Worth waiting for …Guest Shoe Blog Post – Shoes and sounds and scents of spring

Hindu tradition is rich with goddesses.

The one goddess that rules them all is Parvati.

Parvati is known in many guises including her incarnation as Annapurna the goddess of plenty, of food. Annapurna has a thousand names. In that incarnation Parvati is symbolic of the divine aspect of nourishing care. She is synonymous with the mother instinct in all women – the cause of creation and dissolution.

This story is a gift that came to me through a wonderful woman in whom everyone confides. The writer shall remain anonymous, not because she is ashamed of her story but because she loves everyone in it. She doesn’t care if you judge her but she does not want you to scrutinise them. At the end of the day, we all live our lives in the best way that we can and in the only way that we know how. So open your minds and your hearts before you read this post.

It is never to late to change the way that you look at things. Read Annapurna’s story and tell me otherwise.

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Never been much of a shoe woman.  I mean, as a much younger woman I had a few pairs of drop-dead, get-fucked gorgeous stilettos, but I was in the wrong relationship.  Oh so very wrong.  And my nice shoes came to represent everything I hated about being a girl-woman.  My shoes became not about me, but about him.   And he was oh so very wrong.  For me.  For any woman, I think.

So I gave up shoes.  At least, nice shoes.  My choice of shoe became … versatile.  Comfortable.  Sensible.  No, not sensible!  But certainly not – sexy.  Because of him, the oh so very wrong for me man.  A sexy shoe would have meant – submission.  It took four years for me to free myself from him.  I left my shoes behind.  Because they weren’t about me, they were about him.

I guess it has more to do with a young woman’s self-esteem, or lack thereof, or lack of female role models … or something.  Not being able to feel pretty, or even beautiful, for MY sake.  No-one else’s.  Certainly no-one else’s pleasure.  Because of him.  Being pretty, or even beautiful, meant I lost a little bit of myself, to someone else.  For their pleasure.  Not mine.

Life moved on.  I met a man who loved me.  Still does.  A man who doesn’t care if I wear versatile, comfortable shoes.  We had children.  Oh beautiful children!  So I wore my versatile, comfortable shoes because carrying a child on your hip demands it.

And I guess I became … versatile and comfortable.

But then I fell in love.  With the right man.  Not my husband.  My beautiful, loving, wonderful husband.  Do you hate me yet?  It’s OK.  I struggle with it every day.

This man loved me, truly loved me … deeply, passionately, emotionally … for two years before we actually met.  In real life kind of met.  He had moved into my heart and mind and taken up residence.  And I had moved into his heart and mind and chosen the carpet.  He made me feel pretty, even beautiful, but not for him.  For my own sake.  And my own pleasure.  He gave me the gift of self-esteem.  Of pride.

Just the once.  In real life.  In public.  His hands in my hair.  He said, “Oh … you are gorgeous!”  We’d already fallen by that stage.  Hard.  Deep.  It was a done deal.  I had boots on.

He made me remember what it felt like to be pretty, even beautiful, before the oh so very wrong man.  The right man is my true love.  The love of my life.  And I know I am the love of his.  He has told me so.  Even though I won’t go to him.  I want to.  I can’t.  We will live with it.

He said to me once, “You know, there is an incredible power in acknowledging a feeling of love where it is genuinely felt, even though it may have very complex implications. Genuine intimacy is so rare in this world where communication is so easy that when it occurs it is quite liberating and exciting.  No, I can’t read your mind. But I have a few insights into your soul (only a few).  I know that your husband is wonderful, safe and probably the right person to be your husband.  But I know, for reasons that I don’t need to understand that he is not your soulmate lover. The latter is a rare and maybe mythical creature – but even the potential of whom changes one’s perspective on life.”

And with that, he healed me.  By ‘intimacy’, he didn’t necessarily mean ‘sex’.  Although obviously, I want him utterly.

And so I love this right man, yet this love has left another wound in its place.

Judge me all you like.  I don’t actually care what you think.

I love him.  He loves me.  It is an honourable love.  Because I remain.

With my beautiful, loving, wonderful husband.  And our children.  Who love me.  And I love them.

When we were expecting our second child, my husband said, “I can’t imagine loving another child as much as I love this one!  I am afraid!”  I said to him, “Love has no limits, it is boundless … when you need more love, you simply grow more love.  And all love is different.”  Of course he loves our second child just as much as our first, in different ways, they are different people.

And so I love my husband.  And I love the right man.  They have both given me gifts these two fine men.

One gave me the gift of true love from another, the gift of the love of children, and the gift of family.

The other gave me the gift of TRUE love.  A very different love.  A painful love – the pain of which ebbs and flows every day.  Every minute – every day.  And he gave me the gift of rediscovering my ‘pretty’ … as someone put it recently.  I don’t do girly, feminine pretty.  I am more your amazon kind of pretty, I think.  Does that even count as pretty?

I have bought some new shoes.  They are not stilettos, I’m old enough and wise enough to know that they just plain hurt!  But my new shoes have heels.  Nice heels.  They are simple, comfortable … and worn the right way simply ooze sexy.

So where’s the gift in that?  Oh, it is a gift to me.  Because I hold myself differently, I walk differently, with more confidence and self-esteem.  Taller.  Sexy.  My colleagues think I’m having an affair.  Oh the irony.

I will wear nice shoes from now on.  And that actually IS all about me.

Day 71 of the Shoe Challenge – Office Photo Shoes – Part 2

CC - Prada Patent Mules - Entertainment/Defamation/Fashion/Sport

For once this post is not all about me, it’s not even going to be a bit about me. This post is dedicated to the people that I spend 8 hours a day,  3 days a week with – my law firm colleagues.

In the adverts for the current Australian series of Masterchef George Columbaris while dissecting contestant Claire Winton Burns’ Beef Wellington says “Who would have thought that a lawyer could cook?

