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The Spinster Seamstress

"If you could live anywhere in any era, where would it be?" My dad once asked me that question; this story is inspired by my answer.

By Morgan Rhianna BlandPublished 9 months ago 6 min read
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The Spinster Seamstress
Photo by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash

Diiiiiiiing! Lois’s alarm clock blared. Blinking in the dark, she felt for the clock on the nightstand and switched it off. The small bedroom was bathed in dim light as she switched on the lamp. She rose, showered, dressed, and fixed a simple breakfast of eggs, toast, and coffee. Her gray tabby cat, Earl, rubbed against her legs as she turned on the gas stove to cook her eggs. He looked up, greeting her with a meow, and she laughed. Good old Earl! He was the only man Lois let into her life!

Lois gave Earl his breakfast, a small saucer of milk and a little bit of tinned fish, and sat down to eat her own. As she ate,she glanced out the window. Just like every morning, the familiar Los Angeles skyline, including the Hollywoodland sign, was swathed in blackness. The sun was still asleep at this hour, and so were most of the tenants in Lois’s building - except for the ones in her line of work.

Turning away from the window with a sigh, Lois watched Earl eating and reflected on her lot in life as an unmarried working woman in the 1930s. Women her age were supposed to have a husband and children, yet she had neither. She wanted neither. Why didn’t she want what other women wanted? Why couldn’t she make herself fall in love with a man, like other women did? It wasn’t for lack of trying. She tried romantic relationships before, thinking that if she faked it long enough the feelings would eventually come naturally. But it never happened. All of her relationships ended the same way. The man wanted to go farther than she did, and she put a stop to it. It happened so many times that she decided romantic companionship wasn’t worth the emotional toll on her or any other parties involved!

Decades later, there would be a word to describe people like Lois, but she didn’t know it. At the time, she believed others when they called her frigid and prudish, broken and weird. While she was happy with her job, her apartment, and her cat, she couldn’t help but wonder, was everyone right? Would she be happier if she had the things a woman was expected to have?

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It was those expectations and her failure to meet them that brought her to L.A. Lois was an odd duck in the small Southern town from where she came. As the only surviving child of the town librarian, she grew up surrounded by her father’s love of books. Other girls her age alienated her because they didn’t understand the books she read or her affinity for them. As Lois grew older and it became apparent that she preferred books to boys, the divide widened. Her peers found romance and wanted nothing more to do with her.

One by one, Lois watched people she knew marry and leave her behind, forgotten. All the while, the town ridiculed and mocked her behind her back. A few well-meaning elders advised her to marry, but she couldn’t bring herself to live a lie. Eventually her only companionship came from her father, her books, and her childhood dolls. A talented seamstress, Lois sewed intricate outfits for her dolls, dressing them up as her favorite book characters. These characters weren’t the sweet innocent princesses from fairy tales or the romantic heroines from the likes of Austen and the Brontes. They were predominantly monsters and rogues, different and disgraced like Lois herself.

With the rise of the film industry, Lois found a new way to relate to her books. Seeing her favorite stories unfold on the silver screen, watching her favorite characters’ emotions play across the actors’ faces made her feel seen and heard in a way her small town never could! When the year 1929 upended Lois’s life with her father’s death and the stock market crash occurring within months of each other, there was nothing left for her in her hometown except frustrated expectations. So she took her meager savings from her job as a seamstress and boarded a train to California to join the film industry she loved.

***********************

Oh no, Lois wasn’t an actress; she wasn’t glamorous enough for that job! There was too much emotion involved and too many rules. Rules for what type of roles she was allowed to play, how she looked, what she wore, what she ate, who her friends were, how she lived. Worst of all, there were too many creepy men with their creepy advances! Lois had seen it happen too many times. An actress turned down the wrong man’s advances - or accepted them and things went too far - and she’d be let go, ruined. Whatever happened, it was always the woman punished. She wanted no part of that!

Lois was a costume designer - an assistant costume designer, to be exact. She started out working for a regional theater until her designs caught the eye of someone high up the chain of command at MGM. She started out as one of many seamstresses in the wardrobe department, eventually working her way up the ranks. It was a humdrum, thankless job sometimes. She often had to fight for her design choices and was consistently overlooked and undermined by the higher-ups, but she was better off than most. It was a steady job, which was hard to come by in the middle of The Great Depression, and it paid enough to keep her out of breadlines and in an apartment at the St. Germaine. The building looked like a fairytale castle, but Lois’s life was no fairytale.

Earl’s meow jerked Lois out of her brooding, and she realized she’d lost track of time to the point that she was running late for work. She rushed to the bathroom to do her make-up for the day. Foundation, eyeliner around the whole eye, mascara cake, subtle brown eyeshadow, and red lipstick. It was a lengthy but necessary process. In those days, women were expected to look smart and put-together at all times. Even in a job away from the general public like Lois’s, a sloppy appearance could land her in trouble!

No matter what the beauty standards of the day, nothing could get her to wear rouge. She tried it once and thought it made her look like a circus clown! Likewise, she didn’t like the moon nails trend. What was the point of going through the trouble of painting her nails just to leave the tops and bottoms blank?! Instead she painted the whole nail vivid red to match her lips. When her nails had sufficiently dried, she styled her hair into a sleek low chignon. No short wave hairstyle trends for her! Short hair made her look like a man, and the waves were too much work!

Lois grabbed her handbag and put on her hat, a burgundy cloche that matched her dress. She gave Earl a goodbye scratch behind his ear and stepped out the door. Little did Lois know as she left for work that day that her life was about to change. In mere hours, fate would put her on a collision course with a kindred soul, the likes of which she never could’ve dreamt!

ModernFiction
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About the Creator

Morgan Rhianna Bland

I'm an aroace brain AVM survivor from Tennessee. My illness left me unable to live a normal life with a normal job, so I write stories to earn money.

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