Can just a single little black dress really make a woman happy? Or change the whole world?
Erica tries on her new dress before heading out to a party at a nightclub. The dress seems audaciously defiant to her, and Arthur couldn’t agree with her more. But this is a good thing, because looking bold, brash and even scandalously lecherous is exactly what Erica needs this evening.
‘You know, I look really quite indecent in this dress. In fact, defiantly indecent,’ Erica thought, straightening the thin straps on her shoulders and smoothing out the creases in her skirt.
The little black dress barely came down to the middle of her thigh, tightly hugged her waist and climbed over her shoulders with its narrow spaghetti straps, leaving a deep plunging neckline and the back open right down to the waist.
“What do you think?” She asked Arthur, spinning around coyly, causing the skirt to balloon slightly.
“Oh... you look awesome,” Arthur licked his lips, surveying his partner from head to toe. “That dress is amazing and really suits you. “It makes you look sexy and sassy all at the same time.”
“Is it sufficiently indecent for the party at the ‘Dead Poets’? What do you think?”
“Believe me, baby. It’s fabulously indecent. You might not be the most indecently dressed girl there tonight but all eyes will definitely be on you. I'm already feeling jealous, just thinking about it.
Erica blushed at Arthur's lascivious gaze but she was pleased that she had created such an impression on him. Well... her and her dress.
“Thank you for the dress, Art. It’s so cool.”
“You’re the one who’s cool and as for the dress... Well, it’s also cool, I agree,” he smiled, admiring Erica from all angles, barely touching her with his fingertips, “You know what, I want you, in that dress, right now!”
“You want everything all at once! What if we spoil it, what would I have to wear to the party? Uh-uh, no way. Get your paws off me, you animal!” She jokingly slapped his hands away, dodging his attempted embraces, “But just you wait till we get back... Then I’ll let you act out your dirtiest fantasies.”
“You’re just teasing me…”
“You’d better believe it! Here, can you help me take it off?”
“Unzip it from the back?”
“Ha, ha,” Erica arched her eyebrows, “Well come on, help me, I'm afraid to crease it.”
Arthur slowly and gently began to lift the skirt, letting his palms linger over Erica's hips, her waist and for a brief second her breasts, and then unhurriedly removed the dress. It glided over her skin and Erica trembled with excitement.
Arthur carefully hung the dress on its hanger and turned to her, his eyes full of desire.
“You know, Ri, you look fabulously lecherous in that dress. I'm even a bit frightened about going to the party with you. But... you look great. Although I like you without your dress too.”
Erica snuggled up close to him and kissed him on the lips deeply and greedily.
“I can see that. And feel it... And I really love it. You’re a genius, you’ve made an amazing dress. Thank you.”
Arthur did not want to be distracted by too much talk but the topic really excited him.
“But you found the design.”
“Yes, but you did the computer modelling and printed it for me. You know, you might have made a very talented fashion designer. Are you sure you don’t want to change your career?”
“Yes, it would have been interesting,” Arthur laughed, raising Erica up in his arms. “If clothes were a necessity in this world... If they weren’t illegal and considered depraved and indecent, I would think about your proposal.”
Half an hour later, still panting after a stormy bout of love-making, Erica lay in Arthur's arms, considering his words. What if they lived in a world where people needed clothes..? She certainly needed them. But Arthur was right, of course. Erica worked as a historian in the central museum and knew better than most how the world had changed over the last eight centuries.
After the severe climatic changes caused by global warming, the coastal zones had become unfit for human habitation. They had simply ceased to exist when the world’s sea levels rose and the coastal settlements were battered and destroyed by the continual barrage of storms and tsunamis.
Endless rains eroded the soil, polluting the freshwater reservoirs and the increased evaporation kept the skies constantly overcast. The earth was no longer warmed by the sun, the crops failed and the climate got colder. Food became scarce and the localised wars for resources turned into a global conflict in which every individual was struggling for their survival.