Fighting words for a little chef that once said to The Age newspaper that he never actually wanted to be one. If I was being unkind, I would say that he doesn’t look like one either. (Neither does Heston Blumthenthal incidentally but I’d be too scared to say that to his face particularly if he had that vibrating absinthe jelly in front of me).  In fact, out of the Masterchef Top 50 contestants three are lawyers and one is a law student.

Most lawyers given free reign and exempt from parental suggestions would undoubtedly be doing something else. There are lots of reasons not to study law after all:

1. Everyone assumes that you make a lot of money – this is not the case. Partners in big London law firms have insane and obscene salaries. Most of us don’t. If you want to make a lot of money, become a plumber. People prefer plumbers to lawyers.

2.  When people ask you what you do at parties you have to lie about what you do. If you tell people that you are a lawyer, the conversation dries up quite quickly. Be prepared to have a lot of fake occupations on hand to keep things flowing nicely. Fun, ice-breaking professions include pretending to be a Reiki Master/Mistress, brickie’s apprentice, psychic consultant and/or professional dog-walker.

3.  People think that you are boring and/or corrupt. Generally it is assumed that you have always wanted to be a lawyer and that you have no other desire in life other than to take a lot of money from people,  give them really bad news in exchange for that money and then tell them to go home and forget all about the reason that they came to see you in the first place.

A lot of people come into law because we wanted to do something good with it, to make a bit of a difference. We can discourage litigation and encourage compromise. When we fight off a government department or stop a multi-national corporation stealing our client’s intellectual property, we feel good about ourselves. A lot of us ended up here by default.

Looking round our office for Day 2 of our office photo shoot it occurred to me that every single one of us probably had and has other dreams and aspirations. So instead of waffling on about myself,  I thought that I’d ask my colleagues some questions about themselves. What did they want to be when they grew up? What would they still like to do? Here are their answers.

@verycleveralias

I can’t remember what I wanted to be when I was a child. I only ever remember what I didn’t want to be – a doctor or a lawyer.  Being the Dux of the school and a straight A student I was expected to be the person in my year who succeeded.  My parents who were delighted with my good grades kept on at me to be either a doctor or lawyer.  Since I couldn’t stand the sight of blood being a doctor was out. Actually, by that time I secretly wanted to be an actress. Like a lot of pre-lawyers in the Eighties,  I rather enjoyed watching LA Law so applying for law seemed like a good compromise. No-one tell you that Harry Hamlin does not work in most law firms, nor does successful court work involve striding up and down in front of judges looking gorgeous.  For a while, I ran my own successful business which I sold. Now I help my husband out in his successful business and I can sleep at night. Or I can until baby number three arrives in a few months time…

@averycleveralias - Litigation/IT & Telecoms

SG - Trade Marks, Trade Promotions & Lotteries, Entertainment

SG

More than anything else I wanted to be a ballerina. My mum couldn’t afford ballet lessons or ballet shoes so I spent most of my childhood balancing on my tip-toes while hanging on to furniture and practising my grand jetes, changements de pied and various arm flourishes to what I thought were elegant effect. I still love to dance but even more than that I would like to do so as a lady of leisure in some beautiful European landscape – in Italy or Spain or France.

The Baby Lawyer

From an early age it was clear to me that I wanted to be a motorcycle riding priest. Priests were people of influence and prestige. When a priest stood up everyone listened. Most priests are a little straight though and could do with a bit of edge, hence the motorcycle. It would be an irresistable combination. For a long time being a mad scientist seemed like a viable career option particularly when I discovered how much fun it was creating explosive mixtures from chemicals in the household cleaning products my mum keeps under the sink.

I like taking photographs.

(Other things that Baby Lawyer likes can be found on his Tumblr blog)

The Baby Lawyer - Media & Sport; Entertainment, Litigation, Photographer

NC – Admin

NC - Administration - Interior Designer

All I ever wanted to be was an interior designer. I was accepted into the Commercial Arts Training College (CATC) in the Rocks in Sydney when I left school. For the first three months, I was in heaven. My teachers loved my design work – I created a lounge room with a real Japanese influence for my first critique – wasabi green wallpaper with pink cherry blossom and black enamel accents. My studies and design work went well until the second semester when I could not get my head around the architectural drawing, the maths and the understanding of perspective  required to progress.  After that I worked in retail for a while and then into office administration.  I still want to decorate – particularly office spaces. This office I love – the atmosphere is nothing like the average law office. If you visited, you would not guess that lawyers work here. That is my idea of good design – turn people’s expectations around”.


AMK - Trade Marks/Designs - Volunteer Worker

AMK

Growing up as a kid in the country it seemed to me that being an air hostess was possibly the most glamourous job possible. It was all about the hats, the gloves, the handbags, the shoes and the stockings. When my hearing problems began I knew that this would probably stop me being a hostie if being a short arse didn’t.  You need to be tall enough to put the luggage in those overhead lockers and I am not.

One thing that I still want to do and do as often as I can is volunteer work.  I have been a door bitch for UNICEF charity functions. Not the best door bitch as I let through more people than I kept out but it was in the spirit of the thing. My big thing at the moment is the Homeless Street Soccer League Program. I am helping The Big Issue out as a volunteer for the Corporate Cup Soccer event between 15th June and 27th June. If you want to help out, get in touch with Denis Smith or Peter Meares!

AB - Office Manager/Administration/IT Department

AB

For most of my childhood I wanted to be a dentist until someone told me that I would have to put my hands into people mouths and that people’s mouths were FULL OF GERMS.  That put paid to that career option.

When I was at school I thought that I would be married by the time I was 24 and start having kids by the time I was 27. By my reckoning that would give me the 10 years that I needed to have 10 kids.  As it turned out, I got married when I was 33 so I might have to downscale the number of kids that I have.  I still want to have as many as I can fit in though. Having a dog has made me much more broody than I would have expected.

