Chapter 14: Costume Development
The mage robes were a qualified success.
They were high enough up the tech scale that we could only pull a small trickle of power from Gaia while wearing them. They were in direct contact with our shoulders and upper bodies, flowing out around it from there, which was enough to greatly interfere with our magic. We’d even done without hemp rope belts to minimize the problem, but there was still a lot of contact.
Since we wore nothing else under the robes, not even socks or shoes, we could maintain our own internal magical reserves while standing on open ground, charging from Gaia to replenish whatever small amounts we lost to the robe through our skin.
Casting spells was tricky. We couldn’t cast them out from our center as we’d become accustomed to doing, because they grounded out when they hit the robe’s cloth, even that of our crude homespun. We had to guide the spell inside our body to an escape point, the most convenient of which was our hands. This then explained the common image of a wizard holding his hand out towards a target: it doesn’t just look cool, it’s actually necessary, else the spell would ground out on the cloth draping over that arm.
The same realization led us to mental techniques that would prevent the draining of magic through our feet onto, say, high-tech carpets. If we kept our magic in our cores, letting it out of our cloth coverings by way of our hands, we could work magic even indoors while wearing the robes, though we’d be draining our internal reserves the whole time.
The only reason it worked at all was because the mage robes were completely natural, hand-spun and hand-sewn. We each tried to replicate our successes while wearing only a cotton t-shirt and jeans, nominally a 100% cotton outfit, but the magic drained away as soon as we started trying to use it, grounding out on the high-tech cloth, the fasteners, the bits of synthetic cloth used for the tags, and the synthetic dyes.
Ultimately, this meant we had little more power available to us than our own internal reserves while clothed in the mage robes, even when working outdoors, our bare feet on the ground. When on a float charge to maintain a full internal reserve of magic, the size of that reserve set the largest single working we could achieve. There were several things we’d done before while nude which we simply couldn’t do with these robes on. Even many lesser things we’d still prefer to do naked, if only because it was so much easier that way.
At that point, we began to turn our attention toward our next costuming challenge: our working uniforms for doing massages. The mage robes were impractical for that, and we preferred to avoid the full-coverage commercial uniforms we’d sourced and used at the party.
“I was thinking about something rather skimpy,” I opened one day.
“Of course you were, perv,” Kaitlyn teased.
“For myself, for myself!” I defended anxiously.
“Yeah, sure,” she said with a smile. Then more seriously she said, “All right, like what?”
“Well, let’s keep it simple. What about a set of exercise type shorts for each of us and a cami for you, me shirtless.”
While we tossed ideas back and forth, digging into clothing pattern catalogs we’d picked up to fuel the discussion, a call came in on Kaitlyn’s phone.
“Hi, Miguel,” she said, seeing the caller ID. “What’s up?”
I watched her listening, not able to hear his low tones from this distance, so I was surprised when she broke into a loud squeal of delight. “Oh, that’s wonderful Miguel! Put her on!”
Then a few seconds later, I heard, “Oh, I’m so happy for you Carmen! Have you had it checked? Is everything okay?” Pause. “Uh huh.” Pause. “Yeah?” Pause. “Hey, that’s great! Congratulations! Thanks for calling!” Then she poked the End Call button.
I surmised, “Miguel and Carmen are pregnant.”
“Oooh, spoilsport!” she scolded.
I looked and saw that the hallway door was closed, so I replied more explicitly than I would have if Jess had been in earshot. “It wasn’t too brilliant a guess, having explicitly tried to achieve it. I’m just gratified to know that my effort worked. It shows that we don’t need to resort to sex magic to fix some pretty serious medical problems.” That gave me an idea, so I asked, “Were you planning on going back home for Thanksgiving?”
“I suppose that depends in part on what Jess has planned,” Kaitlyn said. “If she doesn’t have anything up here, maybe all four of us can go down there for it. Why?”
“The pregnancy will be well established; I want to sneak in a check-up.”
“I like it!” she enthused. “I’ll go see if we can get Jess and Vin in on this trip.”
She came back saying we would indeed all be going back down to Moab for Thanksgiving.
We resumed work on the therapy outfits based on a loose exercise short design that used hemp rope through the waistband rather than an elastic band, tied at the front.
“No underwear, no socks, no shoes, no pockets,” I specified.
“No pockets?” she asked.
“They’re actually a pretty modern invention, pockets. They only go back to about Chaucerian times; before then, people usually carried small belongings in pouches and bags rather than have pockets sewn into the clothing. I worry that a pocket will count as ‘technology’ for our purposes here. Even if not, they’ll tempt us into carrying modern techie things on our persons: pens, pocket knives, coins, tools… Better to carry such things around separately in a bag or something and then set them aside, out of contact with our bodies.”
We decided to call it magewear: it was not quite underwear, not quite sportswear, not quite swimwear. We began to think of it as the summer version of a mage robe.
Thinking back to the party, I then proposed, “While we won’t usually be able to get away with working nude professionally, I think we should dress in layers and offer to strip down as far as our client wishes, up to the legal limit. We’re taught to tell the client to undress to their level of comfort, so why not reciprocate as much as we’re able to? We can wear the magewear under our full-coverage white cotton therapist’s outfits as underwear, then strip the outer part off if the client wants us in scantywear.”
“Good, good,” she said musingly. After a second, she shook her head sadly. “No, it won’t work. The darker magewear will show right through the thin white cotton fabric. We have to go bare under them now to avoid showing even white underwear.”
“All right, so we’ll make some full-coverage outfits from our homespun,” I proposed.
