“Oh my gawd! I love your dress!” The tall slender brunette slurred as she came crashing out of the middle stall, “I have to have it. Who’s the designer?!”
“Oh um” I stammered from the sink, honestly trying to find a good answer. Before I could fully respond her hands found the buttons down the back and made surprisingly quick work of them. “WHOA WHOA! Hold your horses sister!” I shout turning in a circle to escape her grabby paws.
She barked out a laugh and grabbed my shoulders “Chill out sister” she dragged out the word like a snake “I’m just trying to find the tag!”
“How about you don’t and we say you did? You wouldn’t know the designer anyway.” I say with a shaking voice. With my now bare back against the cold wall I scan for escape routes. Finding none, I opt for distracting her. “I bet you could use another round! How about you head back out to the bar and I’ll meet you there? Next round is on me.”
With a wink and double finger guns she giggles her way out of the bathroom shouting see you out there as the door closes. I let out a loud groan and sink my head into my hands. Who knew stepping out of my comfort zone would be this awkward? I quickly slip into a stall, do my business and redo the buttons down my back.
Examining the flouncy sky blue dress in the mirror I give myself a pep talk. Sure the plunging neckline is a little much for me, but the flowing half sleeves make me feel more covered. The lace trim I added to pull the dress down to the top of my knee is just flirty enough. And the sheer lace I sewed under my bust is *chefs kiss* perfection. Or well… it would be on anyone else. Oh come on Trish, you can’t talk about yourself like that! Look, you’re here and you’ve already made a friend! Ok, that’s enough pep talk. I shake myself back to reality and head back into the chaos of the crowded club.
It’s the first time I’ve been out on my own since I moved here over a year ago. Ok, really it’s the first time I’ve gone out at all. I finally mustered up the courage to take one of my creations for a test drive. So far, my dress is a hit it seems. After taking home-economics in high school I saw a video on YouTube of someone taking the ugliest clothes they could find at the thrift store and remaking them into something amazing. I didn’t have anything better to do with my time, so I started practicing.
I don’t have big dreams to be a designer or anything, but maybe if I opened an Etsy shop I could sell a few here and there. But my small (read: nonexistent) friend group hasn’t given me many opportunities to show my creations over the last decade. So the only thing left to do, is to drag myself out of my 3rd floor walk up and out into the wild.
“HEY! BATHROOM GIRL!” I jump when an arm is thrown around my shoulders. The brunette is now guiding me towards a group of women by the bar, they all look just as beautiful and fit as her. “This is her!” She shouts and shoves me in front of them. A chorus of drunk voices slur their oohs, aahs, and compliments of my dress.
One blonde girl in the crowd speaks above the rest “Sarah! You were right! Ok, bathroom girl, spill! Who’s the designer!” I shift side to side on my nude wedges biting my lip.
“See! I told you! She wants to keep them all to herself!” The brunette, I now know to be Sarah, pouts to the group.
“Well, the designer… um… it’s just that.” I struggle for the words. Why won’t I tell them that I am the designer? This is exactly what I wanted, right? The words stick in my throat. I take a deep “The truth is, the designer is... a recluse.”
It’s not entirely a lie… I am basically a recluse.
“Ok, so spill, how did you get that dress then?” Sarah demands.
“Well, I’ve known them my whole life. So I guess you could say it was a gift?” I mean, my mom always said my sewing ability was a gift from God, so again, not really a lie.
“Well, if your little reclusive designer ever wants to make some real money,” the blonde comes up and puts her hands on my shoulders with a serious face, “You send them my way!” Then she quickly wraps me in a hug and giggles in my ear.
Back in my apartment I have all eight of their business cards spread out on my twin sized bed. After I agreed to talk to my designer they all gave me their information. Turns out I wasn’t too wrong about their professions. They are a troupe of dancers. A couple have modeling contracts as well, but they live to dance. Mostly backup in music videos and live concerts for various artists. But they apparently are pretty popular. Though I’m not surprised that I don’t recognize them, like I said… I’m a recluse.
The business cards taunt me from the side table when I open my eyes in the morning. I pull the blanket over my throbbing head. The pain is reminding me why I never liked parties when I was younger. Once the dancers had accepted me into their group, the nerves and peer pressure got the best of me and the alcohol started to flow freely. They begged me to tell them more about my designer and I caved. But I think I did a good job keeping the real mystery alive. I can’t really remember though through the haze of the hangover. All I remember was going on and on about how my designer had been making my clothes for the last eight years and finally agreeing to pass along their information to them to see if they would be interested in taking them on as clients. I’m sure I sounded very professional about it in my drunken state.
The coffee pot gurgled as I flipped through the cards again. This would be crazy right? I can’t just make clothes for these girls. They would know right away that I lied… wouldn’t they? I wouldn’t even know how to charge them. What if I charge too much and they get mad? What if I don’t charge enough and they see right through me and realize that I lied?
My phone chimes at me from the side table. It’s the dreaded notification from my bank letting me know that my account has now dipped below $100. The gold ink on one of the cards glints in the sunlight like it’s trying to pretend it’s a sign from God. My current financial situation surps me forward and I rush to grab my laptop before I can change my mind. Really, what’s the worst that can happen?
