You Can Change Your Clothes, But You Can't Change the Girl

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This shining population center is considered the jewel of The Sylira Region. Home of the vast majority of Mizahar's population, Syliras is nestled in a quiet, sprawling valley on the shores of the Suvan Sea. [Lore]

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You Can Change Your Clothes, But You Can't Change the Girl

Postby Angelabeth Dunkirk on June 15th, 2009, 9:45 pm

Timestamp: Summer, 509 AV

Angelabeth Dunkirk was feeling irritable.

Not that this was much of a change for the nineteen-year-old girl, who seemed to be in a perpetually peevish mood. It wasn't always evident -- indeed, Angelabeth was quite capable of appearing calm and pleasant for extended lengths of time, which was one of the reasons her mother had always found her so helpful around the shop. But it was always lurking just beneath the surface, a state of constant annoyance at the world in general, as well as most specific portions of it that were in contact with her at the moment.

Just now, that meant the streets of Syliras just inside the city gates. Angelabeth flicked her brown eyes from side to side, taking the whole scene in. Streets (dirty), adults (clueless), children (unsanitary), buildings (ugly). It was different from Zeltiva, and although Angelabeth had never thought she would say this, it was probably worse. For a split second, she wished she hadn't left.

Not that there was much of a choice for her. Since she was twelve, Angelabeth had helped her mother in her clothing shop, the Skillful Seamstress. By the time she was fourteen, it was clear that her native talent for design and craftsmanship far exceeded that of her mediocre mother. This had caused no small amount of tension, given that her work was what her mother took the most pride in.

The disparity became more and more obvious until, a week before her nineteenth birthday, her mother had informed her that her services were no longer required, and she probably should see about finding another line of work. But there was a real limit to the number of tailors in Zeltiva -- the city imported nearly all of its clothing, and the sailors especially knew how to make minor repairs themselves. As Angelabeth had no other skills, it was necessary for her to leave town in order to find someone willing to employ her.

The irony was, Angelabeth hated clothing design. The dresses and gowns she so excelled in creating were worthless for actually doing anything, so there was no practicality to them. Most women, she had found, had no idea what their good features actually were, and so the choices they made were extremely unflattering. Invariably, the woman with nice shoulders but bony legs wanted something with a slit that would show off more calf, or the flat-chested girl with a beautiful face wanted something to draw attention to her (nonexistent) bust. (Of course, some of them, no amount of fashion would help, even if properly directed.)

The fashions that were "in" were often impossibly ugly, or required taking something nice and making it bad. Angelabeth drearily recalled the year that featherweave was the latest thing, and she had spent weeks taking perfectly good peacock feathers and making them into flimsy, unattractive fabric. And besides, no one but the rich cared about it anyway -- even in a well-off city such as Zeltiva, a common sailor probably only had one or two changes of clothing of any kind.

But, it was an undeniable talent, and she wasn't equipped to switch careers now. Syliras had seemed like the obvious place to look -- there wasn't much call for fancy clothes in Sunberth, and Lisnar was too strange to take as a first step. Somewhere in this town, she knew, there was a tailor that could use her services, ridiculous as they were. But where?

She took a few steps forward, looking for the way to the commercial district, where she figured something like that might be located. Best to find it before it got too dark, especially since she had nothing in the way of accommodations for the evening.
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Re: You Can Change Your Clothes, But You Can't Change the Girl

Postby Gossamer on June 20th, 2009, 4:59 pm

Syliras was indeed the place to go if one wanted to design clothing for the elite, rich, or just the simple folks that had extra money to spend. That was one of the successes of the Dyres Family - setting up a community that thrived in these times and generated enough income through commerce to actually establish a place where people actively sought 'wants' rather than needs to survive. In Syliras, you could by elegant (but somewhat useless) horses that were more form than function. You could also buy costly jewelry, again almost functionless unless you were simply interested in displaying one's wealth visually. And as for clothing, there was an entire region dedicated too it.