P - Administration/Reception - Self Confessed Media Pundit

PJ

I studied journalism. When I was little I wanted to be a TV news anchorwoman because they looked pretty. From people’s reactions to my strongly held opinions, it is probably best if I don’t write them down. My plans to be a writer are on hold. The thing that I get most excited about is having kids.

SLD - Chief Cook, Bottle Washer - Artist

SLD

When I was little I wanted to be a famous artist. At the age of 4.5 I realised I had a talent when I went to primary school and all the other kids asked me to do drawings for them.

At about age 8 I realised that I was going to open my own business. I would go through my mother’s wardrobe slowly and systematically and try on all her clothes and shoes to find – the perfect business outfit. For a number of years I used to cut out and keep pictures of my favourite ‘business looks’ from Vogue.

A long time ago a fortune teller told me that I would have my own business related to numbers. This horrified me as I thought it meant being an accountant. Since the majority of my work over the last 5 years has involved mobile phone premium services, it is clear that the psychic wasn’t talking through a hole in the top of her crystal ball.

DD - Marketing/Accounts/Credit Control - Yoga Practitioner

DD

The first thing that I remember ever wanting to do was to become a physiotherapist. When I was at school my best friend had cerebral palsy and spent a lot of time going to see a physio. I used to keep her company and thought it was the coolest job in the world.  For a while when I was at school I helped out in the Spastic Centre with physiotherapy work.  I applied for a physiotherapy course when I left school but had to drop out when I realised that I hated worked with cadavers.  (The anatomy component of the physiotherapy course required dissection of corpses, it was truly horrible).  After that I did a business degree with marketing and accounts on the basis that I was unlikely to encounter any real dead people on that course. Just the walking dead.

Now, I would like more than anything to become a yoga teacher and do rehab work with students.  When the youngest of my three girls goes to high school in 2 years time, that is my plan.

Day 70 of the Shoe Challenge – Ferragamo, Fishnets & Flanagan’s Precept (Office Photo Shoot Shoes #1)

A little-known addendum to Murphy’s Law is Flanagan’s Precept, which categorically states that Murphy was an incurable optimist.

In my case, Flanagan’s Precept may even be renamed as Rumpole’s Paradox* which takes the “anything that can go wrong will” theory, throws the bad karma visited by me as a lawyer upon others back in my face and then jumps up and down on my head a few times for good measure.

You may remember that I have two children. This is virtually impossible for me to forget. Particularly at 6.00 am in the morning when the older one is trying to push his elbow through his sister’s sternum to get her to stop yelling.  Even the child-free among you will appreciate that this involves a huge amount of noise.

Child noise hits frequencies which could probably change the flight patterns of birds. It is impossible to ignore. It is impossible to think through.  It is also quite impossible to doll oneself up during which is why, most mornings, I get to work looking like I lost a fight with a rabid hedgehog.

So the night before our Office Photos (Part 1 Formal/Casual Wear Day) I decided to be super-organised and got all my clothes sorted well in advance.  I broke my no-ironing record and pressed my silver grey Marella jacket; pre-stretched my very expensive (ie over $15.00 pair of tights – not shown) so these wouldn’t ladder as soon as I put them on; steamed and brushed my black suede Salvatore Ferragamo stiletto lace up ankle boots which I’d been saving up for a special occasion such as this.  All in all, in the disaster foresight department things were going pretty well.

Forget the Rumpole Paradox at your peril. On the day that I spent so much time thinking about and getting dressed, the Minx decided that she was going to go to  her daycare centre buck naked.  It was quite a cold day. The daycare staff were not going to take a naked child well. So I did what I had to do – carried her clothes in one hand, her two ankles in the other and dressed her upside down screaming and kicking as we walked down the road.  I managed to get her dressed by the time we got there but by then she’d shredded my tights beyond decency.   Thankfully no-one pointed out that my tights were ripped. Let me tell you there is not a woman out there folks who doesn’t know that her tights are ripped. So don’t tell us.

All the way to Surry Hills I avoided looking at people.  By the time I got to the office I was tired, demoralised and desperately in need of coffee and new tights. There were two choices – the boutique across the road that sells $18.00 plus tights or the dollar shop that sells $2.00. Except that the dollar shop only had these:

or these

People, if I live to be one hundred, I will never ever ever EVER wear knee high stocking/sock things.  Cute these may be on Sweet and Gothic Lolitas in Harajuku – it just isn’t going to work for me. (Although if it was I’d use this very useful how to Loli-Goth by Avant Gauche).

Sweet Lolitas

So  the fishnets reluctantly won the day. I already know how some of you feel about fishnets, I had not forgotten. But I thought to myself “How bad can they look”  although by this time I was fed up, even more desperately in need of caffeine and completely beyond caring.

The photos didn’t turn out too badly, or so I thought.

You will let me know what you think though, won’t you?

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* Actually, Rumpole’s Paradox is a construct of the lovely Flaming Mongrel bless his little gangster shoes.

Day 69 of the Shoe Challenge – Blisters, & Rebound Boots

Rebound Boots

A classic double bind.

Buy those boots” said my husband “but if you do, you have to promise not to buy any  more boots this year“.

Who could agree to such a condition? And yet, just look at the boots in question:

Front and Rear Laced Knee Boot with Zip - Suede http://www.rosashoes.com

No zips. Easy peasy to put on boots.

They are reduced until 30 April 2010 from £210  to £169 which translates to over AUS$300.00 for the boots once you bung on postage.  I could buy a hell of a lot of vintage boots for that.

Now by vintage, I mean shoes that once belonged to someone else that have been rejected, boots that no-one loves. In other words, waif and stray boots. Orphan boots. The ones that someone bought in a sale or on eBay in a moment of mad frivolity.  After months of trying to zip them up by sticking their legs up in the air while drinking green tea, fennel tea and anything else that might reduce their calf circumference they gave up in disgust. By “they” I necessarily include myself.

