I was birthed for quite a grand but young lady – she had the funds to commission me from a tailor in Cheltenham. It wasn’t every day that the tailor, a Mr Ladnor, was asked to stitch a feminine cut, but the lady was very charming in her request and so on this occasion he obliged.
The party for which I was constructed lasted two nights and two days. The evening began a pleasant affair, with drinks and chatter that turned to gossip, and a dizzying rush of hundreds of friends, enemies, strangers together. I was eyed enviously for my elegant cut, the way my waist accentuated the lady’s slender curves, my velvety-red most eye-catching. Later there was raucous dancing and I was drenched with sweat before being torn off and tossed to the side, crumpled in a silky chair. In the early hours I was recuperated, and huddled trembling shoulders in the morning glow whilst bare feet – shoes had long been lost – trod on dewy ground.
On the river’s bank I made for nice repose for my lady and her companion, whose embrace stifled shivers as the alcohol wore off and they became drunk on each other’s smell, taste, warmth.
I remained in the care of the lady, demoted to attic shelf, before years older I became her children’s discovery. Fancy dress and theatricals, I was loved and worn and brushed off for teenage soirees until one night I was left behind, and claimed by a young girl. No resentment here – time to move on, this girl adored me – I became her staple ‘look,’ her quirk, her charm, her red coat. For years and years I let her shoulders fill me out until I became a snug fit, but still my company was required for her escapades.
One night, draped over back of chair, she swayed to a mellow sax, an arm around her bare shoulder led her away. She did not return. I awaited in the gloom until the lights came on the following morning and the bar maid found me there, dusty with light. I was never sought out and so I hung lonely upon the wall, amidst paraphernalia galore, eclectic mix of décor.
One night, a punk band sung their guts, a hand reached up, pulled me down and slunk out into the dark with me on their arm. And so a new chapter – new parties, new friends, new compliments, new styles. Punctured with pins and paired with leather, skirts, spikey hair I was intimidating, wild, exciting. I felt free-spirited and vivacious. I was passed between friends. Glazed eyes shrugged me on at dawn and bright pupils tore me off when it became warm. I loved the excitement, I was tattered but I didn’t care.
Until I was sold. Money had run out, time for me to go. My new owner hung me in a room of things. Things she had collected with a distinct eye for old treasure. Her things were my new company: beaded ornaments, large pots, woven fabrics. She moved carefully amongst us, keeping the dust away until her partner yelled: ENOUGH! I want room to build a kitchen extension. And we were all whisked away to a sprawling sale where I was hung, back of rack, hidden behind the jewels of her collection.
I was bought – for £15 – a steep price for my now tatty demeanour. My new acquirer took me home, brimming with pride, but then chastised for my extortionate cost. Still, she wore and admired me, before giving me my own voice to speak.