(1310-10-11) Disregarding Costs
Summary: Chimène bespeaks a gown from Isabelle, for a mutual relation.
RL Date: 11/10/2018
Related: None
chimene isabelle 

Courtly Couture — Market Promenade

Under Isabelle de Valais' ownership, what was once a humble tailor's storefront has been transformed into a temple of high fashion; wooden foundations and walls have been removed and replaced by whitewashed stone. While the tall windows of the original construct have been kept and added upon, the final effects are spectacular - the interior has been inlaid with white marble embellished now and then with veins of different shades of blue, with sturdy stone pillars and beams to support the second floor and all chiseled with geometric designs at the top and bottom. The massive space has been segregated in different sections by the careful layout of tasteful furniture and rugs - all in either black or neutral shades so as not to detract from the myriad of colors on display.

And there is plenty of color - all the basic hues and the hundreds of shades in between; if it exists, Isabelle has managed to find it. Catching the eye upon entering are five beautiful gowns and three ensembles - jackets, trousers and boots for men fitted upon tailor dummies and placed in different sides of the room, each demonstrating different cuts, styles and embroidered patterns, fresh twists incorporated in D'Angeline classics; from plunging necklines, to the square and classic, these are creations that have been made for the elite abroad and the further one goes inside the store, the more variations can be found to reflect the genius fashion designer's travels abroad - silk robes inspired by Eastern fashions, veils and scarves inspired by Akkadian dancers, loose, comfortable drapery and airy confections that call on images from distant Hellas, Courtly Couture isn't just a store, but an actual art gallery of the owner's work.

Further along the main hall are display racks for the actual merchandise for both men and women; tasteful white drawers and glass cases keep dust from the stock, and all filled with beautiful things. Books that showcase fabric swatches, ribbons, leather and lace, catalogued by shade, type and region are displayed on mounted shelves, framing racks full of shirts, skirts, breeches and dresses. Another section is dedicated to an expansive lingerie collection ranging from the demure to the absolutely risque - lace, satin, silk, Menekhetan cotton and leather are all present here. There are two private viewing rooms here, one as pristine white as the rest of the first floor, while the other is painted entirely black. Both are situated with large mirrors and plush seating.

There is plenty of help. Visible staff are all dressed in crisp, black-and-white uniforms and managed by the former owner and her apprentice. At the back is a winding flight of stairs leading to the second floor, where Isabelle's private office and consultation room is located.

When looking out of the windows, you see: It is a fall day. The weather is freezing and overcast.

The lady who comes into Courtly Couture late in the afternoon on the coldest day this autumn has yet seen isn't sporting a house badge and doesn't introduce herself — but it's the job of Isabelle's staff to know who's who in this city, and who's worth their employer's personal attention. And any stranger who goes about swaddled in so many sables, a cloak and a hat and a muff so luxuriously warm that gliding deeper and deeper into the shop's balmy precincts she sheds them one by one, casually, onto different pieces of furniture, is a stranger the Black Sheep of House Valais will surely wish to transform into a client.

By the time Isabelle comes down from her eyrie this tall, graceful creature is bending her swanlike neck to examine the many-coloured embroidery on a silken robe of Eastern inspiration. Naturally, she's gravitated toward the most costly piece currently on view. Her own gown of mazarine blue silk taffeta is far plainer, but could almost rival it: cut by the hand of a master tailor to accentuate rather than disguise the peculiar features of her long, lean body, it sits well off her squarish white shoulders but is just high enough behind to conceal the marque of Eglantine House inked into her ivory skin. Her brown hair is coiled in a simple knot at the back of her neck, secured by a richly jeweled comb. Even with her marque hidden she's knowable at a glance, as Chimène Rousse de la Courcel.

Chimène comes at an hour when Isabelle's staff has been winding down for the day, but the moment a clearly noble personage arrives, they are at attention once more in a manner that would remind one of a general performing a surprise inspection on a particularly well-trained regimen. Isabelle de Valais, in spite of her lack of any landed titles, runs a tight operation, and it isn't long until one of her black-and-white liveried staff is following the wake of the de la Courcel as she wanders in, picking up every piece of clothing she discards and putting them away to be reclaimed later, and standing ready for whenever the woman makes a demand, not to move or address the lady until she is ready to make one.

