Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Penny's Pocket Parity"

This poem came out of the 1/8/19 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by [personal profile] peoriapeoriawhereart and [personal profile] alatefeline. It also fills the "student / apprentice" square in my 8-7-18 card for the Fairy Tales Bingo fest. This card belongs to the Fortressa thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Penny's Pocket Parity"

[Saturday, April 4, 2015]

Fortressa and her Pit Group were
lounging around the living room and
browsing the BlackSheep pastures.

Men Are Thistles had a lot of activity.
Fortressa liked it because it was easy
to access, so it got plenty of traffic
and gave her ideas for things to fix.

Penny_in_stitches: Fucking men!
I just got rejected from grad school and
my chances of landing a summer internship
don't look good either. My stupid advisor
says I should consider a different career

Tintagel_smith: That sucks. Your advisor
is an idiot. You should do a job you want.
What career are you working toward?

Penny_in_stitches: Fashion design.
I want to make practical clothes for women,
but everyone says my designs are ugly.
I don't care. I want pockets!

Fortressa drummed her fingers
on her thigh. It was hard to find
women's clothes with pockets at all,
let alone generous ones or anything
that actually looked good and fit well.

Tintagel_smith: Send me your specs.

Penny_in_stitches: Nice try.
Just because I'm having trouble
doesn't mean I'm open to plagiarism

Tintagel_smith: Potential investor here.
Sadly, a sewing machine is one of
the few devices I CAN'T use

A minute later, her laptop
pinged as a packet arrived.

Fortressa opened the attachments
to find colorful fashion sketches
of several different garments.

There was a big fluffy overcoat,
jackets paired with skirts and pants,
buttoned blouses, vests and shorts,
even a few dresses and jumpsuits.

Every outfit, and almost every garment,
had pockets. Many of the models had
their hands inside to show them off.

Socket leaned over to look at them.
"I waaaant some," she said, pointing to
a blue floral vest with white shorts.

"I think I prefer the jacket and trousers,"
Fortressa said as she switched over
to a matching set from the same line.

"Those are nice too," Socket said.

"Now if only the staff at her college
agreed with us," Fortressa said.

"It's their mistake," Socket said
with a shrug. "You can't stop
people from being stupid."

"That's not a mistake,
that's deliberate sabotage,"
Fortressa snarled. "Well,
we will just see about that."

Her fingers clacked on the keys.

Tintagel_smith: We like
the sketches. Do you have
any finished garments to show?

Penny_in_stitches: I'll send you
pictures of things I made as projects
for some of my previous classes.
What are you looking for?

Tintagel_smith: Two of us
like the blue-and-white spring line.
Do you have any work clothes, though?

Penny_in_stitches: LOL yes,
I have all the work clothes too!

Actuator and Joint piled onto
the couch beside them.

"Pretty, but the colors are
too bright for me," Actuator said.
"Do they come in soft neutrals?"

"Or earth tones?" said Joint.

"I like both of those," Toggle Key
said as she abandoned her game.

"Let me see," said Primer. "Nah,
I like the bright colors better. I'd go
for those blues first, but I wouldn't
mind the jacket with the hot pink trim."

"This will take forever just typing,"
said Fortressa. "Tog, send an invite
to Penny_in_stitches and see if she
wants to video chat. If she does,
put her up on the media wall."

The big grid consisted of
twelve viewscreens that could
share a single image or split up
to show different scenes.

Within minutes, the media wall
lit up with a picture of Penny_in_stitches
in black pants and a white t-shirt that read,
Don't run with scissors on the front.

Fortressa wondered if that had
anything to do with the long scar
that ran down her left forearm.

"Hello," she said, waving.

"Hi," the girl replied, tucking
her long red hair behind her ear.
"I'm Penny Snyder in person."

"Fortressa," the older woman said,
and the rest of the Pit Group
introduced themselves.

"I sent you pictures of
finished garments that
I've made," Penny said.

"On it," said Toggle Key.
She split the screens so that
half still showed Penny and
the rest displayed various clothes.

"Ooo," said the Pit Group.

Fortressa had to agree.
Everything was eye-catching,
but the available samples spanned
several styles and color palettes.

"Does all this stuff come together
in an actual business plan?" she said.

"Well yeah, but that would take a while
to send," Penny said. "It's huge."

"Get it started," Fortressa said.
"Why is it so big, though?"

"The graduate program is
really for people who want
to start their own business, and
not just work for someone else,"
Penny said. "I had to come up with
a whole plan for my application ... but
then they didn't like my ideas."

"Like I said, they're idiots,"
Fortressa said. "What did
you have in mind before your
college plans crapped out?"

