It was Mrs. Thimble who made the difference.
Half a dozen men had invented the sewing machine,
or more precisely, the idea of one or parts of one
or one that could sew a short seam but nothing of practical use.
Mrs. Thimble gathered the ideas together and
assembled the parts into something that would actually work.
At first it was slow going with a pedal-powered machine.
Then she figured out how to rig up a steam engine
to power dozens of sewing machines at once.
She bought a sweatshop and trained the girls
to be mechanics as well as seamstresses.
They turned out dresses and suits in record time.
Then politics heated up, and there was talk of war.
The airship pirates were causing trouble --
threatening to drop bombs if ransoms were not paid,
ferrying criminals and sometimes members of the military,
strutting around town in their vivid uniforms with fancy buttons.
Mrs. Thimble narrowed her eyes as she watched the pirates
swagger through the narrow cobblestone streets.
She watched the officers who hitched rides with them,
and the leaders of organized crime,
and the gaily befrocked women of negotiable virtue
topped by hats a-flutter with feathers.
She sent her girls all over Europe to commandeer inspiration.
They went to Paris and Berlin and Venice.
They looked at bales of silk and bolts of brocade.
They brought samples of pearl buttons and cut glass beads.
One even saved an airship from wrecking in Scotland,
and fixed the engine, and wrote home suggesting
that tiny golden gears might suit as jewelry.
When the girls returned home, they all set to work.
Fashions were blended from different cultures, taking care
to unite ideas from those most opposed to each other.
The results were stupendous, and they took the world by storm,
for nobody else could match the speed of Mrs. Thimble's factory.
If they wanted to stay in fashion, people would have to keep the peace.
Somehow, they managed.