Chapter 5 – The Pioneers of Fashion
As the flying broom cut through the desolate autumn atmosphere, the plants that spread across the ground with little balls of white fluff attached to them reluctantly swayed their heads.
That was close. Thinking so, the girl riding on the broom reduced her speed a little so that it would not adversely affect the cotton fields.
This girl, whose ash-grey hair was her characteristic feature, was a witch as well as a traveler. Wearing a black robe, a black tricorne, and brooch shaped like a star on her chest that was proof of her being a witch, the girl flew on her broom with an air of dignified freedom as usual.
So, who was this witch who was enjoying her luxurious freedom to the fullest?
That’s right, it’s me.
I took a deep breath while looking at the small country that was on the other side of the cotton fields.
The hint of summer in the air felt as soft as the quivering cotton that was below me.
Oh my, this country certainly looks strange.
I came to that elegant conclusion a while after I arrived at that country and walked around a little. I couldn’t help but feel uneasy at this sight that I saw everywhere.
Wherever I look, I see princes and princesses. Everyone here has an appearance that suggests that they are wealthy.
All the people walking around were either princesses who wore gorgeous dresses, or princes who wore outfits that resembled extravagant military uniforms.
Just what was going on?
I caught hold of one of the princes who happened to walk near me, and asked him.
“I am a traveler. May I have a moment of your time?”
The person who appeared to be the archetype of a timid young man stopped walking while looking bewildered.
“Yes, you. Is this country currently having a costume party or something of the sort?”
“No, why do you ask?”
“Then why is everyone dressed in clothes that make them look like royalty?”
“Do they really look like royalty… This is pretty normal, if you ask me.”
So this kind of magnificent clothing is normal in this country? It would be good to get some opinions from other people as well.
It’s time to end this conversation, then.
“I understand, thank you very much. Goodbye.”
“Ah, you’re welcome.”
I parted ways from the pseudo-prince who still looked like he didn’t understand what I was talking about.
I walked all the way to the center of the town, and as expected, this area was filled with royalty as well.
I saw princesses who were in the middle of doing their shopping, and princes and princesses who were having a friendly chat in cafes. Aaah, I feel like my head is spinning.
There was no opportunity to rest my eyes. When I looked upwards into the distance, I saw signboards and advertisements which had paintings of people wearing nobles’ clothing hung on a building that looked like a cathedral.
The country itself had a stable atmosphere, but it felt overly opulent because of the people who lived here. I thought it would be handy to have a pair of glasses that could darken my field of vision to make it bearable. I wonder if someone could make something like that?
I was finally able to discover a reason for the state of this country after seeing the advertisements.
This time, I called out to a young lady nearby who looked like a princess, and asked her.
“I am a traveler. Could you tell me if that kind of clothing is popular in this country right now?”
That young lady looked at me with a dubious expression and answered.
“Eh? Yes, that’s right. It’s indeed currently in fashion.”
So that’s why everyone is wearing the same kind of clothing. Looking at me who appeared to have understood something, the young lady who looked like a princess also came to an understanding on her own and nodded.
“I wondered why you were wearing something so strange, so you’re not from this country after all… Fufu.”
Just what kind of conclusion did she come to? Why does her laugh feel slightly condescending?
“Is there something wrong with my clothing?”
“It’s certainly a little unusual.”
“Don’t tell me, is this the first time you’ve seen a robe?”
The young lady shook her head.
“No. The magicians of this country don’t wear robes, though, so that’s what I meant when I said it was unusual.”
“They don’t wear robes?”
“Yes. They wear fashionable clothes.”
That doesn’t give the impression of being a magician…
“Well, they do wear tricornes. To show that they are magicians.”
But that wouldn’t go well with the rest of their clothing…
However, just like she said, there were some people among those dressed like royalty who were wearing tricornes.
They were very, very uncool-looking magicians.
As I thought, it doesn’t suit them at all…
“So they go with whatever is popular…?”
“Yes. I mean, why would they want to wear something that is old-fashioned? Besides, don’t they cut a dashing figure?”
“It’s almost blinding.”
I wasn’t praising them, but the lady looked satisfied.
“By the way, can I ask you about something else?”
The lady seemed to be in good humor for some reason, and gave me a big nod.
“What decides whether clothing is fashionable in this country or not?”
“Hmm? I don’t know. Some fashions just become popular overnight.”
So everyone is just going with the flow? I see.
“Thank you very much. I learned something new today.”
“No problem—ah, speaking of which, you should go to that store over there if you’re interested in the latest fashions, Traveler-san.”
Saying so, the young lady who was dressed in noble clothing very kindly pointed me in the direction where I should go next.
