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Essun’s Dress (Broken Earth Trilogy)
Outline the story …
My design is based on the character of Essun in the "Broken Earth" trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. The story is set 40,000 years postapocalyptic with major seismic events threatening the survival of humanity around every 400 years. In these circumstances society developed a culture of constant desaster-preparedness. People live in tight communities and are divided into 'use-casts' based on their value for society.
There are hints in the books that clothing reflects the community and use-cast one belongs to. In Essun's, case the purples in her shawl and coat signify her belonging to the "resistance use cast", which is responsible for the care of the sick and wounded, while the repeating zig-zag-patterns show her belonging to the community of Terimo. Overall clothing is highly functional while supporting the beauty standards which are highly functional themselves. Women are supposed to look curvy, broad shoudered and tall.
Essun is born with the rare talent of being able to manipulate energy, especially the movements of the earth. This makes her a non-person not allowed to live out of strict gouvernement control. But she does exactly that. So her life in Terimo is a secret one. That makes her very guarded about her thoughts and feelings, determined not to stand out. To protect her children (born with the same talent) she is guarded even towards them, while loving them deeply. She hides a bit of embroidery her daughter made on the inside of her stays, close to her heart and invisible to the world.
Outline the construction…
I used cotton and wool as these are the materials mentioned. The outer layer is wool because in seismic events rain is probably acidic. Fabrics are sturdy and without prints because that is what would have been available and practical. Most garments resemble professionally made garments. Over a simple sleeveless shift I chose short stays with a wooden busk. I looked at Regency stays, but I wanted to sit the bust lower and more seperated, so I designed my own pattern.
Next is an underdress with a wide ruff, that is actually removable if one is in sudden need of bandages. Front-darts are added by hand to resemble later adjustments. The shirt is a plain ungendered one, chosen for practicality: wide, buttoned half way and with wide cuffs, so that one can push the sleeves up easily. The skirt is a wrap-skirt for easy size adjustment, shorter in front and with a wide strip of protective fabric at the hem.
Socks and shawl are handspun and handknit and would be of Essun's own making. The coat can be closed completely and its possible to button in a face mask against the fine ash filling the air after a seismic event. The wings make the shoulders look bigger and help an emergency-backpack to sit well. The coat purpusefully isn´t highly tailored because tailoring techniques like basting with horse-hair-canvas wouldn't have been used. The garments feature pleats in the back to give a favourable sillhouette and help support a backpack.