The Three Dresses (a fairytale)
Once upon a time, in a place not so far away from where you are right now, a huge gathering was about to take place. When the town’s bell tolls, the town crier sparks out with the news that in exactly one year the handsome prince will choose his bride, who cannot be of ordinary descent. The prince has heard stories of the marked girl who is his wife to be and in celebration of this great day, a feast and festival will take place. Of course, the revelation of the mark is discrete. This announcement drives the entire town crazy and all of the single women set to work deciding what she will wear and how she will accessorize it.
When the knock at the door is heard, a courier hands each potential bride a notice that states simply, “The truest and chastest of women will display herself in front of the prince for thirty seconds. During this period, she is to remain silent.” At the bottom of the note a declaration states, “Every maiden shall wear a dress she crafts herself that tells the story of who she is as these will be her words.”
Some of the maidens think this a joke and laugh before closing the door, while others become angry as they have no tailoring skills and find the competition unjust. But one home, with three sisters who are very different from each other, is alive with conversation right away as they begin discussing their ideas for their own dresses. When they finish their talking, they each run to their rooms to get to work immediately.
The first one, Theresa, searches through books to find the dress she finds the most attractive and then closes her eyes to imagine how it will look on her. The dress she finds to dream about is a bright yellow velvet. While she thinks about the dress, she slowly falls into slumber, giggling as her fading off convinces her she will undoubtedly win.
The oldest sister, Susan, goes to her room and decides she wants something vivacious to bring out the tones in her skin and to slim down her somewhat full figure. She decides to purchase a captivating floral pattern from the shop down the way and create her own breathtaking masterpiece. Snatching her purse, she heads to the store straight away to shop for an entrancing pattern.
The smallest sister, Stephanie, grabs her purse in order to go shopping in the next town. She isn’t exactly sure what her dress will look like, but she’s insistent on beginning now. She’s fully aware that the Hart’s Corner Lot on the mulberry farm has just what she needs.
Over the course of the next year, Theresa wins a kite-flying contest and her pumpkin comes in second at the state fair. Two nights before the ball, she sits chewing her nails and pulling at her long and stringy hair, when she goes to the window and gets an idea. “Of course,” she cries out as if the most wonderful idea she’s ever had has struck her silly, “It’s right in front of my face and has been the entire time!” As quickly as she can muster, she runs outside.
Several months before Theresa gets her incredibly great idea, Susan gets around to making her own dress, but has serious issues trying to follow the pattern. After all, there are so many numbers, dots and funny little arrows on the patterns, who can make sense of it all? But still, in a year, she ought to be able to make quite the dress. She’s has so much to learn.
The day after hearing the announcement, Stephanie leaves her home and walks to the mulberry farm. Her heart is set on the tools she needs for the essential gown. She has written everything down meticulously on a piece of paper and pulls it out several times to ensure she doesn’t miss anything. But now she has the supreme goal; a goal that will take a year to bring full-circle, if she works hard. All she needs now are the worms.
A year after the announcement, the night before the big event, all three women are sweating profusely, ensuring everything is correct so they she will stand out amongst the throng of women presenting themselves in front of the prince. They convene in their front room, each certain her gown will be the best, at least in this house. With the gown of her making embellishing her body, each woman reeks with confidence.
Theresa’s sweeping gown decorated with an array of gorgeous daffodils, the rarest of yellow Licorice Tea Roses, and a delight of Queen’s Lace lining the neckline, smells as sweet as a flourishing garden. Not only did she string the flowers together herself, but the composition is especially soft to the touch. Surely, she thinks, he won’t be able to keep his hands and nose away. She has to admit, it doesn’t look bad for two days worth of work! And although the neighbors may be upset about the ravaging of their gardens, they will certainly change their minds when they see the beauty their foliage has produced.
The second sister, Susan enters the room with her dress. After hours of attempting to decipher the plans and even basic details of constructing it, she ends up going back to what she’s comfortable with and knows like the back of her hand; yarn. Because she doesn’t really need to learn anything new, she procrastinates until a few months before the party.
Susan manages to crochet a variegated dress from several skeins of the softest Buttercup Yarn. The dress is mostly a soft blue with dabs of the lightest pink, yellow, green and white woven into the threads. Although the heaviness of the dress is weighty, she is certain she’ll have no issues wearing it, as long as she only dances once. (Of course, when the prince dances with her, it will undoubtedly be his last dance as well.)
