Chapter 4: New Ideas in Fashion?
Suzanne had little time to brood over Wayne apparently walking out of her life when she woke up Friday morning. For one thing, she needed to do some serious clothes shopping, since it now seemed more likely her invisibility was indeed going to be permanent. Like many other women who had lived in Florida for some years, she owned an abundance of shorts, tank tops, and sun dresses, but not as much in the way of pants, long sleeved blouses, or leggings. She would also need to pick up more scarves she could wrap around her head, form fitting gloves, and opaque tights she could wear with some of the skirts and dresses she already had. In a way her sister had it easier, Marlee at least looked the same as she did before her own change, and was already coming up with ways to regain some of the mass she had 'lost.' Weighted belts, and lead weights she could insert into the hollowed out heels of some of her shoes were two methods she was already trying, with help from one of her friends. Whether it was because she was now much lighter than she had been or for some other reason, wearing high heels or platforms was now as comfortable for her as wearing flats or running shoes were for most women. Indeed, the sisters had already heard there were now quite a few women who literally could not wear any footwear at all except high heels. In some cases any flats or low heeled shoes would morph in a matter of moments, in others wearing flats caused the wearer as much discomfort as high heels once had.
"Weird" Suzanne said as she finished a cup of coffee, which became as invisible as she was once it passed her lips. She had always been less fond of high heels than her sister, the Saturday of the convention had been one of the few occasions when she had worn them for very long while walking around.
"You do have something there, Sue" Marlee responded as she sipped her own cup of the java. "Still, I cannot yet imagine anyone hiking the Appalachian Trail in heels. Those kind of shoes were never meant to be worn like that..."
"Maybe LL Bean can make high heeled hiking shoes for those who need them!" Suzanne now quipped. Both sisters then laughed at the thought of hiking in high heels, but there was a serious undercurrent as well. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of conventioneers now needed to modify or replace their clothing to accomodate their changed bodies. Anthro cats and dogs, for example now had to take their tails into consideration. Many also either no longer needed to or could no longer wear shoes, though many of the latter were less than thrilled at how the 'clothing curse' affected them.
When Marlee and Suzanne went out to Marlee's car to go to one of the local malls for Suzanne's clothes shopping, they noticed two friends who lived in the house across the street; it was the first time they had seen them since shortly after their arrival at the convention Saturday. Arline was wearing a medieval style dress that a lady of the court might have worn, while her sister Roxanne looked entirely ordinary - except for the half meter long unicorn horn that jutted from her forehead. The four friends spent some time trading Kubla Con stories. The Kerguelen sisters were surprised to learn their neighbors were no worse than ambivalent about their changes, despite the new challenges that had come with them. Arline had been wearing a medieval dress at the time of the Change, now anything she put on would transform into such a dress in a matter of moments.
"Believe it or not, this was a swimsuit when I put it on" Arline said as she swished her skirt with her hands "And believe it or not, I still like to swim!"
"You must be quite a sight, swimming in that dress" Marlee said.
"I am" Arline answered.
"Wouldn't that dress really slow you down?" Suzanne wondered.
"Yes, it does, big time. I can't do anything more than wading without a life vest, otherwise I'd get so tired so quick from the drag I'd be in danger of drowning in only a few minutes."
"What about school?" Suzanne asked now, changing the subject somewhat. The four women had attended the same high school and graduated within a few years of one another; after graduating from college Arline had returned to become a history teacher.
"They know. The kids and my colleagues always loved it when I came to work in one of my dresses, now they will get to see me dressed up all day, every day. Really, I could have done a LOT worse."
Roxanne was also a teacher at her old high school, in the science department. Unlike her sister she didn't wear a costume, choosing instead to buy an imitation unicorn horn rather than the pointed eartips or insectoid antennae so many other attendees were wearing. Needless to say, when the Change occured her horn suddenly became very real. Try as she might, she could not pull her new appendage off, and trying to snap it off by slapping it against a pillar proved equally unsuccessful and gave her a headache to boot.
Because some cavemen had used their car for bashing practice, Arline and Roxanne were unable to leave the Xanadu Center before it was put under lockdown, they were thus unable to return to work when school reopened after the weekend, but the board gave them both the week off as an 'excused absense due to unusual and extenuating circumstances.'
"We'll be back on Monday" Arline now said.
Unlike her sister, Roxanne was not affected by the clothing curse, at least directly. Putting on t-shirts and other pullovers was a challenge, however. She could barely reach beyond the end of her horn, and then she had to be careful lest her tops rip on the tip of her horn. Nonetheless, she was hesitant to have it removed - and so were the doctors who had examined her.
"It is a real hinderance. I can't drive or even ride in the front seat because the windshield is too close, but it is so beautiful too" she said as she reached up to run her hand along the horn. Because of the angle it rose from her forehead she could not see it except in a mirror.
