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February 19, 2019

Samantha's Chronicles: Dressed to thrill

A lady in high heels./ELKANA JACOB
A lady in high heels./ELKANA JACOB

My phone rings. It’s Mr N.

“How’s the New Year going?” he asks.

“Fine,” I respond.

I’m getting ready for bed after a long day at work. I haven’t spoken to him this year.

“Are you home?” he asks.

“Yes,” I reply, wondering what he wants.

“I’m outside your gate,” he informs me.

“Here? Now?” I ask, surprised.

“Yes. Can I come in?” he asks.

“Yes, sure,” I say.

I hang up the phone quickly and rush to the make-up drawer. I dab on some powder and lip-gloss and hurriedly brush my hair. Then I quickly toss off my T-shirt and get one of my negligees out. It’s a white baby doll that falls sensually to my upper thighs. The fabric is the softest silk trimmed with lace. Negligees were not always this sexy. When they were first introduced in France in the 18th century, they mimicked the heavy head-to-toe style of women dresses of the time. What a terrible time to be a woman. Getting dressed took ages! And you couldn’t do it alone!

Sample this. A lady in the 1700s would start with stockings that ended at knee or thigh level. Then she’d wear her leather shoes. They had straps that buckled over her instep. Then she would put on her stays. These are made of heavy linen with boning inside, and were meant to make you appear to have a smaller waist and help you stand tall. Noawadays we have corsets, which are pulled out for special occasions, but back then it was standard to wear these underclothing. They needed to be laced up at the back so the women always needed someone at hand to help them. After the stays, they’d sling a bag around the waist with a small opening to carry things she may need, like a handkerchief.

Then on top they’d put on hoops. These were made from linin and had ovals made out of wood to hold the skirt out in a fashionable shape.

After this, she’d need a petticoat. Those were huge and looked like a full skirt. Petticoats had an opening so that she could still reach into her bag. Only now was she ready to put on the dress. Imagine, all that nonsense?

Still not done, she’d pin a stomacher to the front of the gown (a V-shaped piece of decorative cloth) and then an apron. Then mitts and finally, she’d tie a white linen cap over her hair. So you understand why she needed to start with the shoes? Who could bend over in all that garb? How did they even use the bathroom? I make a mental note to research the bathroom habits of Victorian women as I finger the lace on my negligee.

I wonder, if one of those women were transported into the future, what they’d think of my baby doll. This would not even have qualified as a petticoat back in the day. There’s a knock on my door as I slip it on. Talk about zero notice! I take a deep breath and open the door.

“Sorry, I was in bed, let me get a robe,” I say.

I walk slowly to the cabinet and remove a matching robe, allowing him an eyeful of my sexy negligee and then turn to face him.

“Come in,” I say. “Would you like a drink?” I ask.

“No,” he says.

He strolls in and eyes me thoughtfully.

“Why are you here?” I ask, squirming beneath his gaze.

“I was in the neighbourhood,” he replies.

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