Thirteen year old Sally was captain of the girls' soccer team and regularly represented her school in athletics, mainly running, which she was especially good at. For a girl, she was physically strong and athletic.
But right now she did not feel powerful or athletic. This was because she had been made to wear her frock, instead of trousers that she preferred. The satin, powder blue dress left her arms and legs exposed and had frills and lace on the hems. The skirt (which Sally privately thought was too short) was pushed out by layers of lacy petticoats and Sally had a job to keep her white frilly knickers hidden from view.
On her feet, Sally wore a pair of shiny black mary-jane shoes with a bright silver buckle and lacy anklets. Around her neck, Sally wore a heart shaped pendant.
Sally was deeply embarressed to be dressed in this way. She considered herself to be a modern girl and therefore entitled to wear trousers, as most of her girlfriends did, not a little girls' outfit from her mother's childhood. She would feel totally humiliated if her friends saw her like this!
Sally had to dress like this as soon as she returned from school and was not allowed outside to play in case she got her dress dirty.
But her mother had old fashioned views about how girls should be brought up and so brought her daughter up in exactly the same way she had been raised more than thirty years earlier. It had not helped that her parents had married and had their family later in life than most people. Sally's parents were already in their early fifties.
As old as they were, thought Sally, they must be aware of how much the world had changed since they had been children. Girls no longer dressed like this! She longed to say it, but knew her mother would punish her if she did. Sally bit her tongue and kept silent.
Her parents, already silver haired, said how pretty and enchanting she looked, but it was her brother, Robert, who disturbed her most. He couldn't take his eyes off her. Uncomfortable with this, Sally found an opportune moment, when her parents were clearing up the debris of their meal to hiss at him "Will you stop looking at me! It's bad enough being dressed like this without you gawping at me!"
"Sorry" answered Robert "It's just that.....". Then he clammed up as their parents returned and told them they could leave the table. Robert and Sally's father went off to watch TV. There was a football match on that Sally wanted to see, but she had to put on a frilly apron and help her mother with the dishes. Even more annoyingly, her brother had absolutely no interest in football.
In fact, Sally thought as she tied on her apron, whilst she was strong, athletic and energetic and interested in all kinds of sports, her brother was small and puny (even allowing for the fact that he had not yet reached puberty), preferred studying or reading to physical activity and was hopeless at sports. He was always the last person to be picked for a team in PE, as he had poor co-ordination and stamina. Watching him play football was almost an entertainment in itself, since he was so inept at it.
Sally fumed that Robert was watching football just because he was a boy, whilst Sally was excluded. Because she was a girl. Sally went to bed thinking life was so unfair to her!
The following day was a saturday and Sally had lain awake the previous night dreading its coming for they were to visit Uncle David and Auntie Flora and she would be made to wear that darned frock and all the frillies that went with it when she wanted to go out and play football.
The family were dressed up and ready to go when the phone rang. Father went to answer it and when he came back his face was white. His mother had had a fall and had been taken to hospital. He and mother were going to the hospital to see her. The visit to their uncle and aunt was off. As Father went off to telephone them to let them know, Sally felt conflicting emotions of concern for her gran and relief that she would not be going anywhere dressed as she was.
Mother turned towards her children "I'm sorry about this kids".
Robert and Sally told her not to worry about it.
Mother said "Sally, I've no time to organise a babysitter. We have to leave right away. I'm leaving you in charge. Do you think you can look after your brother for a few hours?"
Sally was indignant that, aged thirteen, her mother thought she should require a sitter but she supposed her current appearance made her look younger and more childish than she actually was, so she suppressed her indignation and said "Of course, mama".
Mama patted her on the head "Good girl. We'll be back soon". With a wave, their parents left. Once their car disappeared from view, Sally said "Finally. A chance to go outside and play football!"
But, even as she said it, Sally realised that she had no clothes suitable for her plan. She did not own a single pair of trousers and her sports kit was drying on the line. She thought for a minute and turned to her brother "Robert...can I borrow some of your clothes?"
Her brother looked startled at the question, as he had been staring at her again and said "Why do you want to borrow some of my clothes?"
"So I can go out. I'm certainly not going out like this! I'd be a laughing stock!"
"But mama said we were to stay indoors" said Robert "You're supposed to be looking after me".
"You're twelve years old, not a baby. Neither of us need babysitting. Mama still thinks it's the 1970's. And she didn't say anything about staying indoors. You can come out too, if you want. Can I borrow some of your clothes?"
Robert seemed disappointed that Sally wanted to go out, but agreed to loan her some of his clothes. Ten minutes later, the hated frock and underthings had been discarded and Sally was wearing jeans, a T-shirt and trainers. They were a tight fit, but they would do.
