Wednesday, November 2, 2011


         The plump, middle aged woman stood before the department store window display, subconsciously mirroring the pose of one of the mannequins. Her rounded belly and full hips fought against the constraints of her sweat pants. Her dark hair, cut in a bob, framed her pretty blue eyes. Restlessly, she tapped her left foot to the vocal-less rendition of “Rainy Days and Mondays” that piped through the mall’s sound system.
         A smaller, blonde version of herself nudged her elbow, “Will ya looka that outfit, Jessie! All black spandex and sequins!”
         Jessie turned to her younger sister, “Been studyin’ this outfit for the last five minutes, Marsha. Think I’d like to try it on. It’d be perfect for Kevin’s company Christmas party.”
         Marsha’s expression flitted quickly from shocked disbelief to amusement as she realized her sister’s deadpan delivery disguised her jest. “I do believe I’ll try on that red dress,” she joined the joke. “Yep. See how it’s slit up to here,” she gestured at her chunky thigh, “and it dips down to there,” her fingers tugged her oversized t-shirt to reveal her ample bosom. Her booming laugh resounded as she shouldered her large purple purse. “Wanna go in, or keep on lookin’?”
         Jessie caught their dowdy reflections in the glass. She hated shopping for clothing, which was why her wardrobe consisted of her husband’s castoff jogging pants and her son’s old t-shirts. However, she had to find something to wear to this special party. With purpose, she pulled up her rounded shoulders, tucked in her relaxed tummy muscles, and smoothed her hands through her hair. “I think I’m done with window shoppin’. Let’s try on some outfits!”
         With resolution, she strode into the department store, her sister a couple of steps behind her. Jessie skirted around the junior’s section and headed straight to the far right corner of the store. “You know what bothers me most,” she said over her shoulder to Marsha, “is that those mannequins stay skinny even when we move to the women’s wear. Seems like they should plump up a little.”
         “Guess it’s one size fits all when it comes to mannequins,” Marsha paused in front of a stylish row of outfits. Her eyes lit up when she spied both the red dress and the black spandex number in their sizes. “Wooo---eeee! Do you believe it? Those very same outfits in our sizes! A woman as rounded as me would be crazy to even think of trying on that red dress.”
            Her eyes locked with Jessie’s, her challenge acknowledged when her sister selected the black dress in the appropriate size. Before she knew it, her hands clutched the slinky red dress as she dashed behind her sister into the nearest dressing room.
            “Can I help you ladies?” a sales clerk blocked them momentarily. “I’d like to suggest you try on these outfits with slimmers.”
            “Slimmers?” Jessie paused.
            The clerk eyed each woman, guessed at their sizes, and intoned, “Wait here one moment, please.” She turned on her spiked heels and bee-lined it to the lingerie department. Before Jessie or Marsha could utter a syllable, she handed them each body shapers.
            You expect me to fit into this?” Jessie held the undergarment in front of her form with incredulity.
            “Trust me, ladies,” the sales clerk beamed as she shooed them into the dressing room.
            Jessie quickly skimmed out of her sweat pants and t-shirt and dubiously eyed the one piece shaper. From the next stall, she heard Marsha grunt, groan, and giggle simultaneously. Feeling foolish, she began wriggling into the body shaper, feeling frustrated as she squished and squeezed her flesh into the tight casing. Before she lost her nerve, she slipped the black dress over her head. Without looking into the distorted stall mirror, she opened the door and stepped out see her reflection in the three-way mirror. Her mouth dropped open in delighted shock at the transformation.
            “Stand on your tiptoes,” the enthusiastic sales clerk suggested. “You’ll be wearing heels with a dress like this one. It’ll give you a better idea of how your legs will look.”
            Jessie held her hand against her chest, too breathless to say anything. Her cheeks pinked with delight, her lips spread in a genuine smile lighting up her face. At that moment, Marsha sashayed on tiptoes out of her own cubby, her slinky red dress clinging provocatively in all the right places.
            “Holy moly!” Jessie exclaimed when she caught sight of her sister.
            “Sweet Jesus!” Marsha exhaled as she smiled at Jessie.
            The clerk, grinning in genuine pleasure, asked, “Will you both be purchasing these dresses today?”
            “Honey, not only will we take the dresses,” Jessie answered enthusiastically, “But I want four or five of these body shaper thingies!”
            Marsha turned left and right before the mirror and whispered to her sister, “Can you breathe?”
            “Lordy, no. But if I’m gonna die, I’ll go out lookin’ pretty good!”

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

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