Sunday, August 17, 2014


For HSF Challenge # 20, Alternate Universe, I have decided to make a costume based upon this description from M.A. Foster's novel 1979 science fiction novel, The Day of the Klesh:
Basic forms of Ler clothing remained static, and were oriented toward one or another of the four elementals [sic], Fire, Air, Earth, Water.  Stel was a gauzy, translucent, loose blouse, tied with ribbons at the top, which has a loose, open neck; below, it fell about to the hips, where it was tied with another ribbon.  Dhwef was a long, wide, trailing loincloth, the ends falling to the feet.  The upper end was usually held in place by a string of beads or, in extreme cases, a chain of flowers.  The mode most common to wearing of the Dhwef could be politely described as the "mood conducive to amorous dalliance." It could also be described as an invitation to the same.  Needless to say, after the Ler manner this was behavior governed by the Water Elemental.  (p. 46)
The ler in Foster's novel are a species of human that were created in our near future by genetic engineering that was intended to create a superhuman race.  It didn't quite work. Ler (usually not capitalized in this or Foster's other two related novels) are short and slight of build--they appear like androgynous children to humans. They are, on average, more intelligent than homo sapiens sapiens, but the most significant differences between humans and ler are two-fold; they have eidetic memory, and a very low birthrate. Although ler reach sexual capability in their teens, as humans do, they are not capable of siring or conceiving children until they reach their 30s. Incessant sexual activity during the infertile period is supported and encouraged by ler culture, and Foster's books describe that aspect and other aspects of ler culture in surprising detail.   Anyone who is interested in learning more about the ler and the world of Day of the Klesh should read that book and its two prequels, which Wikipedia describes here.

The costume described in the passage above is worn by ler adolescents/young women who are in this infertile sexual phase and, as Foster archly says, looking for "amorous dalliance."  At 55 I'm a bit too old (and a bit too wide) to look like a proper ler, but I do look younger than my age, and the culture of science fiction conventions is pretty tolerant.  So I may as well make it now and wear and enjoy it while I still can!

The costume should be simple and quick to make; it consists of a blouse and a loincloth that would look a lot like a long skirt in wear.  The stel sounds to me very like The Dreamstress's Deco Echo blouse, but made from a translucent fabric and with ribbons tying the neckline as well as a tie at hip level.  In the novel, of course, explicit sexual display was the point of the costume, but I'm not prepared to be that explicit on the Internet, so I will probably model the finished product over an opaque camisole top (or perhaps chicken out and just make the blouse from opaque cloth like the Deco Echo blouse). Foster's description of the lower body garment, the dhwef, is vaguer still, but John Norman, another science fiction/fantasy writer of the period, described a plausible way to make such a woman's loincloth in his non-fiction book, Imaginative Sex:
A cord may be tied about her waist.  It should be tied in such a way that it cannot be casually yanked loose. It supports, say, a rectangle of silk in the front and rear, thrust over and behind the cord.  If it is desired a long piece of silk can be passed over the front cord, between her legs, and then up and under, and over, the cord in the back.  It should then be made snug to her body.  (pp. 249-250)
I already have a string of beads for my waist (part of a Migration Period costume) that could serve as the "string of beads" to support the type of loincloth Norman describes (which I'll wear over bikini briefs, of course).  To make the loincloth appropriately "trailing" I could shape it so that the hem is wider than the portion that fits against the body.

This costume should be inexpensive to make because it can be made entirely from synthetic fabrics, and I'd prefer to make it from synthetics so it will be easy to care for.  A soft gauze would be suitable for the stel, and a silk substitute such as a rayon or polyester charmeuse would do for the dhwef, but what is puzzling me is color choice. Should the colors be light, dark, or bright?  Would patterns be appropriate?  If so, should both top and bottom be made from patterned fabric, or should just one or the other be patterned? Should the patterns match, harmonize, or clash?  And what kind of patterns would be appropriate?

Foster notes that the ler are famed for their appreciation of subtlety, and what seems hopelessly drab to a human could well have a subtle appeal for a ler.  That probably means that very bright or very dark colors are probably out. I'm thinking that I should choose a pale solid color for the stel and a drapey rayon with a small geometric pattern or perhaps stripes for the dhwef.  With luck, I should be able to find something that fits within those parameters, though I haven't been pleased with the patterned rayon fabric I've seen on the Internet so far. 

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