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Question: After a Fashion


August 9, 2016 by Lyn

Inventrix asks Shahin: What are your three favourite outfits?

Shahin answers: Only three? It’s harder to narrow down than you’d think; I enjoy making outfits that work perfectly together and give off just the right impression. I don’t keep clothes around that I don’t like.

Three. Okay, I’ll do this by category: everyday street clothes, dressed-to-the-nines, and wishful thinking. Consider it an abbreviated tour of my wardrobe.

I’ll start with the everyday street clothes. My favorite “ordinary outfit” is such not just because of its stealth-mourning aspect, but because I remember fondly the shopping trip to buy it. Yes, sometimes even I go to the mall.

My mother’s never really understood my insistence on the dark clothes and the dark moods. In retrospect, knowing that this school isn’t just somewhere she sent me to get rid of me, I can imagine she had worries about my unknown father and my “visions,” but I believe she would have been happy if medication and therapy had made it all go away.

All the black seemed to symbolize, for her, everything that had gone wrong. She liked to buy clothes for me that seemed like a “normal teenager’s” clothing, I suppose in hopes that the exterior would change the interior into something she could be comfortable with. This outfit was our compromise the week before she sent me to Addergoole.

It’s violet and grey, you see, not black; it looks “normal” and possibly even “sweet.” She wanted to think it signaled a change – I thought of it as the occasionally-necessary camouflage (that everything I knew about sartorial impact has changed is a concern for another day).

Aside from the color choices, it’s a little more formal than most of my peers would wear to school – and yet one of my least formal outfits, me being who and what I am. The sweater is soft, fine-knit, violet mohair, with collar and cuffs of a slightly-darker violet silk collar and French cuffs. The skirt is a kilt, actually, violet and white plaid over a soft grey background. The kilt pin is in the shape of human bones, but only if you look very closely.

I wear it with charcoal-grey tights and matching silk lace mitts that I knitted myself, and a grey pearl necklace that makes the whole thing just a little too retro while still staying in this century. And when I do, I think about actually getting along with my mother for a day while we shopped.

Between you and me? That’s sweeter than any nervous look I’ve gotten in any school.

Those nervous looks? I got them before I went for the funereal look. I got them more when people figured out I’d done something really weird. I even got called “goth” before I started wearing the widow’s weeds. And really? Nothing sounds sillier than “I’m not goth, I just know when people are going to die.” So what is there to do, most times, but go with it? At least when I’m dressed to the nines, I know exactly why people are staring at me.

My favorite outfit in that vein took me a great deal of work, both in creating it and finding all the pieces. It’s sort of a masterpiece of costuming.

From the inside out, then: the blouse is burgundy silk, with beautifully long collar-points and, of course, French cuffs. The cufflinks themselves I found in a cigar box in the back of an antique store; they’re little obsidian teardrops. I have a tie tack to match, but no tie.

Over the blouse goes a vest-style corset in black Chinese brocade with red embroidery. I made that – my aunt Stazia helped – and it helps make it look like I have some real cleavage.

On the bottom are black silk stockings, the real ones with the line up the back, a red petticoat, complete with a lace border – my aunt Anna and I dyed that one weekend and turned the whole kitchen into an abattoir – and a black taffeta skirt.

Atop it all, my pièce de résistance, a black velvet coat, long in the back, short in the front, and low-cut enough to show off the top of the corset. The buttons, if you look closely enough, are onyx-and-shell eyes. And to cover my wrists, I normally wear with this outfit little bands of the same red lace-and-fabric as the petticoat, discretely hidden under the cuffs of shirt and jacket.

Ah, the wrists. That’s what brings the last outfit into the realm of wishful thinking. There’s no law that says I must wear mourning forever, after all. And, on a moment when I was feeling cheerful and optimistic, I bought this outfit… mail-order. I’m not sure I would have bought it off the rack.

It’s white, all white, light, crisp cotton gauze and linen, something like Stevie Nicks might have worn back in her heyday. The skirt is layer over layer of tissue-thin crinkled fabric, each layer shorter than the next. The shirt is a tunic-style tank top with lace trim at the hem and neckline. It’s utterly unlike anything else I own.

It doesn’t look quite right against the color my skin is now, either, but if childhood experience and photos are correct, it would look very nice on me if I wandered out into the land of the day-star long enough to darken at all. That’s not really the problem with it, however.

The real problem is that nothing, not a thing I’ve owned or tried (and trust me, I’ve tried any number of different things, sewn and knit and bough a dozen different attempts) to cover my wrists, not one of them looks remotely okay with this outfit. It’s meant to be worn nearly bare, I suppose, with tiny sandals and silver jewelry, and look like you just threw on a necklace over your Victorian underwear. Gloves and mitts look foolish, wristies and bracelets either look like suicide-attempt bandages or just plain clash.

And so this outfit languishes in a corner of my closet, for lack of proper accessorizing. I brought it here, too, to Addergoole. I’m not sure why, maybe hoping that I’d find the perfect wrist-bands here, maybe hoping that the problem would go away, somehow. I suppose, maybe, in a sense, it has.


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