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  • Writer's pictureKL Forslund

SP: A Valet Reason

When he stepped into the hallway from his room, Captain Locke looked as far from the part of well to do investor as a thirsty man was from a drink in the Sahara. Lady Andromeda Keye did not approve. “My word, Locke! Have you shot your valet?”

“My what?”

“Your valet. Who dressed you?”

He exhaled, “Myself. Don’t seem proper to pay a man to attend to me when he’s got his own business.”

“Yes, that’s all very well and good, except you’ve added an exorbitant amount of dis to your hevelement. How come you look so fine in uniform?”

“You think I look fine in a uniform?”

Lady Keye blushed. “Oh never mind. Let’s get you in front of a mirror and see what repair can be made.”

Wish I Had One

Aside from the thorny issues of labor and class, having someone help you get dressed would be handy. A gentleman’s valet dealt with fashion, wardrobe, hair and fastening so that not a button is missed. The job includes making travel arrangements and paying for things, but I’m more likely to succeed at getting to Point B than I am to not forget something for my outfit. There’s a solution for that, but first let’s learn how to pronounce it so the pun in the title works.

Como Se Dice?

Here in America, we may hear “valet parking” and pronounced the french way as in chalet. There, the word comes from varlet or vaslet (which might remind you of vassal for good reason). But over in jolly England, they say valet like pallet. Or least used to, since personal servants has kind of died out as a career. Except on Downton Abbey.

In the military, the officers might employ a soldier-servant called a batman. Alfred Pennyworth served as batman to Bruce Wayne. I think that’s punny.

Professional Dresser

This is not an exact historical or economic treatise, but labor costs were low prior to the 20th century. Or at least alternatives to standing around waiting to dress people were scarce. It might have been a good job, for back then. Alexandre Bontemps made a good go of it serving Louis XIV of France. What Downtown Abbey shows is the end of the era as labor costs and better jobs increased.

It’s a Bit Wooden

One of the beautiful aspects of Steampunk the Do-It-Yourself attitude and artifice to solve problems. I can dress myself and comb my own hair (might need to work on that). What do I need help with? Collating all the pieces I need to wear so I don’t forget. A wooden valet is a stand made to hold your trousers and shirt and accouterments while you change. Looks great in the room and corals my daily carry when I undress for bed. The night before a dressed event, I’ll set everything onto, including my cufflinks which I always forget.

The mechanical arm finished tucking and straightening, leaving Locke flustered but pressed.

“There. This auto-valet I cobbled together has set you to almost presentable status. An improvement.”

Locke gazed in the mirror, scalp still stinging from the rough combing, and if it hiked his pants any higher, he’d sing soprano. Maybe the cravat would loosen up so he could breathe. Time to hit the casino floor and find the buyer for Professor Tesla’s Tetra-Coil, whatever that was.

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