The general, herself, comes walking down the steps with the brisk, businesslike stride of a woman with very little hours in the day to spend on trifles - the fact that she even finds the time for self-care is downright miraculous. Dressed today in her favored attire for business - fitted breeches, over-the-knee boots with dangerously thin heels, an embroidered blouse with three-quarter sleeves that bares her shoulders and sleeves gathered up by ribbons and an intricate cage made out of silken ropes that functions as a collar - she descends from her roost with every intention to find fault, and another thing to improve.

But that ceases momentarily when she espies the swan by one of her most favorite creations.

As if intending to head there all along, she changes direction, heeding nothing but the winds of her current whims. A veteran of a thousand journeys and still, she would recognize the elegant line of that lovely throat anywhere.

"It can be redesigned to include whatever modifications you could dream of," she says from over the woman's shoulder. "Fabric, color, cut." She favors the item with a scrutinizing look. "For you, the way it folds around the neckline will have to be adjusted."

Chimène lets fall the handful of cloth she'd gathered up and turns to its designer, lifting both large and beringed white hands, both preposterously long white arms, to embrace her. "I was just wondering what might be done with the neck," she confesses in her airy, elevated soprano. "Isabelle, will you forgive me for not calling on you here sooner? You see until last week I was in Nice," she explains, bestowing upon the seat of the duchy of Roussillion a sibilant hiss and upon Isabelle two quick kisses which only just caress her cheeks.

Her embrace is welcome; a rare dispensation of affection from a woman who doesn't normally have a cause to, but once the opportunity is presented, does not turn away. Hers is a lonely life, of a different sort that Chimène herself lives, but thankfully a far cry from an unfulfilling one and this white, striking creature of boundless, limitless grace gets a lion's share of it at the moment when her own arms band around her. Her kisses are returned with the same delicacy Chimène bestows in her own, and when she pulls away to look upon that absolutely ethereal face, she is all smiles and warmth.

Sympathy, there, at the hinted displeasure when told of her whereabouts. "How you manage to blossom, still, in spite of that measure of dreariness, is practically an epic in itself," she tells her, and offers her arm with all the aplomb of a practiced courtier. "You are, as always, breathtaking. Let's situate you away from the usual rabble, shall we?"

Sensing perhaps a need in Isabelle, or feeling an unexpected twinge of affection herself, Chimène lets her long arms linger about the couturière as usually she wouldn't: not too long, however, for propriety. She lets go and makes a little moue. "The same sea view every day," she confides, "and too cold now even for skinny-dipping in the moonlight. Still, when one must one must."

It's debatable whether a lady Courcel-born and Night Court-bred ever really registers the existence of rabble, or would know it if she saw it — but she falls in with Isabelle's scheme easily enough, tucking her white hand into that offered arm as though the courtesy were somehow novel and familiar all at once. "Do let's," she says. Looking at clothes in a shop is also a novelty, but one which verges almost upon the declassée. A pleasure, when they're so exquisitely made, but a guilty one. Any separation from the merely retail is welcome.

It's a short trip, but a scenic one when Isabelle steers her through her gallery of prior creations - those on display that are never recreated, hinting at the woman's indulgence when it comes to contracts of exclusivity, and in the wide, wild world, there are many who are jealous of what they put on their bodies. She occasionally stops should Chimène ask questions, but otherwise the walk ends with the two of them situated comfortably in Isabelle's private salon space where she takes consultations - a warmer space filled with the signs and symbols of past adventures, and while there are maps on display, at the very least, they aren't star charts or nautical ones.

Guillermo is at the corner of the room, a man who has mastered the art of being so still that he was almost invisible, moving only when addressed or called. He, too, would be a familiar face, ever shadowing the lady Valais' footsteps. But there is a new one, too; a blond youth named Gustav, there specifically to answer the need for libations or small treats. He even provides towels for the guest's relief, should she desire them - heated and scented with a touch of rosewater.

They sit on plush and comfortable couches. "Now that you've returned, I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you about a new gambling hall that just opened in the commercial quarter," she begins. "Recently bankrolled by a former Bryony, I think, so you can imagine what the chances are in beating the house in their own game, but a promising challenge nevertheless. Wine, or would you prefer something stronger?"

