Vanity boutique

When a husband asks his wife to stock his favourite dirndls in her eclectic new shop, they attract an unexpected clientele…

Image: www.phildisley.com

When Christabel Bauer’s husband Stephan suggested she open a shop, she leapt at the chance. She’d always believed she had great style. “You should share your eye with others, schatzi,” Stephan coaxed.

Elegance was Christabel’s USP, and with Stephan’s encouragement she began to trawl the globe for merchandise – Marrakech for kilim boots, New Delhi for embroidered beach cover-ups and Madrid for Flamenco shoes. She also included in her inventory – at her husband’s request – his favourite dirndls. Stephan had a fetish for these traditional Heidi dresses and, if feeling particularly frisky, would sometimes ask her to cook supper in one.

Since they’d opened, though, Christabel hadn’t much time for marital matters. “Who knew running a shop could be so exhausting,” she liked to joke with her friends when they popped in to peruse her latest pieces. Luckily Stephan was incredibly supportive, always handy with the chequebook when she needed more investment, and never complaining about all the time away from home.

One Thursday afternoon, as Christabel and her assistant Polly were unpacking the latest consignment from Milan, a willowy strawberry blonde in double denim strode in and systematically flicked her way through rails of kaftans.

“Can I help?” Christabel smiled, “We have some really fabulous investment pieces. A suede bucket bag would work well with your outfit.”

“Actually, I’d like to try one of those,” she replied, pointing to a mint‑green dirndl on display in the window. Somewhat surprised at the choice, Christabel summoned Polly to prepare a changing room. When the customer emerged, trussed up in the Heidi dress, she frowned at herself in the mirror. “Jesus, I look like a refugee from Oktoberfest.”

“Not at all. You wear it well,” Christabel assured her as she scrabbled for some knockout heels to elongate the leg and divert the eye.

“Honestly, it’s just not me.” The woman looked faintly appalled at her own reflection. “It’s just that my boyfriend has a thing for them, so when I saw one in your shop window I thought I might surprise him. It’s our anniversary next week… but honestly, I look absurd.”

“It must be a man thing,” Christabel laughed. “My husband Stephan likes nothing better on date night. Personally, I’d go hippy chic every time.”

“Stephan?” The strawberry blonde took a thoughtful sip of her champagne and turned to Christabel. “Did you say your husband’s name was Stephan?”

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A week later, when Stephan turned up for his rendezvous with his mistress, he saw her unmistakable silhouette in the darkened hotel bar. His pulse quickened when he noticed what she was wearing.

“Oh schatzi,” he whispered in her ear as he approached her dirndl-clad form from behind. “Shall we go straight upstairs? You look too tantalising.”

“Perhaps a drink first?” the woman replied softly, turning around.

Instead of Mimi his mistress, Stephan came face to face with his wife.  “Christabel?” Stephan stammered. “What are you doing here?”

“Celebrating,” she twinkled, lifting her champagne flute to her lips.

At that moment Mimi appeared out of the gloaming, wearing an identical dirndl to Christabel’s.

“I don’t understand…” Stephan blinked frantically, sure he was seeing double.

“Fate has brought Mimi and I together,” Christabel said, passing Mimi a glass, “and we’ve discovered we have an awful lot in common.”

“Like our taste in men,” Mimi continued, sliding onto the stool next to Christabel. “And a distaste for dressing like overgrown milk maids in the bedroom. So we’re leaving you.”

“As soon as you’ve signed these.” Christabel slid the documents along the bar towards her speechless husband. “Divorce papers.”

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“Oh, and the lease on a second shop in Knightsbridge,” Mimi smiled sweetly. “We’re going into business together – and we won’t be selling dirndls. The next Mrs Bauer will have to buy hers elsewhere.” The two women clinked glasses. “Isn’t that right, schatzi?”

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