"Qualifying graduates get
a grant to launch their brand,"
Penny explained. "I was counting
on that to get started, because
I figured that once women saw
my clothes, they'd want more."

Fortressa looked around the room.
All her minions nodded eagerly.

"Okay, let's see if we can
work something out," she said.

The business plan arrived, but
Fortressa couldn't figure out
what it actually meant.

"Tog, dig into that and
tell me if it's solid," she said.

"Can do," said Toggle Key.

"I had planned to release
one line of clothes per season
until I build up a customer base,"
Penny said. "Then I can expand
to offer more different things.
It doesn't have to start fancy,
just give women stuff to wear."

"That makes sense," Fortressa said.
"Let's look at what ideas you have
and see how those break into sets."

"Do you have anything made up from
the fashion sketches?" Socket asked.
"Some of those look really nice."

"Those came from Fashion Illustration,"
said Penny. "I made my first safari shirt
for that class, but the final project was
just one garment. The rest is all sketches.
I saved them because I thought it'd be fun
to do a line of fashionable clothes with
pockets, but that's for later on."

"She's got a lot of good stuff
in the project pictures," Joint said.
"Look at all these cargo clothes!"

"Those came out of a class on
Fashion and Fasteners -- you know,
zippers, buttons, snaps, and so on,"
said Penny. "I think those would
make a good fall/winter line."

"I could get on board with that,"
said Toggle Key. "You've got
clothes that mix and match well."

"They're designed to do that,"
Penny said. "When you make a line
of clothes, you pick colors that go
together, so customers can assemble
a capsule wardrobe if they want to."

"I'm trying to figure out how
that would work, but I'm not
seeing it," Joint said, frowning.

"Start with four basic garments
in the same color: two tops
and two bottoms," Penny said.
"Safari shirt, guayabera shirt,
cargo pants, and cargo shorts.
They all match each other."

"Okay, I get it now," Joint said.

"Add four more things either in
the same color or a new one,"
Penny said. "A shirt dress and
a jumpsuit are one-piece outfits,
but you can add to them if you want.
A safari vest gives you an outer layer,
and a cargo skirt changes the bottom."

Keys clattered as Joint took notes.
Fortressa thought that was a good idea.

"It seems like a small start, though,"
said Primer. "You'd really have to rely on
your other clothes, and finding pockets
in women's wear is pretty hard."

"I want to release more lines later,"
said Penny. "It takes time to build up
both inventory and customer recognition."

"What about softer colors, and maybe
a little more flow?" Actuator said.

"I did a batch for Practical Femininity
with pastels and soft neutrals like
tan and gray," said Penny. "It has
more dresses, some pastels, and
soft neutrals like beige and gray.
I was thinking of spring/summer."

Tog shuffled the images on
the media wall to show them.

"Okay, some of these might
work for me," Actuator said.

"So you have a whole year
of clothing if you combine
Fasteners and Femininity,"
Fortressa said thoughtfully.
"You could start with those."

"There's another batch, too, from
Multicolor Mode," said Penny. "It's
hard to make an outfit merge well
with only solid colors. Throw in
a print and it all comes together."

"Yeah, that's why I love camo,"
said Toggle Key. "You get three
to six colors all at once, and you
just match it with a solid piece."

"I did a few fashion pieces, like
tricolor tank tops and floral tops with
sequin contrast pockets, but then I
took a different approach, " said Penny.

"Oh, how did that go?" Fortressa said.
Her ideas often went off on a tangent too.

"Most of them are just basic things
such as wrist bands, infinity scarves,
or bohemian pants that can be made up
in any multicolor print. Contrast pockets
you can slap on anything," said Penny.
"I have a ton of that stuff left."

"Scarves with pockets?"
Actuator wondered.

"It's a secret pocket
to hide your cash,"
Penny explained.

"Oh, like travel clothes!"
Joint said. "Those have
all kinds of hidden pockets --
hats, bras, panties, socks,
you name it and they have it.
They even make pockets you
can sew into your own clothes."

"Now there's an idea," Primer said.
"You could make a deal with a company
that already sells travel clothes with
secret pockets, and it would expand
on what your customers could buy."

"It wouldn't cost you anything, just put
a link and take a commission on sales,"
Toggle Key added. "That's easy to do."

"Easy for a programmer, maybe,"
said Penny. "I'm a lot better with art
and fashion than with computers."

"No problem," said Toggle Key. "I will
happily build you a website in exchange
for clothes. You could add a military supplier
for camo clothes, too -- most of those have
great pockets. Concealed carry underwear
has pockets of velcro or stretchy fabric."

"I'll try that," Penny said. "I already
planned to get outside sources for
things like belts and shoes."

