A Fashionable Affair

By: Caroline Linden

A Fashionable Affair

Love is never out of fashion

Felicity Dawkins is determined to save her dress shop, Madame Follette's, from ruin. Times and styles have changed, but the upcoming coronation of King George IV is just the opportunity she needs to bring it back into vogue.

Evan Hewes, Earl of Carmarthen, also has big plans for Follette's dress shop: he intends to tear it down to make way for the grand new boulevard he's building. All he has to do is persuade Felicity…

She won't sell. He won't be denied. But the attraction that sparks between them every time they meet might upend all their plans…

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Originally published in Dressed to Kiss


January 1821


Felicity Dawkins had fashion in her blood.

She had been born above her modiste mother’s shop, Madame Follette’s, and raised among the bolts of silk and lace, picking buttons off the floor and fetching thread for the seamstresses as soon as she could toddle along and name her colors. By the time she was six, she had her own tiny pincushion to tie to her wrist and a small pair of scissors, so she could learn to make little dresses for her dolls from scraps of cloth. By the time she reached ten, she was responsible for mending her own clothing and that of her younger brother Henry, and when she turned thirteen, she began making their clothes as well. At fifteen her mother, Sophie-Louise, made her an apprentice, and taught her not only how to cut and stitch a gown that fit properly, but also how to coordinate colors and embellishments for a harmonious and tasteful finished gown. At eighteen she became a formal seamstress and began taking on clients of her own, learning how to listen to a customer and divine her true wishes, regardless of what she said she wanted, and how to steer that client gently but surely toward a style, color, and fit that would flatter her.

And Felicity loved it. The neat little shop in Vine Street was her world, filled with beautiful fabrics and opportunities to create something beautiful each and every day. It was difficult work, to be sure; bending over a dress for hours at a time made her back ache and her eyes burn, as the candles burned low. But it was all worth it when the customer returned and put on the gown for the first time. Felicity lived for the moment her client’s eyes would widen in delight as she saw herself in the mirror, and turn from side to side, exclaiming at the line of the skirt and the fit of the bodice.

Unfortunately, at some point those moments started becoming more infrequent. She wasn’t sure when; the end of the war, perhaps, when Paris and its styles were accessible again, rendering London’s dressmakers a shade less vital. Or perhaps it was the changing shape of women’s gowns, away from the light and elegant frocks toward gowns of heavier fabrics with more elaborate decoration. Madame Follette’s excelled at the Classical silhouette, crafted of fabrics so fine they were almost sheer. Thick silks didn’t drape the same way, and Sophie-Louise clucked her tongue at the puffs and ruching that seemed to sprout like mushrooms on bodices and hemlines.

“No gown needs six rows of ruffles and a tall lace collar,” she vehemently declared, tossing aside the magazines filled with fashion plates of beruffled skirts and lace collars that hid the wearer’s ears. “It looks ridiculous. I won’t have it!”

Felicity might have agreed with her mother on some of these points of fashion, but she did not hold with Sophie-Louise’s disregard for the financial impact of this decision. Women who had patronized Madame Follette’s for years stopped placing their usual orders after Sophie-Louise scoffed at the trimmings they wanted. Even worse, younger women, new brides and heiresses making their debuts and country ladies finally able to come to London for a season, did not choose Madame Follette’s. To her dismay, Felicity began to see the difference between the gowns from her shop and the gowns from rival shops. While Follette’s still excelled all others in the quality of work and fit, now their gowns began to look… plain. Simple. Old-fashioned, even.

This sparked deep alarm in Felicity’s breast. Follette’s was everything to her, not merely her home and employment but her heart and soul. She tried to persuade her mother to adapt to the changing styles, but Sophie-Louise was having none of it. “Not as long as I am at Follette’s,” she vowed.

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