Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "The Spotlight Can Change Everything"

This poem came out of the November 3, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a discussion with Anonymous. It also fills the "sense of ownership / control" square in my 11-3-20 card for the Sense-Ation Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by a pool with [personal profile] fuzzyred, [personal profile] ng_moonmoth, [personal profile] bairnsidhe, [personal profile] erulisse, and [personal profile] edorfaus. It belongs to the China's Mistake arc and the Fortressa thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"The Spotlight Can Change Everything"

[Monday, January 25, 2016]

Fortressa closed her laptop,
careful not to break it, because
she sure as hell felt like
breaking something.

At least this was probably
something she could help with.

Fortressa walked over to
Penny's sewing room.

"Do you still need models?"
Fortressa asked. "Could
you use a full-time one?"

Appliqué thumped down
from the cat tree and twined
around Fortressa's ankles,
purring like a well-tuned motor.

"Hell yes," Penny said,
looking up from her sewing.
"Primer is the only one who's
really into it. Socket just puts up
with it, and the others are catch
as catch can. I try not to impose,
but sometimes that's awkward.
Do you have an interested party?"

"Possibly," said Fortressa.
"What do you think about
the current fiasco in China?"

Penny went on a ten-minute rant
about forced labor, child labor,
dangerous factory conditions,
shitty fabric quality, and politics
that made "bottom-ten country"
seem like insufficient condemnation.

"So that's why I was holed up in here
for most of the weekend, because
fuck that noise," Penny finished.
"I've ditched the last fabric orders
that were sourced from China, which is
a bitch to find silk from other suppliers,
but there's this great guidebook for
replacements. I decided to go with
India -- sari silk and stuff like that."

Most of Penny's clothes were practical,
which meant durable fibers like cotton,
but silk was lovely for scarves and
the airy guayabera blouses.

"Okay. How do you feel about
digital people?" said Fortressa.

"Never heard of 'em," Penny said.

"It turns out that China has made
sexbots with artificial intelligence,"
Fortressa said. "Some of them are
people, and most of those want
to be anywhere but China now."

"China is such a shithole,"
Penny grumbled. "Sexbots,
really? Literal objectification."

"Some of them are childbots,
but those are in good hands
already," Fortressa added.

"I am suddenly thinking of
all the supervillains I know,"
Penny said through her teeth.

"Take a number and get in line,"
Fortressa said. "It's being handled."

"That's good to hear," said Penny.
"I probably shouldn't condone murder
or whatever, but child labor is just
such a huge problem in fashion,
and this is even worse than that."

"Yes," said Fortressa. "I suspect
that the more open-minded groups
who work against slavery and
trafficking will jump on this."

"Well, good," said Penny.
"What does all this have
to do with me, though?"

"Our prospective model
is one of the former sexbots,"
Fortressa said. "I know that
the Pit Group is my gang,
but the fashion business is
your own branch. I didn't
want to invite someone new
without your support for it."

"Giving a sexbot a job as
a model instead of prostitution?"
Penny said. "I support that like
the harness of my cargo pants,
but I'm not sure I can afford it yet."

A lot of former sex workers went into
the textile industry, and Penny now
had connections with organizations
like Sew Full of Hope, which helped
survivors become seamstresses.

"I'll cover the living wage,"
Fortressa said. "This is
a very important project."

"Then yeah, let's do it,"
Penny said. "I can't wait!"

"Thank you," Fortressa said.
"I'll pass the word about it."

Fortressa sent a message to
the people currently hosting
the sexbots, letting them know
that Penny did want a model.

An hour later, Fortressa
gathered her people in
the conference room.

"This is Qin Yuán,"
said Fortressa. "She's
a digital person from China,
now modeling for Penny."

Qin Yuán resembled a woman
in her early twenties, with
golden-fair skin, brown eyes,
and long black hair that
curled a little at the ends.

She wore a safari dress of
olive drab and sensible shoes,
making the outfit appear both
graceful and practical.

Fortress named the others
at the conference table, then
said, "Penny is head of fashion."

"Some of the other gals model for me,
but you'll be our first full-time model,"
Penny said, smiling at Qin Yuán."
"I hope it helps you to develop
a sense of ownership and control
over your life from here on out."

"I hope so too," said Qin Yuán.
"This all seems very new."

"One thing modeling taught me
is that the spotlight can change
everything," said Primer. "There
aren't many plus-size models, but
after I introduced Bombastica who
wanted pockets on plus-sized clothes,
Penny started making more things
for big figures. You'll get used to it."

"I'm a supervillain," said Fortressa.
"I got involved for the clothes, but
then Penny helped me upgrade
my battlesuits, and now some of
those designs are spreading
among capes of all colors."

Penny shrugged. "Fashion
crosses cape lines," she said.
"So Qin Yuán, what do you like?"

"Things that are both practical
and pretty," said Qin Yuán. "That's
why people directed me here."

"That's my specialty," said Penny.
"What caught your eye the most?"