"Are you coming Robert?" Sally asked.
Robert shook his head "No, I'll stay here. I've a book I want to finish".
"You'll be OK for a few hours, won't you?" Sally asked him. She was actually relieved that she wouldn't have to share a football pitch with her athletically challenged brother.
Robert nodded. Sally noticed that his gaze was fixed on the dress that Sally had just taken off and which was hanging on a hanger on the door of his wardrode. Sally thought that her brother's behaviour was weird. What was so special about a dress? Still, time was a wasting, and so Sally left him.
For the next two hours, Sally had the time of her life playing football. An informal boys versus girls match had been organised and the girls had won 4-2. Sally had scored a hat-trick and was flushed with triumph.
Then her heart almost stopped as she saw her parents marching towards her. Sally knew she was in big trouble.
"Sally Harper, come here at once!" her mother demanded in a shrill voice. The crowd of boys and girls around her fell silent. Fearfully, Sally moved towards her mother. What punishment was she going to receive for this?
"Why are you outside and why are you dressed like a boy?" Mama demanded, but before Sally could find an answer, her father interupted "Perhaps we should go home and talk about this there" he suggested "Rather than make a scene in front of a gang of children".
Mama nodded. Sally was escorted to the car and told to get in. She looked enviously back at her friends, who were beginning another match. Without her.
On the way home, Mama explained that gran's condition was not serious, so there had been no need to stay long. As they had driven past the sports field they had recognised Sally, especially as she had just scored the winning goal
When they arrived home, Mama was perplexed by the absence of Robert. There was no sound of movement anywhere in the house. Perhaps he went outside after all, thought Sally, but dismissed that thought when she saw his doorkey still on its place on a holder near the front door. Robert would never have left that behind. So he must still be in the house, Sally decided.
"He told me he was staying in" Sally ventured.
Mama turned and glared at her "This is all your fault, young lady. You were told to look..".
She was interupted by the sound of someone sneezing loudly. It had not been Sally or her father. Sally knew it must be her brother. Mama and father guessed it too.
"Robert? Are you up there? Come here at once!" Mama demanded.
There was the sound of a door opening, and a strange figure appeared at the top of the stairs. It was Robert, but to everyone's astonishment he was wearing Sally's powder blue frock. And her anklets and shoes. He was not, however, wearing the petticoats that went with the frock or, as far as Sally could see, her underwear.
There was a minute of stunned silence. Sally was highly amused as she realised that her brother's constant staring was not at her, but at the dress. Which he was dying to wear himself!
He actually looked very pretty in it, Sally decided. He had great legs, for a boy, and he was small, and he had rather feminine features. He would make a good looking girl!
Mama struggled to compose herself and finally found her voice "Robert, what are doing dressed like that? You look ridiculous!"
She's lying, thought Sally. He looks very pretty!
Mama turned to Sally "Did you put him up to this, or make him swap clothes with you?"
"No!" Sally said with such sincerity that Mama believed her. Sally realised that Mama was hoping that Sally had been responsible for her son's appearance. Now she had to face the truth that he had voluntarily worn the dress.
"Answer your mother, Robert!" father insisted. He was embarressed and confused by his son's dress.
Robert held his head up high and said "I wanted to wear this dress! I wanted to look pretty!" Sally was impressed by his courage, but her parents were less impressed.
"Go and take it off this instant! You are not to wear girls' things again, do you hear?" shouted father "You're a boy!"
But Robert did not move "I don't want to take it off! I won't!" he said defiantly.
Sally and her parents were stunned. Robert was a quiet, docile boy who did what he was told. Now he was actually standing up to his parents and rebelling. Over a dress, of all things.
Sally's parents were at a loss. They looked at each other, hoping to find inspiration, an answer, something, in each other. But they were both thoroughly perplexed. The only thing they could think of to do was to send the children to their rooms whilst they decided what to do.
Sally waited in her room for over an hour, still dressed in her brother's clothes, whilst he, she imagined, was in his room wearing hers. She could hear her parents talking downstairs, but couldn't make out what was being said. Occasionally, their voices rose in pitch and then sank to a murmur.
Eventually, they were summoned downstairs. Robert was still wearing the frock. To Sally's surprise, he slipped one of his hands into one of hers. Sally was touched by this show of affection.
Sally wasn't sure what to think about her brother. A boy who liked wearing dresses? What sort of boy was that. An uncharitable thought that a boy who wore a dress was no boy crossed her mind, but the dress had made him somehow braver and assertive.
They stood together in front of their parents, still holding hands.
