Harriett – October 2004
Life at Palmerstone was proving to be stimulating. Hattie had been handed over to Carole to be trained in the Palmerstone way. She was therefore mostly based in the Kings Road shop. Very conveniently placed for hooking up with all her old school cronies and hanging out with the new cool crowd that she was getting to know. Hattie met people and made friends quicker than most girls could get ready to go out. Her natural friendly and gregarious nature not to mention her megawatt smile endeared her to most people of both sexes.
Working in the shop was fun. Hattie had always loved dress-up and most of the time that was exactly what she did. Rebecca, the boss of Palmerstone and one of her mother’s oldest and dearest friends, was adamant that all the staff should try on clothes by the different designers so that they got to understand the cut and the fit of each different label. In quiet moments the girls would try clothes that most would never be able to afford; and best of all they got to choose a couple of outfits every season to wear in the shop.
It was on one of these occasions that Hattie got a lesson that she would never forget. Underneath Hattie’s seeming confident nature she had long been discontented with her size. It was fashionable to be thin; some of the girls who worked in the shop were tiny like her sister Charlotte. Hattie was embarrassed to admit her size in such company; she had a voluptuous figure that she tried hard to disguise. Carole who had years of experience in fashion as Rebecca’s second in command had seen it all before. Like Rebecca she had developed an unerring eye for picking out the right styles to suit particular body types and to suit women’s colouring. Carole had watched Hattie’s ability to do the same develop, she had a good eye for what suited customers, but not for herself.
Carole, like most others, had taken to Hattie. She could see what lay beneath the veneer of confidence and sophistication, and decided to show Hattie how great she would look in some different styles. Fitted dresses and pencil skirts with a neat blouse or cardigan in the ‘Sexy Secretary’ vein that was current would look knock out on her Carole surmised.
Hattie had recollections of the mortification that she had felt one summer when her mother had taken her to Bergdorf’s for a bra fitting as she reluctantly stripped down to her underwear and awaited the administrations of the Palmerstone team. She needn’t have worried, all of the girls were sensitive to customer’s privacy and were only too aware that everyone has hang-ups about themselves. Even customers who were amongst the most beautiful actresses and models had similar feelings of insecurity.
Prunella and Anna were helping in the shop today. They happily ferried armfuls of clothes for Hattie to try at Carole’s behest. First a very slim fitting skirt that Hattie feared she’d never get over her thighs; before she had time to have a panic attack Carole advised through the curtain,
‘Slip it on over your head Hattie, then tug the lining down to get a smooth line.’ Hattie did as she was bidden and was astonished that the skirt fitted. It felt a little tight around her butt and was snug fitting on the thigh. She’d never tried anything like it; she would have expected the below the knee length to look way too prissy but somehow it looked sexy and demure at the same time. Hattie tried a pussy bow blouse as instructed and stepped into high heels. She looked at herself in the mirror seeing a stranger not Hattie.
‘Let’s see’ Carole requested, Hattie emerged from the fitting room to a gasp of admiration from her colleagues,
‘Your so lucky Hattie’ breathed Anna in deep respect, ‘you look like a movie star!’
‘Lush!’ agreed Ella in rapt approval, ‘Like Marilyn Monroe.’
‘I agree’ Carole approved with a smile, ‘Hattie has movie star qualities and a certain look that men adore! Gentlemen prefer blondes and all that.’
Hattie continued to view herself in the mirror taking in the compliments and trying to be objective. She knew that she must stop viewing herself as Charlie’s ugly duckling sister. Harriett smiled her wide enchanting smile and thanked her colleagues for their compliments.
‘Next’ commanded Carole with an encouraging little push to Hattie’s back. Next was a structured suit by Vivienne Westwood. Hattie already knew that this Brit designer did the business for her. Her mother, Caitlin had treated her to a party dress that had turned heads and collected some compliments; rather muted ones from members of her own family, rather shocked by the transformation wrought to their darling ‘baby’.
The hobble skirt complete with bustle was extraordinary, topped with the nipped-in-waist forties style jacket that hugged Hattie’s curves and made her waist appear tiny. It was sensational, even Harriett could see that.
‘If I was a man I’d definitely fancy you’ Anna approved, causing them all to giggle,
‘Is there something you’ve not told us about?’ Ella deadpanned,
‘I should have said that I wish I looked like you’ Anna corrected unabashed, ‘I so wish I wasn’t so skinny. My boyfriend is always looking at curvy girls and wishing that I were more…y’know, well endowed!’
‘Mine too’ echoed Ella. Harriett suddenly wondered to herself whether Charlotte had ever thought the same. Did everyone want something different from what they had?
Hattie’s eyes misted a little as she considered the unthinkable. With one last twirl in front of the mirror she thanked Carole, Anna and Ella with her infectious smile and a slight skip of excitement. Hattie resolved that she was going to embrace her own assets rather than envy those of others.