That place was across the main street from where we were standing.
The building had many advertisements on it, and it was so large that you wouldn’t be blamed for mistaking it to be a cathedral.
“Welcome… Oh, my. Are you perhaps a traveler?”
When I entered the store, a lady wearing a plain suit came to greet me. She must be an employee of this store.
I’ll ignore how she instantly decided that I was a traveler.
“Yes, hello. I just heard that this shop is the most popular in the country, so I came to take a look.”
“Oh, my! That’s indeed true. So you came to this country from outside looking for fashionable clothes? In that case, there is some merchandise I would highly recommend—”
As soon as she confirmed that I was an outsider, the store clerk’s eyes began to sparkle and she started to explain things enthusiastically. So dazzling.
By the way, does this shop sell glasses that darken the field of vision? Nope, it doesn’t. I see.
“Oh, it’s rare to see a traveler here.”
While I was being led around inside the store, an old lady with a bent back and walking with a cane came out of the back of the store.
The shop clerk called her in that manner.
The old lady moved her feet and cane while walking towards me, and asked,
“Are you looking to buy clothes from this country?”
I shook my head.
“No, not at all. I was just curious.”
“I see. Well, I can understand why you would be curious… The clothing styles in this country keep progressing after all.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“By the way, what do you think about the clothing in this country, Traveler-san? Despite appearances, we make enough of them to export them to other countries as well.”
“Honestly speaking, I think it’s incredible. I think it’s impossible to make so many clothes like these without having a high level of skill and a lot of materials.”
“Is that so?”
They have enough raw materials that even commoners can afford to buy clothes that would be fit for royalty, and their sewing techniques are also excellent. This much can be confirmed just by walking around the country. It would be impossible to progress the culture of clothing to this extent if the country was not peaceful and the people didn’t have a lot of free time.
This country must look like a treasure box to merchants who come here from other places.
“By the way, where are you from, Traveler-san?”
“From somewhere very far away.”
“How long have you been traveling?”
“For quite a long while.”
“Hoho… That’s amazing.”
The old lady looked at me with warm eyes, and,
“In that case, you must have seen different sorts of fashions in different kinds of countries. ”
She easily asked that question in a piercing manner.
I had a bad premonition.
“…No, I am not traveling to observe the differences in clothing styles, so I don’t really know much about them.”
I took a discreet step back so that the old lady wouldn’t notice.
However, the shop clerk who had been standing next to me all this time moved behind me, and held both my shoulders. I’ve been caught.
“Traveler-san, even if you don’t know much about clothes, you’ve traveled all over the world and seen different styles of clothing, right? I’m so jealous…”
Oh my, things seem to be headed in a bad direction.
My escape route has been completely cut off, and the senior citizen in front of me is slowly getting closer. Yikes, this is scary.
“Would you be willing to talk to me about the things you’ve seen during your travels, Traveler-san?”
“Ehehe,” the old lady laughed creepily with her wrinkled face.
And so, I was taken into the back room which was cluttered with prototypes of new clothes.
“…Fumu fumu. So those clothes had a design like this?”
“Well, yes. More or less.”
“I see—what next? What kind of clothes did the people in the far eastern countries wear? An oriental person came to our country a few years ago and left some clothing here… Ah, here it is. Do they look like this?”
“Yes, that’s right. Apparently, they are called Kimonos.”
“They use considerably good fabric… It’s very hard to replicate this glossy color and feel with cotton. Do you know how this is made?”
“Hmm… by the way, what about the neighboring countries?”
“Yes, I’ve visited them.”
“Can you tell me whatever you remember about what kind of clothing was fashionable there?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know. Actually, all of them were just wearing ordinary clothes…”
“Ehehe, you say some strange things, Traveler-san. There’s no such thing as ‘ordinary clothes’ in this world. As far as clothes are concerned, nothing is ordinary. There are as many variations as there are people.”
“Isn’t that something unique to your own country…?”
“Actually, if you use that logic, the people in this country have no individuality—”
“No, it’s nothing. I’m sorry.”
“So out of all these prototypes… which one do you think is good?”
“I like the one in the middle.”
“That’s the dress I’m wearing right now?”
“Oh, you’re asking about the clothes you’re holding up? I like the one on the right.”
“I see, I see. Right then, moving on—”
In that manner, they kept me talking about all sorts of things.
As they forced me to extract knowledge from the corners of my brain that I usually don’t think about, I became extremely tired. I feel like my head is about to break.
After that, the days went by with me talking about everything I knew.
It’s probably time to head to the next country—Five days had already passed when I thought about this while looking at the sunrise.
