ORS blog yesterday anyway.

I digress...

I am a great fan of the regency bib-front gown (sometimes called stomacher gown, drop-front, or fall-front gown). I find myself often making gowns last-minute for friends; and invariably, because of time constraints and trying to size something to someone who isn’t present, I opt for the bib-front. It's usually a situation where I can't have that person standing around for a fitting, so I make the gown that will most likely mold itself to fit her.

Additionally, the beauty of the Regency bib-front is that if you are not overly-endowed in the breast-department, and your gown and bib is sturdily made, you do not need to wear any **confining underpinnings of the period to obtain the proper Regency silhouette.  The reason why, is because the gown has a drawstring that goes around the empire waistline, and is held in place by two loops on the back.  The bib then lifts up your girls, and if it's pinned or buttoned and shaped right, it will hold them comfortably in place.  I don't think this will work well with anyone larger than a C cup, but all of the ladies below are wearing standard push-up bras underneath their gowns and that's it. WARNING: If you are C-cup or over, you will very likely need a set of Regency period stays/corset.  There are no two ways about it.  I will post this embarrasing photo of myself this summer when I decided to wear a gown without stays: Here it is, I am on the left. ::facepalm:: It was necessary to post this humiliating picture to show you the pitfalls of not wearing proper underpinnings.  My gown looks like a tent and I am just drooping horribly in it. As a contrast, Stephanie II on the right is wearing her transitional stays and she looks perfectly fine. Both gowns are bib-fronts. **follow the 'confining underpinnings' link for a summary of the period stays and patterns. UPDATE: 3/23/11: Also, for a detail on regency undergarments click here.  This will give you an idea of what you're supposed to be wearing underneath your bib-front.

As you can see, the back closes in front like a little jacket. 
The bib and front skirt panel are then tied to hide the jacket closures.

Creating two loops at the base of the back, on each seam helps keep the ties in place. 
ends should be tied in a bow, and tucked under the skirt front panel

I have a couple of purchased bib-front patterns, but I barely use them except for when I want to vary the sleeves or I have to change sizes. Instead, I have a home-made Frankenstein pattern I have made from the Janet Arnold regency gown back (which I love for its narrowness) and a manually-adjusted side-front piece cut from one bad pattern, and then altered from my muslin to become the piece I use in general. It’s from this bodice—

I drew my adjustments directly on it and then cut the muslin itself to act as the new piece. Here is a video I made back then about it. That very drawn-on piece of the side front is what I use today.

This pattern of mine is comprised of three pieces; a short sleeve that I often use and customized from a longer one, the back and the side front muslin piece. Those are the only things I cut from the pattern… the rest I improvise.

Of course, I am sort of limited in sizing, because I have no knowledge of upsizing or downsizing patterns, however I have added a little width to the back, and a little length to the arm piece to go up a size but that’s about it.

The beauty of this gown is that there is only one crucial fit, and that is the back width—and if your armseyes are good, and your front panels can be tightened, and if your wearer can put on the bodice like a jacket somewhat comfortably, then it will fit them. The bib front allows for A LOT of flexibility when it comes to breast-size and the variation in chest-circumference. The one dress pattern I have fits from about size 6-10. But what’s also amazing is that I used the same size for Sherry’s dress and for Tessa; Sherry has about a moderate B cup. Tessa is at least a D. Look how differently both girls are shaped… and then look how well the dress fits them.

Seriously. It’s an amazing gown. I make it CONSTANTLY and I’ve pared down construction time to ~ four hours depending on how intricate it is. MIND YOU, these are not historically accurate pieces because I cut corners and machine sew everything, but it is pretty and authentic looking and very practical. I don’t bother to cover the waist seam inside by whip-stitching the lining over it or such things… but you could if you wanted to. I did with my very first bib-front project; my green gown, which I draped entirely on my duct-tape mannequin. I used no pattern on this one, but made my own.

Updated image (I've lost weight in this picture),
the gown fits just fine in spite of going down 2 sizes.

Construction of the bodice. The back piece was designed after an
extant gown.

What’s really great is that if this gown is made in white muslin, it can be used for day or evening; washed, bleached and trimmed to your liking. Sick of a white gown? Just dye it. You can make overlays for it out of net or silk or velvet… pelisses, spencers, half robes and robes… or use the same pattern to make sheer gown overlays. It truly is the essential ‘little white dress’ of a regency wardrobe. I tell those who I make gowns for to get me 7-8 yards of muslin (yes, I cram at LEAST six yards of fabric into that skirt… but it’s not necessary. 5 yards total would probably suffice. I knife-pleat a most of it into the back to create that beautiful volume. If you saw it move and flare, you’d understand.


Because the bib is so non-crucial to the fit, I can really play around with it creatively—I even created a crossover front on one (see pics). All I do is cut two sets of each piece (2 backs, four side-fronts—only 2 sleeves, I don’t line the sleeve). I sew each set into a separate bodice, then lay them good-sides together, sew the whole neckline, from the bottom of one front flap to the other. I turn it inside out, press and then proceed to add on the sleeves of my choice. Then I just start attaching the skirt. I don’t ever bother to cut shaped skirts. I’m a great fan of the basic ‘round gown’, which is basically wide tube of fabric pleated up to the back of the gown. You can work in a train pretty easily with a simple ‘slow’ angle cut.

