Season 1 Episode 3: A Blue Shirt With a Yellow Stripe
In segment one of this episode, I meet Ghost Cat Number Seven, an irritating, cheeky creature who could remove its head from its body. This creature had brought me a new set of clothes, and tried to explain to me the importance of clothing in Dunari society.
Segment two discusses the importance of clothing in world building.
In the ‘Strange but True’ segment, I describe what happens to all of Stein Cat’s ghosts whenever she parties and drinks too much.
How clothing plays a vital role in Dunari societal structure.
How to think about adding importance to clothing in your world building.
Each show will be summarized in letter form. These are the letters I would have written from Dunari to my parents if I’d been able to do so at the time.
Seven minutes reading time.
Dear Mum and Dad,
The walking staff with the weird face that I mentioned before has started talking to me.
No great surprise. Yesterday, I had thought it had spoken a few words, and this bothered me so much it wasn’t long before I imagined it was watching me, too.
I thought about covering it with something.
All I had to cover it, though, was a sock. But I haven’t changed my socks in four days. If anything was liable to get that thing chattering, a stinky sock pulled over its head would do it.
So, I tried not to look at it.
As I went to bed last night, I wondered how Ghost Cat Number Seven make its entrance in the morning. When I awoke, however, she was lying at the end of my bed. Not only was it cheeky: it was rude. She hadn’t even knocked.
Even worse, when she spoke, her kept slipping off her shoulders. While this explained how she’d died, I felt no sympathy. She talked to me like I was a child, and mocked me every chance she got.
The urge to use her head as a basketball was strong.
She’d brought me a set of clothes. I suppose I should have been grateful for fresh clothes, but the outfit looked totally uncool. While the grey pants looked normal enough, the blue shirt had a yellow stripe along one arm. It remined me of a prison uniform I’d seen somewhere on TV.
When I confronted Number Seven over the ‘uniform’ thing, she told me that the city was divided into sectors in case of a Spirit Storm attack, and that until I reached the age of 18, I wasn’t allowed leave my sector without permission.
‘The clothes identify your sector,’ she said. ‘Stray from your sector and . . .’
This dismayed me. Wearing these clothes wouldn’t help my escape.
When I asked what might happen if I entered another zone, she lectured me about being caught by the City Guards who would imprison me in a punishment bulb (haven’t a clue what that is), or magemods who would remove lavun privileges (don’t know what they are either).
The worse punishment, though, was being caught by kids my own age.
‘Moderate gang violence between zones is encouraged,’ Number Seven said. ‘As further encouragement not to stray.’
That’s when the walking staff shouted at the ghost to stop scaring me.
I don’t know who was more surprised by this, me or the cat.
A huge fight erupted between the staff and Number Seven. Considering the insults that flew between them, these two knew each other well. The cat eventually fled, howling, ‘I’m going to find Ganhook. I’m going to find Ganhook, and tell him about your interference.’
While I was grateful for the staff’s intervention, I was also angry at it. Why hadn’t it spoken to me before now?
Had it been spying on me since I arrived?
When I confronted it about this, he told me he was called Shinytop. This was a nickname. His real name was Caladan. He was the spirit of an executed thief, and he was imprisoned in a stick carved from the branch of the tree he was hung from.
After I tried, and failed, to figure out how a spirit could be imprisoned in a stick, Shinytop announced that Ganhook planned to assign him as my main Dunari guide.
‘But Ganhook has not officially assigned me yet,’ Shinytop added. ‘Therefore, I cannot talk with you anymore.’
And that was that. Shinytop would say no more.
I’m still unsure whether I was relieved or disappointed by this.
So, Mum and especially you, Dad. I know how you love dressing up, so what might you think about my experience with Number Seven and all the chatter about clothes.
And how could Number Seven’s advice help with world building?
As short and bitter as it was, Number Seven’s visit made me think about how my new clothes in Dunari would both protect me, and hinder me.
At least until I was eighteen.
Obviously, I had to fit into this world. I’d arrived in Dunari wearing jeans and the Iron Maiden ‘Eddie the Head’ t-shirt you’d given me at Christmas. If I’d wandered through Dunari wearing those, I’d have turned lots of heads.
Or maybe lost my head, too, like Number Seven.
I’ve realised that clothes are a visual language. We automatically make assumptions about people because of how they dress. It’s part of our threat detection process. That’s why clothes in world building are vital. It’s how we portray ourselves. And how we are judged.
It is also a way of defining and organising groups.
The blue shirt with the yellow stripe was a simple design, but it signified so many things—social control, conformity, consequences for non-conformity.
Every time I see the yellow stripe on my shirt, I’m reminded me of my current place in this city.
But how do you start creating clothing for your world?
Start small. As a fun exercise, take one item from your wardrobe and imagine how to modify it to give it some instantly recognisable importance in the world you are creating.
Dad, do something with that old leather jacket of yours. There’s enough holes in it to make something fun and interesting and unique.
Imagine you’re creating your own world. Think about how to connect aspects of that world to your leather jacket. And maybe consider what status this jacket might give you in that world.
And think about what restrictions or boundaries that jacket could put on its wearer.
Dear parents, that’s about it for now. As ever, there is a Stange but True segment at the end of the podcast. If you wish to hear it, it’s at 18:40.
Next time, I will write more about Shinytop, and the importance of guides in world building.
Goodbye. Or as we say in Dunari, Dreavik!