"Safari clothes," said Qin Yuán.
"I love the shirts and dresses. I just
wish it was easier to find a matching purse,
now that I have more things I need to carry.
They make matching shoes, why not purses?"

"Oh oh oh!" Penny exclaimed, bouncing
out of her seat. She grabbed Qin Yuán
and headed for the sewing room.

Fortressa and some of the others
tagged along to watch the show.

First Penny handed Qin Yuán
a large tablet computer. "These
are different styles of purse.
Which kinds do you like?"

"I don't know," Qin Yuán said,
staring at her. "I didn't even
know there were kinds."

"Okay, reference photos here,"
Penny said, showing Qin Yuán
a file of various outfits, some of
them including a purse. "Play
around, then pick whatever
you think works the best."

Meanwhile Penny grabbed
the big roll of butcher paper and
yanked it over the drafting table,
then added a can of markers.

"For a dress or shirt that
already has many pockets,
maybe a small purse would do?"
Qin Yuán said, looking at pictures.

"I could fit a wristlet in here easily,"
Penny said, calling up a pattern for
a safari shirt. "See how shaped
the pieces are? It wastes a lot
of fabric that I'd like to use up."

Then she brought out a new one.
much more geometric, that used
the entire rectangle of cloth.

"This is a very old pattern
from when people had to use
every scrap because weaving
took so much time," Penny said.
"See the circles inside the neckholes?
I could use that fabric to make pouches
round bags without even trimming it."

"That might not be a big deal with
solid fabric, unless it's silk, but
any kind of print would really
benefit from a matching purse,"
Fortressa said. "Safari shirts are
almost always plain, but guayabera
is a similar pattern with fancy embroidery."

"Wristlet, wallet ... ooh, phone pouch!"
Penny said, sketching furiously.

"I want a phone pouch,"
chorused everyone except
Qin Yuán, who hadn't quite
caught up with the process.

She'd get the hang of it later.

That reminded Fortressa
to provide proper support,
though. "Qin Yuán, I can
help you find downloads
to expand your knowledge
of the fashion industry."

"Yes, please!" said Qin Yuán.
"I want to know everything
about modeling and fashion."

Did she have that much storage?
It seemed rude to ask so soon.

"I'll look for introductory materials
and see where that takes us,"
Fortressa said. "If you see
Penny doing anything that
you want to learn more about,
make a note and I'll look it up."

"That!" Qin Yuán said, pointing.

Penny was rough-sketching
something between the old pattern
and the modern safari shirt, trying
to make the pieces fit together like
a puzzle, including a wristlet,
a bindle, and a phone pouch.

"That's pattern drafting,"
said Fortressa, who had
learned something about
fashion since meeting Penny.
"I'll put it on the list for you,
along with modeling details."

"Thank you," said Qin Yuán.
"This is all so exciting! I never
got to have much fun except for
flower arranging, and that only
when my owner wanted it."

"Well, fuck that," Fortressa said.
"You own yourself now. What kinds
of flowers do you like arranging?"

"Orchids, plum blossoms, jasmine,
lotus, chrysanthemum -- all kinds
of things," said Qin Yuán.

"Get her some flowers,"
Penny said without looking up
from her drawing. "We can
use those in photo shoots."

"Shouldn't she get paid more if
she does two jobs?" Socket said.

"Don't look at me, I have no idea
what florists make," said Penny.

"I'll ask Toggle Key to look it up, and
I'll find some flowers," said Fortressa.

"I think I'm going to like it here,"
said Qin Yuán. "I get not just
one job but maybe two! I
like owning myself."

Mission accomplished,
Fortressa decided, and
went to find Toggle Key.

The spotlight was already
starting to change things.

* * *

Notes:

"One thing modeling taught me is that the spotlight can change everything."
-- Liya Kebede

The leading producers of silk are China, India, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Japan, Republic of Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, and Iran. China is not only the biggest but also the supplier to most world markets, followed by India.

The guayabera shirt has short sleeves and four flap pockets in beige, black, sky blue, red, cantaloupe, brown, navy, rose pink, mint green, khaki. T-America adds gray, lavender, taupe, and white.

The infinity scarf has a hidden zip pocket in a wide range of styles.

Sew Full of Hope is a Terramagne-American project that teaches survivors of human trafficking how to become seamstresses. With job skills, they can find employment, which makes them less vulnerable and supports their recovery.

This is an example of a whole-cloth dress from history, when people had to weave their own cloth and were determined to use as much of the bolt as possible. Hardcore historic re-enactors occasionally make these.

Purses come in many styles.

See a picture and instructions for drafting a bush shirt. This kind of top is great if you want something comfortable, practical, and durable with plenty of cargo pockets. You can add more pockets if you want.

Fashion models have different types. The fashion industry has a huge dearth of diversity. Some people in T-America are taking direct action to solve that problem, as in Penny's efforts to use a wide variety of models to design and advertise her garments. Learn how to become a model.

Chinese flower arranging has a deep history. It can be organized by types of container and by flowers used.

Tags: activism, crafts, cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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