The future duchesse de Roussillion doesn't ask questions — but she does move slowly, languidly, letting her cool hazel gaze roam at its leisure across every sight of interest between that embroidered robe and the comfortable seat to which she is eventually ushered. She sits; and in the time it takes Isabelle to find her own seat nearby her feet disappear underneath her, leaving only a pair of cloth-of-silver slippers side by side on the floor beside the sofa.

"Bless you," Chimène murmurs to Gustav, accepting and availing herself of that scented cloth and giving it back all without actually looking at him. Her downcast eyes then lift to Isabelle's face. "But if it were a simple matter to beat the house, why would one even trouble to try? I'll drink," she suggests, "whatever you're drinking, my dear. I have just seen ample proof of your good taste."

Gustav takes the cloth and steps away, but not too far, to return it to the bin where it would be sent to the launderers. Isabelle regards the youth with an incline of her head. She tables conversation about gambling, for now, to issue another instruction: "Gustav, the 1010 Gautier, please."

It is cognac, and of an amber so deep, it is almost red. The boy seems to know his expensive bottles well when he takes a key to open one of the bar's locked compartments, to withdraw a crystal bottle full of the stuff. It has never been opened, but that is not unusual. Deep into the marrow of her imperious bones, Isabelle can be an indulgent creature, but only for those that she truly likes. It is poured in two snifters designed to make the most of its bouquet, before it is delivered promptly to both women.

Isabelle plucks one out of the boy's fingers. "Which is precisely why you must come with me to make the noble and valiant attempt," she replies. "And make a night of it. What game do you favor these days?"

Chimène's long jeweled fingers curl about the short stem and the generous bell of her glass; she inhales deeply, meets Isabelle's eyes with a conspiratorial air which suggests she knows exactly what she's about to do, and then drinks down the precious liquid vouchsafed to her in a series of slow, sensual gulps. Each measure of cognac is allowed to linger a while upon her tongue, but in all too short a time the glass is laid down empty and her veins are left humming with the twin pleasures of complex taste and conspicuous consumption.

"Ombre, or whist," she murmurs; "what else is there worth playing more than once?"

She lifts her snifter in an answering toast, Isabelle taking an answering sip, nursing it - never in a hurry and gives off, at the very least, the convincing facade of a woman who has all the time in the world where nothing could be further from the truth. "I believe the new hall provides both, as well as a few others," she muses. "It's the word going around at the very least, though I've never been. I thought I'd visit it in the company of someone as equally enamored of the games as I. Have you managed to visit Fleur, yet or is your return to us so fresh that you've not managed?"

Of course it's entirely possible that if this visit goes well the cost of Chimène's orders from Courtly Couture will more than recompense her hostess for the vintage cognac she's swilling as if it were lemonade.

"Well," that lady breathes, and pauses to murmur another blessing to Gustav, and to treat herself to another large mouthful of the libation he pours, "it's about Fleur that I've come. Do you know — have you seen her? — she's still wearing nothing but grey and mauve and a touch of navy-blue. Not her colours," Fleur's elder sister sighs, as though admitting a grave sin. "You know my heart belongs to Fleur — you know no man will ever be half so precious to me as my sister — you know I'm made of sympathy where she's concerned," though not, let it be said, notably sympathetic to anyone else. Chimène makes another moue, and drinks a little more cognac. "I want to give her a present," she confesses; "a new gown so beautiful, and so ideally suited to her, that she won't be able to resist wearing it. And you know her," she says simply.

"Here and there, in passing and always brief. She has her children with her and while I try to embody the part of an adoring aunt, I'm as fit of a parent as a desert cactus. Do you get that, sometimes?" Isabelle wonders, after another savoring pull of her cognac. "Thinking that if you breathed upon them in the wrong way, they would crumble to pieces, never to fulfill their potential or seize their destinies? I know children are so much more resilient than that, I was one, once upon a time after all." Though one can never say that she was a typical child in those years - she was an infamous hellion from the womb, never satisfied with the courtly pursuits ladies had to learn. "But still."

