“Perfectly understandable, madam,” Mrs. Ashton said.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
another shortie, as these are all I seem to be able to write these days. Either it's done in an evening, or it doesn't get done at all. I got the idea for this one when I was putting on a denim skirt, thinking how it makes for a 'basic look'. Then it sort off just rolled off from there into 'I want a basic look for my husband, a simple denim skirt...'.
“Why are we here?” I carefully asked Julie as she was about to open the door.
Suddenly, she stopped and looked at me.
“I made an appointment with a stylist,” she said.
“I thought we were going…” I began, but she was already opening the door and I shut up. Anyway, recently it made more sense for me not to question my wife too much. Obediently, I followed her into the office, where we were greeted by a mature, well dressed lady.
“You must be Mrs. Danvers,” she said, extending a hand to her, “My name is Clara Ashton.
“So nice to finally meet you at last,” Julie said to her.
Finally, Mrs. Ashton acknowledge my existence.
“Sir,” she said, nodded briefly, pointed with an open palm at the seats and, when we were seated, sat down herself.
“What can I do for you?” she said, focusing on my wife again.
“I don’t really care for my husband’s dress sense,” Julie began, “In fact, I don’t care for it at all. I would have done something about it myself, but unfortunately I’m too busy to give it as much attention as it would be necessary.”
“Perfectly understandable, madam,” Mrs. Ashton said.
“Perfectly understandable, madam,” Mrs. Ashton said.
“The problem is, next week, he’ll be starting with his new job,” Julie went on, “And as the business he’ll work at is owned by a good friend of mine, there’s also my reputation at stake. Now, I could either drop everything and go through the hassle of shopping with him, or…”
Julie paused for a bit.
“I’ve heard good things about you, though, so I thought I’d give that a go,” Julie said.
“We’ll do our best, madam,” Mrs. Ashton replied, “Now, what exactly are you looking for?”
“A whole new wardrobe, from the ground up, basically,” Julie said, “But not more than a couple of outfits.”
“I see,” Mrs. Ashton said, then looked at me.
“Some alterations might be necessary,” she said.
“Whatever is necessary,” Julie said, “Though it would be nice if you could have at least one outfit ready ‘to go’.”
“I don’t think that is going to be a problem, madam,” Mrs. Ashton said, “Any particular style you’re looking for?”
“Well, nice clothes, obviously,” Julie smiled.
“Of course,” Mrs. Ashton agreed.
“Let’s stick to the basics, at first,” Julie continued, “Something that he can both wear to the office or to go out to town with me.”
“A quick drink after work?” Mrs. Ashton suggested.
“Yes, or a dinner,” Julie said.
Julie paused for another second.
“Well, like I said, I would like him in nice clothes,” she said, “But at the same time, I appreciate the fact that my husband doesn’t feel comfortable in overly formal clothes. I mean, just look at him.”
“We all know the type, madam,” Mrs. Ashton smiled politely after casting a token look in my direction.
“So nothing fancy, nothing overly flashy this time, please,” Julie said, “Like I said, let’s stick to the basics.”
All of the sudden, Julie got up and left. Mrs. Ashton wrote in her notebook for a while. A younger lady entered the room. Mrs. Ashton ripped a page out from her notebook, handed it to her and the lady left, as she came, without speaking a word. Only then did she acknowledge my presence.
“Sir?” she said, “Shall we begin?”
She stood up and led me to a room behind her office. It looked like a small clothing boutique, with a couple of racks of clothing, a burgundy red velvet sofa and a changing area, walled off by a burgundy red velvet curtain.
“We need to start somewhere, I suppose,” she said, “Try on this shirt, please.”
“Are you sure this is a men’s shirt?” I asked, fingering the suspiciously soft material.
“A men’s shirt is a shirt worn by a man, sir,” she said, “It’ll be a men’s shirt when you put it on.”
Obediently, I took it and went to the changing room.
“I don’t know about this shirt,” I said, “The sleeves are really narrow, aren’t they? Aren’t men’s shirts supposed to have wider sleeves.”
“Traditionally, men’s shirts sleeves are indeed wider than ladies’, to accommodate for the extra muscle,” she said, “But in your case, as you will certainly agree, there’s not much to accommodate for, is it?”
Blushing, I turned my head down.
“Sir?” she said, “I asked you a question.”
“No, sorry,” I stammered, “You’re right.”
“I’m glad we agree,” she said, “It looks like a good fit, but I would wait with the verdict until you’re given the right undergarments to go along with it.”
“Undergarments?” I asked, worried.
“Of course, sir,” she said, “You’ve noticed yourself that the fits more snuggly than men’s shirts. If you wore a t-shirt underneath, it would bunch up quite unsightly. Anyhow, madam has requested a new wardrobe from the ground up for you. Surely you agree that this would include new undergarments as well.”
“Yes, I suppose so,” I nodded.
Just then, the her assistant returned with a parcel.
“Ah, thank you, dear, right on time,” Mrs. Ashton said to her, “Your undergarments, sir.”
She gave me a flimsy, black garment.
“What’s this?” I asked, horrified.
“It’s what you would wear under your new shirt, like you’d have worn a vest,” she explained.
“So it’s a vest?” I asked.
“Actually, it’s called a camisole, sir,” the assistant said.
“Never mind about what it’s called, for now,” Mrs. Ashton said, ushering me into the changing room again, “What’s important is its function. Please put it on, then put your shirt on again.”
“You will find that your shirt hangs much more nicely,” Mrs. Ashton said, tugging at the tails of my shirt, “Because of the camisole’s slippery fabric.”
“It shows under the shirt, doesn’t it?” I asked.
“There’s a pair of flesh-toned teddies in here for you, as well,” the assistant quipped, “Harder to spot under a sheer blouse.”