Within the hour I’d created a new email address and sent an email to each dancer asking questions that I hoped a real designer would. I told them how I got their information and that I’d love to work with them. I asked for their measurements, for them to tell me a little bit about their personal style, a picture for reference, as well as a $50 deposit through paypal. As I hit send on the last email my heart raced in my chest. My mind was reeling trying to figure out how I had gotten to this point. A simple dismissive statement to just the right person. I white lie, if you will, to get someone off my back and now I may have people who actually want to purchase my designs?
Sure, in my younger days I dreamed of really making something out of my hobby. Who doesn’t sit around and fantasize about monetizing their favorite craft? But truly, I didn’t have big dreams. After high school I followed in my mothers footsteps and got a business degree so that I could find a cushy office job and get good benefits and have nights and weekends off. I wasn’t one of those kids who grew up having a career goal in mind. I just wanted to live a comfortable life like my parents do. But now, heading into my thirties with nothing but a trail of dead end jobs in my wake… maybe it was time to at least find a dream. A ping comes from my laptop catching me off guard. Hot coffee spills down my hoodie when I jump out of my skin. Another ping, then another before I can even recover. By the time I collect myself enough to focus on the laptop I have four new emails.
The dancers have started responding.
By the end of the day all eight of them have sent me exactly what I asked for in the email, including the deposit. I think I went into shock because I still hadn’t responded to a single one of them. As soon as the shock wore off and I could move from where I’d become cemented to the couch, I began to brainstorm. I pulled out every unaltered outfit I currently had stashed and tried to envision the dress beyond the garment as it was. Each fabric was evaluated to see which dancer I thought it would compliment best. Thankfully most of them told me their preferred colors and even a few things they don’t like, so I had some guidance.
By the time I had finished sketching out four pieces the sun was peeking back over the horizon. That meant nothing to me though, because I was still riding the high of excitement. Armed with another pot of coffee and my best hype playlist I busted out the last four sketches by mid-day. Only then did I let my eyelids begin to droop and crawl my weary body into bed.
I’m not sure how long I slept but I know the sun was bright outside my east facing window when my eyes finally opened again. With fresh eyes I nervously looked over my sketches. Knowing full well that when I’ve gone into hyperfiction like that before, the sketches that come out on the other side almost always end up in the trash. I breathe a sigh of relief when I still love each design. With that sense of relief coursing through my body I email the dancers back giving them a timeline for when their first pieces should be finished. I still have no idea what to charge them, but I’m hoping that when I meet back up with them in two weeks with the final designs I’ll have something figured out.
For the first time in months I’m grateful to not have a full time job. I work tirelessly on the pieces for the dancers. I research how to price handmade items. I spend one full day in a youtube video hole looking at new techniques to give each piece a more finished feel. With the deposits they gave me I even managed to find a serger at a resale shop, along with a few more finishing touches. Two days before I’m set to meet them back at the same bar with the dresses, I surprise myself and finish the last one.
It’s a small blessing because now I have the time to steam each one and slip them into garment bags with each girl's name on them. I hope it gives it that extra touch of professionalism. It’s also a curse because now all I can do is pace around my small apartment going back and forth in a panic over the endless possibilities of their reactions.
As 7pm draws nearer, I’m ever more grateful to have decided to keep my car instead of giving it up like most people I know who moved to the city. Yeah, walking everywhere is convenient, but I love the freedom my own wheels provide. Also, there is no way I could have carried eight garment bags on the bus by myself. I’m nervous enough as it is without having to worry something would happen to the clothes.
They must have had their eyes glued to the door, because I was swarmed as soon as I walked through the door. They question me relentlessly to see the dresses. My hands are sweating as I lead them out to my car and pass out their one of a kind designs.
“TO THE BATHROOM!” Sarah yells, hoisting her garment bag above her head and leading the charge back into the club. My eyes bug out of my head, what does she mean to the bathroom? Giggling, the troupe follows suit. Now it’s clear that they had already gotten the party started before I arrived. I don’t follow them. Instead, my feet guide me to the bar, my mouth orders me a whiskey neat, my hand brings the glass to my mouth, my throat swallows the harsh liquid, my butt sits on a stool and waits for the inevitable.
An eternity, or maybe 10 minutes, later arms are wrapping around the shoulders and pulling me off the bar stool. Giggles and squeals assault my ears as I’m forced into the middle of their circle. A chorus of voices sing out around me. This fits perfectly. Oh my gosh this color is everything. We really need to meet your designer. How does this fit me like I was born to wear it? You have to tell us! We need more!
That was three years and a lifetime ago. I spent the next six months making a small personalized collection for each dancer before they convinced their directors to hire my designer as the official costume designer for the troupe. They were reluctant at first since they weren’t able to meet them, but after the dancers started to refuse to wear anything else they caved. I’ve been making a pretty comfortable living too. Especially since I was able to take on a few new clients after Sarah let it slip to some other friends about their exclusive designer.
I still haven’t told them the truth.