When I started this site, I promised to occasionally post one of my many short stories. I don't lie, so here's one, right here! I actually included this little tale as a bonus at the end of Zombie Anatomy 101. So, if you have that book, you've probably read it. Who knows what you do? At any rate, I wrote this back in 2013 as I considered clothing trends in our society and how absurd it is that if you see your favorite idol in high waisted pants you must immediately stop what you're doing to run to the store and get high waisted pants. It is ludicrous and I have to admit, especially in my younger body, I fell for this marketing trick on multiple occasions. (I actually still like to wear a hat with a scarf under it, a fashion-forward statement I learned from Boy George). But enough chitter chatter. We're all followers to one degree or another, don't you think? All except Maxine Michelle Mulatti, leader of the sheeple. Enjoy! - Chick
The Advent of Fashion
"THE OBJECT OF FASHION IS TO MAKE UNIQUE FOOLS OF EVERY GENERATION"
PT 1. Before the Advent of Fashion
In a small town of small-minded people lived a larger than life girl. The town was called Lemming, named after its founding father, Peter Paul Lemming, a uniform manufacturer who over time had turned his trade into the industry that kept this place alive. A large, smog blowing factory sat in the center of downtown and there they turned out the most accurate, identical uniforms ever seen by anyone anywhere.
The girl in question was Maxine Michelle Mulatti. She lived in a mansion of a house that sat on a hill just on the edge of Lemming, its shadow looming over the entire population, which at present was under a thousand souls. Maxine was a girl of 13, with all the grace and sophistication of the Queen of England. The air about her wreaked of old money, since she was a descendent of the great Montgomery Marion Mulatti who was an oil tycoon. Her family was unhealthily wealthy and loomed like shadows (much like their house) over all the people of Lemming.
Sophisticated though she was, Maxine was not snotty or uppity like the rest of her family. Rather she was a mischievous, ornery little thing who liked to pretend she was better than the commoners just like her relatives, even though not a single bone in her body was better than anyone in her opinion. It was a game she had been playing ever since she became aware of the fact that everyone in Lemmings carried a fierce envy of the Mulatti family.
Maxine went so far with her charade as to befriend Lorelli Lemming who, because of her bloodline, was classified in the same upper crust as Maxine herself. Initially, Maxine took her on as a best friend merely for kicks and for image, but eventually she truly came to like Lorelli and the two became inseparable. One day the two walked home from school together, stopping at the town general store for licorice and, licking the sticky from her fingers, Lorelli declared to Maxine…
"This is the second day you've worn a vest, Maxine." Lorelli wiped her hands across the front of her own vest.
"So?" Maxine retorted. "You have a vest on too."
"So I do," said Lorelli. "It's because I thought it looked so fetching on you. I just had to see how becoming it would on me."
"It's very," said Maxine, "…becoming that is."
"Did you notice," Lorelli questioned, "how very many students wore vests today?"
"I did notice a few," replied Maxine.
"A few? Why half the students at Lemming had vests on today, while yesterday not even one… with the exception of you." Lorelli waited for a response.
"I even saw Billy Bowmont with a vest on," continued Lorelli, "and I'm sure as anything that the Bowmonts do not have money for accentuating details."
"I suppose not," Maxine said, looking down at her checkered vest. "Well, I like to dress as I like to dress," continued Maxine. "I don't like to look like everyone else. So if it's vests every hour of the day, then I will not wear one. I'm an individual."
Lorelli giggled. "As am I," she said. "It does look fetching on you, though. Not so much on Billy Bowmont… or on Sherrie Simon! Gracious! Sherrie's vest dropped down to her knobby knees! She must have snatched it from her overweight father's wardrobe."
Maxine giggled. "You're awful, Lorelli! You're an awful, snoot of a girl!" She tagged Lorelli on the arm and called out to her "you're it" as she took off running. "Catch me if you can. I'm running home to take off my vest!"
The next day Maxine met Lorelli at the corner where the paths from their respective houses crossed.
"Oh how darling," Lorelli called out to her as they met. "That sash is simply wonderful. What ever gave you the idea to tie a sash about your waist like a pirate wench?"
Maxine looked sharply at her. "Like a pirate wench? Watch your filthy mouth, Lorelli. And anyway, I think it looks amazing. Also, it's not a vest."