"Why would the doctors be reluctant to have it removed?" Marlee asked.
"They have told me I'm not the only one with a unicorn horn. Another woman had one. A friend was able to saw it off the evening after the Change, but it is already growing back, so they want to wait before trying to cut mine off, or decide whether it is best to just leave it alone and learn to live with it." She glanced upward with a look that revealed the mixed emotions she was feeling.
"Does it bother you...I mean, does it feel uncomfortable?"
"Not at all, in fact I still sometimes forget it is there..."
Like their friends, Arline and Roxanne already appreciated they could have fared much worse despite the uncertainty they still felt about their futures, and before parting company told them that other members of the faculty and several students at their school had also been caught up in the Change, with a variety of results. Most were relatively minor, though there were exceptions.
"One of my best friends is a big Dr Who fan and went as Faceless Rose" Arline said. "Her face was totally erased, yet somehow she can still see and smell, taste and talk, and eat and drink as if nothing had happened." She actually sounded astonished rather than horrified, as might have been expected.
"How does she go out in public looking like that?" Suzanne found herself wondering.
"She already is" Arline answered. "She wears dark glasses where her eyes were, and a scarf over her lower face."
"Really?" Suzanne could not hide her surprise. In a way, her own change was less extreme than what Arline's friend had experienced.
"Yes, really. 'I could have done SO much worse' she had told me."
Whe Marlee and Suzanne finally made it to the mall they first headed to a store where Suzanne picked up several scarves, sets of gloves of various colors, and some leggings. After stashing her purchases in their car, the sisters reentered the building to head for a womens' clothing shop for jeans, pants, and blouses. On their way they passed another womens' wear store, one that catered to professional working women. A quartet of women were modeling a variety of professional looking pantsuits and skirtsuits, but what most caught Suzanne's attention was the tan-colored fabric that covered their faces, onlookers could glimpse no detail at all. They were also wearing wigs done in styles that looked professional as well. Suzanne and Marlee looked at one another as if to say 'Were they at the convention too? How were they changed? Why are they keeping their faces covered?'
None of the models spoke as they paraded back and forth in front of their audience, and of course no one could tell what facial expressions they wore under their masks. A fifth woman, who was also dressed very professionally, spoke for them as she described outfit for the onlookers, one at a time. As each model finished her promenade, she withdrew to a dressing room in back to change before returning to the show floor. The sisters became so fascinated that when some other women vacated their seats, they claimed two of them so they could continue to enjoy the show.
After the fashion show did end and the audience had begun to disperse, one of the models, who was wearing a pink skirtsuit, walked up to the sisters, introduced herself as Katya in a slight German accent, and asked "Were you also at the convention last Saturday?" as she looked at Suzanne's own masked face.
"Yes, I was" Suzanne answered and in turned introduced herself and her sister.
"Were you changed too?"
"Yes, we both were."
"How were..." Katya began but the stopped herself. "Come join me in back, if you wish. I have a feeling we all have some interesting stories to tell one another..."
Katya led Marlee and Suzanne to a room in the rear of the store, she and the other models had used it as both a break room and changing area. Several privacy booths lined one side of the room, a variety of outfits hung from the racks that lined another wall, or lay on one of the tables in the room. The sisters spent a few moments gazing about the room, until Katya asked "So, how did you get changed?"
Marlee, who was the only one of the three whose face could be seen, smiled and answered first.
"Try picking me up."
"Really?" Katya asked. She was a good four inches shorter than Marlee and assumed she was at least ten pounds lighter.
Despite her skepticism, Katya picked up Marlee - and nearly dropped her in astonishment.
"You feel like a balloon! What WAS your costume?" she now asked.
"I was wearing a bunch of balloons as a kind of joke. You have seen that old visual gag where someone floats up into the air holding a big bunch of balloons, have you?"
Katya couldn't help but laugh beneath the mask covering her face. "Of course I have! Who has not seen that at some time?"
"Well, when the change happened, I floated up for real. Somebody had to shoot some of my balloons so I could get back down."
After a few more questions Katya turned her attention to Suzanne.
"How were you changed? Was your face disfigured somehow?"
Suzanne was momentarily unsure how to answer that question, but quickly came up with a response.
"Well, yes...and no."
"What do you mean by that?" Katya sounded puzzled.
"Shall I show you?"
"Please...believe me, I don't expect to be shocked by whatever you show me, I promise. I saw plenty of weird sights too, I even saw two Darth Vaders having a lightsaber duel...with each other!"
'Darth Vader versus Darth Vader?' Suzanne thought to herself. 'If things seemed weird before they're even weirder now.' She unwrapped her scarf from around her head, all Katya could see where Suzanne's head should have been visible was the door to one of the changing rooms behind her. It was obvious from the momentary gasp from Katya that she did not expect to see what she saw, but held herself together and asked "Are you really...invisible?"