Oddly, the parents seemed more awkward and nervous than the children. What had happened earlier was well outside their comfort zone and their perception of "normality". Finally, Mama spoke.
"Your father and I have decided upon your punishments" said Mama "Sally, I am very disappointed in you. I left you to look after your brother and you leave him to fend of himself to indulge in playing games. As for you, Robert, I don't even know where to begin! Wearing your sister's clothes! Talking back to your parents and being disobedient".
Mama paused to compose herself. Sally wondered what their punishments would be. Being grounded, being spanked, or losing their pocket money for a lengthy period were the usual penalties. But those were for lesser sins than the ones she and Robert had committed.
"We have decided that as you obviously like wearing each others clothes you may as well continue to do so. You will go to school in your normal clothes but once you are home Sally will have to wear boys' things and Robert will have to dress as a girl. You'll soon find that the novelty wears off and you will both realise how foolish you have been".
Sally did not feel like being made to wear boys' clothes was punishment and she suspected that Robert felt the same way about being dressed in girls' things.
The new regime was imposed immediately. The children were made to swap bedrooms, so that Sally now slept in a boy's bedroom and Robert occupied her old room. The children were sent to bed early but Robert now wore a pink nightdress and Sally wore a pair of boys' pyjamas.
The following day, Robert, dressed in the powder blue frock, was taken shopping by Mama. Sally noted with amusement that he now not only wore the frock, anklets and shoes, but also the frilly petticoats and, Sally suspected, knickers.
Sally was astonished by the sight of her brother when she saw him next. The powder blue frock had been replaced by a shimmering pink gown with puffy sleeves and a longer skirt. That skirt was pushed out almost to bursting point by masses of lacy, silken petticoats. Robert wore a necklace, a tiara and long gloves.
Sally could see what her mother was trying to do. By making Robert wear ultra-feminine clothes, far worse than Sally herself had ever had to wear, she was trying to make him so humiliated by the experience that he would give up girls' things for good.
Sally looked at Robert, expecting to see tears of shame or him stunned by what had been done to him. But he stood there, head held high and as proud as a princess and actually smiling prettily. Mama's face fell as she realised her strategy to wean her son off girly things was not only not working, but was fuelling his addiction to femininity.
Sally was impressed by her brother's appearance and resolve. He looked so pretty and yet, just like a real girl, had a steely will. She was also amused to see him occasionally lifting the hem of his skirt a little so that he, and anyone watching, would see a vision of white lace and silk. When Mama and Robert were out, Sally had a peek in his underwear drawer and her eyes feasted upon silken drawers with masses of ruffles and layers of lace and lace knickers. Sally would have died of shame had she been made to wear such overly feminine garments.
Mama next tried public humiliation, taking both children outside. Robert was in his pink gown and petticoats and Mama had even somehow managed to get pink hair ribbons into his hair, which was much too short, as an added attempt to humiliate him. Robert was made to push a buggy with a dolly in it, these relics of Sally's own girlhood having been excavated from the attic, cleaned up and put into service for the girlhood of her brother.
Sally was not bothered about her own appearance. Most girls wore what she was currently wearing. She looked normal. But she was nervous about how her feminised brother would be received.
But instead of laughter and finger pointing, Robert got compliments "What a pretty girl!", "What a little sweetheart!", "She looks so cute in that dress!", which pleased Robert no end. He was, Sally decided, more girl than boy. He was giggly, coy and affectionate. Mama's face crumpled. She ordered them to accompany her home.
Once they got home, Mama sat in silence. Her plan to make Robert give up his dresses and petticoats had completely backfired. He was more addicted to femininity than ever. Robert was currently playing with his dolls for heavens sake!
Finally, she rose and said "Robert, come and take my hand. You can help me in the kitchen. You can wear a pretty pinfore over your dress". Robert slipped a hand into hers and they went off together.
Sally stared after them in shock. In the battle of wills between her mother and her brother, her brother had won. Mama had given in to him and was letting him by the "girl" he wanted to be.
That evening, the family ate together. Mama and father had become reconciled to their children's change of dress. Sally was revelling in the freedom of wearing boys clothes. Her brother looked very sweet in her - no, his now - powder blue frock and layers of petticoats. Sally found herself staring at her brother. Sally was curious about what lay beneath that dress and the masses of petticoats even though she had once that same dress and those same petticoats herself in an earlier life. It was very odd.
Once the meal was over, Robert put on his pinny and helped his mother with the dishes, as a good "daughter" should, whilst Sally watched the football on TV with her father. Presently, Robert, sweet little thing that he was, brought them drinks, in his powder blue frock.