The sign hanging outside the seamstress’ shop creaked as it slowly swayed above the store entrance. Flakes of sun-bleached paint fell with each swing peppering the sidewalk dull green and yellow. If passers-by peered through the storefront’s milky, open-backed windows, they would see stripped dress forms lined up like a phalanx of linen and papier-mâché runway models.
Once, the proprietress, Claudine, was a highly sought-out tailor. Her gowns were works of art, prized by wealthy and influential patrons. Her designs were seductive, her use of silk savage, but times changed, desires cooled. Claudine’s clientele deserted her for haute couture ateliers.
Now, she was as much a relic as her frayed and soiled sewing mannequins.
Even in the stifling heat of summer, the inside of Claudine’s shop was a gelid tomb. Her breath came in rimy gasps, freezing as air left warm lungs, falling like old paint chips on the floor. The cold made her swollen and angry joints ache. That deep kind of ache that feels like someone is crushing your bones tortuously slow.
Fighting against her pain and rejection, Claudine had plans. She was preparing a new collection, a winter line that she wanted to debut in Milan. Reimagined use of wool tapestries, wax-dyed floral fabrics, heirloom lace, a vagabond aesthetic and a reversion to old techniques that pulled heavily from her great-grandfather’s original patterns.
She would need living models to wear her clothes. That would mean straightening up the shop, sweeping, washing windows. Maybe she would put Help Wanted ad in the Times Register.
“Claudine’s, Open Casting Call: All body types needed. No portfolio or experience necessary. Must like the cold.”
The models that didn’t make the runway cut, she could always recruit for new forms. The old ones were beginning to molder, and that just wouldn’t do. They could sully the new gowns.