Getting Dressed

Getting Dressed

This is what it looks like when a princess rebels.

Every dress I own was strewn across my bed, a tangle of silk and sequence. The high-necked navy and turquoise dress with the peacock feather train. The form-fitting emerald dress with silver ivy brocade. There were splashes of ruby silk and velvet black dotted with tiny diamond starlight.

I stood at the far side of my room, arms crossed in front of my chest, refusing to wear a single one. I would sooner attend the ball in my under things than be dolled up for the fifth time this week. My mother may as well have placed a series of mannequins along my wall, each with the dress she handpicked for the occasion.

Speaking of my mother; she stood by the door, looking for all the world as if she wanted to tear the rainbow hair from her head. “The finest dressmakers on the planet, and you’ve rejected all their work. What possible unmet expectation could you have?”

“I have been dragging heavy trains and ornate headdresses around for a week,” I snarled in response. “Can’t I wear something remotely practical for once?”

Mother’s will was fraying. Around this time she usually either gave in or stormed off, leaving me to my own fate. Except this time, she knew if she stormed out, I’d arrive at the ball in a tee-shirt and jeans. What a scandal that would be.

“Like what?” she demanded, planting her hands on her hips. Her expression warned that my answer had better be something simple like ‘a shorter skirt’ or ‘a simpler design.’

“Pants,” I retorted, my tone flat. “Sleeves that won’t slide into the punch bowl if I’m not careful. Normal clothes.”

“You like to dress up! A few years ago, you wanted to wear formal ball attire to breakfast!”

“I haven’t done that since I was ten. And I’m old enough to dress myself, thank you. I didn’t ask you to drag my entire wardrobe out for inspection.”

“Yes,” Mother’s tone grew cutting, “you are old enough to dress yourself. So I suggest you choose and march yourself downstairs. You’re already late.”

I regarded her for a moment with arched eyebrows and twisted lips. It was tempting to press the final nerve, but I didn’t really want my mother to explode. By now, I knew her limits, just how far she would let me stretch before she asked the guards to lock me in my room. Not that I hadn’t learned plenty of non-door exits by that point in my life. Besides, I wanted to prove a point.

I sauntered over to my closet and rummaged around a few minutes before producing my offering; a pair of tailored pants and a patterned shirt to match. They were plain, more casual than the royal family tended to dress in public, but reasonable, I felt, for a ball taking place under our own roof.

My mother’s face crumpled. Her eye’s burned. Her hands formed fists at her sides. I must have underestimated the limits of her temper, for I had certainly stepped over a line. I could almost see the tiny inferno light across my mother’s shoulders.

“If you think this is the time for jokes, Rose, perhaps you can spend the evening in your room contemplating how unreasonable you’ve been today.” Before I could answer, she stormed from the room. I held my breath. Moments later I heard the key turn in the lock.


I tossed the clothes into an unceremonious heap beside the closet door and fumed. I was an excellent fumer in my youth. I simmered in silence, my mind working a mile a minute. I could slip out the window into town to visit my best friend. Or I could simply wander the castle grounds, explore previously unknown passages, get myself into more trouble. A year or two before, it’s what I would have done.

But I still had a point to make. Proving my parents wrong was critical to me in those days; not because they were the planet’s rulers, because I wanted to be right.

I would sneak out my window later that night, but not to wander uninhibited through secret chambers or down deserted streets. I was going to attend that ball in an outfit of my choosing and prove to my mother I could be both elegant and practical.

I am no seamstress, and I didn’t have much time. Balls such as this tended to last long into the night, but if I delayed my entry too long, my mother would make an en excuse and my appearance would cause an uproar. I had to work with what I had. My final outfit involved some creative alterations, though I was careful not to damage anything.

I rolled the clothing carefully into a backpack when I slipped out my window and down the familiar hidden passageways that would take me to the main section of the palace. By now I was adept at dodging the guards; I believe they’d given up trying to keep track of me, even if it earned them a stern tongue-lashing or two. A few times I had to backtrack and take a longer route; there were more guards on patrol with so many guests in the castle, but I reached my destination in short order.

I changed in an out of the way servant’s quarters one floor above the ballroom. It was difficult to wrangle my hair on my own, but I had no desire to create an intricate design. Simplicity would suit my desired fashion better.

Smug in the knowledge I had achieved my goal, I crept down the stairs to join the party in progress. No one announced me; I simply waltzed in as if I were returning from the restroom.

It took two hours for my mother to notice me, though she must have heard odd whispers before that. I encountered her when I twirled off the dance floor on the arm of a smitten young man who had been waiting more than half an hour to get me to himself. I smiled at her, but I couldn’t quite keep the expression free of conceit.

Our eyes locked. Hers smoldered. But before she could open her mouth to reprimand me, an older couple stopped to compliment my style. I’d had many such compliments throughout the evening, and no doubt they would make their way back to my mother in due time.

I had chosen pants; a pair of flowing, gauzy pants that swirled about my ankles like a skirt when my legs were close together. They wouldn’t have done for riding or hiking, but they felt light and easy on the dance floor.

It had taken some time to find a matching shirt. It helped that the pants were brown. I paired them with a rich burgundy shirt, accented with sepia geometric designs. The sleeves were slim, the neck line elegant, and the base of the blouse flared wide, just as a dress might have, terminating at mid-thigh length.

I had accented it all with silver jewelry; the same jewelry my mother had wanted me to wear anyway. My hair was gathered in a high ponytail, but I had painstakingly highlighted its natural curl so that it bounced and tumbled around my back and shoulders without obscuring my dangling earrings.

I watched my mother fume from afar for much of the evening. Until my father finally laughed and quipped, “Admit it, Loraine. You’re only jealous you didn’t think to try it yourself first.”

Take a look at what my writing partner came up with for this week’s prompt!

Author Beth Alvarez of Ithilear has posted a response for “Just like a clock.” Check it out!

If you’d like to participate, leave a link to your response in the comments and I’ll feature it next week.

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