Despite elements of the tired old 'mum wanted a girl' about this story, it is all-true and relates part of the story of how I came to love petticoats. I hope that you like this, one of my fondest memories.

I had always been aware that my mother would have preferred to have had at least one girl out of the three of us boys. I suppose it was natural that as the youngest by three years I would bear the brunt of her needs, as (I found out much later) she was unable to have another go at producing the daughter she craved. Let me be quite clear, there was never any cruelty or abuse, just the odd little "accident" involving spilled drink, trousers that just "had" to be rinsed and me "conveniently" being in a house with only two daughters, one of which would be dispatched to fetch a clean school dress. I can't remember the first time I was put into a dress but every six months or so, some set of circumstances would result on my being put into a skirt or dress. As a result I grew up without the rabid fear of girl's clothes that would have been more normal for a boy.

One Monday morning, shortly after my fourteenth birthday, my mother decided that I was 'too ill' to go to school as I had lost my voice the day before due to a throat infection (although I felt fine, and my voice was coming back) and so I was taken to the doctor's where I was prescribed some antibiotics. On the return journey home I was taken to buy some new school trousers. Those who live in England and are of a certain age will remember that in 1977 there was a huge 'GREASE' craze with all the shops catering for
teenage girls being full of the kind of clothes that hadn't been seen for twenty years; the girl's section of the shop was a mass of satin and net. My mother stopped to admire the skirts and tops and then we left.

Over lunch my mother was very jumpy and agitated. Eventually she managed to get out what it was that she wanted to say.  Basically it was this: If I would accompany her on a trip to visit an old school friend the next day, I could take the day off school. I would, of course, have to have "something smart" to wear, which we could go and buy after we had eaten. I readily agreed, and we were soon back in the shop we had not long left. Having looked at the clothes for ten minutes, my mother eventually said something like "Oh, if I could only get you something from that side of the shop," and nodded towards the girls' department. I had been half expecting this comment and, without thinking, said, "Let me have the rest of the week off school and I'll let you." She looked at me and asked in a whisper if I was serious. I said that I was, but that I had to be able to say yes or no to what she chose.  She
agreed, and made her way to the racks of skirts dresses and trousers on the other side of the shop.

When I joined her five minutes later she was admiring a red and black dress.

 "Well?" she asked. I looked at the dress, which was quite horrible, far too frilly with ruffles around the skirt; it looked like something a flamenco dancer might wear. 

"Sorry," I said, "I don't like it." 

She nodded towards the next rack. "How about those?" 

I looked at the much plainer dresses and eventually accepted a white dress with small, navy blue polka dots. It had a full circle skirt and short, almost cap sleeves. Mum selected one from the rack and, making sure that no one was watching, she held it up to my back to check the size. Satisfied, she made for the till and handed the dress to the assistant. The assistant thanked my mother and asked if she would like a petticoat to go with the dress, as it was included in the price. The shop  assistant walked to a display and pulled a folded and plastic wrapped petticoat from the pile, checked the size sticker and held it out to my mum for approval. The deal done, mother paid and, with the advice to wash the petticoat before wear to get the creases out, we left the shop. It was only then that it dawned on me that I had actually allowed a dress to be bought for me and that tomorrow I would be wearing it. 

Surprisingly I was actually looking forward to it.

Tuesday morning, as soon as my father had left the house (he never knew about any of this) my mother got me out of bed and directed me into the bathroom, where a bath had already been run for me. All clean and fresh, I went into the living room in my bathrobe. Mum was ironing the yards of paper-like white fabric that made up the petticoat (I don't know what the fabric's called [Ed: Paper nylon!); the dress was hanging on the back of the door. 

"There's some undies on the sofa, darling," she said as I walked in. "That's if you haven’t changed your mind." 

I pulled the cotton French knickers on under my robe and then took the robe off and put on the matching cotton camisole, followed by a pair of white ankle socks. The dress came next. I stepped into the soft material under the loving gaze of my mother as she carried on ironing. "Nearly ready love," she said, and soon she unplugged her iron and held the waistband of the immaculately prepared petticoat near the ground for me to step into, its pale blue lace trim spreading over the carpet. Once my feet were in, she pulled it up to my waist and arranged the layers evenly around my legs and then sorted the skirt of the dress out so that it hung properly. Even now I can still remember how astonished I was at how the compressed package we had bought the day before had turned into unbelievably soft mass of petticoat that was now holding my skirt at least twelve inches from my leg. She zipped up the dress and made a few minor adjustments.

Within an hour I was out in the big wide world, a boy dressed about as feminine as possible. The look of pride and love on my mother's face made it all worth while. Besides, I felt great, nothing I have ever worn has felt as cool, as comfortable, as RIGHT as that outfit.

During the ten-minute walk to the train station, “the” dress turned into MY dress and “the” petticoat into MY petticoat. I still have a photograph from that week; no one has ever noticed that it is of me, and I treasure the photo more than anything else. A souvenir of when I was (briefly) a girl.

I knew that this was going to be one hell of a week.

Maybe I’ll tell you more one day….

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