Every day as I arrive at Lincoln Center on my way to LaGuardia HS, I welcome the sight of fashionistas by the fountain, models in line at Starbucks, and crowds lining up for the runway shows. In honor of Fashion Week 2014, here’s a little ditty (destined for Book 7 of 1001), about the pre-historic origins of fashion. For more free stuff, join 1001/Qaraqbooks News.
Phöng-Tsüng-Chäng’s Tale (The Dawn of Fashion Sense)
We have observed these humans for as long as we can remember. Even in latter years, when this tribe stood up a little taller, or that tribe had slightly larger foreheads, the process took forever. I feel like I’ve been waiting for them to emerge since the dawn of Time, since the first hydrogen twins went down on the first oxygen atom, since the first eukaryote wagged its tail, since the first dragonfly spread its wings, and since the first mammal coughed up a fur ball. We are deeply concerned for their progress, and I care for them like my own cloud offspring.
We were delighted when something besides flints and clubs sprung from inside their brains, something to explain the mysteries of the world, something imaginative. I was flattered when they created a deity to explain the terrible shifts in the weather. They named me Phöng-Tsüng-Chäng, onomatopoeic symbol of lightning and thunder! I was so proud, I felt such connection to them, I wanted to bathe them in sunlight.
But as we all know, our chaotic interactions up in the atmosphere made that impossible. We have to follow a low pressure day with a rainstorm, a bout of rain with a drying wind. The humans were ungrateful: they stopped praising Phöng-Tsüng-Chäng; they behaved rudely at the stone shrines; they cursed the best of me, the sleet and hail and snow. And they hid in their caves and tents, refusing to look up in adoration at the sky.
Then something wondrous happened: the first man, after carving up his prey for dinner and drying out the hide, wrapped his mate in a fur. The mates, thrilled by this act of love, took up the practice and expanded it. Using her new imagination, a female without enough yak material to cover her head used tendon and a bone needle, and stitched a bear cowl on top: I called it The Hot Hood.
A new line of Spring frocks appeared, the grass skirt and bosom laurel look: Fig Leaves to Die For. And for that sultry style beside the fireplace, she tanned skins for weeks to achieve that diaphanous mode: Come Hither, Caveman. I loved each and every new vogue trotted out from the cave, as a paean to womankind, as a creative act of the new human mind, and as pure Beauty: Twig Envy, The Long and Short of It, Fall From Grace, My Little Henna Thing, Wraparound Gal, Big and Tall Fertility Goddess.
Why did we keep pelting them with hail and ice? Do you think I still played the Angry Goddess for their insolence and rude behavior? Do I bring up the fashion craze to whine that they were more interested in hemlines than Phöng-Tsüng-Chäng? Just the opposite! I was never more in love with our humans, and I never wished them (too much) harm. But when the sun came out, and the ground warmed up, and everything human heated up, the males went on a frenzy, and the grass skirts came off. We thought centuries of warm weather aided the growth of their brains, but it enflamed the growth of other organs. All the beautiful styles disappeared; the inventory gone, the rack empty.
After all my waiting, after my celebration of human imagination, I would not stand for it. So even on the warmest days, I send them a shower or a breeze, in hopes that someone will invent the parasol. Now that it’s cooling down again, and multi-beast furs are all the rage, let them freeze, let them accessorize. It’s good for their smarts.