My pirate boots are sadly missed, I have been scouring my favourite boot purchasing place for months looking for a replacement. Me and quite a few others. Everytime I come close to winning a brand new replacement pair on eBay, someone snatches them from under my nose in the last 30 seconds of the eBay auction. There must be an iPhone App for that. Alternatively the ecommerce site that I visit only has the boots that I want in sizes 8 and up (I am a UK 5, Euro 38, Australia/US 7 just like about 60% of the population it would seem).

So I have entered into an unhealthy rebound relationship with a few pairs of orphan boots over the last few months.  Every pair of orphans that I have bought have been worn once or twice (if that) – I can now read sole scratches like a pyschic can read palms and check the auction photos as if I was reading runes. When the orphans arrive I give them a good scrubbing down, skoosh the insides with anti-bacterial agents – eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil and lavender oil – and bung in newspaper over a period of days to draw out any residual nasties.  Only when my son says “Mummy, what’s that smell?” do I know that the fight-the-fungus process is complete.  Then the scary getting -to-know-you bit begins.

The thing about rebound boots is that they are never the same as the boots that you left behind. No boot will ever be the same, smell the same, hike your calves up quite the same. This I have learned. Also there is a logical reason why these boots have only been worn once or twice. The reason being –  blisters.

Throughout the Shoe Challenge, I have encountered very few shoe related blisters. Either shoes are getting better these days or I have enough keratin built up on pressure points on my feet to prevent them. Out of 68 separate footwear pairs, I have encountered four repeat blister inflicting offenders.

The blister culprits are:

Day 1 – the Russell & Bromley Cherry Heeled Mules – acrylic uppers and human skin on a warm spring day lead to blisters across all five toes and the bony bit at the top of my foot which is apparently called the intermediate cunieform according to this diagram that I found on Foothealth.about.com.

Day 14 Prada Open Toed Silver Mules Blisters infliced as described above to the area shown below.

An informative picture of a strange woman's foot

Day 37 – Caged Ankle Boots the calcaneal tendon on the back of both my right and left ankles was rubbed raw by the zips up the back of the boots.

Ankle Anatomy

Day 52 – Alan Pinkus Silk Sandals the clear acrylic threads that wrapped over the silk straps rubbed from my hallux (big toe bone) down and over the first cunieform bone to the third cunieform bones (according to Gray’s Anatomy anyway, the book not the TV program):

Gray's Anatomy - Human Foot Bones Plantar Surface

None of the blister culprits were orphans. I have had them in my possession since they were brand new.  Not that that has helped.

The rebound boots that I wore today are the first orphans to attack me, which is unusual in a low heeled conservatively styled boot.  These munched away the skin on the inside of my ankle at the origin of the abductor hallucis at the calcaneus bone at the back of the foot. The resulting blister looked kind of like this by the time I got to work:

IHaving worn so many new shoes (including trainers) blisters are a sure sign to me now that something has gone fundamentally wrong in the manufacturing process of the footwear causing it. In other words, the blisters are as likely as not to reappear the next time you wear the offending items.  I’ll be getting some of those blister prevention pads aka big, huge sticky plasters (aka adhesive bandages such as Elastoplast (R) brand sticky plasters or Band-Aid(R) brand sticky plasters) . Those work a lot better than cotton eye make up removal pads and sticky tape, I find.

Jane Debster Boots

My boot rebound relationships aren’t not working for me. So maybe it is time to eschew all others and go think about going steady with a pair of RoSa Shoes stiletto heeled boots…

Guest Blog Post – Cheryl Wischover’s Life Altering Shoes

In New York,
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
Theres nothing you can’t do,
Now you’re in New York,
These streets will make you feel brand new,
The lights will inspire you,
Lets here it for New York, New York, New York

When I first heard Jay Z & Alicia Keys sing Empire State of Mind late last year I was blown away. I might have cried a wee bit.

New York is my favourite city. My mother a native New Yorker and I spent many family holidasy in my grandmother’s cigarette-smoke-filled apartment in Ocean Parkway. New York has always been a home away from home and an inspiration to me – other than in Milan the most chic women that I have ever seen are walking the streets of Manhattan. Whenever I think of physically being there I get a quiet wee adrenaline rush.

When I met Cheryl Wishcover – her twitter handle is @CherylAnneNY – that two letter suffix NY brought the iconic NY rebus to my mind:

Cheryl wasn’t born in New York (she’s from Lombard, Illinois – 50 miles from the South Side of Chicago) very few New Yorkers are or ever were. It is a city of full of migrants, excitement, possibilities, danger, groundbreaking and heartbreaking style.

Cheryl has a blog entitled Perils & Parallels which, despite her strongly held belief otherwise, is a bloody good read; is currently covering Project Runway on Salon.com, band and writes for Fashionista.com. I love reading her fashion writing. I let out involuntary ‘eep‘ noises when she Twitpics her shoes.

According to the Urban Dictionary a fashionista is a person devoted to fashion clothing, particularily unique or high fashion. That is Cheryl.  She’s a true original.

I have been nagging incessantly her to do a guest blog post for me for months – she has finally given in to my stalkerish entreaties. Now we will all be longing for a pair of these life altering shoes.

Mea Culpa.

Dagnammit.

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I live a literal world away from @Gabfran but we bonded immediately over our obsessive love of shoes and style. When I first read this blog, what really struck me was that she was not really writing about shoes; she was writing about life. For women in particular, certain memories are forever entwined with the shoes they wore. It sounds ridiculous, but is it really? If you think so, you’d best not continue reading. I’m going to attempt to make a case for shoes that may actually be life-altering. (Yes, I often tend towards the dramatic)

I’m a nurse practitioner in the United States. I have no idea if this job exists in other countries. I had a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and licensure as a Registered Nurse (RN). After working as an RN for a few years and deciding that I was tired of following orders from snot-nosed medical students who knew a lot less than me, I decided to return to school for a Master’s Degree. More certifications followed, and I now have a trail of letters following my professional name.

