In July 2015 I bought the perfect bathrobe. I needed it, or so I had been told, for the delivery room, where I was destined to give birth to my first child. When I discovered it wedged in among the silky bathrobes on the clearance rack at the store, it felt like such a find. It was from famous housewares designer, who makes those expensive sheets I could never afford to buy.
It felt like expensive sheets, so smooth and well made. I could just imagine myself holding that little bundle of joy against my chest singing him a delicate lullaby.
The birth didn’t go as my carefully edited birth plan dictated. Well, it did in one way: I had wanted a natural birth. Well, I certainly got a natural birth. My water broke two weeks before the due date, but no contractions followed. I was admitted to a very busy hospital and told to wait, so I waited in my hospital room. Contractions came hard and fast. I spent my laboring in the bathroom, crawling to the shower when a contraction would hit, spraying hot water on my belly to alleviate the pain. This went on for hours. It turns out they were so busy with other laboring moms who were shouting and making a fuss that they had forgotten that I was there. I wouldn’t know that until later.
Suddenly I needed to push. I made my husband call the midwife, although I felt guilty for disturbing anyone (typically me). I wasn’t due yet anyway. I was certain that I was exaggerating my own discomfort. The last time they had checked on me there was no sign whatsoever the baby would be coming. It all went so fast.
I was completely naked when the midwife got there and she told me to put something on. At least the bathrobe served its purpose. We got to the delivery room with barely a second to spare. The indulgent husband was the one who did skin-to-skin.
I tried to wear that bathrobe again after that day, but every time I would see it I would get so angry. Angry that the hospital staff forgot about me. Angry that I labored alone for hours, with only a showerhead to help. Angry that I didn’t know what was happening or how close I was to actually giving birth. Angry that I didn’t get to do skin-to-skin with the baby. Angry that I was a terrible mother because I couldn’t love that baby right away a new mother should.
I put that bathrobe into a bin of emotionally charged items in the basement. I couldn’t bring myself to purge, as I had dozens of other emotionally charge items. I felt so guilty still about the whole experience.
On the other hand, I knew I would never wear it again as a bathrobe.
In March of this year I had nearly finished emptying the bin of emotionally charged clothes that I hadn’t had the courage to deal with. At the bottom of this bin was that bathrobe. The Baby bathrobe.
If I wanted to be coherent, I needed to practice what I preach. I needed to either get rid of that bathrobe or turn it into something I would wear and I will love. Turn that frown upside down, as it were.
So I did.
Here is that journey:
Remove the sleeves.
This bathrobe is so beautifully made. It felt like a crime to unstitch the sergered seam.
Thankfully, I am getting better at seam ripping, so as I carefully unpicked, I did it with what I would consider to be adequate reverence.
My ambivalence towards this bathrobe is still surprising, considering I wore it just before and just after I gave birth to my first child, but the anger seemed to fade slightly once I removed the sleeves.
Make the most of the shawl collar
I loved the idea of a making a wrap dress out of this bathrobe. It totally lent itself to the idea. But wiould it be too bathrob-y? Well, in any case, I wanted to hang on to as much of that shawl collar as possible. So I used a pattern piece I made based on my red dress, lining up the front with the shawl collar. The initial reticence to cut into that lovely soft cotton had worn off once the sleeves were off. This was now little more than a piece of fabric with some keepable stitching on it.
Because we faced another lockdown in March of this year, and because my sewing machine decided to give up its soul, I could not do any serious, reverent sewing that would be appropriate for this project. However, as not to lose my mind at the very tail end of this lockdown, I needed to dosomething creative with my hands or else lose my mind. At my last attempt to work on the bathrobe, I realized that the vertical stripes in the “skirt” area looked simply too much like a bathrobe. I wouldn’t wear something that just looked like a bathrobe. So I let myself be inspired.
I wanted the stripes to not be vertical on the skirt, but there was not enough fabric to make the bias stripes the way I wanted. So I decided to compromise:
Using Genevieve’s blouse as a pattern, make something fabulous
Genevieve gave me this blouse from her stash back in 2005. It has been a staple for sixteen years! I love everything about it! I love the little shawl collar, the wrap shape which can accommodate any size my body decides to be. I even love the short little cap sleeves. If I can turn this bathrobe into something that cute, I will have won this battle. I just have to deal with the stripe issue. I want 45° diagonal stripes and I want a chevron in the back. Ha. Take that.
Make cute sleeves
Why do simple when you can do complicated? I decided to try a petal sleeve again, since I had so enjoyed doing it on my rainbow dress refashion. All of this, of course, in the absence of a sewing machine. So for the moment, I just cut, pressed and hoped for the best.
It’s a blouse!!!!!
I waited for the big seams until my sewing machine arrived. I am so glad I did, because the result is absolutely fabulous.
My Buy No Clothes in 2021 Challenge has forced me to confront quite a few of these emotionally charged items. The miracle of this refashion, as opposed to some of my other sewing adventures (tinfoil crotch sausage, anyone?) is that it has truly been a healing experience for me. I have managed to reframe that experience of fear and helplessness that I felt giving birth through this refashion. I made something beautiful out of something which, for five and a half years, represented so much unprocessed anger.
This bathrobe blouse is a symbolic exit from the doom of post-partum depression. Now I can’t wait for some warmer days so I can wear it!!!!!