“Teddies? Blouse?” I asked, bewildered.
“Let’s move on, please,” Mrs. Ashton said strictly, “We don’t have much time.”
She nodded to her assistant who then handed me the next garment.
“This is a skirt!” I said, alarmed.
Suddenly, a wave of weakness washed over me and I felt my knees buckling. The strange, and humiliating dressing up Julie had me go through a week ago hadn’t been just a game, after all. Still, even if it would not be the first time I wore a skirt, I simply couldn’t admit that in front of the two women.
“Indeed,” Mrs. Ashton said, “Well spotted, sir. Now please put it on.”
“I’m not putting on a skirt,” I said, “What’s going on here?”
“Madam was quite clear on what she would like for you, sir,” she replied.
“Julie won’t like me to wear skirts, come on!” I protested.
Mrs. Ashton drew a deep breath, then began so speak quietly, but resolutely.
“While you are by all means free to call your wife however you deem appropriate, in my place of business I will thank you to refer to madam with the proper honorific,” she said. She paused for a bit, then continued.
“I do not intend to discuss with you what madam has requested, or what she will like,” she said, “That is for her to decide, not you. I realize this might be somewhat difficult for you, but I would nonetheless like to ask you for your full cooperation. If madam indeed does not like you to wear skirts, then you have nothing to fear. On the other hand, if she does…”
“I’m pretty sure she,” I began to speak, but she cut me off.
“Excuse me?” she said, with a menacing tone.
“I am fairly certain that madam didn’t say anything about a skirt,” I said stubbornly.
“Dear Mr. Danvers,” she said to me. I was going to correct her that Danvers was Julie’s maiden name, but it didn’t seem like the right time.
“Dear Mr. Danvers, sir,” she said, “As a spouse of my customers, I am willing to extend you all the possible courtesy, as long as it does not interfere with my clients satisfaction.”
“Ok,” I nodded, but she wasn’t finished. In two quick steps, she was standing in front of me, her hands gripping my shoulders.
“However, please keep in mind that I will not let anything impede with my clients satisfaction,” she said, shaking me rather violently, “Certainly not a whiny little man who refuses to put on a skirt.”
Bewildered, I glanced at the assistant and was dismayed to see that she had been looking at me all this time. Meeting my gaze, she simply shrugged, then fetched my new skirt and handed it to me again.
“Madam will hear about this,” I muttered as I closed the curtain behind me.
“Certainly, sir,” Mrs. Ashton replied. I didn’t expect she would hear me.
“I expect you to tell madam all about this,” she said, “Provided she’ll be willing to listen to you.”
For the next hour or so, I kept trying on blouses, skirts, dresses, lingerie and ladies’ shoes, with Mrs. Ashton diligently taking notes. Eventually, she had had enough and went back to her office to write everything up. Exhausted, I slumped down on the sofa, then I saw the assistant approach me.
“Now what?” I groaned, “I thought we were done.”
“You’re done with the clothes,” she said, “I’m just here to do your makeup.”
“Makeup?” I said, panicking, “Why makeup all of the sudden? Madam didn’t say anything about makeup!”
“No one said anything about makeup, sir,” she said, “I just thought I would do you a favor.”
“A favor?” I said incredulously, “By making me wear makeup? On top of everything else?”
The assistant drew a breath of exasperation, then turned to me again.
“Look honey,” she said, “You’re wearing a skirt, a blouse and heels, and lacy lingerie that shows through your blouse. I know that adding makeup to this might seem just extra humiliation to you. But look at it this way – when madam comes to pick you up, you can either leave the store looking like a woman, or like man in women’s clothes. You decide which one’s more humiliating.”
“But that’s assuming madam actually likes me dressed as a woman,” I said, defiantly.
“How certain are you she doesn’t?” she asked.
My silence was answer enough for her. Deftly, she opened her bag of cosmetics and started working on my face.
“But…” I began, “I mean, in the case that se doesn’t like this…”
“In that case, sir,” she said, “You can wipe off your makeup in less than a minute. I’ve put some facial tissues in your handbag.”
“Thanks,” I said weakly.
“You’re most welcome,” she said.
We were having a cup of tea in Mrs. Ashton’s office when Julie finally came back. Nervously, I put my cup down and stood up to face her, dressed in my white blouse, denim skirt and beige, knee high boots with a three inch heel.
“Hi, honey,” I smiled weakly.
She looked at me in what seemed like astonishment.
“Well,” she said finally, turning to Mrs. Ashton, “I certainly did not expect to see this.”
“Is there something not entirely to your satisfaction, madam?” Mrs. Ashton asked.
“Yes, you might say that,” Julie replied.
“Is there any particular problem?” Mrs. Ashton asked my wife.
“The skirt, obviously,” Julie said.
“See?” I chimed, gleefully, but Mrs. Ashton’s stern glance made me regret it instantly.
“Denim?” my wife continued, “I said I wanted him to look ready for the office, not the farmer’s market.”
Mrs. Ashton took a sip of her tea.
“To be fully honest, I do share your sentiments, madam,” she said, “But we have to keep up with the fashion all the same. Denim is not all that unheard of even in the office environment anymore. You will agree that even though it is made of denim, it is nevertheless a rather flattering skirt, and as such, quite appropriate as office wear, especially in the more junior positions. After all, you did instruct us to stick to the basics.”
“I guess that’s as basic as it gets,” my wife smiled.
“If you like, we could have your husband change into something else,” Mrs. Ashton offered.
“No, it’s fine,” my wife said, “We’re running late as it is. Come on, Melanie.”
Recognizing my new name, I obediently took my handbag and, accompanied by the sound of my high heels striking against the tiled floor, followed my wife out of the office.