I brushed my teeth, finished my breakfast, and prepared to leave the country.
I climbed down the stairs to the reception desk in the inn and handed over my key. Just before I left, the lady at the desk said to me,
“Oh my, that’s a fancy outfit you have on, Miss. Just what I would expect from a traveler.”
Like that, she said something strange to me.
Up through yesterday, people who passed by me all sneered at me while making fun of my clothes.
The doubt I had on my mind as I left the inn was soon cleared up.
I walked back on the same path that I had taken to reach the inn yesterday, and when I reached the main street near which that clothing store was located, I saw that there were a few versions of me mixed in along with the usual people who were dressed like nobility.
They were people who wore clothing that looked exactly like mine.
When I looked upwards, the signs and advertisements on the store had changed as well. There were pictures of a girl who looked a lot like me, wearing a robe just like mine, with captions that said, “This is the newest trend!”
“So that Traveler-san I saw before was even more advanced than us…”
There was a young lady who was feeling regretful in that manner for some reason.
There were men looking up at the signboards while saying, “That’s cute.”
“You know, those clothes do look more functional….!”
Saying that, some people rushed towards the store.
“I did it! I managed to buy the new clothes that just went on sale!”
Some people came out the store in high spirits while wearing robes.
Basically, there were a lot of such people.
I think it’s a good thing that there are fewer people wearing clothes that are so dazzling, but wearing clothes similar to mine… I feel like covering my eyes.
Actually, what on earth is going on? I don’t understand what this means.
Before I noticed it, the cane-holding old lady was standing next to me while looking at her successful store with gentle eyes.
“Oh, hello. Is it okay for you to leave the store?”
“It’s fine. I worked really hard for the last few hours, so I want to take a break in the morning at least.”
“Ha, thank you for your hard work..”
Okay, that’s enough praise. Time to move to the main topic.
“So, how did this happen?”
“What are you talking about?”
“This latest fad, it’s clearly the same as what I’m wearing.”
“Oh, you’re just imagining things. Ehehe.”
She dodged the issue.
“Well, half of it is chance, and the other half is just because I wanted to. I had been planning to make similar clothes from the start… but your clothes were so good that I decided to make the design closer to them.”
“…Are you going to pay me my fee for the design of the clothes?”
“Can you prove that you were the designer of these clothes… Well, I apologize for putting you on the signboards without permission. I’ll give you this as an apology.”
Saying so, the old lady held out something that sparkled over my fingers. Something flat and shiny started to fall onto my outstretched hands.
It was gold.
“Actually, it’s an honor to be displayed on the signboards.”
I nodded to her after putting the gold away safely in my purse.
“Still, it’s amazing how you made that many clothes in just a few days.”
“That’s because there are quite a few magicians in our country.”
It was easy to imagine the sight of magicians using magic to mass-produce clothes, or control paint using magic to create whatever image they wanted.
Those magicians are now wearing clothes similar to mine, right… It’s a little creepy.
“Still, this is quite strange.”
The old lady said while looking at the ruckus outside the shop.
In her warm gaze, I saw a hint of sadness.
“I wanted to make this country the best when it comes to the culture of clothing, but every time I create and sell a new style of clothes, I feel like someone has attached heavy fetters to my legs. Although it is supposed to be more advanced than the clothing in any other country, I feel like it’s lagging behind every other country.”
“Well, it’s obvious where we went wrong.”
When it comes to clothing, you should just wear whatever you want. I am fond of the clothes my mother handed down to me, so I wear them often.
If what the old lady said was true, and there are as many different variations of clothing as there are people, then perhaps the style of clothing someone chooses to wear reflects their own personality. Even if other people find it strange and laugh, it can’t be helped because the clothes reflect who the person truly is.
Maybe this was what the old lady had been trying to say all along.
The people of this country only wore the latest styles, and this was precisely the reason why the old lady was so worried.
That was equivalent to saying that the people had no individuality at all.
It’s a truly sorrowful state of affairs.
“Do you think I should change my methods, Traveler-san?”
“What do you think is more important, Obaa-san? This country’s culture of clothing or the individuality of the people living here?”
“The culture, of course.”
“Then you probably shouldn’t change anything.”
“You’re right. Ehehe.”
Saying that, the old lady turned to me and laughed.
Now then, I wonder how long this latest fad will last in this country? Unfortunately, I won’t be around to see it by the time it changes.
However, I’m sure some other traveler will arrive here at some point and serve as the inspiration for rewriting the culture in this country again.
Going from one fad to the next.
Unexpectedly, it feels like this country has been doing this since many years in order to ensure that their culture doesn’t die out.