"I said how darling it was," said Lorelli. "I'm certainly not making fun of you. I did wear a vest today as you can see. I was just so inspired by yours!"
"That's nice," said Maxine. "At least you don't look like a pirate wench."
The two giggled, joining arms and skipped off to school. That day both of them noticed that practically all of the student body and a handful of the teachers were all draped in vests of one type or other. Some of the vests were solid colors, other patterned with checkers or flower prints. Maxine eyed several vested children as she strolled out the door at the end of the day, twirling her sash at her side.
Lorelli ran to her. "Peter Pillar had on a vest today! Peter Pillar! Can you imagine? He looked simply horrific!"
Maxine had not seen Peter that day, but she pictured the two hundred fifty pound boy with buttons bulging out in front of him. "Well," she said, "all I can say is I'm glad I'm not wearing one. I don't want to wear anything that everyone else is wearing! That's just silly and unoriginal."
"I guess you're right," said Lorelli, as she slipped her vest off her shoulders.
The two walked home and Lorelli said goodbye at the corner, tagging Maxine back from the day before. "You're it!"
The next day at school, Maxine was dumbfounded by what she saw. Stepping into the hallway, she bumped into a group of girls, five or six of them, all wearing sashes tied about their waists. Maxine walked toward her first class where she ran into Lorelli who hadn't met her in their usual spot before school.
"Hi Maxine!" Lorelli greeted her. "Sorry I wasn't able to walk with you today. I actually ran to school. I just got here. I barely made it. I had to wait on mother. She was sewing material for my sash and she couldn't have been more slow about it."
Maxine looked down at the piece of material hanging from Lorelli. A sash! It was a bright orange colored sash with yellow tassels that hung practically to the floor.
"Do you love it?" Lorelli questioned.
"Oh, I do!" Maxine replied, feigning true excitement.
By mid day, Maxine had removed the sash from her own hips, rolled it carelessly and stuffed it into her pocket. By that time of the day she had counted twenty seven sashes, NOT including hers and Lorellis. The final straw had been seeing Hank Harford approach her, a dusty, dark, leather sash hanging at his side, looking utterly ridiculous.
The next day was Saturday, and Maxine accompanied her father on a ride into Hurleyville, a neighboring city where he always met with people in regards to business. She (of course) didn't care at all about his business dealings, but she knew there was so much more shopping opportunities in Hurleyville than Lemming. Her father escorted her to a shop on Main Street and went off to meet with an old partner of his.
Maxine breathed deeply the pleasant aroma of magnolia which wafted her way from a patch of trees around the corner. She closed her eyes briefly and opened them just in time to see a couple of young boys walk by, both of them with vests on over their buttoned shirts. She glanced up the street and down the street and couldn't believe her eyes. Everyone in town was wearing a vest… farmers, barbers, housewives, children, elderly folks, all wearing vests.
She shook her head in disbelief and turned to enter a shop. There in the window, hanging from hooks and hangers were vests… a couple dozen vests. She stood paralyzed. There were vests surrounding her!
Maxine thought back to the morning earlier in the week that she had worn her vest. She had sewed it herself. The idea to wear a vest had come to her the previous week, but nowhere in town could she find one her size. The only vests around were the type that accompanied mens suits and that was not at all what she had had in mind. So she found herself some material she liked and hand stitched it together to make herself a suitable garment.
Now, she observed, there were vests in every shop window in town. Across the street from her a sewing shop even had a bold sign announcing: "Material for vests sold here!" She wondered to herself, and then dismissed the idea as quite egotistical. What she had wondered was… Was she solely responsible for the sudden popularity of vests? Was it because of her donning a vest earlier in the week that they now were the thing to wear?
She scoffed at the idea, how absurd it seemed, rolling around in her brain. She hadn't worn her vest to Hurleyville. But maybe… maybe someone from Hurleyville had been in Lemming and had seen the vest… How simply crazy the thought was!
She entered the store, crowded by vests on display, both on and off the people around her.
Alone in her room the next day Maxine was plagued by the idea that she had somehow started the vest-wearing extravaganza. By Sunday night she had decided the only way to truly know how far reaching her wardrobe choices were was to simply try out another look. She went to her father's closet and grabbed a polkadot bow-tie from his collection of ties.