My current career is a great combination of independence and collaboration. I can examine patients, make medical decisions, and prescribe medications, yet I don’t have the gruelling schedule and massive potential liability that physicians have. But the best thing about this job? I no longer have to wear scrubs and clogs. I wear street clothes.

Superficial? Perhaps. But let me tell you—you don’t feel like you can conquer the world when you’re clomping around  in white leather (yes, you read it correctly–WHITE LEATHER) clogs embossed with a little blue heart:

Through the years, my work footwear has gotten taller, jazzier, blingier, and less hospital-appropriate to the point that now when I wear a pair of basic black pumps, my colleagues ask me if I have some sort of knee injury that is preventing me from wearing better shoes. I’m proud of my signature look. Superficial? Perhaps.

I’ve been suffering from career burn-out and general I’m-in-my-thirties malaise. For some unfathomable reason, I decided that maybe I could be a fashion writer. (I know. This sounds ridiculous. I’m well aware). Somehow I landed an internship at a fashion website and am still there stumbling along and humbly learning about fashion journalism from 20-somethings. Being a lover of security and comfort, I’ve gotten used to my role as the “experienced one” at the hospital. Doing this new thing is completely foreign and scary and I have frequent self-confidence malfunctions.

Enter the Alexander Wang Freja boot:

First of all, if you’ve never heard of Alexander Wang, he is a brilliant new-ish American designer, and currently up for a CFDA award (the fashion equivalent of the Oscars). He also designs kick-ass tough accessories. Nothing girly here. His Freja boot has been in a multitude of spring fashion editorials. I wanted it the minute I saw it. I bought the last pair in my size on his website the first day they were available, and hoped my husband wouldn’t see the credit card bill until after I’d worn them enough times that they couldn’t possibly be returned.

The minute I put these shoes on I felt confident and fearless. They are really tall (4.5 inches/11cm) with not one but two zippers and some heavy hardware. The shape and profile is really unusual. You must strut in these shoes; you can’t trudge or tiptoe. The zippers make a loud clanking sound, so everyone knows you’re approaching.  The inside of the heel is shiny and metallic. These are shoes that literally shout, “I am here, damn it! Notice me!”:

The first day I wore them I caused a furore at my kids’ school, nearly gave some construction workers a heart attack, and was complimented at least five times by various females of all ages. Yes, perhaps they made me a bit cocky. But I really, really need some cockiness these days.

My feet hurt at the end of the day when I take these shoes off. But I don’t notice the pain. I only notice the dizzying heights I’m at when I wear them.

Day 68 of the Shoe Challenge – Politically Correct Shoes

These Van Dal shoes have been lurking accusingly at the bottom of my wardrobe for many weeks now.

When I bought these I must have been a much more conservative dresser. The reason for their purchase otherwise is a bit of a mystery to me now. I don’t really want to wear them any more and I for a while I couldn’t remember why.

Like all mysteries, I had to flick around in the dusty dark archives of my mind to find the reason.

I bought them in Frasers on Princes Street in Edinburgh, just round the road from my offices so  lunchtime shopping convenience might have had something to do with it.  However, equidistant from my office were shops selling work appropriate shoes with much more pizazz Russell & Bromley, Schuh, Helen Bateman and Pam Jenkins .

I remember that at the time I worked in an Edinburgh law practice for a chap who had a very unfortunate habit of identifying women by their body parts and physical attributes: the firm’s HR director was ‘that short woman with the huge tits‘, the female employment law partner was ‘that bespectacled lesbian with the big bum‘ and so on.

You look fat today” he’d say when I took in letters to be settled and signed.  Had I shown as much leg as I do in these pictures I might have gotten a compliment from him. Or groped. Or transferred to another department. I will never know because I was hell bent on dressing as asexually as possible.   Cue the sensible Van Dal shoes with knee length skirts and polo necks. The Margaret Thatcher effect.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I loathe and detest Margaret Thatcher. She took the free milk off me when I was in primary school. She taught a generation of British people that greed was good and self-interest was the path to self-enlightenment. There is no public figure on this earth that I detest more. And yet, some aspects of Margaret Thatcher can be glimpsed in these Van Dal shoes.

The essence of the well-dressed woman should never be exaggerated,’ the Iron Lady famously declared in 1985. ‘Appearance is the first impression people get of you. And it does matter. It matters tremendously when you represent your country…’.

Margaret Thatcher

Say what you like about Maggie (and I do) she maintained a polished façade throughout her years in office – her standard outfit was a shift dress and long coat style jacket with a pair of low heeled Ferragamo pumps. Part of her sartorial style must have been imprinted on just about every other professional woman that started her working life in Eighties Britain. Thatcher had a similarly huge impact on just about every woman who has advanced in politics – either parliamentary or corporate – to this day. Arguably, it has taken 20 years for the Thatcher Effect to start to wear off.

To look at the incessant creep of Thatcher Effect, it is probably instructive to look at the style of one Edwina Currie, who served as Junior Health Minister under Margaret Thatcher for two years from 1986 to 1988.

Here is are two pictures – the first of a young and winsome Edwina Currie from the Sixties, complete with some rather fetching gold pumps, the second of a slightly more mature Edwina visiting her constituency during her Cabinet tenure wearing (aarrgh) flesh coloured flatties.

Young Edwina Currie

For those luckily too young to remember her, Edwina Currie was once described a woman  “capable of a put-down that could fry an egg.” In 1988, her ministerial career ended after she declared that most of the country’s egg production was affected by salmonella. Eggs sales suffered, the British farmers were out for blood and Edwina was too stubborn to issue an apology. She has also written a number of works of fiction and non-fiction including a book entitled ‘A Parliamentary Affair’  (1994) which sold itself on the basis of its clunky but graphic descriptions of oral sex, gay sex and sex involving strawberries and whip cream. She confessed in her 2002 memoirs to having an affair with John Major while they were both ministers in Margaret Thatcher’s government.