With the challenge presented, she leans back in her seat, watching the swirls of amber in her glass as if to divine inspiration from it. "I've managed to still my tongue as far as that was concerned," she begins. "If not just because I don't know what it's like and I would never do her the offense of suggesting that I do." Like many things about her, the couturiere was an emotional cipher, and nearly impervious to the traditional notions of romance and while she knows and does love, she has never been in love and could therefore not be able to appreciate the full scope of losing such a thing. "But to be frank, this arrangement is perfect. She values your opinion, and I have the skill to make it happen."

"Darling," sighs Chimène, deep into her second glass of three-hundred-year-old cognac, "don't let anyone ever persuade you to bear children. They tell you," she sits up straighter, leaning forward to confide these truths unto Isabelle, "they all repeat the same enormous lies — they tell you there's a maternal instinct, that when the time comes you'll simply know what to do — it's perfect horse manure, all of it," she says impatiently, and drains her glass and holds it out toward Gustav in the sure belief that he'll rectify her situation. "When they put Leocadia in my arms I'd never been so terrified in my life. Fleur knows what to do; Fleur's extraordinary. I don't and I never shall."

And, finally, she slows down, only breathing in the bouquet of her third glass rather than hastening to feel and to taste the benefit of it.

"We don't know what that's like, either, do we?" she echoes. "But we're women, still, and it's a rare woman who doesn't feel better when she looks better, isn't it?" Question upon question, and she rushes ahead without answers. "She's convinced herself that that half-mourning is suitable to her position, as well as her mood; I imagine she'll wear it till doomsday if she's not stopped. I feel a gift must be the answer," and she indulges in a small catlike smile. "She'll feel obliged to put it on at least once, by way of thanking me, and then the habit will be broken and perhaps… perhaps she'll feel free to indulge herself a little more. That's all I want, you know, I want to divert her and to remind her she has choices."

There's a cryptic twist to the line of her mouth; her own reasons for avoiding the necessity of childbirth are greater than personal preference, but the fate of a brood mare is one that she has fought against since she was young. "Papa," she begins, nodding to Gustav to fill the woman's glass - if one looks closely, one might spot a tear or two on the boy's features at the dwindling of the precious bottle. "In all of his economic wisdom, filled my entire childhood with the notions that I was to be wedded and breeded. If not to a d'Angeline lord, then to a foreign one. He was convinced for a time that was all that I was good for." She states it matter-of-factly, no rancor to be heard. "If it's true that all women have these maternal instincts, they may have sideskipped the likes of you and I entirely. Still, in your case, there must be some part of you that is relieved that all of that is done and over with? You've almost singlehandedly secured your husband's line."

But Chimène's own opinions about dressing well are sound. "I have it on good authority that confidence increases even when outwardly dressed in the most hideous of frocks, provided that the lingerie underneath is absolutely fabulous," Isabelle remarks with a laugh - and one that fades once the other woman provides her with some much needed insight about Fleur.

"I'm rather gratified and humble to know that in spite of the years from when we saw one another last that you remain as devious as ever, Your Future Grace," she remarks. "I'll happily design something absolutely incredible for her, and I trust that cost is not an issue? My only other question is would you rather have the business deliver it to you so you can present it to her personally, or should I have it sent directly to Fleur?"

"He was convinced for a time that was all that I was good for."

Her Future Grace rolls her hazel eyes ceilingwards at the idea of a woman, any woman, being fitted for nothing but breeding; but forbears to comment further.

Then the idea that cost might be an issue, that it even needs to be said that it isn't, has her giggling into her snifter like a naughty young girl. "Fleur is beyond price, as well you know," she insists, gathering herself; and she raises her glass to her absent younger sister and drains it with luxurious greed. "I hope you'll discard every consideration of cost and time and effort — discard everything but her pleasure and her beauty. She needs to be reminded of it, don't you think?" she suggests. And she presses her glass into Gustav's waiting (and somewhat relieved) hands and unfurls her endless legs in the general direction of her slippers. "I'd adore it if you let me be the fairy godmother," she adds, "though you may be sure I'll give you all due credit and let her know where she might find more like it—! And — will you see what can be done with the neck of that embroidered business," a vague, hasty gesture with one hand, "and send that to me as well? I think it would go so beautifully with a hookah."

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