The next morning she met her sash-wearing friend at the corner. Maxine was wearing a skirt, a collarless shirt and the bow-tie fit snugly around her neck.
"Oh!" Exclaimed Lorelli, seeing her friends wardrobe. "That is wonderfully original! You look so adorable, Maxine!"
"Thank you," said Maxine simply. "I just thought I'd try something different."
At school Maxine was whipped all day by all of the sashes her peers were wearing as they passed her in the hall. She wondered if her little test would work as she strut by them all, proudly displaying her accessory.
The proof came the next day. She had been right, her hunch confirmed as soon as she entered the school. There were bow-ties to the left of her and bow-ties to the right. There were students wearing bow-ties, teachers wearing bow-ties and even the school janitor, dragging his bucket of filthy water, wore a bow-tie.
Maxine was aghast at how people mimicked her. The test had worked, but she wanted to see just how far she could actually take this. She ran home from school that day, not even waiting for Lorelli, and got to work on an outfit that would not only further prove her theory, but would indeed make history.
PT. 2 The Advent of Fashion
Lorelli squinted and rubbed her eyes as she saw Maxine in the distance approaching. What on earth was she wearing? Lorelli had never seen anything quite like this.
The night before, Maxine had put together the most ridiculous combination of things she could think of. She started with her father's wet boots that he wore when he went fishing, a bright yellow, shiny pair. Next she had sewn herself some leggings out an old oriental rug that was going to be discarded by her mother. On top of that she wore a short skirt she had made from rotting barn wood and chicken wire she had collected. She held that up with a belt made from a rusty chain that had been used to coral the family's now-deceased dog. Her shirt was a baby blue pillow case she had cut holes in for her head and arms. At the shoulder she had fastened clothes pins from which she had hung pieces of vine she had pulled off of a neighboring house. She wore gloves made from old pie tins she had hammered to shape appropriately. Around her neck she wore a scarf made from shreds of old newspaper and atop her head sat a hat of sorts, which very closely resembled a china serving dish with a veil of limp dandelions taped around the edge.
"Woah!" Lorelli circled her friend. "I've never seen anything like this!"
"Don't you just love it?" Maxine questioned, not at all thinking Lorelli actually would.
"I do! I do love it!" She enthusiastically replied. "How on earth did you come up with this… this… look?"
Maxine grimaced, and instead of admitting to Lorelli that she had just reached for the stupidest, oddest collection of things she could use, simply said… "Oh, I was just inspired, dear."
Maxine went about her day as usual, rattling from class to class in her getup. Heads turned towards her in every room she entered. She pretended not to notice as people closely examined all that she was wearing, some, she noticed, even jotting notes. She simply acted as if she were wearing nothing more than a simple vest or sash or bow-tie, as if this outfit was nothing at all out of the ordinary.
To truly determine how far reaching her clothing choices went, Maxine continued to wear that same absurd collection of objects through that week and on into the next. She had obviously made quite a splash, for it wasn't but a few days and the entire student body and faculty of the school were wearing the same mismatched, oddball pieces that she was. Still she continued to wear it, on through the next week. Soon her parents, the minister at church, the milkman, the postman, everyone around her was wearing wet boots, oriental rug leggings, barn wood/chicken wire skirts, rusty chain belts, baby blue pillow case shirts with clothes pins and vines, pie tin gloves, old newspaper scarfs and china serving dish hats with a veil of dandelions.
When Maxine's father was to entertain foreign business partners, she accompanied him to the boat dock and was not in the least surprised when the men came down the ramp wearing outfits very similar to her own. Her notions of mimicry had all been correct. She stood watching all the people around her, overwhelmed by the power she now knew she possessed.
For the rest of her natural life Maxine continued to assemble various, incongruous articles and forced them together in strange configurations that resembled clothing. It was only when the uniform factory in Lemming threatened to shut down that she wore anything other than her own hand made clothing. Her friend, Lorelli, had begged Maxine to wear the various uniforms her family made for a time, so people would once again know it was acceptable to wear them. It was no secret to Lorelli at that point how vast reaching her friends influence was.
Maxine had obliged and after seeing her prancing around in the uniforms, workers once again felt it was quite acceptable to wear the clothing fit for their line of work. On the weekends, however, and in their time away from their employment, all of them, and the rest of the world for that matter, kept a close eye on Maxine so they knew what to wear.