Emily moved forward to look. Florence was sceptical.
“There isn’t much to it.” She handed it back to Thea. “But it certainly would be comfortable in hot weather.”
“Imagine not being encased in ironmongery! What do you think of it, Emily?”
“It would create a lovely smooth line,” Emily answered. “And . . .” She trailed off, reluctant to put forth her own ideas.
Florence looked up, curious to hear what Emily had to say, and Thea urged her on.
“Tell us, dear. You have such an eye! That tea gown and travelling suit for my trousseau are divine.”
“So you have been spending all your time on Thea’s clothes!” Florence snapped.
“No, Lady Florence,” Emily protested. “I assure you, Jenny and I have been working on both Miss Allbright’s trousseau and your travel wardrobe! Jenny has just finished stitching your ‘sunset gown’.”
Thea broke in.
“Sunset gown? How dreamy! May I see it?”
Jenny hurried to the workroom, where the gown hung beside her magnificent Singer sewing machine.
Emily looked again at the new undergarment.
“That brassiere does look comfortable,” she said. “And I believe a lady looks more beautiful and graceful if she feels that way inside. The clothes she wears should feel like a kind of mirror that reflects who she is. If she feels natural and free, surely that’s all part of it!”
Emily had lost her self-consciousness, her eyes lighting up her freckled face as she talked. She didn’t notice both Florence and Thea looking at her with awe. But then Jenny appeared and their looks gave way to gasps of rapture.
“It fits the name perfectly!” Thea reached out to touch the diaphanous fabric, which swirled from the bodice. She was right, as the colours did seem to merge like a sunset. Filmy layers of coral and orchid were caught up to reveal floating underskirts of pale peach and lavender.
But the magic of the gown was its subtlety. As Jenny held it up to Florence, Thea could see at once that for all the beauty of the design and colours, it was Florence herself who shone, her skin tones instantly radiant and her eyes luminous.
“My stars.” Thea smiled with genuine admiration. “Every young man in New York will have his eyes on you! It’s a crime to put horsehair and metal under something so light and airy! Here, you must try my discovery, Flo. Keep it if you like.”
“Thank you, Thea, that’s very kind. I hope it fits!”
Quite suddenly, as Emily watched the revolutionary undergarment change hands, a bond was formed between the future sisters-in-law. Emily smiled to herself as she watched them whispering and giggling together. Whether or not Mr DeBevoise’s creation would catch on was anybody’s guess, but together with the sunset gown it had certainly triumphed that day!