Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Dress for Myself"

This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls.  It fills the "principled or ethical" square in my 2-29-16 card for the Villain Bingo fest and the "crossdressing / costumes" square in my 1-4-16 card for the Trope Bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by curiosity.  It belongs to the Cuoio & Chiara thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

This microfunded poem is part of a package bought during the May half-price sale, to be paid on an installment plan.  So it's not seeking donations from other people, and the remaining material will be posted over time.

Warning: This poem contains some intimate and intense topics.  Highlight to read more details, some of which are spoilers.  Coming home early, Cuoio walks in on Salvo trying on some of Chiara's dresses with her. Cuoio is cool with it; Salvo freaks out; and Chiara smooths it over. It's mostly character development. This poem is probably NSFW. If that's not your thing, you can skip it without missing too much plotty stuff.

Dress for Myself

Cuoio's latest assignment had gone
unexpectedly well, a bit of guard duty
that ended early when a shipment arrived
in late morning instead of early afternoon.

That left him coming home with plenty
of time to take Chiara out on the town.

He scampered up the path to the door
of the little cottage, its smooth-worn wood
already familiar under his fingers
as he pushed it open.

Cuoio could hear voices, light
and cheerful, one joking and
the other laughing, although he
could not make out individual words.

"Chiara, darling, I have the rest
of the day free," he said, moving
from the foyer into the house proper.
"I thought we could go out and ..."
His voice trailed off in shock.

From where he stood, Cuoio
could see through the open door
of the bedroom, where Chiara
stood with her hands full of
lingerie that she held out to ...

Salvo, who was wearing
Chiara's favorite sheath dress,
its stretchy silk lining bedecked
with silver threads and bugle beads,
all fringe from the knees down.

"You're home early," Chiara said.

"My assignment wrapped up,"
Cuoio said. "If I'm interrupting
something, though, I could
always visit the gym instead."

"No, I'm the one who should go,"
Salvo said, sidling away from Cuoio,
behind Chiara and toward the bathroom.

"Are you all right?" Cuoio asked, frowning.

Salvo didn't look all right.
They'd sounded happy enough,
before Cuoio came home, which
made him wonder what he'd
just messed up and how.

"I'm ... fine," Salvo said.

This was quite possibly
the least convincing lie that
Cuoio had ever heard.

Salvo's voice was flat,
he wouldn't make eye contact,
and the silver fringe trembled
where it dragged the floor. He
was enough shorter than Chiara
that her dress was a bit long on him.

Cuoio had gotten the talk about
respecting diversity from Ruggiero,
seen a handful of Family members with
creative modes of dress -- including
that fashion disaster of a healer
and a butch enforcer that Cuoio
wouldn't mind working with again.

He was at a loss regarding what
had gone wrong or how to fix it, but
he had quickly learned to rely
on his new resources.

"Help?" he said, turning to Chiara.

She glanced at Salvo, who
gave her a helpless shrug.

"I asked Salvo for his opinion on what
I should wear tomorrow, and then his ...
reciprocal interest came up," Chiara said.

"I don't see the problem," Cuoio said.

"It's not a habit that everyone
handles gracefully," she said.

Cuoio was sure  the Family guidelines
called for tact in that regard. Ruggiero had
been quite clear on the topic of tolerance.

"I've been told this Family is one of
the more welcoming when it comes
to things like this," said Cuoio.

Chiara sighed. "Every family tree
has some rotten fruit," she said.

"I ... see." Cuoio's voice frosted over.

Salvo flinched, the motion magnified
by the shimmering inches of fringe.

Carefully Cuoio sidled into the bedroom,
keeping close to the wall, which left
the door open in case Salvo chose
to flee. Then he sat down on the bed,
which was low enough to make it
hard to get up again quickly.

"Relax, Salvo," he said. "I don't
know what's happened in the past,
but it is definitely not happening here."

"You don't ... mind?" Salvo said.

"Why would I mind?" Cuoio said.
"Not my dress, not my business.
If Chiara said you could borrow it,
then that's between you and her."

"Some people don't like that I ..."
Salvo waved a hand at the dress.

"Some people are idiots," Cuoio said.
"You look pretty good in that."

Salvo seemed so wrecked that Cuoio
wondered what he was doing wrong
and how to dig himself out of that hole.

Fortunately Chiara came to their rescue.
"Why don't you go try on the blue one?"
she said, pushing some of the lingerie into
Salvo's hands. "Or if you really want, you
can change back into your own clothes."

Salvo scurried into the bathroom,
almost slamming the door in his haste.

"Be gentle with him, Cuoio,
I think that Salvo has had
a hard time," Chiara said.

Cuoio wanted to hit someone,
but he did not know who.
"I'll be careful," he said.

On that count, Cuoio could wait.
He didn't have a target yet, and
Salvo needed his attention now.

Cuoio might be a supervillain,
but he didn't have to be a bully.

Salvo came out of the bathroom
wearing a slinky dress of sapphire silk,
the elegant criss-cross bodice designed
to accentuate breasts he didn't have
and wasn't trying to fake.

"Hmm ..." Cuoio said, trying
to recall the discussions that he
and Chiara had about fashions.