The first missile strike brought this struggle to a rude halt. And the survivors of the global cataclysm were forced underground into bunkers and temporary settlements. The ensuing nuclear winter left no hope of any return to the hostile world above. And every available resource was allocated for the construction of underground infrastructure and permanent settlements.
A strict dictatorial military regime was imposed, along with scant rations for food and other supplies, all for the sake of survival. Decades were invested into the development of a comfortable environment, and over time, clashes between scattered communities and whole new cities became more frequent.
The development of underground technologies was aimed at providing people with sustenance and new residential and service spaces. Cities burrowed deeper, expanded and grew, gradually transforming themselves from miserable lairs into spacious and comfortable living spaces.
When the First Underground War once again brought humanity to the brink of extinction, the cities had to make peace and unite. On the North American continent, Sub-Terra was formed, connecting all the largest settlements into a single network.
It was impossible to reach the other continents, and there was no sense in sending any special expeditions to the surface. Communication with the rest of humanity had been lost forever. Assuming there were any survivors to make contact with anyway.
Not only had the environment changed but people themselves. Forced at first to live together in cramped conditions, they lost many of their social barriers and norms, discarding them to move ever onwards and upwards. Privacy became a thing of the past. Clothes were permanently in short supply until new industries could be established and the need for them receded thanks to the constant warm subterranean temperature.
At first, mankind got by with a minimum of clothing and then completely abandoned it altogether. One generation followed another and those who had grown up underground never having known any other world were not embarrassed by their nakedness, perceiving it as completely natural. Clothes seemed uncomfortable and superfluous to needs.
Then ideologies started to change and clothes of any kind began to be seen by society as an unacceptable excess, a sign of dissent and indecency. For a couple of hundred years, people even forgot what clothing was and during periods of particular ideological extremism, even references to clothes were removed from the public files.
But Erica was a historian and she had access to the closed city archives. And her fascination with the history of clothing had inspired her research and incited her curiosity and passion. She found an image of a girl in a dress and asked Arthur to design something similar for her for the upcoming party at the “Dead Poets”.
Erica had found out that this was a special outfit, which at one time had enjoyed cult status and changed the world many centuries ago.
Arthur was a talented architect and worked for a number of large private clients. Therefore, after a couple of weeks of calculations and adjustments, he had been able to create a highly accurate 3D design of the dress for Erica, tailored precisely to her figure.
The materials were a more complex challenge. He had to tinker with his selection of the various fibers for the structure of the fabric. No one had any idea what it had been like to the touch, so he had been forced to come up with his own selection method.
The result was... Strange. A very unusual sensation. The fabric clung tightly to the body... There was something too intimate, intrusive and... it was difficult to put into words... probably something very sensual.
Once, in an illegal store in Chinazone, she had bought herself a T-shirt. A cheap imitation made out of a translucent plastic used for furniture upholstery. As a historian, Erica knew that it didn’t exactly resemble a real T-shirt but she wanted to feel what it was like to dress up, to see herself in a new light. But the cold coarse material was a disappointment and for some time cooled her enthusiasm for clothes.
But with this dress, everything was different. The fabric pleasantly tickled her skin, hugging her figure, as if she was being clinched in an embrace. She felt as if she was being constantly caressed. Although there was a certain stiffness about it that she was not accustomed to and prevented her from relaxing and enjoying the experience fully.
Erica couldn’t say for sure if she liked these new sensations because they were somewhat contradictory. The freedom of expression granted her was counterbalanced by a restriction of her movement. Nevertheless, she was highly delighted with her outfit. It was hard to imagine that a dress could make a woman so happy.
Until a couple of weeks ago, Nicole had been living with them but she had moved to the 47th sector of the South wing to be closer to her new job. This saved her an hour and a half on her commute every day. They both missed their former girlfriend but somewhere deep down Erica was glad that Nicky had moved out before the upcoming party.