Syliras was above and beyond the Knighthood, a gathering of crafters. The sheep and goat, even alpaka farms for wool and the silk production thrived under the protective aura of the Syliran Knighthood. Fibers were raised, cleaned, and dyed in the Tivar Region of the city which managed to flank the northeastern outskirts. Those textiles were then shipped into the city, closer still, where they were sold in small fabric shops and custom clothing shops that employed seamstresses and designers alike. A question here, a small inquiry there, and the friendly citizens of Syliras would immediately point to the best of those shops.

An Elegant Weave was a combination fabric store and clothing shop. It was divided into two parts on the main floor where it was built into its own three story building. The top floor was dedicated to staff apartments wile the second story was a design studio. The third floor, being at ground level, was their retail outlet. One half housed bolts of cloth, spools of lace, and anything the enterprising home seamstress might want... including several varieties of mechanized sewing machines with elegant iron foot pumps. Most people though, including those who worked in Elegant had a scorn for such things and did most of their sewing by hand. The other part of the shop housed completed garments. There was a set of fitting rooms, a small pedestal for measuring a client and doing final fittings, and rack upon rack of completed designs. The clothing ran from the simple and functional to the elegant formal ballroom gown, as the Knights themselves were apt to hold dances and gatherings in all sorts of celebrations.

A long low island separated the two sections. It contained a cutting table, and an elegant counter, folding area and a place to house notions as well as racks upon racks of threads.

Navia Darsta was the owner, and a simple inquiry of one of the staff as to her whereabouts would find her in yet a third area - one reserved for staff only. It was a tall glass orangery that attached onto the back of the building leading out into a nice gardens and staff stables. The orangery was the official 'sewing room' of the Elegant Weave, where the lighting was perfect and the aura peaceful enough for the people of the place to get some serious work done. It isn't uncommon to find employees and designers gathered, sewing, telling stories and talking among themselves.

It would be here that Angelabeth Dunkirk would be lead if she asks for Navia and inquired about a job.
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Re: You Can Change Your Clothes, But You Can't Change the Girl

Postby Angelabeth Dunkirk on June 20th, 2009, 10:12 pm

Angelabeth did, in fact, make the proper inquiries, and in less time than she had anticipated, she was standing in front of the Elegant Weave. It was a larger building than she had expected, and she hesitated just for a moment before she went in.

The orangery surprised her. Angelabeth was used to the wooden slatwall of her mother's store, and hadn't thought that even high-end designers would work in a glass room that smelled of citrus and distant flowers. Again, there was one step's worth of hesitation, but she quickly put it behind her. Having identified the owner, Angelabeth walked forward firmly. There was a pleasant expression on her face, and when she spoke, it was politely and cheerfully, regardless of her hovering sense of irritation.

"Hello," she said, offering a polite curtsey. "My name is Angelabeth Dunkirk, and I've recently moved to Syliras from Zeltiva. I was employed there as a clothing designer and seamstress at the Skillful Seamstress. I'm here to inquire whether a similar position might be available at your establishment. I have samples of my work if you should wish to examine them, and I'll gladly answer any questions you might have about my experience or background."

Gladly might not have been entirely true inside Angelabeth's mind, but there was nothing in her respectful demeanor to indicate that she was being anything less than forthright. Maintaining a disconnect between her exterior and interior worlds was something in which the girl specialized, and which she was even better at than she was at designing beautiful clothes that she would come to loathe.

At any rate, she gave a friendly smile and waited to see if Ms. Darsta would ask further questions, or simply inform her that no such positions were available.
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Re: You Can Change Your Clothes, But You Can't Change the Girl

Postby Gossamer on August 2nd, 2009, 10:44 pm

Navia Darsta raised an eyebrow and smiled. "I've heard of you. My sister lives in Zeltiva, and owns a textile and dying operation. You're young, with more talent than desire and it shows in your work. Natilia claims you have the ability to make a pig look elegant, yet you no more notice a change in dye lot than you would the horse your riding suddenly becoming a cow. Rurmor has it, if the creature still got you from point a to point b you'd hardly mind." Navia said, rising and circling the girl. She noted the girls wardrobe with a critical eye, but also took the time to notice her hands, her body position, and how she watched Navia.

"Yes, show me your designs. We have a position open. But I'd like to know what you were thinking when you designed each piece and why it is cut the way you have cut it."
The woman said simply, taking a seat again and giving the pacing space in the orangery back to Angelabeth.

