Turning from the mirror, the young woman stamped her foot and tossed her bleached hair angrily, reminding Clara of a perturbed pony. "This is all wrong," she whined.
Clara checked her notes. The client had requested her floor-length Monique Lhuillier gown be shortened to tea-length. A strange choice, Clara had thought, considering there were two lovely tea-length dresses in the Monique Lhuillier spring collection. Still, after confirming the request, Clara had measured carefully and placed her pins, making certain to show the client the proposed changes in the mirror. "You ordered a significant length conversion. Maybe it looks different than you imagined it."
The pony-girl shook her head and whinnied, "I like the length, but I still wanted a train. You know, short in the front and long in the back, like on 'Project Runway'." The ever-popular mullet dress, desired by far too many young fashionistas.
Calmly, Clara said, "I thought we agreed such an unusual alteration would exceed your budget."
With her lip stuck out like she was waiting for a sugar cube, the pony-girl said, "I thought so, but on the way out of the store, I talked to one of the sales ladies, and she said she'd get the cost down."
Bewildered, Clara rechecked her notes and finally noticed a Post-It note, fallen to the floor: "Call me about this one - Marge." Sales associate Marge had worked there three months.
Telling the pretty pony she'd be right back, Clara walked through the alterations department to the wall phone and called the showroom. Marge said she'd received approval from the manager to give the customer a reduced price for alterations. Patiently, Clara informed Marge that a Post-It note was not sufficient for such a big order change; she should have talked to Clara personally.
Fortunately, Clara still had the satin she'd removed. She swallowed her frustration and returned to the fitting room to appease the pony. Perhaps she should bring her an apple, she thought, wryly.
It took some creative draping, but Clara figured out a way to realize the client's dreams for a mullet dress. The client would be the prettiest little pony to prance down the aisle.
Clara stopped in the storeroom to pull the dress for the next appointment. This ivory Maggie Sottero gown was gorgeous. With its jeweled halter neckline, corset back closure, side slit and long train, the dress was sexy yet elegant. As she pulled the dress off the rack, she noticed another one with the same customer's name attached: another Maggie Sottero, but this one a body-hugging diamond white gown with a ruched taffeta skirt that featured soft pleats and Swarovski crystals. In all likelihood, one was for the ceremony and one for the reception.
In the fitting room, Clara greeted a curvaceous 30-something woman with long, curly tresses and cherry-red lips, reminding Clara of Hollywood glam. But when the pin-up saw the dresses, her bright-white smile faded. "I thought they'd already be put together," she said, growling like a disappointed Kathleen Turner.
"Put together?" Clara asked, mystified.
Collapsing onto the stool, the glamour gal breathed, "I wanted the halter top from one dress and the pleated skirt from the other, but put together in one dress. My sales consultant, Marge, said you could do it."
"Normally, such severe design changes have to be handled by the designer," Clara said.
Pressing her hand to her forehead in glamorous distress, the client shed a single tear, which rolled down her pearly cheek and dripped on her décolletage. "My wedding is next month. What will I do?"
Again, Clara excused herself and headed for the wall phone. She informed Marge that major design changes needed to go through the designer and that she shouldn't promise anything until she knew they were possible. Then Clara called the manager, who ushered the weeping bride to the showroom to talk over options. With this short of a turnaround, they would be limited.
An hour later, the manager returned and explained the plan. The client would wear the ivory chiffon gown, but Clara would close up the slit and sew on a Swarovski-encrusted belt. Crisis averted, the client dabbed her long-lashed eyes daintily as Clara took measurements for the fitting. By the time Clara finished, the starlet would be ready for the red carpet.
The next appointment, a second fitting, was with a bubbly young redhead who chatted breezily as she admired the altered dress. She was thrilled with the silhouette of her Alfred Angelo one-shoulder gown, covered with crystal beading, sequins, organza ribbons and flowers. "I look like a princess," she gushed, like a little girl playing dress-up. "How much longer will it take for the dye job?"
A vein in Clara's forehead began to pulse as she muttered, "Dye job?"
"Yes, I'm having it dyed pink," the bubbly girl said, as if asking for a scoop of strawberry ice cream. "The sales lady said you could do it, since you dye shoes."
"Let me guess. Marge," Clara said between clenched teeth, already heading for the wall phone. It took some wrangling, but with the help of the manager, the girly-girl was placated with a complimentary tiara and some bubble-gum pink shoes. She would be daddy's little princess on her big day.
Clara clocked out for lunch and headed to the break room, where Calpurnia, the other seamstress, looked irritated as she sipped a coffee. "I've had a rough morning," Calpurnia declared. She unfolded a familiar-sounding tale of woe: clients demanding ridiculously elaborate alterations, having all received promises from the newest sales consultant. Clara shared her own experiences, and they shook their heads in mutual disapprobation.
Then, Clara reached a horrifying realization. "The first dresses she ordered are just arriving, and she's been here three months," Clara moaned. "Even if we set her straight today, that means..."
Calpulrnia finished the thought, "... for some time to come, we will bewail the brides of Marge."
Thanks to roina_arwen for letting me bounce ideas off her, bouncy-bouncy. Thanks, too, to my 10th-grade English teacher, Mrs. Jaskiewicz, a.k.a. Mrs. J, who introduced us both to 'Julius Caesar' and to the joys of writing shaggy dog stories.