Why on earth would a women famed for donning stockings and suspenders while shagging John Major wear these clumpy low heeled pumps for a photo shoot?

I blame the Thatcher Effect. Not that dressing in low heels saved her in the end.

Conservative female politicians in the UK have sloughed off Maggie’s influence.  Conservative politician Theresa May’s shoes consistently make  front page news.

Here are her shoes stealing the show at the Tory conference in 2oo2:

in 2003

in 2004

in 2005

in 2007

in 2009

Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

and in 2010 during the lead up to the 2010 elections in the United Kingdom.

Hadley Freeman writing about Theresa May’s shoes in 2002 noted that “her choice of leopard print is objectionable on every possible count of taste. It is outdated, a little bonkers, intrinsically associated with the late 70s and somehow redolent of very tacky and somewhat distasteful sex. In other words, it is the perfect pattern for the Tory party today“.

We may try to kid ourselves that we wear our shoes for our own private enjoyment but other people (not me) are most certainly examining them.   In 1987 Susan Kaiser of the University of California conducted research in 1987 which found that we mentally assign shoes into one of four categories:

  1. feminine and sexy (e.g. high heels, strappy sandals)
  2. masculine (e.g. loafers, oxford brogues, cowboy boots)
  3. young and casual (e.g. thongs, desert boots, Keds, Converse trainers)
  4. asexual or dowdy (e.g. women’s low heeled shoes including career pumps and nurses shoes)

(Source: Kaiser et al Cultural Codes and Sex Role Ideology: A Study of Shoes American Journal of Semiotics 5,          1 (1987) 13 – 34)

Those asked considered Feminine & Sexy shoes to be “erotic and inappropriate for work”.

In another study conducted by Andrew Wilson of Lancaster University the only shoe style acceptable to the majority of (admittedly Polish) businesses interviewed was the flat heeled pump. Preferably black.

You will notice that most female politicians, even the leopard print loving Ms May tend towards lower heeled shoes. Very few women in politics wear high heels and the ones that do suffer for it in the form of magnified scrutiny and criticism from both male and female journalists.

Natasha Stott Despoja, former Australian politician and leader of the Australian Democrats who was alternatively crowned and crucified during her short political career for her youth, good looks and her Doc Marten boots has said:

My now famous [Doc Martens] shoes … generated more publicity than my policy comments … [Female politicians are] still subject to greater levels of media scrutiny and are more commonly described in terms of their appearance and family status.

(Quoted by Tim Blair)

Stott-Despoja wore Doc Martens because they were low heeled and comfortable and that was what she had worn before she was appointed to office. Under the Kaiser categories, the Docs would be considered to be Young and Casual’ shoes.  There is nothing young and casual about Australian politics.

In 2005, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was jointly admired and castigated for wearing a pair of black, high heeled, knee length boots with a long military style coat to a meet and greet at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield.

her “spike-heeled boots” make her look “like the hostess at an S&M parlor”

squawked Lee Rodgers of San Francisco radio station KSFO’s The Lee Rodgers & Melanie Morgan Program.

Robin Givhan a (female) writer for the Washington Post clearly couldn’t figure out whether she loved or hated Rice’s boots:

“Rice’s coat and boots speak of sex and power — such a volatile combination, and one that in political circles rarely leads to anything but scandal. When looking at the image of Rice in Wiesbaden, the mind searches for ways to put it all into context. It turns to fiction, to caricature. To shadowy daydreams. Dominatrix! It is as though sex and power can only co-exist in a fantasy. When a woman combines them in the real world, stubborn stereotypes have her power devolving into a form that is purely sexual”

It seems very strange to me that such a fuss could be made of a pair of very smart but not particularly subversive winter dress boots.  But the boots have high heels which assign them in most people’s eyes to the Feminine & Sexy and therefore inappropriate for work category.

Incidentally and for the avoidance of doubt, Ms Givhan, this is what a pair of dominatrix boots actually looks like:

In 2008,  Senator John McCain announced that Sarah Palin would be his vice-president in the US Presidential Election. She immediately made headlines by wearing a pair of Naughty Monkey Double Dare Pumps when Senator John McCain announced her as his vice-president in the run up to the US Presidential Election. Here is a representative sample of Sarah Palin’s shoes:

Non of her heels were particularly high but Palin was hit with a barrage of  snotty media remarks about her appearance.  Her verbal faux pas were pounced upon by the media and comedians with delight and her private family life eviscerated shamelessly.  All I will remember of this woman sadly is that she had a nice smile,  glasses, put her foot in it a lot, was impersonated flawlessly by Tina Fey and had a teenage daughter who became an unwed mother.  In other words, any intelligence or political spark that Palin may once have had is buried for ever. Media mission accomplished.

Possibly the fundamental mistake that both Condoleeza Rice and Sarah Palin made was that they preferred wearing footwear that fall in Susan Kaiser’s Feminine and Sexy shoe category. More than anything else, female polititicians who draw attention to the fact that they are attractive women are mistrusted. Perhaps the sex and power combination is a too lethal combination.

No doubt Rachida Dati would have something to say about all this.   Five days after she gave birth to her daughter Zohra by Caesarian Section she was photographed returning work in her role as the (then) French Justice Minister. You will notice that she is wearing an extremely elegant pair of what I believe are Roger Vivier heels. She is also elegant and beautiful with exquisite taste in shoes.  Surely no-one in the press could find fault with her dress sense?

Ms Dati has copped it from all angles not for her high heeled shoes but for being a bad example to women. Florence Montreynaud of the feminist organization Chiennes de Garde (Guard Dogs) likened Dati to women in the 1920s who gave birth on the factory floor for fear of being fired. The hundreds of readers who ranted on the website of the magazine Femme Actuelle the day after Dati’s return saw a different problem: many accused the Minister of near-criminal mothering (See the TIME article here Mother Justice by Vivienne Walt for examples of more opprobium). This is a woman from an un-privileged background who put herself through university and who demonstrates an extremely sharp legal mind. She may not have spent the first two months of her daughter’s life schlepping about the house in her pyjamas but that does not make her an unfit mother or a bad role model.