The skirt is an exercise in simplicity. Open up the fabric to its full width, sew the short ends together and make a big tube. First thing you do is fold it so the seam is on one of the ends; and that becomes the skirt back. For the length of the skirt, you measure from the chest line (under the breasts) to the top of the foot, and then cut your tube to the desired length; making sure the bottom is an uncut selvage if possible (so you don’t have to hem! Genius (or lazy?)!). Or, if you have to hem, do it before you close the fabric into a tube; you won’t have to worry about it later. Any variations you make to the length, train etc, happens at the top of the skirt.

Then while still folded and after you’ve done your length cut, I cut an 18” slit to about 6-8” in from the top front edge of skirt to create front flap panel. I turn in the edges on the slit and sew them down. I then attach a 3-yard length of white twill to the top edge of the panel—making sure I add in two symmetrical box-pleats to add some give and interest to the front of the skirt/bib-panel.

[Update, 2-15-2012]: It was requested that I explain in better detail how the skirts are pleated onto the bodice, and until I actually have the ability to make a decent video of my efforts, I decided to do a paper mock-up to show you how I do the skirts.  So there are these silly little movies. Maybe they'll help you better visualize what I do when I'm making a simple round-gown.

Then you cut your bib on the bias… make it pretty, make it plain… play with the shape, give it a V neck… whatever. Add buttonholes to the top corners and then center it on the front skirt panel, sew it on and lo and behold… your front is done.

Some ideas for your bib or stomacher.

The back is the most challenging bit. You start by pinning the other edge of the slit to the bodice front panels; starting at least 6” in (depending your size… you will have to try on your bodice and figure out what works best on you… you want the side of the gown to hang just below your breast. You start pinning it down the bodice all the way around to the seam of back piece. Then comes the intensive process of pinning your knife-pleats. It’s also a treacherous sew on your machine; so have extra needles on hand!. Once you’ve done that… attach a couple of loops on the outside of the gown just at the bottom of the back seams where the skirt meets the bodice so you can thread your drawstrings through (or you can also sew a channel to the inside to lace your twill drawstrings through if you want to hide the ties) and voila… You’ve got a gown. Trim away. Most of the ladies I’ve made these for have opted to keep these gowns simple and to trim with a coloured ribbon at the waistline. I’ve done some marginal decoration on the bibs, but you can really glitz up a gown like this very easily.

Any regency gown pattern can be modified into a bib; the ‘mock bib gown’ in the Mode Bagatelle pattern takes very little modification to turn it into a real one. You just cut your backs on the fold so there’s no opening, and then cut the neckline wider, and split the front to make the ‘jacket’ part of your bib gown. It’s pretty easy and makes for a really versatile gown. I don’t think I would ever go with a back closing gown again.

Update 11/12/13 - Here are some pictures of my bib-front pattern being used to make a round-gown, an easy conversion.  The sleeve pattern is not used in this example because I draped the sleeve, I wanted a full-length sleeve in sheer to enhance it. Also, I added a 2" strip of sheer around the neckline with a drawstring to add some interest to the gown.  It's a simple pattern, but makes for a beautiful, dramatic gown.  Instructions for the round gown are included with the patter (if the instructions aren't clear enough, let me know).


For any regency gown, I always say go natural and go light.  Also, go classy, NO huge prints, no victorian flower extravaganzas, lines in tasteful pattern.

For a day gown, look for: solids, small-print, roll print, small-dotted or subtle plaid cottons, white or solid coloured muslin. Sheer fabrics (above mentioned types) should be worn over a white cotton petticoat for opacity or doubled up with a coloured underdress.  Fabric types: muslin (thick or sheer), lawn, batiste, cotton. I do not recommend synthetics with high-sheen or slippy, strange texture.  Linen is fine as well, and even a light wool for a wintry gown.

Evening wear: Silk with decorated embellishments, voile or cotton sheers over coloured bases, subtle textures like embroidered dots or flowers.  Some vegans don't use silk (although the pollution of the manufacture of synthetics could arguably be worse than the death of silk-worms, but it's all relative)... anyway, you can find some tastefully synthetic fabrics (non-shiny taffetas, other faux-silks).

Possible addition of a robe in velvet or silk to enhance a white sheer gown.

Yardage:  As I said before, you can go with as little as five yards, or you can go crazy and put eight into your gown.  But a nice, short-sleeved gown with a tiny bodice and reasonably nice skirts can easily be accomplished up to size 22 with five yards minimum.


For good measure, I have decided to add links to some bib-front patterns:
* Patterns of Fashion, Janet Arnold (scalable patterns)
* Reconstructing History Patterns:

Update: 3/2011 ~ I've been meaning to add in Katherine's little video on how to put on a bib-front. She is tying the ties INSIDE the gown, but that's how she chooses to do it--it doesn't pin down the waistline as well that way, but she's so skinny it doesn't matter. :) This video is precious, as is she.

The Drawstring V-Neck gown (Tutorial Link Below)

Update: September 14, 2011

I've also added a tutorial on how to do the draw-string V-neck gown that I wore for the July 2011 Pittock Mansion Picnic. You can read about it on this post.

Buy the Bib-Front Pattern Here:


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