Navia was an experienced designer. She knew the ins and outs of clothing, textiles and even a bit about weaving and dying. What she didn't understand is people, and that was one reason why before she hired anyone, she wanted to know them a bit... even if it was just a tiny bit.. so she knew how to fit them into their life. The truth was, she had no fault with Angelabeth's work. But she had a great deal of curiosity about her.
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Re: You Can Change Your Clothes, But You Can't Change the Girl

Postby Angelabeth Dunkirk on August 2nd, 2009, 11:33 pm

Angelabeth was taken aback to hear that Navia knew of her, and unsure of exactly how to take the combination of compliment and condemnation that the seamstress offered her. There was a certain wariness in her eyes as she watched Navia walk around the room. Her hands were clasped behind her back, and she couldn't have been any stiffer had she been dipped in concrete.

After Navia finally sat back down, Angelabeth came back to herself a bit and opened a bag that she had been carrying. She had no idea how to answer the question of what she had been thinking. I was thinking I needed a paycheck, she thought irritably, though she was more in control now, and her placid facade had snapped back into position.

She produced a green satin dress, trimmed with blue lace. It had a deep v-shaped neckline, and the hem, which was mid-calf length, was carefully scalloped. A blue bow, the same color as the lace, provided an accent; it was positioned just above the left hip.

"This is one of last year's pieces." Angelabeth settled on the sort of neutral tone she would take with a customer in the shop. "Ocean colors were in, and this was designed to be worn at a ball put on by the Sailors' Guild. The wearer was a woman whose best feature was her bust and whose worst was her hair; I did the best I could to draw the eye towards the good and away from the bad. The greens and blues complemented both each other and the theme of the occasion. At the same time, it wasn't a full formal occasion, and so I tried to keep the accents and the pattern more conservative than if it had been the Lord of Council's party, for instance."

She then took out a second piece. This one was a blouse, made of a dark, russet linen. It was a deceptively simple pattern, with long sleeves and a circular neckline. The material was gathered slightly at the sides. The stitchwork was as precise as if it had been performed by magic; it called no attention to itself, but if one were to focus on it for some reason, the almost brutal regularity of the stitches would be noteworthy.

"Neotraditional was the fashion last winter, and so I designed this one as a display for the shop window. Tasteful, subdued colors, classic lines. We sold at least twenty of these, in various shades and sizes."

Angelabeth didn't know whether to continue further or not, and so she stopped here, an affable smile pasted onto her face.
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Re: You Can Change Your Clothes, But You Can't Change the Girl

Postby Gossamer on August 3rd, 2009, 12:04 am

Navia wasn't so much interested in the cut and style of the clothing - although she did take an interest in what Angelabeth said about the customers strong suits and playing down her weaknesses - because she knew that Zeltiva fashion was decidedly not Syliras fashion and no designer in the world could ever change that. A calf length hem on a ballgown? In Syliras that would be considered scandalous, for ballgowns were designed with the length and sweep of fabric in mind. The more fabric in the dress the more money one's husband had. It generally indicated, especially within this city, a higher rank in the Knighthood as well. Sleeves were particularly important in that regard, and Navia knew that people in Zeltiva spent more money on books and lectures than they ever did on fabric.

It was a shame.

Instead, she took the clothing and examined how the fabric was used. Did Angelabeth make the most of her cuts? Did she use the bias to add stretch or cut on the straight to conceal bulge? Her stitches were insanely neat, uniform, and there was no evidence that any had been taken out. Overall the work was very impressive, even if the fabric had to be forgiven for its texture and uniquely Zeltiva flare. That was nothing the young seamstress had any control over.

The blouse was another thing all together. It was nothing special, but in that there was genius. People had little coin. Flamboyant clothing could be worn only once or twice in a season or else it was considered flippant and the wearer eccentric. But a simple blouse like this was something every woman would have in her wardrobe because it would go with numerous other pieces - skirts, slacks, and could be covered with something more enticing like a jacket or vest, that could be traded out less frequently because everyone knew vests were inexpensive. She even liked the choice of fabric, for it said nothing of itself and let its wearer shine on their own.