Not long after, the French press in a sadly typical volte face criticised her for wasting money on designer clothes and shoes. She has now been accused of being the person behind starting the Twitter rumours that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni are living apart and having extramarital affairs.

Miss Dati is walking with her tall in her signature elegant high heels. Earlier this month she visited Bagdad during the Iraqi elections.  She dressed down in jeans and a black blouse but still looked every inch the ambassador. During a visit to a children’s hospital she told off a paparazzi photographer for pointing his camera at her feet:

It’s not very cool to film my shoes” she said.

And that pretty much sums it up for me. Shoes don’t make the woman but they are an intrinsic part of her. By labelling the shoes as frivolous, you are deriding the essence of the woman wearing them.

To focus on one bit of a female politician’s apparel is undeniably fetishistic and deflects attention away from what that woman has to offer by way of policy, argument and legal reforms. To judge anyone by their shoes is utterly unfair.

But sadly, we can’t help ourselves.

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Acknowledgements: Many thanks to @princessnowhere, @mellalicious, @nomesmessenger @MissBenBen and @gilfer for your shoe suggestions. PS I am still trying to find out whether or not Paul Keating ever wore cowboy boots.

Day 67 of the Shoe Challenge – Perversity & Potty Training

On the day that I wore a pair of killer stiletto heeled ankle boots my five (I’m nearly six) year old son looked at me, looked at my boots looked outside and said:

The sky is like a river. You look beautiful Mummy” and then, after a dramatic pause

“Mummy, why do you always wear such long shoes?”

By long shoes I assume that he means high shoes or high ankle boots to be exact. But one never knows with five year olds and one can never assume anything with children.

A corporate lawyer whom I once worked told  me that you only need to do something once successfully in a new area of law to be classified as an expert in that area forever after.  The same adage does not apply to toilet training toddlers.

We are trying to potty train the Minx at present.  The process officially started on the day that I wore these stiletto boots and finished in tears (mine) on Easter Monday (yesterday).

We had a straight forward potty training plan entirely based  on the straightforward potty training plan that we used for the Noisy Boy 3 years ago. Without the copious chocolate bribes though, we were determined that we weren’t going down that route.The Easter Weekend seemed like a sensible time to start bearing in mind that the virtually the whole of Australia shuts down on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. What else would we be doing with ourselves other than spending quality time with our children at home.

Did I mention that it is virtually impossible to buy alcohol in Australia on a Good Friday? Not that I would normally have noticed until I realised halfway through the day that nailing jelly to a brick wall was probably easier than potty training the Minx.

All the tried and tested potty training methods that worked so well with the Noisy Boy have proved to be completely useless in the face of the Minx’s dogged resistance.

Star charts? She licks the stickers until they fall off and then hides them in her underwear.

Reading stories to her while on the potty? After two hours of doing this, she had bright red potty impact marks on her bum and I had to go to the toilet myself. One my return she was standing in the middle of a huge puddle of urine on kitchen floor.

By 3.00 pm on Good Friday I was wondering if the other parishioners would notice if I drank all the communion wine.

By 3.00 pm on Saturday we had given in and started sticking chocolate in her gub every time she sat on the potty.  She started breaking it up into bits and dropping it into the bowl saying “Poo mummy, I did a poo“.

There really are much nicer ways to spend one’s Easter Weekend than this. We could have taken the kids to the museum or the circus or the zoo or the beach or counted traffic cones.

As it turned out, I spent quite a lot of time looking at one of my favourite shoe sites – The Virtual Shoe Museum – a repository of the weird and the wonderful, the perverse and the peculiar. There are shoes that look like Burmese cats sniffing the ground complete with a pink suede bell and collar:

Miao Pussy Cat Pumps by Kobi Levi

toeless boots that look like they were conceived by a mediaeval torturer:

"The Billy" by Annejet Kosters

and a myriad of other pictures and shoe resources that effectively took my mind off the smell of urine and stopped me going completely bonkers during the purgatory of our Easter Holiday weekend.

To try to make things up to the Five Year Old (“Mummy, why do we all have to look at her using the potty?” “Be quiet dear, have another chocolate egg“)  I searched the Virtual Museum for “long shoes“.

and found a fetching pair of cardboard box shoes ideal for an Easter Holiday from Hell craft project –

The Noisy Boy’s personal favourites were these Top Gear shoes (Race Shoes by Shani Bar:

While mine are these supremely long and precariously pointy toed stilettos by RoSa shoes

So the weekend was not a total loss.

This morning was the first day back at daycare for the Minx.  The daycare centre director listened to me sympathetically when I regaled her with our tragic toilet training tale. Then she looked at the Minx and back at me and laughed.  Apparently, last Thursday the Minx had taken her by the hand, looked deep into her eyes and said:

I need to go to the toilet“.

Then she did.

The Heel marks the Spot (of one of many pee puddles)

Day 66 of the Shoe Challenge – Crime Scene Shoes

Bruno Magli Patent Toed Sling Backs

When I tell new acquaintances that I am a lawyer they either smile and find someone else to talk to quickly or they say “that will come in handy“.  This is always a bit of a worry.

Extra buttons come in handy and you can always do with a needle and thread and a spare pair of sheer tights in your bag not to mention clean knickers. Lawyers are very seldom described as handy unless by people who spend a lot of time in court – usually criminal courts or family law courts.  Since appearing in court makes me want to projectile vomit at the top end while causing explosive diarrhoea at the bottom end I have to tell people that really I am not particularly handy in court situations AT ALL.

In a previous post, I also admitted that I am not particularly good at housework either.  Except cleaning, I am very good at cleaning.

