Just before her daughter's 2010 marriage, Lou Ann McCaughey came up with a way for her blind, 89-year-old father to feel more comfortable at the wedding dinner.
McCaughey, who learned to sew in 4-H when she was 9, took a man's dress shirt, split the back open and attached Velcro tabs to hold it closed. She also used Velcro to attach a tie to the shirt front.
Her father was able to slip the shirt and tie over his own clothes and eat dinner without wearing the adult bib he normally used at mealtime. When dinner was over, he took it off and his own suit, shirt and tie were spotless.
"It was all about giving him some dignity at the wedding," she said. "He's the type of man who still wears a suit and tie to church, so for everybody to see him in a bib would have hurt that dignity."
McCaughey, who lives in Sparks with her husband, Kevin, then experimented with women's blouses. She split them down the back, but made the closures from silk ribbon instead of Velcro.
She also bought adult and children's T-shirts and did the same thing.
"If you have someone in a wheelchair, it's much easier to put on a shirt this way," she said. "It doesn't have to be used as a bib. It can just be a fashionable T-shirt worn over other clothing."
Once she realized she had a unique concept, she named her creations "Dinner-Wear" and applied for a patent and a trademark. Both are pending.
"I think this is a very innovative idea," said Kathryn Rogers, managing director at Absolute Companion Care of Hereford, which provides companions for elders in their homes. "I think a family taking Mom to dinner at a restaurant would be happy to would have one of these. I think it's the caregivers who will be buying these."
McCaughey buys second-hand shirts and blouses in excellent condition. They must be washable and wrinkle-resistant. She treats the clothing with a spray that repels stains and water.
"I only buy something I would wear myself," she said. "But I can also take someone's favorite blouse and turn it into Dinner-Wear."
Her next step is to take nightgowns and open their backs so they can be slipped on over hospital gowns.
Dinner-Wear ranges from $20 to $30. Sizes range from children's to adults XXL.
For more details, email Dinner_wear@aol.com or call 410-598-1711.