Tuesday, March 11, 2008

An analogy for emotional... baggage

About 10 years ago, one of my friends was having trouble letting go of emotional baggage. Someone would say or do something that hurt her and she would carry it around, mull it over, let it pace around inside her head until it practically drove her mad.

Another friend provided this extended analogy for her situation. I though he was very wise. (this is my dad's dog Punky, btw)

A man has a dog, and he loves his dog. They go to the park and play fetch, they go for long walks in the morning and afternoon. They sit together by the fireplace at night while the man reads and the dog enjoys his bone.
As with all living things, the dog eats, sleeps and, well... poops.
The man has several choices available to him post-poop.
He can
A. Pick up the poop and throw it in the trash (or flush it).
B. Leave the poop.
C. Put it in a paper bag and leave it on his neighbor's doorstep (perhaps even light it on fire), then ring the door bell and run away to hide behind some bushes to watch the outcome with glee.

The responsible, kind person A will pick up the poop and throw it out so that no one steps in it, or has to step around it, or smell it, or look at it. This is the attitude of "poop happens, clean it up." A is the type of person who simply deals with life as it comes and doesn't sweat the small stuff. After all, he has this wonderful dog as his friend, so what if there is the occasional mess that must be taken care of? It's all part of being a pet person.

Option B is the lazy thing to do. B doesn't have to plan ahead by bringing a plastic bag when he walks the dog, and once the dog does it's business, he moves on. The poop is behind him, and he has forgotten about it. Most importantly, he don't have to carry icky-poo anywhere!
Occasionally someone will step in the poop, and if B sees it he will laugh. Or more rarely and even more ironically, he himself may step in week-old poop and become angry that no one has cleaned up this awful mess, and now look what's happened!
B is the type of person who doesn't realize that his actions affect others, or himself. He do not understand that there won't always be someone else to pick up his mess, or that poop can hurt those around him. He is carefree, and often careless. He blames others for his shortcomings, and offers half-hearted apologies when he gets caught. He isn't mean; he simply doesn't care.

Option C is the one few people take, but everyone thinks about every once in a while. C is usually a kid playing jokes, not thinking about the consequences of his actions, not translating his joy in the joke to the other person's horror at finding a flaming bag of dog poop on their doorstep. Of course, C can be any age, and doesn't necessarily need to light the bag on fire to get a giggle out of it. Usually just the look on the unsuspecting victim's face is enough for him to get his jollies. What it comes down to, is that C is just plain mean. He takes joy in the discomfort of others and doesn't give a thought to anyone but himself. He probably don't even feed the dog... he only want the fun stuff!

Now, dear readers, let's look at this from the neighbor's point of view.

The neighbor of person A will most likely come out and have nice chats with A, they may even visit for coffee in the mornings and have pool parties in the summertime. They will think of person A with respect and fondness, and occasionally marvel at A's ability to deal so gracefully with poop when it happens. They never need to worry about stepping in A's dog's poo.

The neighbor of person B knows to watch out for dog-bombs along the sidewalk. They know to 'tread carefully' when walking the same paths, and they may say hello, but never get into deep conversations for fear of being associated with B, who leaves dog poo on the sidewalk. They may occasionally forget to be cautious and end up stepping in what was left behind. Neighbor B, now has 3 options.
1. They can scrape off the poo on the grass and wash the rest off with a garden hose.
2. They can curse and throw away the poo-smeared shoes.
3. They can bemoan the fate that has befallen them and walk around life wearing shoes with dog poop on them.

The neighbor of C learns to be cautious. They build a fence with a locked gate, or put the house up for sale and move to a safer community. They always check the ground before walking out the door, and they never, EVER let their guard down. They live in a constant state of anxiety about what terrible dog-poop thing will happen next...

Now, my friend was the 'neighbor' of 'dog-owner C.' She was always on her guard against certain people, and eventually against everyone. She expected to be hurt, so even when A was being responsible, she was offended at the his interaction with the poop, and eventually mad at the dog for producing it, then mad at A for having a dog that made poop!

Now, if you are neighbor C, and someone leaves a steaming(or smoking) bag of dog poop on your front porch, what are you going to do?
Well, anyone's first reaction is going to be EEEEEEWWWWW!
Then you will likely put the fire out. (As I recall, the point of the joke is to watch the person stomp on the bag only to get dog poop on their shoes)...
You know this is an all-around bad situation and that someone is being blatantly mean. So what do you do after putting out the fire? Do you wash off your shoes, throw them out, or walk around covered in dog poo all day?

What wold you do if someone left a pretty paper bag on your porch?
You could leave it there, call the bomb squad, or pick it up and open it...
I'd open it.
Then you find there is dog poop under your nose. Ick. So now what?
You can throw it away,
Give it to another neighbor (or leave it for your spouse to find)
or carry it around with you forever... after all, it was a gift that came in a pretty paper bag!

No matter how C delivered the "gift," it's still dog poop! Blatant or sneaky, it's still a mean joke!

No one wants to carry around a steaming, then cold, then old bag of dog poop, so why, oh why do we carry around these emotional burdens of past events that are done and over, and really just a part of life that should be tossed? Why re-open that bag to look at the same poop? It's just older poop! It's not going to change. Dog poop isn't going to get nicer with time!