"You hate it," Salvo said.
"I really should go."

"Don't go, I just found you!"
Cuoio exclaimed. "And I don't
hate it, I'm trying to think about
how you look in that dress."

Salvo looked at Chiara.

"Cuoio actually enjoys shopping
for clothes," she confirmed. "He's
new to thinking in terms of fashion,
but I think he has a knack for it."

Salvo turned in place, anxiety
making him too clumsy for
a proper twirl, but at least he
gave Cuoio an all-around view.

"It's a beautiful dress, and it
looks good on you, but there's ...
something missing, I don't know,"
Cuoio said, spreading his hands.
"You have great shoulders and
nice legs, but no bosom and
you're shorter than Chiara too."

"We're still debating whether
Salvo's shoulders are an asset
to be emphasized or a liability
to be disguised," Chiara said.
"Those different strategies call
for different choices in clothing."

"Okay," Cuoio said, turning to Salvo.
"That part is all up to you. If you
are looking for feedback, though,
I'm in favor of the shoulders."

A smile flickered across Salvo's face
and then vanished as quickly as it came.

"That's what is missing!" Cuoio said,
snapping his fingers. "It's your personality.
Chiara is assertive, and you're bubbly.
Well, usually you're bubbly, today you're
as flat as champagne the morning after
a party. You need clothes that reflect that,
and Chiara does flirty but rarely playful.
Most of her dresses are elegant."

"I don't know ..." Salvo said slowly.

"Think about why you're doing this,"
Cuoio suggested. "People dress up for
all different reasons. I want to look sharp
and just a little intimidating. Chiara likes
to show off her muscles in a sexy way.
Why are you dressing up and who is
it for? That helps pick the clothes."

"I just dress for myself," Salvo said.
"It makes me happy. Most of the time
nobody else sees me dressed up anyway."

Cuoio privately thought that was
a shame, but kept it to himself.

"Do you always borrow, or do you have
some dresses of your own as well?"
Cuoio asked, leaning forward.

"I have some of my own, but not
very many," Salvo said. "I haven't ...
had much opportunity for that. I don't
borrow often, either, it's not exactly safe."

Cuoio wanted to hit someone again,
but this time he hid the impulse
better to avoid spooking Salvo.

"Well then, it sounds like a shopping trip
is in order, and we happen to have the day free,"
Cuoio said. "Chiara, do you know of a good place
we could go? The butches and the male comares
must be getting their clothes from somewhere, so
I assume the Family either runs a suitable store
or has allies who do. What's near here?"

"There's the Mosaic," she said at once.
"I shop there sometimes, because it's hard
to find clothes for my body in a women's store.
Designers expect women to have more curves.
Plus the Mosaic carries both new and used clothes,
if budgeting is a concern. It's a friendly place."

"I'm buying today," Cuoio said with a wave of
his hand. "I like to see my people fitted out
in proper style. That makes me happy."

"I'm your bodyguard, not your comare,"
Salvo pointed out, but he was fingering
the soft blue silk quite fondly.

"Still one of my people," Cuoio said.
"You make me laugh, and I need that.
I want you to have what you need, too."

What he didn't say out loud was that
Salvo made him feel alive again in ways
that he hadn't for some time, like Chiara
but different. Salvo protected Cuoio from
the dark memories, protected him from
himself, and that was a remarkable thing
for a bodyguard to be able to do.

Buying Salvo a dress or two would be
small compensation, but it was a start.

Perhaps it showed on Cuoio's face,
because Salvo smiled a little wider
and said, "Okay. Let's go shopping."

If anyone made Salvo cry today, Cuoio
would seriously punch them in the face.

He trusted Chiara's recommendation
of a suitable shop, though; that was
part of her job and he was really
beginning to appreciate the luxury
of having a comare for advice.

"You take the bathroom, I can change
right here," Chiara said to Salvo.

Cuoio's day was looking better every minute.

* * *


This is the quote for the title.

Cuoio's Italian cottage has a very simple layout.  See the exterior and the floor plan.  On the left, the patio has an arbor above it.  The living room has a couch that converts to a bed.  Between the living room and the kitchen is a center wall with a hearth fountain facing the living room and a shelving niche facing the kitchen.

See Chiara's silver dress.

Crossdressing involves wearing clothes typically associated with a different sex.  There are many reasons why men choose to crossdress.  It doesn't correlate strongly with homosexuality; most crossdressers are straight men who simply enjoy the way it makes them feel.  Some but not all transfolk go through a crossdressing phase before discovering or admitting their innate gender.  Here is a basic wardrobe checklist and a list of tips on how to crossdress.  Consider trying it for self-growth.

This is Chiara's blue dress.

Dressing for your body requires knowing your shape.  It's an important skill for crossdressers.  Here are some ideas for flattering different body shapes and highlighting your assets.  Understand that what you consider your "assets" is a very personal decision and you don't have to follow the usual rules if you don't want to.  Chiara considers her muscles an asset, so she often dresses to show them off instead of trying to create a more traditionally feminine hourglass.  Cuoio agrees that this is hawt, so everyone wins.

People have many reasons for dressing up.  Ideally, your clothes should express your personality.  Here are some tips on developing your personal style.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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