This carries on from Shopping Is Not As Easy As It Seems.
They wound up getting three dresses, two coats and ordering a design for an audience robe from the fashion house. The blood rust had suited Rensa, so the number three was being made up in that. The third dress was being made in a sample length of a purple and bronze mango seed pattern in a light weight fabric Sir had received from a fabric manufacturer, suitable for visits to the southern provinces such as Silverwater. The proposed design was a sleeveless shift topped by a plain bronze overshirt-like jacket with three quarter sleeves and three quarters the length of the dress. That had led Rensa to comment on its similarity to her grandmother’s audience robes and that had led to a request for a design with fabric suggestions. Sir had embraced Mirren’s suggestion to make Rensa look like some sort of exotic flower and had produced a coat design to go over the number three dress in a green shade that would tone with the travel outfit being made elsewhere.
Recommendations for a shoe shop in hand, they left to find evening gowns. The first they found in a busy establishment where they tried simply browsing through the racks to find something they liked without an assistant helping them. Mirren had pulled the dress out and then asked for a change room. When Mirren had rung the bell for a fitting, as the little sign in the cubicle instructed, the assistant found Rensa doubtfully regarding her rear view in the three sided mirror saying as she did so, “Are you sure that this is supposed to look like it doesn’t have a back?”
“On most people, no,” Mirren said. “It’s the colour that does it on you. Remember what I said about it yesterday? Now,” she turned to the woman holding a tape measure and standing transfixed just inside the curtain, “You do make these to measure and you do still have these colours in stock, don’t you?”
“That’s not body paint, is it?” asked the shop assistant.
“No,” that was Mirren. “Is it a problem?”
“Perhaps Her Highness would prefer my supervisor?” The woman was clearly nervous.
“You’ll do fine,” Rensa was encouraging, “Besides, you’ll have to arrange for us to come back for a fitting, won’t you? Your supervisor and hers will know when we’ll be back and they’ll be prepared for us.” The assistant brightened, and advanced with her order book and tape measure.
Three more shops were closed for private viewings or required appointments. The next one they could get into had just finished a showing – they actually walked in while two other women were being let out. The doorman, his eyes less than a foot from Rensa’s face, suddenly opened the door wider instead of shutting it in their faces. It closed quietly behind them.
Inside, the store was organised bedlam. Models walked the floor, discreetly held numbers in hand, making sure all the women sitting at their little tables with tea and notepads could get a good look. From the scent Rensa could tell that the infusion they were drinking was one that had been popular with her own family because you could easily grow the ingredients yourself and if you did that, it was unrationed. Buoyed by this homely aroma, Rensa looked around with interest while Mirren checked her folder. Mirren was just saying, “There should be a floor length number in black and yellow that will depend on the exact shade of yellow,” when they were approached by a tall woman in black.
“Ladies,” her smile was brittle, “Perhaps if you show me your tickets I could show you to your seats?”
“We don’t have tickets,” admitted Rensa.
“But we are interested in buying clothes,” added Mirren with a steely tone. “Our terms are strictly cash. Is that acceptable?” Mirren was beginning to be annoyed with high class clothes shops in general.
“We’re interested in the yellow and black one down the far end near the bay windows,” added Rensa helpfully, “If it’s the right yellow or can be the right yellow. I think the other one was the plum dress on the brunette over there, wasn’t it Mirren? Only not in plum.”
The tall woman regarded them both with an assessing eye. “Those are very expensive garments, ladies. You might be happier with a ready-to-wear establishment.”
“Oh, we know I don’t have any proper clothes,” Rensa smiled beatifically, “That’s the very problem we’re trying to fix.”
“Excuse me,” it was a young voice from behind Rensa. When they turned to look all three women judged the speaker to be in her late teens. Presumably she and her two friends were here with their mothers. All three of them had makeup on that tried, with varying degrees of success, to duplicate Rensa’s face markings. “But where did you get your hair done?”
“We haven’t been able to find anyone who could do it that well,” added the girl on her left.
“Done?” Rensa felt bemused and amused. Seeing these girls and the effort they’d made was, odd. “All Sharren,” she glanced at Mirren to confirm the name, “Did was to trim my split ends. That wasn’t what you meant, was it?”
The right hand girl, the one with the warm, almost red hair did a visible double take, “It’s real? Then you must be her!” Her hand went over her mouth in shock and surprise. The other girls’ surprise registered just as visibly.
“I’m so sorry,” that was the first girl, “I didn’t mean, well I’m sorry if we were rude.”
“You did ask politely,” Rensa pointed out, “And I don’t think you were being rude, no-one else has ever wanted to have hair like mine before. But why are you putting so much effort into looking exactly like someone else?” The girls looked puzzled. “The face markings are idiosyncratic,” Rensa went on, “Some of my close female relatives had markings very like mine, but none of them were exactly the same as mine. You’re all trying to look exactly like me. I find it a little,” no, she wouldn’t use unnerving, “Strange.”
The tall woman, possibly unnerved by how close she’d come to ejecting a potential high profile client from the store, unbent to murmur, “Perhaps if Your Highness would like to come this way to a fitting room? It was the five and the seven that you were interested in, wasn’t it?”
“And that dark sage wraparound,” Mirren pointed at a day dress worn by a blonde, “Perhaps in an off-black? For funerals and such?”
The three girls retreated, back to their table and then to the powder room. Their fourth friend, who’d stayed at the table, remained there with their mothers and looked sulkier than ever. When they emerged from the ladies, their faces had been scrubbed clean. The fourth began to scowl, but three of the mothers looked pleased. As the showing carried on, and Rensa was being fitted, the girl who’d been on the left began sketching face designs on her notepad...