Just throw it away. Enjoy the dog, if you can't deal with poop, give the dog away.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Regency Tailcoats

I've been getting a lot of orders for Regency Tailcoats lately. By a lot I mean 3. There are a few Jean Austin Balls coming up, and the guys are getting ready. I now have 2 gray coats in stock. One is double breasted, the other single breasted. Both are quite pretty ($200 if anyone is interested). This picture is of my husband reluctantly modeling the single breasted tailcoat, (unfinished in the photo), over his jeans and t-shirt. I must say, it suits him much better than a sweatshirt. This coat is a little big for him, but fits me quite well. I look great in a tailcoat and 1812 stand-up collar!

I got the pattern from The Cut of Men's Clothes, a truly wonderful book and a good investment for anyone interested in costuming. (I'm saving for Cut of Women's Clothes, and Corsets & Crinolines). Most of these patterns require an extensive knowledge of period tailoring, modern sewing and pattern-making experience. I started by blowing up the pattern as-is, then adjusted it to fit my customers. None of the drawings include seam allowances, so if you work from them, be sure to add 1/2" allowances (much easier to calculate than 5/8"). If I thought in metric it'd be even easier.

I like to draw all of my patterns free-hand and check everything with a ruler and measure tape many times. I also use grids and plum lines. The T-square is my friend! Someone suggested that I pick up one of those curve-makers at JoAnn's, but I've found them difficult to use, and for me it's easier to just re-draw a curve by hand. There have been a few garments that I've made miniatures of, just to understand the proper assembly and finishing techniques. Doing this saves fabric and prevents nasty surprises (like, the directions didn't mention the gown had a bodice lining that is totally different from the outside!)

One thing I noticed is that most of the CoMC patterns are quite small. At first I thought the tailcoat was for a child or very young man, but then I looked at the back-waist measurement (17") and realized that the person was actually a little taller than my petite 5'2". They were just very, very narrow. In the last 200 years Americans have gained a lot of weight! Our shoulders and chest have gotten broader, we have grown taller (my great grandmother was 4'10 and only a little under average), and we have gotten much bigger around.
This is a generalization, of course, one of my many-great grandfathers was over 7' tall, he may have been a giant.

The small waist could be explained by a men's corset, but I don't think the person who wore this coat needed any help in that department. Corsets were commonly worn by men in the Regency and Victorian eras, and helped give them that wasp-waist / pigeon-breast look that was so popular for both genders. Puffed sleeves made shoulders look wider without adding bulk to the midsection.

You can see in the cartoon how a good deal of the body was artifice and clever engineering. One of my friends who also makes historic clothes made calf pads for a guy who did 1720's reenacting. He had very small legs and wanted calf muscles to look good in his stockings!

After making several of these tailcoats, I know doesn't have to be as complicated as the cartoon portrays. The coat is tight at the waist, then flairs at the hips and chest, making the waist look smaller, no matter what size it really is. The collar is heavily stiffened (I use a heavy wool with a fusible interfacing), and the chest is padded with the same material. The stiffness of the front and collar make it stand out from the body, making those areas look even bigger (instant pigeon-breast without a corset!).

In addition to the clever cut of the coat, the shirt has a wide stand-up collar, the cravat adds considerable bulk, and the waistcoat adds quite a bit of poof & foof to the whole look, while keeping it very 'clean'. You can see the white-on-white look was quite popular. I love the combination of royal blue and warm brown. Very striking. This particular gentlemen (Nicolas -Pierre Tiolier, 1817) is not nearly as romance-novel-worthy as another gent in similar clothes, but alas, his painting doesn't show the clothes as well.

As to the shirt, I've been using another CoMC pattern, the 1700-1810 shirt, with very wide cuffs, no ruffles, and a collar from Tailor's Guide (I turned the Highlander collar upside-down for a perfect 1812 collar). I could also use a very wide rectangular collar and get a similar effect, but I got a kick of turning theirs upside-down. For this last customer, I added a straight button placket to the front instead of leaving it open. I didn't think he would appreciate having an open chest, and I have found one example of an 1812 shirt with a 2 button closure. Unfortunately, painters didn't revel in painting men in their shirtsleeves like they did women in their chemises...

Fern Stomacher

After months of sitting, the stomacher is finally finished. I worked on it over a long weekend at Mom's house, and decided to go with light gold for the left fern. I'm not sure if I love the finished product, but I'm happy with the embroidery.

I tried adding darker threads to the gold stem, but the stitching is so close it was not possible, even with a 2 strand thread. Pulling that out was difficult without damaging the existing embroidery.

I finished embroidering about a month ago, and the material sat on my sewing table getting things piled on top of it, and being ignored until tonight when I decided to finish it off. It took about 5 minutes.

It is made of a linen cotton blend, lined with the same material. The stiff interlining is a heavy drill cloth (light green) that will never show, but will keep the stomacher from wrinkling. I could still add tabs, hooks / eyes or back-side lacing loops. Or I could leave it as a free-standing garment to be laced in.

The little white thing in the third leaf up is a stray thread. There are gaps in the embroidery where I wanted the leaves to look split. Again, I'm not sure how much I love that idea.

The next project I work on will be more realistic, and much more traditional. I hadn't intended this to be super-historic, but now that I've made one, I am looking forward to making another, much more historically correct design. I think I'll work on white linen or silk next time.

I may add a bottom and side section (see 18th c. stomacher post below for original). It will depend on what garment this ends up with. One of my upcoming projects is a Sacque back gown, or an open gown, which this could be worn with. I'm very much in favor of the sacque, but I would be limited as to where I could wear it.... which saddens me. I need to find a group that likes to dress up instead of dressing down.