“Yeah, one set for experimentation anyway,” she went on musing. “It should be easy to justify the skimpy uniforms to skeptical clients: we’ll simply tell them it’s easier to do cleanup in them than in full-coverage uniforms, since oil spills will just soak right into our skin. And in summer, for outdoor work, we probably won’t even have to explain them.”
She was still deep in thought, so I let her continue. Eventually, she asked, “Maybe we should have more options, like maybe tees-and-capris? I could figure out how to make a fully natural t-shirt, and the mage shorts are easily modified into a capri length version. The long shorts would look like yoga shorts, which would fit nicely into our practice’s branding! They’d be great in early spring and late fall, when it’s a little chilly outside.”
“Right,” I agreed, “and in those intermediate months, we can wear the tees-and-capris over the scanty mage outfit instead of wearing the long-sleeved shirt and full-length pants.”
Kaitlyn batted the idea back, “And then if that works, we can see how the full-length commercial-style therapist’s outfit does. It’ll almost certainly be too long and touch our bodies too much to allow us to use magic, but we won’t know until we try it.”
“Right!” I said. “Let’s get to work.”
We made up a few examples of these designs, then started doing experiments in them.
The big surprise is that the cami and shorts outfit was more difficult to do magic in than in a mage robe. There was less cloth involved, but then we realized that the total amount of upper body cloth contact was actually higher with the shirt versus the stiffened robe.
“We can’t stiffen the shirt to get it away from the skin. That’ll look stupid,” I pointed out.
“Grrrr… I wanted this to work!” Kaitlyn pouted.
“It’s not a complete loss. We’ll still have our internal reserves, and we can still cast minor spells in this outfit,” I pointed out.
“Yeah, I guess,” Kaitlyn said, brightening. “We’ll just have to make regular trips outside while working indoors to re-charge, like a kind of magical bucket brigade, pulling one internal reservoir full of power indoors on each trip.”
“Nice metaphor!” I said. “There’s a lot we can do with that sort of working style.” When Kaitlyn didn’t answer, I said, “I wonder how much the lower body part contributes to the problem.”
“You want to try going around bottomless?” she said in confusion. “Why not just go naked instead?”
“You misunderstand,” I said, waving my hands. “What I mean is, there’s two separate types of contact with the bottoms: the waist is purposefully tight, but then there’s soft contact around our fun bits. Does one of these dominate the effect?”
“I think I can partially test that right now.” She then reached down and pulled the rope we’d threaded through the waistband out and tossed it on the ground, then scrunched her eyes shut in concentration. “Nope, still about as difficult as before,” she announced.
“I thought that might be the case. Kaitlyn, we’ve proven conclusively that sex magic is very powerful. I think what actually might matter here is covering our nethers. They’re the human elements of creation, aligning directly with Gaia’s creative forces. If we block them off from the world with even these mildly technological artifacts, we must expect some waning of our power.”
“Yeah…” she said abstractedly. “That’s easily tested, too: I’ll make a miniskirt!”
“That might be going too far, Kaitlyn. You can’t wear panties with it, and you’ll often be working in it in a squatting position, as when a client is lying on the sand in our back yard. I think you’ll have to shoot for mid-thigh at the briefest. Thankfully, we have a way to stiffen the cloth, so it’ll pretty much only contact your waist and the tops of your buns.”
“And you? You’re going to be wearing a kilt?” she joked.
“No,” I responded seriously, “maybe more like a loin cloth.”
That made her laugh. “You’ll have to be very, very careful with that to avoid scandal!”
I just shrugged, saying, “I’m thinking this outfit would be for emergency use only, when we’ve got a case where we just can’t be nude, but the mage robes are out, and we need to pull more power than the shorts will allow. I’m thinking just one or two sets of this for each of us.”
We developed several workable patterns and tested them all. In order of the amount of power we could wield in each outfit, it ended up that nude was still best by a mile. Next best was my loin cloth, but we found that I was constantly flashing Kaitlyn with the first design, so we added some strings from one panel to the other which snaked around my sack to either side to keep the flaps modestly in place. After that came Kaitlyn’s skimpiest street-legal outfit: a cropped cami and a mid-thigh length skirt, worn commando. Our tees-and-capris outfits were only a bit worse than the cropped tee and shorts outfit.
The long sleeved and full-length pants option turned out to prevent magic use entirely, even with the natural fabrics, hand sewing, and hemp rope belts. Practically speaking, they were no more useful to a nature mage than the commercial therapist’s outfits, so we searched out a source of naturally pigmented commercial versions that were cheaper than ones we could make for ourselves from our precious homespun cloth. We’d save that for the outfits where it actually mattered.
“There’s one remaining problem, Davie,” Kaitlyn said, worriedly.
“This hand-woven fabric isn’t as tough as modern cloth, and our needlework isn’t as fine as you get from a sewing machine. I worry that one trip through the washer and these things’ll be in tatters.”
“Ah,” I said, seeing her point. “You remember back on our honeymoon, where we discovered that your bud Sherry had stolen all of our underwear?”
“How can I forget?” she said with an eye-roll. I let her think about it, knowing she’d make the connection quickly enough. “Oh! You’re thinking of using magic to wash the magewear! You invented the technique to let us reuse the one set of underwear we each had on when we left on that trip.”
“Right,” I agreed. “At the time, I doubted it would be very useful, because even with practice, we didn’t get it to be much faster than using a washing machine. However, once you throw in the delicacy and expense of these garments, the equation changes. It’ll be worth doing for our magewear.”
“Cool!” she agreed.
It was getting late, so we fleeced up the insides of the outfits and packed it in for the night.