1490s Venetian “mockado” gown, part IV

Catch part I, part II, and part III!

And here we have come to the finishing touch on this lovely Venetian-style gown:

The Sleeves.

1490Venetian 017All things considered, they went together pretty fast. I chose to make them out of the shiny taffeta to match the underskirt portion of the gown. The hardest part was figuring out how to orient the trim on them. Pictured above is the lower cuff; I opted to keep it plain so that it wouldn’t be potentially bulky and possibly catch on instrument strings while I played.

For the upper portion of the sleeve, I chose to use not only the matching trim to the neckline of the gown, but also some shiny black satin ribbon. It was a trick to get it all lined up and stitched into the seams before I had hand-stitched it down, but I managed! (Probably should have done that in reverse order, but whatever, haha. :-P )

I spent a fair number of hours hand-stitching the trim down. At least, it felt like a lot…

But a few attachment points and stitches later, and we have a complete 1490s outfit, which I wore to my “bardic neo-folk” music set at the 2014 Tumbleweed Music Festival in Richland, WA.

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Earlier in the month I polled my Facebook followers to see what they thought about the idea of me performing my bardic music (a collection of period tunes and original songs of folklore, myth, magic, and history) in my garb. It was an overwhelming YES, and as it turned out, wearing the gown to perform was a fantastic idea. I not only received several compliments and comments, but lots of inquiries about my performance and what I do as a musician. :-)

Awesome. <3

1490s Venetian “mockado” gown, part III

(Catch up with part I and part II here…)

Step four: Assemble the gown!

Since I had used this pattern before, assembly went fairly fast. In just a couple nights, I had a close-to-completion gown:

1490Venetian 010Since I am (hoping!) having a baby here in a few weeks, I mentioned I decided to make some modifications to the bodice for ease of breastfeeding. I stitched the front and the back as two separate pieces — opting to put ribbon ties across the shoulders — and have the gown lace up the sides. I found an example of a Florentine gown that had side lacing  to support my cause, and since the Italians seemed to favor ribbons for tying on their sleeves to the shoulder of their gowns, I figured the addition of the extra ribbons to tie the shoulder straps together would hardly be noticed.

Step five: applying trim and finishing stitches!

1490Venetian 011I found some lovely cord trim on sale at JoAnn’s this last week, and decided it would be just the thing (with the addition of a few pearls) to adorn the neckline of the gown.

1490Venetian 012Applying trim is fun, but it does make one’s fingers quite tender. :-P

Other hand-finishing I did included using ribbon to protect the seams in the skirt at the side openings (covering the serged edges for a tidier look), and tacking down the bodice lining where it met the skirt (so it didn’t ride up, and I didn’t have to fight with machine stitching through all those layers).

Once all of that was completed, I stitched in the lacing rings. I had some small plastic ones on hand, and while, to be period-correct, I should have used metal, I decided plastic would be kinder to the fabric in the long run. Plus, they are hidden just under the edges of the bodice so they aren’t easily seen.

1490Venetian 015And, VOILA! A nearly finished gown!

I love how the corduroy gives it that lovely, soft, must-pet-the-fabric look… and how the silky taffeta shines through the opening in the split front. But wait! I’m still missing something…

On to the next installment…

Step six: sewing the sleeves!

Healing Hearts

My doctor told me it is time to pick the hospital where I will deliver, so I dutifully scheduled a couple of birthing center tours this last week. One of them was back at the hospital where I delivered (and lost) Michael. I admit to having some trepidation about returning through those doors — my visit to the other hospital in the area had left me feeling anxious and keyed up, and several loss families I’ve met both through the web and in person had cautioned me: returning to the same place is very emotional, often carrying negative associations.

Needless to say, as I parked my car on Friday morning, I didn’t really know what to expect.

It turned out to be a beautiful surprise. It was so emotional, but in a manner I was not expecting. It was healing. Heartwarming. Comforting.

The nurse who came out to give me the tour was the one who took care of me post-partum. As soon as she saw me, she asked where we’d met before… and when I told her, she wrapped me up in a hug and we walked arm-in-arm through the facility. It was like visiting with an old friend.

