Making Choices / Taking Chances

Lisa and Jane first met at The Clothing Factory’s end of season fabric sale. Two hands grabbed the same roll of Fabric from the large carton. Their eyes met and sparkled in the early morning sun. As a reflection of one another, the girls glanced down at the roll, back up again and each gave a brisk nod to the other.
Neither knew what fate had in store for them as they made their first choice to buy the roll together.
They studied their craft at college, and worked the markets together on weekends. When they had to find work-experience in the world of fashion, neither wanted to break up their partnership and go on alone.
Jane and Lisa usually made their choices with care.
At times though, they went with their feelings of ‘rightness’.
Some choices were good; others turned out to be learning curves. Whatever the result of their decisions, they were determined face them together.
Simple plans with simple choices, what could go wrong?

It was already dark when they reach the main highway.
Jane and Lisa munched hamburgers in the back seat of Ella’s wagon while they waited for a break in the traffic. Lisa peered over the top of her burger, and saw Jane’s eyes sparkling in the reflected light of the passing cars.
They did not speak as their eyes met; as usual, it was not necessary.
Fat drops hit the glass. Lisa turned to watch the rain streak past as they joined the main stream of traffic. The heavy rain reminded Lisa of the choices they made earlier in the day, and of the results
We had spent the morning touring the town, going from one dress shop to another. Finally, we chose The Wardrobe in the Mall, one of the smallest shops in town, but the best choice for our assignment at college.
‘Hi Jane,’ I called when I arrived back at class after lunch.
‘Hi yourself, that was easy; eh Lisa,’ Jane said flipping open her folder.



a) Conduct a survey of your local fashion shops, and department stores
CHOOSE ONE STORE for this assignment and check assignment with store manager.

b) CHOOSE AND RESEARCH, which garments in the store are new season stock and note changes to previous styles of garments from last season.

c) CHOOSE TWO of latest fashion garments. Make working sketches, noting all featured style changes from previous season’s retail stock. Especially note the shape and cut of sleeves and bodice, fabric type, decoration and colours.