"You could probably find
basics like t-shirts, polos, and
track suits too," said Actuator.

Penny jotted more notes.

"If you want to farm out
some stuff, I know a group
that could make simple clothes
from multicolor cloth," said Fortressa.
"Sew Full of Hope is a project that
trains human trafficking survivors
to become seamstresses."

"I've heard of that," Penny said.
"I wanted to take World Affairs but
it didn't fit into my schedule. Some of
my friends took it and they discussed
how the fashion industry can either
support or thwart human trafficking.
If you have contacts, I'm listening."

"That's great. I'll see about making
some arrangements," Fortressa said.

"Thanks," said Penny. "I really
want to make this work, I just
can't do it all by myself."

Toggle Key showed Fortressa
some parts of the business plan
condensed to short paragraphs.
It all looked quite promising.

"Okay Penny, what would it take
to get started?" Fortressa said.

"Well, that depends ..." Penny hedged,
looking away from the webcamera.

"Quit that," Fortressa said. "You have
a plan. Stick up for yourself. What do you
need in order to do this right? What would
you have gotten from the graduate grant?"

"The average grant provides $10,000,"
said Penny. "That's about what it
costs to launch one season of
an indie clothing brand. There
are more expenses after that --
and most brands collapse after
their third season because
the money runs out by then."

That was a fraction of what
Fortressa spent on a battlesuit,
and she wrecked those periodically.

Supervillainy paid well, especially when
she made super-gizmos for other people.
She had also done a few more favors for
Ilyana, who paid extra for the embarrassment
of a supervillain working on the good side.

"If the timing is a problem, then let's
break this into stages," said Fortressa.
"We can give you $10,000 per season
for the first three. You can start with
the Multicolor stuff you already have.
That should give you time to make
to make the Fasteners line for fall,
and leave Femininity for spring."

"Then just loop back around and
release more of the safari style
for the next fall," said Toggle Key.
"People will learn what to expect
in which seasons pretty quick,
and then you'll make real money."

Penny gave an excited bounce
that set her long red hair swinging.

Then she reined herself in. "I don't
know how long it would take me to repay
that much of an investment," she said.

"I don't want your money, I want
your clothes," Fortressa said.

"But ... that's a lot of money,"
Penny said, nibbling her lip.

Fortressa shrugged. "Not to me.
I have plenty. What I do not have
is a reliable source of clothes made
for real life, not fashion runways."

"Like play clothes, only for grownups,"
Actuator said. "I miss my Tomboy Sawyers."

"I knowww," Penny groaned. "It sucks that
those only go up to the tween sizes."

"So let's fix that," Fortressa said.
"We'll fund your launch, and in return,
we get free copies of your clothes."

"How many clothes?" Penny said.
"And how many people in the deal?"

"One of every new garment for each
of us, but that includes the different colors,
based on our preferences," Fortressa said.
"It covers me and my Pit Group, eight total."

"Oh, that I can do," Penny said. "You can
start with the multicolors when I haul them
out of storage after I graduate this spring."

"That'll be fun," Socket said, grinning.

"This is so exciting!" Penny said.
"I'll have to figure out the details,
find seamstresses and models,
but I really think it will work."

"Any of you gals ever want
to be models?" Fortressa said.

"Yeah, but it was just a fling that
me and my sister went through
in high school," said Primer.

"Ugh, not me," said Socket.

"What, you don't think lesbians
should be fashion models?"
Fortressa said. "Or soups?"

Socket sighed. "Okay, you win.
I'd rather not be recognizable
in the pictures, though."

"No problem," Penny said.
"We can shoot you in hoodies
or rear views or things like that."

"I can deal with that," Socket said.

"I'll write it down," Penny said, then
laughed. "So much for my advisor
saying that my dream is ridiculous
and my career is a mistake."

Fortressa snorted. "Holding
your boundaries firm against
people who say you're being
ridiculous is not a mistake."

"I hope so," Penny said.
"There's just so much to do ..."

"The more things you can cover
with friends and allies, the less money
you need to spend out of pocket, and
the more you'll have to invest in making
the clothes themselves," Fortressa said.

"Good point," Penny said. "Okay, so
you've offered computer programming
and modeling on top of investment --"

"If you need equipment set up,
like a workshop or garage factory,
we can do that too," said Fortressa.
"After all, we built this one for ourselves."

Setting up the equipment to make clothes
couldn't be nearly as difficult as building
super-gizmos, and they did that all time.

"This is going to be so awesome,"
Penny said, her eyes shining.

Fortressa thought about having
clothes with all the pockets
she could possibly want.

"Yes," she said, "it will."

* * *


This poem is long, so the character, setting, and content notes appear separately.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, economics, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, life lessons, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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