Chapter 18: Rebecca – November 1975

Again Rebecca’s solace was the shop.  She threw all her time and energy into making Palmerstone a success.  Christmas was fast approaching and she needed more stock for partygoers.  The business was doing very well but she would have to start paying for the Spring/Summer collections that would be delivered soon after Christmas as well as start buying the Autumn/Winter collections.

Still she decided she must have new stock for the party season, the Ossie Clark had sold out as soon as it had hit the shop floor.  She decided to order more and to call in favours to get designs from Zandra Rhodes and Bill Gibb, as she felt sure that her customers would go for their labels in a big way.  She also approached Manolo Blahnik for shoes having admired Caitlin’s sapphire stilettos.  She was also expecting a delivery any day from her Indian supplier.

Palmerstone now had a staff of five, one full-time assistant manager and four part-timers. All were also good customers when they weren’t working.  Carole was the same age as Rebecca and had worked in department stores in the past.  She was reliable and honest and Rebecca felt comfortable leaving her in charge of the shop when she had to attend shows and make buying trips.  Over time Carole had developed her skills and had become adept at understanding and fulfilling customer’s expectations, she was meticulous at keeping records and introduced systems into Palmerstone, which helped the business to flourish.  She was a real asset to the business and became a confidante for Rebecca.

Rebecca was constantly busy.  She re-merchandised the shop every week so everything looked fresh and interesting, always mixing new pieces in with older ones and showing different quirky ways of wearing pieces together.  The window became quite a talking point for Wimbledon residents as Palmerstone constantly pushed the boundaries with the labels that they stocked and in the way that they were styled.

Rebecca also insisted on having regular staff training sessions so that her team were au fey with all the new trends, were confident in assessing body types and personal requirements, and were able to make appropriate recommendations to their customers.  Rebecca also planned ahead with military precision.  She constantly looked at fashion magazines and visited the competition looking for ideas.  She had a knack for spotting labels that would sell and now that she had a strong stable she found it easier to buy from the more elite designers.  She not only knew what she would buy for next year but the year after and for her new branch which would be opening in Spring 1976.

One crisp December morning Caitlin breezed into the shop holding a huge bouquet of white roses out to Rebecca,

‘Hi Becca, how are you?  The shop looks simply divine, show me everything’ she hugged and kissed her friend, already heading for the rails and riffling through.  ‘Oh!  These are beautiful, like the dress you wore for my party?’ she asked without pausing, ‘and these!’ with a shriek as she came to the Bill Gibb collection of long dresses resplendent with wide puff sleeves set into tight bodices in rich colours and bold patterns.  ‘Let me try this on, and this and this’ she proceeded around the rails like a child in a sweet shop.  Rebecca indicated to Carole which of Caitlin’s choices she should put ready in the changing room, as she knew her friend’s shape and which dresses would suit her.

Soon Caitlin had amassed a dozen outfits to try.  Not long after she had selected three pairs of Manolos, two Bill Gibb dresses and an Ossie Clarke to take her through the Christmas party season.  She then proceeded to plunder the accessories collection selecting a silk cummerbund, several patterned Indian silk scarves, silver jewellery, beads and bangles for presents all the while chattering excitedly to Rebecca and the other girls.

‘I wondered if you could do lunch Becca?’ she asked, ‘Please do!’ she followed when Rebecca hesitated.  ‘Can you get these wrapped and ready for me to pick up after?’ she asked turning to Carole, ‘Here’ she held out her credit card, ‘put everything on this.’  Carole took the credit card and very business-like confirmed with Caitlin each of the purchases she required from the melee of items tossed around the changing room.  ‘All of these’ confirmed Caitlin airily, ‘Becca took away the things that didn’t work so well.  She wouldn’t let me have that gorgeous Zandra Rhodes dress because she said it made me look fat!’ she added regretfully.  Inwardly astonished, Carole gathered everything up as the two friends headed for the door arm in arm.  Rebecca looked back and said to Carole, ‘I won’t be long, we’ll just be at the Rose and Crown for a glass of wine and a packet of crisps’ she winked at Carole.

Caitlin’s idea of lunch being rather grander than Rebecca’s they wondered further along the road to a wine bar that did good food.  They ordered mains, side salad and a bottle of Pouilly Fuisse, which arrived nicely chilled.

‘Becca your shop is wonderful.’ Caitlin was serious, ‘I’m really sorry I haven’t been before. I kept meaning to and then you know…’ she tailed off, ‘Perhaps you could open on the Kings Road or Brompton, that would be nice and close.  Maybe you could get Halston too!’

‘Well actually you are the first to know but I am getting Halston, and I will certainly be considering the Kings Road for my next branch!’

‘Wow Becca, that’s brilliant.  You are so clever!’ responded Caitlin really admiring her friend’s taste and business acumen.  The food arrived and they busied themselves with eating for a few minutes.  Caitlin then said, trying to sound casual,

‘Have you seen Dylan since my party?’

‘No, why?’ responded Rebecca, not giving anything away.

‘Because silly you both look nuts about each other’ Caitlin responded as though to a small child.  Rebecca took this in.

‘Is it that obvious that I like him?’

‘Well yeah, actually you both look as though you might copulate on the floor at any moment.’  Caitlin responded making Rebecca snort and choke on a mouthful of food, ‘I can’t believe he hasn’t asked you out, he couldn’t take his eyes off you all the evening at mine.’

‘Well he hasn’t’ answered Rebecca baldly, ‘so he can’t be that keen.’

‘I’m sure he is’ replied Caitlin, with a wry smile, ‘I had an experimental flirt with him myself and he hardly noticed my allure!’ she wrinkled her nose, thinking, ‘Perhaps he’s afraid of getting involved because he likes you too much?’ She hazarded.

‘Well I’m too busy to think about him anyway’ said Rebecca with finality, ‘I’d better be getting back to the shop.  Caiti thanks ever so much for the lunch and the flowers and the huge purchase.’ She smiled at her friend fondly, ‘How did you track him down for the party?’ she asked, suddenly reverting to their prior conversation.

‘Charles, he knows everything about Dylan’ Caitlin answered, prophetically.


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