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Poem: "Needlework" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Needlework"

This poem was inspired by a comment from siliconshaman.  It has been sponsored by technoshaman.  It belongs to the series Fledgling Grace.  

"Needlework" explores how the sudden appearance of wings affects a fundamental aspect of human culture: clothing.  It resonates with other major bodily transformations that may abruptly demand a major change in wardrobe, such as pregnancy or gender transition.  It also looks at the little details and practical ramifications of what happens in fantasy, things that many stories ignore.  I find some of my best inspiration in those areas, and I love it when my readers ask me, "What does this do to X?"


Needlework


Before the Fledging,
most people bought their clothes
in stores, off of racks.

It was difficult for a tailor or a seamstress
to make a living in a world
ruled by Wal-Mart and Wet Seal.
Even the dressmakers had trouble in a culture
that valued bargains above needlework.

After the Fledging,
all of that changed --
the shoppers, the shops,
and the clothes.

It wasn't as bad with bottoms,
because you could lower the waistline
or add a fly and a button on the back
to accommodate the tail.

There was little to be done
about the tops, though,
because the shape and size
of wing attachment varied so greatly.
Most shirt patterns wouldn't work at all.

So the tailors and the seamstresses
brought out their butcher paper and pencils
and French curves and measuring tapes,
and went to work.

They devised panel tops
that laced together like corsets
or buttoned up the long slits.
They made halters with loose capes
and ponchos with slits for hands and wings.

Dressmakers designed gowns
with open backs and
all the decoration on the front.

They learned not to use zippers.
Zippers and feathers were not friends.

Saris came into style
because they did not need fitting
but simply wrapped between the wings.

It was difficult to adjust
because there were so few people
who could still sew, even a little --
and now everyone needed
at least some of their clothes
fitted, if not bespoke outright.

The tailors and seamstresses and dressmakers
were delighted and exhausted.
They took apprentices and taught people
the new tricks as fast as they could be invented.

Community centers offered classes 
in sewing and fitting and pattern drafting.
Thrift stores added volunteers to their staff
who could help fit old clothes to new bodies.

The Internet was a great help,
as people shared instructions and ideas,
photos of what worked and what didn't,
advice and questions and complaints.

Old ladies smiled to themselves,
glad that the skills would not be lost after all.

Gradually a new style began to emerge,
something elegant and beautiful
that left room for wings
and celebrated needlework
in all its wonderful variations.

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Current Mood: busy busy

17 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: technoshaman Date: January 7th, 2013 09:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
*smiles* to live in such a world...

*shares*
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 8th, 2013 02:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

Thank you for sharing. I've gotten comments from several new people and folks who usually just lurk, so that makes me happy.
purplefrog26 From: purplefrog26 Date: January 7th, 2013 09:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
mmmmm I love little details and as a needlework wannabe artist, this speaks to my heart.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 7th, 2013 09:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

That's always good to hear. I'm glad it works for someone who practices the craft. I put a lot of my hand-sewing and pattern-play into this.
technogeekslass From: technogeekslass Date: January 7th, 2013 10:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Poem

Brilliant! My gran was a tailoress by trade and although I don't sew I do a lot of other needlework things and I know all the terms...

Very well written... I love it!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 7th, 2013 10:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Poem

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed this. I had fun playing out the implications and mapping what people would need to do, how they would talk about it, etc.
catsittingstill From: catsittingstill Date: January 7th, 2013 10:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Zippers and feathers were not friends"

No, I imagine not.

I like the idea of rediscovering old arts, though I think people might find it a hardship to get enough clothing for a while.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 7th, 2013 10:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

>>I like the idea of rediscovering old arts, though I think people might find it a hardship to get enough clothing for a while.<<

That is indeed one of the drawbacks. You'd have at least a year of real hardship where no matter what people tried to do, there just wouldn't be enough to go around -- not enough skilled tailors, not enough sewing machines, not enough fabric stores, not enough patterns even after they started figured out how to solve the shaping challenges.
From: siliconshaman Date: January 7th, 2013 11:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love the way one change can cause ripples in the fabric of society, and how all the little details and ramifications add texture to a story... sociological embroidery!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 8th, 2013 01:30 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm happy to hear that.
From: chordatesrock Date: March 8th, 2013 07:00 am (UTC) (Link)
It's good to know something good came of the Fledging.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 8th, 2013 07:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

One thing it did was make people look at the world in a different way.
From: chordatesrock Date: March 8th, 2013 07:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

And make artisans functional. They haven't been that in a long time. It's good. It might fix things, up until they all decide on mass-produced saris.

(Do Indians feel bad about this cultural appropriation?)

Edited at 2013-03-08 07:20 am (UTC)
natf From: natf Date: November 28th, 2013 03:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Zippers and feathers were not friends

Nor were Velcro hooks and feathers, I would imagine!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 29th, 2013 10:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

Those are bad too, unless you're very careful not to snag the velcro. It can work if it's on parts of the garment that don't go near feathers.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 31st, 2015 11:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
While reading the comments for this poem (I've been reading my way through the series), I started thinking of the Haibane - who gain wings soon after they arrive, and are only allowed to wear secondhand clothes, which thus require adjustment. Although not the main focus, the show (Haibane Renmei, 2002) shows some of the practicalities of having wings, such as needing sleeves for the wings and wing covers, and also how Rekka (the main character) is a bit awkward with her wings at first. They don't really have the main problems shown here though, as the Haibane have been around for a while, and their wings are much more uniform (and fairly small).

I think it's interesting to see this kind of thing, and how it's solved, because like you said, most stories tend to ignore such issues, even though they actually can have a significant impact on the world.

-EdorFaus
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 1st, 2015 08:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>While reading the comments for this poem (I've been reading my way through the series), I started thinking of the Haibane - who gain wings soon after they arrive, and are only allowed to wear secondhand clothes, which thus require adjustment. <<

Fascinating! I haven't seen that show.

>>I think it's interesting to see this kind of thing, and how it's solved, because like you said, most stories tend to ignore such issues, even though they actually can have a significant impact on the world.<<

Yay! I love digging into the core of things and ferreting out the implications.
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