“May I come in?” Thea stood at Florence’s bedroom door and looked in to see her future sister-in-law standing amid an array of hats and parasols, while Emily and Jenny scurried back and forth with garments and accessories for her to consider.
“Yes,” Florence said airily. “So difficult to choose! I must have plenty to last the voyage. The sun glancing off the water will be frightful.”
“Well, Flo, you’ll need some hat pins to cope with the sea breezes, especially if you’re taking those.” Thea’s voice held faint disapproval as she gestured to the collection of wide-brimmed confections, festooned with tulle and feathers.
Florence sniffed with irritation at Thea’s nickname for her. And why were her favourite hats unsuitable?
“What’s wrong with them?”
“They’re lovely, Flo, but I believe a different shape is in fashion in New York – narrower, and with greater height. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of time to order new ones, and with Emily to guide you, how can you go wrong? Isn’t she a dream of a designer! And Jenny is such a superb seamstress. After you leave, I’ll have them all to myself!”
“Then they should be at my disposal until then!” Florence retorted. “Why is Jenny going along on your honeymoon? She should stay here and help Emily with my wardrobe.”
Emily and Jenny looked at one another in disbelief. Who would have guessed that two grand ladies would be fighting over them!
“I wouldn’t dream of going without her. Jenny, you’ll simply adore Bexhill-on-Sea.”
Jenny smiled and Florence shrugged.
“I would have thought you’d want to see Europe, Thea.”
“Daddy wasn’t particularly impressed,” Thea said, dismissing the Continent with a wave of her hand. “Besides, there are things to see in Bexhill.” She smiled as visions of the motor-racing track recently built by the 8th Earl de la Warr drifted through her mind.
Florence crossed her arms.
“Well, if my wardrobe isn’t finished in time, then I must have things made once we’re in New York.” Her eyes brightened. “Oh, I can’t wait! Lunching at the Waldorf, parties in Newport . . .”
Thea looked away for a moment, remembering the snubbing she had suffered in Newport despite her father’s opulent house overlooking Bailey’s Beach. But things were different now. She would soon be a countess. And if Flo found herself an American husband then everyone’s life would be happier, particularly hers and Bert’s.
“If you order something in New York don’t go anywhere near Madame Osborne! She preys on ladies like you, and if you appear in any of her designs you’ll never be taken up.”
Thea shot Florence a conspiratorial smile.
“Regardless of which gowns you wear, you must try my latest discovery. Jenny, fetch the box!”
The slim white box that Jenny brought in piqued Florence’s curiosity.
Thea lifted the lid.
“They’ve just arrived. I sent for two, so do try this one! It’s called a brassiere, and it certainly beats those ghastly ‘bust improvers’ with all their metal and horsehair! Look.” Thea held up the delicate garment which looked like a camisole with strips of curved boning giving it shape. “A Charles DeBevoise creation! Not many ladies know about it yet, even in New York.”