She couldn’t bear the thought of Arthur creating two different dresses for the pair of them. Or even worse, two identical ones! The mere thought caused her to burn with a jealousy tinged with a touch of shame for her selfishness. But she wanted to be special, unique, not like the others, and this dress helped Erica to feel just like that.
There was a possibility that Nicole’s place in their small residential pod would be taken up by Rory. She and Arthur had already made a proposal to him and he had promised to think it over. They were due to meet today at the ‘Poets’ party.
Their new friend had promised to surprise them with a highly unusual outfit. That would remain to be seen. Arthur had also prepared something, he had long dreamed of owning a pair of jeans – one of the most famous wardrobe items from ancient antiquity. He had insisted that his jeans should be blue.
In the photographs Erica had found in the restricted archives, they seemed flagrantly indecent, and she and Art had agreed that the worn holes on the knees and hips were a good compromise, so he skilfully recreated them for his jeans.
When Arthur had printed and tried them on yesterday, Erica had gasped out loud.
“You look so unusual. But very sexy. These... jeans fit your legs and hips so tightly that it really accentuates the muscularity of your torso. And as for your buttocks...”
“You’re making me feel like an embarrassed teenager.”
“And how are you feeling?”
“About my embarrassment?”
“No, silly, about your jeans.”
“They’re a bit tight,” Arthur admitted, trying to walk around the room, “They certainly restrict your movement. And they don’t half chafe the groin. Maybe I did something wrong? There’s no way our ancestors could have enjoyed wearing these...”
“I don’t know, they look remarkably like the archive photo. No. They look even better. You look positively scrumptious in them. Come over here. Only real slow. Yes. That’s right. Now, turn around. Do it again. Mmmm, yeah. Definitely yeah.”
To go with his jeans, Arthur printed a charming fluffy pink scarf with a white circle pattern. They were both interested to see what Rory had found for himself. But it was unlikely he would have produced anything as historically accurate as her and Arthur’s outfits, what with the winning combination of her specialized knowledge and his skills.
It was time to get up and take a shower because soon they would need to head out to the club. Erica stretched languidly and rolled over in Arthur's sleepy embrace.
How she would have loved to put on her dress and go to the party in it. Not on the public monorail but on foot across half of Sub-Denver. So that everyone would look and point at her, take videos and upload them onto the web. They would shake their heads disapprovingly or stare at her in amazement.
But Erica knew that she would have barely made it around the block before a patrol would arrest her for indecency in a public space. She knew of a few friends who had gone out with some items of clothing on and she knew what had happened to them.
But never mind. Today at the ‘Dead Poets’ there would be a lot of like-minded people gathered together. People who wanted to see a return of their right of self-expression through their clothes. People who were not just satisfied to secretly indulge their fetish in the privacy of their pod, but who wanted to act.
Perhaps, together, they could really begin to shake off this ossified mentality, which for centuries had deprived people of the right to express themselves through their clothes. Perhaps, they would challenge this hypocritical society that forced everyone into a uniform template, turning them into an almost faceless herd.
Perhaps, the day would come, when their ranks would swell to tens and hundreds of thousands. And together they would take to the streets, dressed in protest against these officious laws and outdated public mores.
They would be a power to reckon with that the authorities would be forced to acknowledge. They would become the voice of the people. Of all those people who wished to express their aesthetic aspirations not just in permanent body art, temporary tattoos and exotic hairstyles. Not just by having their bodies bio-sculptured to eye-watering perfection.
But through their clothes and accessories that would allow them to show themselves in a light that fully reflected their inner world and aspirations. So that wearing clothes in public would no longer be considered shameful, indecent and offensive. So that humanity’s new-found tolerance would permit the dressed and undressed to sit down and eat at the same table.
And when everyone who shared these values would head out to go on the ‘march of the dressed’, Erica would be right there with them. She would proudly walk the streets of Sub-Denver in her dress, smiling happily and proudly at the surveillance cameras.
And perhaps, on that day, a little black dress really would revolutionize this drab conservative world.
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