"Yes, I really am. I'm not a ghost. Try picking ME up."
Katya promptly obliged and just as quickly discovered Suzanne was appearently unchanged except for her invisibility. After the two of them had sat back down after Suzanne let her feel about her face, Katya asked "How did you two come to be here? Did you know about my show?"
"We were here because I needed to buy some clothes. Scarves, gloves, pants, and so forth. We didn't know about your show until we walked by and saw you and the others."
"Were all four of you at the convention?" Marlee asked.
"No, just me."
"How were you changed?"
Katya hesitated for a few moments before answering, not sure at first how to explain herself.
"Well, strictly speaking, I was not changed at all" she finally said, before reaching up with a fabric covered hands to give a tug on the mask covering her face.
"What is that you are wearing?" Suzanne now asked.
"It's a zentai" Katya told her.
"A zentai. It's something from Japan. It's kind of like a leotard or catsuit but it covers your entire body, feet, face, hands, everything. Let me show you one." Katya walked to another table, opened a box, and pulled one out. It had a light blue base with dozens of dark blue circles covering the entire suit. Suzanne took off her gloves so she could more easily feel the fabric.
"You got it."
"How do you get this on?"
"The zippers are in the back, I'll show you." One zipper ran from the top of the head down to the neck, while the other ran from the waist up to the neck. Both were narrow enough as to be inconspicuous.
"Would you like to try this on?" Katya asked Suzanne.
"Yes, please, I would like to" Suzanne had heard of Marcy Anarchy and his zentai designs, but had never been more than mildly curious, until now. Now she was becoming positively intrigued.
"Just be careful with...your hair. The first time I put on a zentai my hair got caught and when I got it free I broke the zipper!"
"I'll remember that" Suzanne replied with a smile in her voice. "My hair still reaches a little below my shoulders."
When she emerged from one of the changing booths a few minutes later she couldn't resist having a little fun walking back and forth, to and fro, as Katya and the other models had done earlier.
"You like that, do you, Suzanne?" Katya asked her.
"Yes, I do. I never thought I would enjoy this so much!"
"You do look beautiful, Sue" her sister put in.
"Would you like to buy some more of my suits?"
"Yes, please, I would." Suzanne ended up choosing a tan colored zentai like the one Katya was wearing and a two-toned pink one, to go with a wig of light brown hair that reached halfway down her back. Finally, Katya told the Kerguelen sisters how she had been affected by the Xanadu event.
"Believe it or not, I literally cannot leave my apartment unless I am wearing one of these suits. Not only that, I can't go within three feet of my door or I'll freeze in place and have to back up, and if a visitor knocks or rings the doorbell, it's 'blink' and I'm in a zentai again."
"Could you take your suit off after you go out?" Suzanne wondered.
"No, I can't. The zippers simply vanish when I go out. Take a look." Katya removed her wig and blouse, then turned so Marlee and Suzanne could take a closer look. Neither could find any trace of a zipper at all.
"How do you get out of your suit without a zipper?"
"I have to go home, or find a totally private place like one of these changing rooms, only then will the zippers come back and I can take it off. Some kind of magical clothing phenomenon, I've heard."
"Can anyone ever see your face at all?" Marlee asked Katya.
"Only my husband and daughters."
"How did they react?"
"They actually seemed to take it all in stride. My younger daughter Kaitlyn went to the convention with me and was affected the same way I am. We were not sure at first her school would let her come back now that she cannot take her suit off, but they said 'no problem, she can go as she now is, as long as she wears an ID with a pre-change photo'." It probably helped that two of the board members had also been changed, into anthro furries.
The three women spent a few minutes trading Xanadu stories, both horrifying and amusing, then Katya told her guests this show and one the day before had been planned long before the Xanadu event, and when the other models learned how she had been affected, they decided to wear zentais as well as a way of showing support for her and Kaitlyn. She also said that response to their initial 'zentai shows' had been so positive they planned to regularly do some of their shows that way in the future.
Katya's three models returned shortly afterwards, having doffed their zentais before going on break. Following another round of introductions Katya gave Suzanne one of her buisness cards and said "Would you like to work with us? I think you will be a good addition, and with your seamstress experience I'm sure you will come up with some interesting designs."
Suzanne had not anticipated Katya's offer, but she readily accepted. Already she was enjoying the feel of the fabric on her face and body more than she had ever thought she would. Dressing could also be much faster and simpler than with the array of scarf, gloves, and long sleeved top and pants she had worn to the mall that morning. Multiple ideas were already fermenting in her mind, and she would indeed take up Katya's suggestion that she have Marlee photograph her in various outfits, and then e-mail the pictures to Katya.
'My blue skirtsuit over my tan suit, a tank top and shorts over my pink one...I wish I was still visible, but I could get used to this. Maybe there is something I can now do that no one else can, besides scaring the drunks coming out of that bar into not hanging around here...'