For Ms Kat.

Not your average shop. Not crammed with stacks and racks and shelves of clothes at bargain prices. Not spaced and gentle and beige, with ticketed items the equivalent of a holiday. It was colourful. Playful. With a mermaid mannequin in turquoise and pink, lounging on a red vinyl couch in the centre. A pleasant smell, faintly citrus made it slightly less daunting. Racks of dresses to the right, a whirl of black, gold, red and green. Shoes and cardigans to the left, swimwear and accessories, sunglasses and petticoats. She was out of her depth just stepping in. The only lure the invitation to a cocktail party, likeminded people, a chance to follow a dream. She arrived right on opening. Waiting in the car, steeling herself to go in, not another soul in sight. At least she would be spared that humiliation. Taking a deep breath she slowly slid the front door to the shop open. A vintage vision of 50’s couture appeared around a corner at the end of the long shop. A sunny smile encased in bright red lipstick, sunburst hair immaculately coiffed, a red belt cinching in a tiny waist dividing the black skirt from the green cardigan. Hands in jeans pockets, shuffling sneakers, a squirming confession for the need of a dress. Before the chance of second thoughts, she found herself whisked into a curtained changing room with an armful of dresses to keep her company. ‘Don’t look at the label, don’t look at the sizes, just trust me.’ And knowing nothing, she did. The transformation was formidable, the delight genuine and sincere. A rush into the back room for shoes and a petticoat, and the dread had turned in to laughter and joy. ‘How often does this happen?’ she asked, astounded at what could be. The door jangled open and another vision wafted in. The ladies greeted other and smiled. ‘Every time someone walks through that door darling. I may swear like a trooper and my tattoos are quite obvious, but I believe clothing should be quality, and enjoyed every day. Everyone is entitled to a wonderful dress, so go and enjoy yours.’ It hangs carefully on the outside of her wardrobe, in preparation for the night, the promise of so much more now held in its folds.