I put a large dress bag in my locker then joined Jane at the workbench.
‘Yeah, fancy window shopping being compulsory for a pass mark.’
I spread out two dresses onto the bench.
‘Yes,’ I replied wide-eyed and innocent.
‘I do not think actually buying anything was part of the assignment,’ exclaimed an equally wide -eyed Jane in a squeaky whisper.
‘I didn’t buy anything,’ I whispered back. ‘During lunch I went back to the tiny shop in the mall with my camera. The owner, Ella, asked a whole heap of questions about our work. When I told her, what we were doing and why, she insisted that we borrow these for this afternoon. I’m always in her shop because her stuff is so different from the big stores. We’ll return them before closing time, after we’ve been to the library.’
I got my sketchpad out of my backpack and started my drawing.
‘Wow… Lisa, that is so kind of her, and trusting too. This is much better than photos taken in the shop. Trying to draw all these details from memory would be a real headache too, and impossible,’ Jane said as she checked out the other garment.
‘I’ll say,’ I agreed.
I drew the shape and style of sleeves in one sample, while Jane drew details of the other.
I finished the bodice, and then got a dress dummy from the storeroom. The other students had just begun their working sketches. Some came back to class loaded with photos. They would not need a dummy. I went back for a second one and took it over to Jane.
‘We may as well compare both the skirts and hemlines together. It will be quicker with the two garments side by side,’ I said.
As we finished the comparisons, I thought of the research we needed to do.
‘After we finish here, we‘ll stop at the library and choose the books we need…’
‘And we’ll still have plenty of time, before the bus comes, to return the dresses to the shop,’ Jane finished my suggestion.
Mrs Holliss, our Vocational Ed’ teacher, took twenty minutes to tell us where we could find information for the next assignment. She must have forgotten that she had already told us of this, yesterday.
We cleared our work area and watched the clock. We would now have to hurry, if we were to make it to the Library before it closed.
I met Jane, outside the college gate, under the bus shelter. We packed Jane’s folders and things into my backpack, so both her hands were free to hold her coat over our heads.
‘Trust it to pour down just as we get out, and we’re in a hurry,’ Jane said as she folded her holdall and squeezed it into my backpack , then made sure it wasn’t going to fall off my shoulders.
‘Are you ready, or should we wait?’ She asked even though she knew the answer.
‘We can’t wait. We’ll never get to the library in time. Anyway the road’s clear,’ I said as we reached the kerb.
I clutched the dress bag with both hands and Jane held her long coat high.
The rain filled the gutters.
The puddles were so wide from the kerb that we would need to take an almighty leap to keep our feet dry.
‘Let’s go,’ Jane called.
Together we left the footpath.
Determined to keep the dress bag dry I jumped forward clutching the bag high in front of me.
I forgot the extra weight in my backpack.
My feet leapt forward, but I went down.
I was in the gutter.
It was wet.
I was wet.
I looked up.
Jane leapt across the street with her coat like Superman’s cape.
She turned.
She saw me.
Did she leap to my aid?
No… She laughed!
Jane came back across the street (of course it had stopped raining).
She was laughing!
She put her coat on and offered her hands to me.
She shook her head unable to speak for laughing!
Still clutching the dress bag, I reach up for her help.
Did she take hold of my wrists and help to pull me up?
She took the bag and went back across the road.
She was still laughing, and she left me sitting there!
Well, enough was enough; she was supposed to be my friend… and my partner.
Nobody else bothered to help, either!
By the time, I unceremoniously clambered to my feet and dripping wet crossed the road, there was no sign of Jane.
‘Oh terrific!’ I said feeling conspicuous as I puddled all over the tiles when I entered the Mall.
‘Brilliant!’ I continued, as I slipped and tried to stop the tears that threatened like the rain clouds outside.
I muttered, under my breath, all the names I could think of to call her.
With my head down, and my feet slipping in opposite directions, I bumped into a wall ~ of towel. Embarrassed I glanced up. Jane’s face seemed to float, above the fluffy wall front of me.
I could tell, by the look in her eyes, she still thought this was hilarious!
She wrapped the huge towel around me. She held me; those rain clouds burst…I had never felt so miserable, so embarrassed and so wet!
Still holding me in case I slipped, she guided me into a shop, then into a fitting room where a woman was waiting.
It was Ella, the owner of The Wardrobe.
The dresses…
Where were they?
Were they ok?
In my misery, I had forgotten all about them.
‘The dresses,’ I blurted in panic and looked around. ‘Are they alright?’
‘They are fine, absolutely nothing wrong with them; which is more than I can say for you,’ Ella said. It was obvious, that she too found it difficult to keep a straight face.
Ella placed a loaded coat hanger on the steel hook in the wall.
‘Your friend Jane, chose to come straight here and explain your…’ Ella paused here as if searching for a word, ‘position,’ she said quietly.
Jane screamed with laughter… again!
‘Sorry, sorry,’ she said backing out of the fitting room, hands held up in surrender.
Her mouth still twitched.
Ella, good-naturedly, pointed to the clothes as she too, left the fitting room.
‘They should get you home. You can return them on Monday.’
She closed the curtain. Seeing myself in the mirror, I pictured myself landing in the puddle. I grinned back at me.
‘Lisa explained earlier, that you were to go to the library, and you normally have a bus to catch. I will make sure you get home safely.’
Ella‘s voice went away from the fitting room.
She was talking to Jane.
‘You will not get to the library before it closes. I have a number of books that you may find useful for your assignments.’
As she spoke, I took the garments off the hanger. I was (what does Mum say? Oh yes, gob-smacked), now I knew what it meant!
Ella, had leant me a complete change of clothes, not used ones, but new ones, still with their tags attached.
Rooted to the spot, I stared at this generosity.
I heard a door close and Ella spoke to me again.
‘When you are changed Lisa, come through to the back of the shop. I will have closed up by then and you can call your parents.’
I dressed and made my way through to the back of the shop.
Jane sat beside Ella at a long table in a huge dressmaking workroom.
Rolls of fabric and lace, stacked on shelves, made a bright contrast to the dark bricks of the arched ceiling. It looked like we were in a tunnel, with high rails from one end of the room to the other holding garments. Mannequins and sewing machines were visible at the far end.
In front of Jane on the bench was a pile of books, and as I drew closer, I saw they were not all Fashion books as I expected them to be.
Ella offered the phone to me as I joined them.
Jane has rang her mother. Would you like to call yours now?’
‘Yes please’, I agreed, ‘and thank you for the clothes and everything.’ I dropped the bag of sopping clothes next to my backpack.
She passed the telephone and I made the call.
‘Hi Mum, it is me. No, I did not catch the bus; I’m still in town. I had an accident…No Mum, I’m alright…Mum…’
‘Would you like me to speak with her, Lisa?’ Ella offered.
‘Yes please.’ I was very pleased to hand her the phone. Mum could be such a worrywart at times.
‘Mrs Linton, it is Ella here. Yes, I own the dress shop in the Mall… Yes, that’s right, The Wardrobe.’
I listened to Ella as she calmed Mum down.
I sat next to Jane and looked at the book she had open in front of her. It was the Art Gallery’s Old Masters’ Catalogue. All thoughts of the puddle and the mall faded, as I studied the picture, which had Jane’s attention.
Reaching for my backpack, I dug out our design folders, opened mine to our assignment and the sketches we had completed earlier.
‘This looks like one of the dresses we borrowed,’ Jane points out. ‘The fabric isn’t the same, but the cut of the bodice is. Look, the seam under the bust is the Empire Line, like the new season’s design.’
Ella hung up the phone and dragged a high stool to the table. She took a good look at our work and our next assignment.
‘Well girls, what do you think. Will you find my books useful?’
‘Absolutely!’ Jane and I answered in unison.
It was a private library; the shelves followed the centre line of the curved walls. We browsed through a small part of her collection of Historical Art Catalogues along side Fashion plates and pattern books from the past hundred years.
‘Thank you Ella, for lending them to us and helping us,’ I said as we made our choice for studying our next assignment; researching fashion trends of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries.
‘They will our make assignments so much easier to complete and inspire us when choosing our own style of designs.’ Jane said enthusiastically.
‘That is good; you can take any of them home for study and return them at the end of term,’ Ella said.
Jane and I repacked our things and carefully added Ella’s books.
‘In fact, considering what we discussed during lunch, after seeing your work and how you work together,’ she continued, ‘I would be pleased if we could arrange work-experience agreement for Saturdays. At least for the rest of this final term then, if you both find it to your liking, I will offer you part-time jobs through the holidays.
We looked at Ella and then each other, ‘For both of us?’
‘Yes, both of you, If you are going to form a partnership it is important that you train together,’ Ella stated with confidence.
I picked up my backpack and sopping clothes, in silence.
We followed Ella to the car park in silence. Jane and I glanced at each other.
We got to Ella’s station wagon, she opened the hatch back, stowed our gear and then as we all got in and closed the doors she asked,
‘OK, what would you like chicken or burgers?’




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Artist's Description

A story of two students in there final year in college. They hope to open business together in the fashion industry. They find that choices made as a reaction to mishap can open doors they didn’t know were there.

Artwork Comments

  • Anne van Alkemade
  • Threadneedle
  • Anne van Alkemade
  • Threadneedle
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