Friday, October 24, 2008

Of Being Birds and Designing Dresses

So Draven has been designing again. He has a new dress series called "Dove." Dove came out of a conversation about a tag Jinara picked for herself in our group. See we sort of accidentally developed this bird name thing.

The bird tags came about because Draven's shop is called Bird of Prey, and back when he started building he made a tag for himself to go along with that: "Black Crow." This is appropriate in many ways for him--he always wears black, his SL name comes from the movie The Crow, and like the ravens that sat on Odin's shoulders he is always quietly observant, collecting information about the world around. He gave me the nickname "White Crane" because of the Decemberists song "The Crane Wife," which, he said, made him think of me. I liked that since my name, Tsai, means white or pale, and because the crane is a symbol in Asian folklore for wisdom, virtue, and longevity. One Japanese tradition also says if you fold 1000 origami cranes your wish will come true. That also seems right to me as I'd like to think I've made a lot of men's wishes come true (wink!) in my day.

When Wren joined us in SL (or maybe I should say when Draven turned her on to SL) she picked her bird name purposely to match her brother's; her tag is "Dark Bird," very appropriate for my lover's goth-chick little sister. My own sister, Jhai, joined us not long after and she picked the tag "Silent Swan" (she's had a thing for swans ever since Mom put a swan on the cake for her sixth birthday, though Jhai is anything but silent!).

Up to that point Jinara had just worn the standard member tag in our group: "Balance Seeker." In fact it was Jinara who started the group, so she was rather opposed at first to the "bird trend" as she called it. But then a couple months ago some of us were sitting around the table in the dining room, Jhai and Draven with coffee cups in their hands while I was sipping green tea, when in strolled Jinara wearing a tag that read: "Soiled Dove."

Jhai nearly snorted her coffee through her nose. "OMG!" she said to Jinara, "Do you have any idea what a 'soiled' dove is?"

"I dunno. A pigeon maybe?" Jinara mumbled, looking puzzled, "I just heard it somewhere and kinda liked it."

"Oh, my dear girl, you just labeled yourself as a 'lady of the evening'!" replied Jhai, who was still chuckling as she (ever the teacher) explained it to a mortified Jinara, and a highly amused Draven and I.

It seems that in the 18th and 19th centuries the term "soiled dove" was applied in particular to gentlewomen (doves) who had fallen from some higher social strata into prostitution (thus soiled) by a need to support themselves after having been wronged and/or deserted by men. In fact, in one famous speech called the soiled dove plea, an attorney in 1889 convinced an all-male jury to acquit a woman facing prostitution charges by arguing that women were not to be blamed, but that it was instead men who should take the blame for the prostitution into which some women are forced.

I thought it was pretty funny that Jinara, who has been a dancer and a stripper but never an escort, should label herself as one inadvertently; while I, who have taken pay for my "services," was labeled as a crane, a sign of purity. No wonder Jhai found it hilarious!

I could see Draven's wheels turning as Jhai told the story, and I was right. Pretty soon he had the dress all planned out. Imagine the girl headed west to find the lover who has gone off to war--but he is not to be found. Her once beautiful best dress is eventually worn to shreds as she runs out of money and hope, and finally, in desperation, she turns to a life of prostitution to feed herself.

Draven built the dress with multiple looks. There is the pure white version, the white underdress with a softly dove-colored overdress, and then he made the same dresses in torn, tattered, and soiled fabrics. Both also come in long and short skirt versions.


This is me wearing the pure white Dove, and below I am wearing it with the overdress while standing to the left of Jinara who is wearing the Soiled Dove overdress version.

Funny thing about that tag "Soiled Dove" is that despite its connotations, Jinara (who is still young enough to disapprove of selling sex, of the SL escort business, with all the moral certainty of youth) is the one still wearing it.

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