Finally, Stephanie enters the room and the light glimmers off each strand of white silk intricately woven into the finest material as she glides across the floor. The bodice is form fitting as it spreads like an evening snow, gently over the floor. The back of the dress swoops down to a tease at the base of her spine, the perfect place for a man to position his hands.
If the words each is thinking are to be tangible objects, none of them will be able to see the other, as their heads are threatening to explode in conversation. Their grins produce acceptance, but their eyes reflect abhorrence as Theresa and Susan spin to quickly leave the room and strategize their hairstyles and makeup. Each wants to be ravishing. Stephanie takes a seat and reflects on the hard work and time put into her creation. She smiles with contentment, as even if the prince doesn’t choose her, it’s evident to all who lay eyes on her the effort contained in her design. With a grateful sigh, she gets up to undress and put her ball gown in the closet. She knows she finally deserves a goodnight’s sleep.
The following evening, the ladies agree to enter the ball together and assemble at the front door to leave. Theresa and Susan’s hair designs have pins, baubles, flowers and beads of various means. But Stephanie’s blond locks braided together with a single silk ribbon that trails down her spine, accenting the revelation of her smooth skin.
Taking a deep breath in preparation to leave, thunder crashes outside, causing their faces to drain as worry sets in. “All of our work will be for nothing if we don’t go now,” is the only sentence that can be heard, “Perhaps if we hurry, we can beat the storm.” Boldly, Stephanie opens the door to leave.
Not to be outdone by their youngest sister, Theresa and Susan glance at each other and follow her into the windy air. No sooner do they walk into the middle of the street than the wind kicks up blowing papers, leaves and sticks around in a flurry.
The girls’ dresses are jerking violently back and forth before the dress fabricated of lace and daffodils shreds from her body, revealing her tightly laced corset and underpants. The flowers and beads rip from her chocolate-colored hair, leaving Theresa devastated. The gusts also manage a number on Susan’s hair, while the silky ribbon woven into Stephanie’s hair twirls wildly in the wind. Out of sheer embarrassment, and knowing she cannot participate in the state she is in, Theresa sobs as she hightails it back to her home to sulk.
The two sisters clasp hands and although Stephanie feels badly for Theresa, she realizes that turning back now would be fruitless, so she toils onward. Susan laughs in her low and throaty laugh, “That’s at least one out of the running, eh, Stephanie?” No sooner did those words escape her lips than the rain tumbles down in torrents. Through the sheets of rain, the castle lights are visible ahead and the women continue.
When they arrive, the opening has a surplus of women waiting to enter, some of them a little less cordial than others, as Susan enters the throngs. “Excuse me!” she chimes in with the rest of the impatient women, “Excuse me!” A few women are hit in the gut, sashes torn, and toes crushed as the hungry piranhas impatiently fight for their rights.
Pushing her way through, and dragging her sister behind her by the hand, Susan finally emerges into the courtyard. The beautifully fluffy yarn that titivates her is nothing more than burdensome strings dragging across the mud and dirt. In addition, her hair has lost the full curls she painstakingly rolled up the night before. “Argh!” she screams, trying her best to walk to the long stairway that leads to the entrance of the ball, “My dress is too heavy, but I can do this… I can do this… I… I can’t!” She sits down in the mud, presumably waiting to dry so she can make her way back home.
Aside from being wet and having her dress moistened, Stephanie appears unscathed. She feels it unnecessary to apply make-up so once the water dries, she is as good as new. The crowd of women is far less than the village contains, presumably due to the same daunting circumstances as her sisters. Standing in the doorway, Stephanie takes in the room, searching for someone she knows as she waits in line for her own turn to dance with the prince.
Skimming over each face, her eyes finally fall on the prince, even more handsome than she had envisioned. His white tuxedo matches her gown as he strolls toward her. Taking her by the hand, he smiles warmly. They dance for what seems like forever, but still for no time at all, and then the lights dim down.
“Your gown, is divine,” he assures her, his voice satiny and low, “as is the woman inside.” She can’t help but blush as she feels his hand tighten about her waist, across the open back as he twirls her around. He allows his eyes to take in her beauty, the gentle curve of her neck, the crevasse between her shoulders and the soft bow of her tailbone just beneath a purple birthmark in the shape of a heart.
Stephanie never knew about the premonition of the heart, but she did know that if not for the help of her silkworm friends, none of this would be possible. All it took was a bit of patience, planning, and determination.