Sally wore two petticoats – white lace over plain peach cotton – because lace alone looked like she had something to flaunt. Not that she didn't have something to flaunt, her mother was quick to justify, though perhaps flaunt was the wrong word. There was nothing more precious than what she had under her two petticoats, was the truth of it, she said. Two petticoats and a simple dress made from a print with small flowers. Nothing brash or bold, or, God forbid, anything with piping. Oversized prints were for girls with too much personality to share. If she kept hers at a modest volume then people would naturally be curious and want to get to know her, the same way a cat chooses the lap of the quietest guest, even though it’s likely they don’t actually like cats. Piping may look fancy but really it’s just a piece of string caught inside the binding. People sewed it into the seams of their cushions to make them look expensive, but what does it say about a girl if it’s attached to her bodice? What does it do but trace contours and invite fingers to pinch and slide along its length? Layering her lace showed class, her mother told her. Modesty. It threw intricate shadows onto the peach slip when the sun hung low on a warm evening. It caught the eye. Better to guide a gaze to knees than a bosom, though Sally begged to differ when the summer humidity fused the skin of her thighs together – a slow, secret pinch as they peel away from one another beneath flower print, peach, and lace. Layers, her mother explained, were part of the journey. Lace on its own is just a gauze for filthy stares to leer through. Give him layers, she said, and he won’t be able to hurry. Sally wore two petticoats and smoothed them down with wet palms, leaving blotches that blurred the tiny forget-me-nots on her dress. Her mother plucked away an errant hair that had fallen across Sally’s forehead and wormed her knuckles into Sally’s shoulders, lifting her posture by two inches. She said, give him something to outwit even before he’s got to the pantyhose.
published 6 March 2013