Allison Baines stormed through her Malibu home in a fit of rage. “There is absolutely nothing here I can wear to a red carpet event!” she screamed. “Nothing!”
“But Allison, we’ve pulled from every major gown designer available!” her assistant, Claire, pleaded. “What about that Vera Wang piece? It fits you quite nicely.”
“Sure, if I want to look like a fucking lamp shade!” Allison bellowed back. “She’s been doing the same sequins and beads since I was in diapers. What’s unique about that?”
Claire looked desperately through the stack of gowns that had been provided to the actress. “Well, there are several other designers here and I’m sure …”
“I’m sure they all suck!” Allison screamed. “That green number? Exactly like the won Angelina wore six months ago. The red thing? I’ve seen it four times in the past months. I’m not going to wear someone else’s leftover! I’ll go naked first!”
“Well, that would certainly get you attention on the red carpet,” Claire quipped.
Allison grabbed the nearest wine glass and threw it across the room in no particular direction. Never mind the glass was still a quarter full of red wine, leaving stains across the carpet before blotting with the broken glass on the wall. “If I can’t find something decent in the next thirty minutes, I’m simply not going,” she said.
“You’re contracted as a presenter,” Claire reminded her. “This is a paid gig.”
“I wonder what they would say if I showed up in my underwear?” Allison mused angrily.
Claire chuckled. “I’m sure you’d be a ratings hit. Twitter would explode.”
Allison thought for a moment. “Hmmmm, the chance to actually bring down Twitter. That’s legitimately tempting.”
Claire was trying to re-organize the borrowed gowns when she had an idea. “Hold on, I think I still have something in the car that might work for you. Totally custom, one of a kind, never been worn or seen anywhere, not even on the runway.”
“What are you waiting for, then?” Allison demanded. “That sounds exactly like what I want!”
Claire ran to her car and returned with a large bolt of fabric, needle and thread. “I’ll have to literally sew you into this,” she warned. “The designer didn’t have time to finish it and you weren’t available for a fitting in time.”
“That’s all right,” Allison said. “I love the fabric. I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it!”
“No, I’m pretty sure this is the first time its been used for a gown,” Claire said. She unfolded the cloth and began draping it around the actress’s thin frame, sewing quick stitches here and there so that it would stay in place. The deep-plunging bodice was provocative. The flowing train was elegant. Most importantly, Allison was elated … but not fooled.
Standing in front of her dressing mirror admiring her reflection, Allison said, “So, shall I say I’m wearing House of Claire tonight?”
“Excuse me?” the assistant asked.
“The dress. You know those mindless mouths on the red carpet are going to ask who I’m wearing,” Allison said quietly. “You’ve done a most marvelous job. You deserve the credit.”
“But I’m really not a …” Claire started.
“Dear, you’re not only a designer, you’re about to be famous.” The actress twirled and smiled. “I’m going to absolutely make sure of it. You’re going to need a web site and a pr agent. I’ll call Margie and have her set you up.”
Claire’s jaw dropped in amazement. “I really don’t know what I’m doing …”
Allison walked over and took her assistant’s hands in her own. “Claire, you’ve been dressing me every day for the past two years. How many times have you cut off sleeves, added buttons, completely re-shaped hemlines and neck lines and made every manner of modification possible, and often while I’m still wearing the clothes! And now look! In thirty minutes you’ve been able to do what none of the named designers could do: give me a gown I’m actually proud to wear! Dear, you’re not only a designer, you’re one of the best. Don’t hide in my shadow. Step out there and take the spot light for yourself!”
Claire’s throat tightened and she felt a tear roll off her eyelash and onto her cheek. “Thank you,” she managed to whisper.
“Help me pick out some shoes,” Allison said. “The limo will be here in a minute.”
Claire helped Allison find the right pair of shoes and made a few last stitches to the gown just to make sure there were no unexpected embarrassments. When Allison slipped into the back seat of her limousine, Claire bit her lip to keep from crying.
“See you in the morning!” Allison yelled out the window. “And be listening for your name.”
The assistant straightened up the mess in the living room, re-packing all the dresses from real designers for return to the boutiques and cleaning up the broken glass. She then locked the side door behind her and brought her 1988 Taurus to life for the ride home to her own small, dingy apartment. As she sat cross-legged on her sofa watching the awards show, she paid careful attention as her employer was stopped on the red carpet.
“Allison, you look absolutely amazing in that dress!” the female interviewer swooned. “You’ve got to tell me whose it is.”
Allison turned with experience and looked straight-on into the camera. “This is an original design I had made just for tonight,” she said. “House of Claire deserves all the credit. She’s all I’ll wear.”
Claire looked at the cold, partially congealed bowl of mac and cheese in her lap. “I guess I’ll have to find something else to cover the couch now,” she said softly.