When we got done with the tour, I asked about the sweet nurse who sat with me through my labor, and after a short call, she walked in. As soon as the brief introduction was halfway said, I was again wrapped up in a hug, and we stood there in tears for a while.

“I want you to know that not a single day has gone by where I haven’t thought about you, your husband, or your son, Michael, and wondered how things were going,” she whispered in my ear. She thought about Michael on his birthday. She had gone back through the files and reports and charts several times to make certain she’d done everything possible that day. She had wanted to do so much for us in the days and months after, but didn’t want to make it any harder.

And I finally got the chance to say how appreciative I was of everything she and the other fine ladies had done for us. How I saw all the little things, the commitment, the caring, and how I didn’t — and would never — forget. All the things I wanted to say, all the letters I wanted to write but was never gutsy enough to actually pen… I got to tell them in person.

And I got to say Thank You.

My heart grows full again just thinking about it.

If you have found yourself in similar shoes to mine, I recommend getting back in touch with the medical staff who shared your experience. Don’t do it right away, give yourself time to process, to heal a bit… but when you can, if you can, do it. All too often, I think we view medical professionals as merely providers of a service, and we forget that they are human, too. And they care about their patients just as much as we do. In an experience as traumatic and emotional as a loss, they are right there with you, invested in it 150%. They understand in a way the average passersby doesn’t. It was such a release to be able to talk openly and freely about that day, and to be able to validate the experience. It was touching and humbling and affirming on a deeply personal level. My soul feels moved great distances. <3

And that’s a beautiful, helpful thing. :-)

Conversational Acuity

If there’s one, achievable thing I’d wish for in the months since Michael’s death, it’s that. The ability to explain what happened — concisely! — and have people understand the full weight and tragedy of our loss… and that we’re healing. The ability to not get drawn in by prying questions and end up telling total strangers more than I’m comfortable with. The ability to speak these words in a manner that circumvents the stupid comments (“That doesn’t happen”), the insensitive questions (“Well, didn’t you DO anything?”), the too-much-information statements (“I knew a lady who died during childbirth, after losing several children herself…”).

The ability to acknowledge that I had a son — a full-term, perfectly formed, red-headed, beautiful little boy — and that he’s no longer with us, instead of just brushing his all-too-short existence under the rug as if he never happened.

My least favorite question at the moment is “Is this your first?”

No matter how I answer, no matter how delicately or bluntly I phrase it, this interaction with an innocent stranger always ends up terribly awkward… for both of us. They either A) turn red-faced and guilty and embarrassed, or B) begin the interrogation process. And I can’t help clamming up and feeling guilty over it. I flounder in a sea of words, where none is the right choice: gentle, firm, final.

Lately, I’ve tried halting the interaction as soon as it begins: “I’d rather not talk about it,” or “It’s personal.”

Strangers don’t understand that, either, and I’m awarded with looks of confusion, irritation, annoyance, and once, even outrage. Not only is my ever-pregnant belly on full display, but it is expected that a mother-to-be bare every aspect of her inner thoughts about her pregnancy at the slightest prodding. And when she doesn’t, or dares to ask for privacy… Well, there must be something wrong with her.

I asked for privacy once with a vague deflection and clear body language, and the lady asked me (in a snide, belittling tone) if I was going to get rid of the baby, put it up for adoption.

I almost cried. My only defense was to tell her everything, all the horrible, ugly, uncomfortable details I didn’t want to get into with her snooty, low-class self, because this is a small town and I’ll not have my reputation slandered. Let there be No Mistake: I love this baby, I want this baby more than anything, but I am plainly terrified, where every day is a tightrope walk and every night is a battle against my worst nightmares. And it is My Right if I choose to share or Not. (As soon as she learned the truth, she backtracked fast, but the damage was already done.)

How does one learn to walk this path? How does one learn the art of discussion with difficult subjects? Diplomacy? Tactful conversation?

I can only hope it will be easier when (I pray) I have a child IN my arms…