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Dress the Part

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”You can’t be serious,” Zoe said, hands on hips, a resolute frown on her face. ”Nobody wears a thing like that.” The object of her disapproval was a mighty pastel blue ball gown with wide skirts and a profusion of ruffles, embroideries, laces, and silk roses. The Doctor was holding it out to her, in vain so far.

”You’ll find out that quite many fashionable ladies in the 18th century do,” the Doctor said patiently, and ”that’s where we are going now.”

Zoe fixed an accusing glare at Jamie.

”Don’t look at me!” he protested, poorly concealing his mirth. ”I didnae know any fashionable folks in my time. Just the fabric for that — that thing would cost more than all the sheep in my village together!”

”See? Even Jamie thinks it’s ridiculous,” said Zoe, rather unfairly, the Doctor thought, because usually she preferred to use Jamie’s fashion sense as a measure of what was ridiculous.

He set the ball gown back on the rack, next to its many petticoats, because it was quite cumbersome to hold. ”Well, we’re not going to rural Scotland. We’re going to a fancy ball in 18th century France, and if you’re going to get to the Duchess’s rooms to take a look at those candlesticks, you’ll have to dress the part.” He picked up a pair of dainty shoes which might be her size. Zoe ignored him as he tried to give them to her.

”I won’t even get through the door!” she exclaimed. Jamie burst out laughing, and Zoe snorted. ”Seriously, you won’t be able to squeeze me out of the TARDIS door if I wear that.”

”She’s got a point, ye know, Doctor,” Jamie said. ”That dress is wider than she’s tall.”

”Nonsense!” the Doctor said. ”Not being able to get out of my TARDIS doors! Pfft! Now stop complaining and get dressed.”

”How?” Zoe asked flatly.

”How what?”

”How do I put that thing on?” Zoe asked, enunciating excessively slowly and clearly.

It was, the Doctor had to admit, an entirely reasonable question, and one he didn’t know the answer to. The three of them looked at the dress in silence.

”Maybe if ye stand still and hold your arms up, we could hoist it up and drop it on you,” Jamie suggested.

”Don’t be silly,” the Doctor admonished him. ”We don’t need to lift it, she can just crawl under the skirt.” That must have been how Vicki had got into that dress when they went to a ball at the court of King Gustaf III of Sweden. He hadn’t thought to ask her. He’d been busy finding out whether the King was supposed to be assassinated yet or not.

Zoe sighed and shook her head. She grabbed the dress and the several associated underskirts. They nearly obscured her from view. ”I’m going to my own room. If I can’t get out when I’ve got this on, I’ll scream for help.” She and the clothes waddled cumbersomely out of the wardrobe room.

Jamie looked after her, worried expression on his face. ”What if she asks us to help lace her into a corset or something?” He blushed. ”Victoria made me do it when we went to 1890s Vienna, remember?”

The Doctor remembered. It was unclear who had been more embarrassed, Victoria or Jamie. Perhaps the Doctor should have volunteered, but the TARDIS had had a very persistent fault right then. Er, yes, very persistent. Well, Victoria had learned to self-lace after that.

”I shouldn’t worry about that if I were you,” he said, trying to sound cheerful.

”Oh? Why’s that?”

”Because, er.” The Doctor turned to look at Jamie. He began twisting his hands nervously, realizing he had no idea how to bring this across. ”You have something else to think about. Um, Jamie. If we are going to a 18th century aristocratic ballroom…” He took a deep breath. ”Youcan’tgothereinakilt.”

”WHAT?!”

”You, er, you should wear something French aristocratic men wear. You know, say, ah, breeches. And silk stockings. And, ah, embroidered coats, pastel-coloured. And lace, and ruffles. And boucled shoes. With, er, heels.”

Now Jamie didn’t even say a word. He only turned to the Doctor and looked. And looked.

The Doctor sighed. He had a feeling he wasn’t even going to mention the matter of powdered wigs.