Navia nodded. "I like what I see." Then she turned, rose, and walked to the edge of the orangery and called out. "Cynthia, can you come here a moment, my dear?" She asked, as another woman who had been browsing the shop unobtrusively stepped into the seating area.

"Navia, ready for me?" Cynthia asked, smiling. She was a slightly heavy older woman with a streak of gray in her hair. Navia chuckled. "I have here a young designer seeking a position with us. I was wondering if you'd mind if we used you for a trial for her. I'll give you a ten percent discount on your order today, guaranteed money back if you dislike what she does. How does that sound? I know you need a mother's dress for your daughters wedding, and I do not think she'll disappoint." The older woman, Cynthia, seemed to think it over, then glanced at Angelabeth. "Certainly, I'm game to let you, young lady, try to make something nice for my fluffy old bones. My daughter is getting married in thirty days and she's having a wedding outside by Pavi Lake. The men will be in their knights uniforms, and she wishes to dress in green. I was thinking of silvers and greens myself, but I was hoping for Navia's input. Do you think you can make me a dress for the wedding? Something conservative?" She asked, curiously.
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Re: You Can Change Your Clothes, But You Can't Change the Girl

Postby Angelabeth Dunkirk on August 3rd, 2009, 11:11 pm

Angelabeth exhaled slightly when Navia gave her approval. Not that she had anything personally invested in the work -- she didn't -- but it meant that he chances of finding steady employment had just gone up. And, given that the girl had no backup plan and no non-textile-related skills, that was more than a little important.

It seemed that what skills she did have were going to be put immediately to the test. Angelabeth turned to face Cynthia and gave a polite curtsey. "Thank you for the opportunity," she said automatically. The wheels in her head were turning rapidly. Silver and green, conservative, outdoors-friendly, and if at all possible slimming. Without even really being conscious of it, she was already beginning to formulate some ideas.

"I'll do my very best to provide you with something excellent," she said. "I'll take your measurements in a moment, but if it's all right with you, I'd like to ask you a few more questions so that I'm able to tailor something directly to your tastes." Angelabeth almost never met with any resistance at this question; most people, egocentric as they were, were more than happy to ramble on about themselves at any conceivable length.

Assuming this was the case, Angelabeth tilted her head slightly to the side. "What kinds of fabrics do you like wearing? We need something that can be worn outdoors; I'd be tempted to suggest a linen, but if there's something else you prefer, we can certainly work with that. And, aside from keeping the overall look conservative, is there anything that you simply can't do without, or that on the other hand, you can't abide at all?" Customers' preferences could be exasperatingly arbitrary, and Angelabeth had long ago learned to take care of these things up front to avoid unpleasant conversations later.
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Re: You Can Change Your Clothes, But You Can't Change the Girl

Postby Gossamer on August 4th, 2009, 8:41 pm

Navia slowly withdrew, making a gesture as she did so towards the section of elegant weave reserved for the seemestresses and designers. There was a table there for cutting fabric which had all the supplies Angelabeth would need to take Cynthia's measurements - along with a slate and chalk for taking notes. No actual work was done on the table, for there was another section of store just for that. However, it was used so that customers that simply wanted fabric could pick some out and have it cut to length so that they could take it with them immediately.

Navia's gesture indicated that Angelabeth should make free use of the area for her employment test.

Cynthia was thrilled, it seemed, to be asked about what she really wanted. The older woman seemed to pause, think things through, and then answered carefully. "I don't know much about fabric really. I like things that are light and cool in this weather, but designed so that if a chilly wind comes up in the evening, I have a wrap or one of my shawls will not look out of place over it. I wear a lot of silvers and grays to go with my hair, but I also like purples, deep blues, and burgandy. Linen, thats nice and light... I wouldn't mind that. Wool is too warm and it gives me red bumps against my skin unless its made from those furry little long-necked creatures that farmers sometimes keep with their sheep. As for something I can't do without... like I said.. it must look okay for me to wear a shawl or have a matching wrap so if the temperatures drop. This wedding will probably go on for hours, and the heat of the day is not the cool of the evening. That is a must. I do not like florals... in all honesty. I'd be disappointed with something floral." She said, then looked around awkwardly. "My sister will be wearing florals. They make her stand out, and not in the good way, if you know what I mean." She said, then continued to give Angelabeth a little bit too much feedback on why her sister was so scandelous. This dialog lasted about five minutes before she seemed to realize she'd strayed from the topic at hand and looked at Angelabeth expectantly.
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Re: You Can Change Your Clothes, But You Can't Change the Girl

