VINTAGE GOSSIP is alive and well in the elegant hands of Amy Phillips Penn, former society columnist for the New York Post. Every Thursday, Amy pens her posts with that same touch of class, making the legends and lore of a bygone era as relevant today as they were when Jackie O was queen of New York.
“To wear dreams on one’s feet is to begin to give reality to one’s dreams.” — Roger Vivier
I love shoes, and I’m in well-heeled company.
Shoes take on our “do I dare?” personality. Check out Facebook, where ladies profiles are morphed into one stiletto after another; high heeled, satin wrapped around the ankles, cheap in sexual connotation, overpriced in reality.
Shoes are a metaphor for growing up, independence, and sexuality.
High heels are yet another symbol of something exciting that we pay for down the road — back pains, foot issues, scary shoes that lace up and are posturepedic.
Think of all the lifestyles of the rich and proud to share their closets.
Open the door and ta-da: more glamorous shoes than you would find at Bergdorf’s or Nordstrom’s. Can one girl really wear that many shoes in a lifetime? Where’s the prince already?
Remember your parents lining you up against an open closet door, and then making a pencil mark as to your height and age?
Shoes are like that. They are a barometer of passages from girlhood to womanhood. The timeline varies as to how fast your parents (most probably your mother) will let you advance from Mary Janes to Charles Jourdan, without tripping over “go.”
For those of us who can’t bear or comprehend the limitations, we found ways to dance around it, beginning with stockings.
I took my socks off outside our front door and voila, dream of my dreams, I was embraced by the feel of quasi-silk stocking. My shoes looked better, I felt oh-so-grown-up, and the elevator was waiting for the new leggy me.
An entire chapter should be devoted to Mary Janes.
Mary Janes were patent leather shoes with a rounded toe, and a strap that came with its own special hook to attach it to a ladylike pearl button.
In the days when shoe shines were a mandatory ritual which connoted pride and status (think Mad Men), your Mary Janes’ patina mirrored your breeding. According to Quaker teachers, they might reflect much more. Legend had it that a male with mal-intent could gaze into your Mary Janes and the shine would mirror right through the many layers of itchy petticoats to your Victoria’s-not-so-secret panties or Carter’s underwear.
My mother had shoe control for way too long.
I begged to abandon my Mary Janes for a pair of patent leather pumps.
“They’re cheap,” she announced dismissively.
I feared the Mary Jane to pump battle would never end in my lifetime, and then there was the issue of little white socks. They had to go.
I tried to take life one shoe at a time, although I longed to gallop out of an insecure adolescence into heels that made even the most childish dress look grown up.
My mother took my brother to Palm Beach for a long weekend.
“I’ll take you one day,’ she said.
What followed was four spectacularly permissive days with my father that I still embrace. We had dinner with his friends at Longchamps and laughed over their inimitable chow mein and profiteroles.
I was one unbreakable smile, looking down under the tablecloth to see my victory shoes.
My father had taken me to Pappagallos that day.
I was in love — shoe love, that is — in my feminine, grown-up shoes, with no hint of socks that never stayed up — and who cared anyway. I outshone the patent leather in shoe compliments, and vowed to trade a few days at the Breakers for a beautiful pair of shoes, any day.
When my sister was growing up, I noticed that she and her classmates wore shoes that looked like they were mountain bound. They also thought that George Bush had sexy knees (Please don’t shoot the messenger).
“Don’t you have ant feminine shoes?” I asked with concern.
She had no idea what I meant.
So…take it from an expert:
“I don’t know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot.” — Marilyn Monroe
…and you were waiting for a Manolo quote!
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