"There's no need to engage a dressmaker just yet," said Grace thoughtfully, after a horribly awkward pause where I tried to think of ways to cover up my error should more questions arise. "I think I have a dress or two that would fit you--you're not so different from my size." And indeed we were strangely similar, but I supposed that was because I had a twenty-first century build and she was Victorian.
"That's very kind of you," I said, trying not to rock the boat any more. "I'm afraid I'm not really very good with clothes...I've had to make do with so few for so long, and all of the undergarments confuse me." There, that would do for an excuse.
"That's quite all right," Grace told me, laughing. "Of course one of the maids will help you, that's what they're here for." Yes, there were always servants. I had quite forgotten that. "Now, come with me and tell me which of these you like."
I followed her into one of the most luxurious bedrooms I had seen in a very long time, where she led me over to a large closet. As far as I could make out, it was big enough to walk straight into, but I supposed that was necessary considering the hooped petticoats that hung from rails inside. Towards one end was the most beautiful light green cotton dress with a slightly flounced skirt and white lace around the neck and sleeves.
"Oh, but that is lovely," I said. had I been asked to describe it for my friends, I could not have done it justice: I couldn't have explained the prettiness of the green fabric with the tiny little flowers, or the delicate patterns of the lace, and I certainly couldn't have made them understand just what a pretty shape it was.
"You like it?" my host said.
"Like it? I love it!" I told her. Maybe my taste was old-fashioned, but it was so delicate and pretty, so much less over-the-top than many of the smarter dresses I could see around. If I had to wear a dress, it would be this one, and there was no argument about that.
"That's very lucky, because that was one of the ones I was going to offer you, since it is too small for me now." I beamed at Grace and thanked her several times, much to her amusement, and she led me to another section of the voluminous clothes store. "There is also this one, which you may like."
It wasn't as butterfly-like as the other, being of a more serious brown colour and slightly stiffer in the skirt, but I loved the beige embroidery over the bodice and the way that it was designed to show the petticoat through slits on the sleeves and a lower bodice--designed so that the ruffles of my undergarments would show over the top, no doubt. But one thing I did notice was that these dresses both reached to the floor. Obviously I was to be dressed as an adult, though I had no real problem with that.
"Oh, yes, I do," I said politely, fingering the soft material. I couldn't quite place it. Was it silk? No, it wasn't shiny enough, but it certainly wasn't wool and it didn't seem like cotton. Perhaps satin, although it seemed slightly too rough to be that. I was left confused.
"And then there are underclothes." Now I was led to an enormous chest, full to the brim with white garments. My heart sank as I realised that I would be expected to give an opinion on these, and decide which I wanted. "And nightclothes, and dancing clothes."
"That's ... that's a lot of clothes," I said. "That is ... a lot of clothes." I could only stammer and stare at them. Grace, realising what a problem I had and how worried I was about this whole affair, took pity on me and took it into her own hands.
"Don't panic. It's going to be all right." If only that were true.