Postby Angelabeth Dunkirk on August 5th, 2009, 12:58 am

Angelabeth listened, outwardly appearing to be friendly and attentive. She was, indeed, paying careful attention to what Cynthia wanted, although she wasn't interested in the least in whatever quarrel Cynthia and her sister had going.

"Tell me what you think of this," Angelabeth said once it was her turn to speak. She looked over the various fabrics at hand, selecting a high-quality linen that was a deep, almost forest green. "We could use this as the base, give it a traditional cut, and a u-neck, though nothing too daring. Then, from the hem to the waist, we could add vertical striping, perhaps a thin silver material of some sort. Nothing flashy, just something to add interest to the dress. Plus, I like wearing vertical stripes myself, since it's at least five pounds off my figure without my having to do anything," she added conspiratorially.

"You can decide whether you want the skirting pleated or not -- it could go either way," Angelabeth went on. "And there are several ways one could dress up the top. It would look more than fetching with a purple or silver lace shawl, or we could go with a vest, or even a jacket -- in either case, I'd probably suggest the same silver as the striping. At any rate, something that you could put on in the evening once it gets cooler."

The girl then waited to judge Cynthia's response. If positive, she would begin taking the woman's measurements, as well as asking her if she had shoes or other accessories picked out. And if not, well she could always think of something different...
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Re: You Can Change Your Clothes, But You Can't Change the Girl

Postby Gossamer on August 6th, 2009, 5:30 pm

"That sounds lovely. Like I said, I'm not too particular and don't know a whole lot about fabrics. I don't think I've ever had anything in forest green - my normal favorites are more sages and the muted colors. I think they go better with the grayish sheen of silver. Plus I cannot afford metallic fabrics. I just like colors that go with my hair. Does forest green go with it?" She asked, as if totally undecided. While she'd said she wasn't to particular, like many customers, she was going to give good coin for the dress so she wanted to have exactly what she wanted. "Stripes? Going downward? Takes off five pounds? Well that sounds charming. I might really enjoy that. If we do a purple wrap though, I'd like the striping material to have some purple in it as well along with the silver. I tend to like to match all over, but in subtle ways that mix patterns and shapes, so long as there's no flowers. I know the combination sounds garish, but with all the fabrics here, I know Navia has something that will work." Cynthia said, reaching up to loosely pat at her hair. The woman was in her late fifties, which was strikingly old for the average womans age in these days. Though Angelabeth was used to it being from Zeltiva. The scholars there tended to be older, more versed, and live a more careful lifestyle than people did elsewhere in the world.

"I will tell you what. I trust Navia's judgment, and she seems to trust yours. I'll leave it in your careful hands. And accessories? No my dear, not at all. I have a wardrobe full of kidskins of all varieties, something will work, and my daughter is a fine commodities trader so once the dress is made, I'll go force myself on her until we have the perfect jewelry and such." The woman said, then dutifully removed her jacket and shoes to step up onto the seamstress' stand to allow Angelabeth to take her measurements. The whole while she was chatting about fashions, the excitement of a new dress, and which she liked better - the V neck or the U neck. It turned out she liked U's far better since she'd turned fifty because according to her she no longer needed to advertise what V's showed off. She had nine cats, hated pleated skirts, and wondered which of her four kids were going to give her grandchildren first - all of which the males were Syliran Knights. She blamed that fact on the lack of children currently.

All and all Cynthia was a pleasant woman. She didn't smell bad, and she was well dressed in a swirling skirt of mixed earthtones with a cream colored top that showed off her pale skin. She wore a simple topaz pendent and had sensible walking shoes that were thick soled to cushion her legs against the endless miles of stone corridors within Stormhold and its streets beyond.
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