The twice yearly arrival of a piece of fluoro yellow bright paper headed “Household Clean Up Service” causes a bit of excitement in this house. It is an excuse to throw out our “unwanted general household items, garden waste furniture and white goods”.  This is a house in which weans reside and we seem to go through rather a lot of furniture, white goods and household items.

There is nothing quite so satisfying as chucking out a lot of broken stuff and accidentally finding shoe gold in the process.  There are a few boxes containing Miscellaneous Crud in our garage. In one or other of these boxes I have been hoping to find my bright cherry red patent leather spike stilettos, a pair of thigh high patchwork pirate boots and my beloved snakeskin high-heeled ankle boots. We did once find  a 10 year old ash tray, complete with cigarette butts, packed up by an over enthusiastic removalist back in Glasgow.  My missing footwear has still to appear, however, like a Mcguffin Device in a Hitchcock film.

During the most recent chuck out,  my husband finally unearthed my fledgling shoe library, including Valerie Steele’s “Shoes: A Lexicon of Style

Shoes: a lexicon of style, Rizzoli International Publications , 1999, ISBN 0847821668

In this book I came across the Bruno Magli boots that inspired my pirate boot purchase.

Bruno Magli Thigh High Pirate Boots page 128 "Shoes: A Lexicon of Style" by Valeria Steele

The cover of Valerie Steele’s book is a bit like a Rorschach inkblot test.  The first thing that I noticed, being female and shoe obsessed, is the Gucci heels twinkling like Christmas tree lights above the title. It wasn’t until after I read the book at least twice that I noticed the beautiful half-naked model in the background. I’d be interested to find out how many people saw her first and wonder whether they would mostly be male.

Male and female approaches to shoes are quite different.  Nowhere was this more apparent than in two great court room crime dramas featuring shoes – the first fictional, the second stranger than fiction.

Legally Blonde was a film that I really, really wanted to hate but ended up enjoying immensely. If you are unfamiliar with the plot of Legally Blonde, it is summarised quite neatly here (I hate to source Wikipedia but needs must). I loved the mash up of rom-com and courtroom drama particularly the way that Robert Luketic zhuzhed up hackneyed legal thriller plot devices.

The use of Prada shoes as a plot coupon, when the defendant’s supposed lover unmasks himself as a liar through his knowledge of shoes, is absolutely bloody brilliant:

Enrique Salvatore: Don’t stomp your little last season Prada shoes at me, honey.

Elle:  These aren’t last season!  [looks down, gasps, runs back into court room]

Elle: He’s gay! Enrique is gay!

The underlying assumption is that no straight man could possibly know the difference between this season’s and last season’s Prada shoes.  When you look at the evidentiary fiasco of the OJ Simpson criminal murder trial, this assumption may not be too far off the mark.

The O J Simpson murder trial always seemed to me to be to be a badly written legal thriller crying out for a deus ex machina ending involving an alien theft of Italian custom made designer shoes.

 Bruno Magli boots received an unexpected publicity boost due to thier unwitting appearance as a major plot device in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. On June 19, 1995, FBI expert William Bodziak testified that the famous bloody shoe prints at the scene of the double murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman had been left by a size-12 pair of $230 Bruno Magli shoes ( the Lorenzo model).

The Lorenzo was a black calfskin ankle boot-style shoe made either of smooth calfskin or nubuck leather, a bit like an urban hiking boot with a polyurethane sole. Here is a pair of boots similar to the style of the Lorenzos in question:

Bruno Magli Boots

Simpson denied ever owning a pair of Lorenzo shoes calling them “ugly ass” shoes. The prosecution always claimed that this picture of OJ showed him wearing a pair of a Lorenzos.

Arguably any man, even one with no interest in shoes whatsoever could tell the diffence between the shoes above, and the shoes that OJ Simpson apparently wore to his daughter’s dance recital on the night of his wife’s murder (below).

Image taken from The Smoking Gun

Put it this way – neither of them look anything like Bruno Magli’s quietly understated shoes. The Bruno Magli brand received an unprecedented amount of interest due directly to the “OJ” shoes back in 1997 Bruno Magli has always tried to downplay the association with the OJ criminal trial in keeping with the brand’s dignified image. The shoes that left the trail of bloody footprints  were never found.

Based on its criminal pedigree though, I am happy to have a pair of understated Bruno Magli shoes myself. If you ever have the bad luck to have me representing you in court  I’ll probably be wearing these – and my startled diarrhoeatic hedgehog caught in the headlights look.

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For more information on the OJ Simpson Trial including a Chronology, Evidence and Court Transcripts have a look at The Trial of OJ Simpson

Day 65 of the Shoe Challenge – Savage Stocking Eating Boots

When it comes to boots, I like them to be tight, as close to knee length as possible and preferably high heeled.  This probably dates back to  the time when I did quite a bit of horse riding.  Riding boots need to be snug and preferably high enough to stop bits of your upper inner calf going black and blue. Boots with zips on the inside legs are out for riding as are jeans because these have a tendency to rub away the skin on your inner calves and thighs.
I very well remember my very first pair of riding boots which were not dissimilar to these:

Harry Hall Child's Start Riding Boots

On Sunday riding mornings I would spend about half an hour wriggling into my riding boots and spend as much time before and after my lessons stomping about in them.  I liked to imagine that I was a small highway person, a distant relation of Dick Turpin.
The thing that I always disliked about riding boots as opposed to Western style cowboy boots is the complete lack of heel.  Most English riding boots are almost completely flat. There is literally nothing to stop you slipping forward off the stirrups in the middle of a rising trot and face planting into a sweaty pony mane. I have never forgotten the smell of warm horse hair – it’s a bit like smelling cooking lawn mowings. When I started learn to jump fences on horseback the fear of face planting became even more acute. I would often wonder whether having higher than flat boots would improve matters.
In Australia, R M Williams do some smashing bushman riding boots:
I have always hankered after the tall, fitted, Western style riding boots like these:
From a design point of view as well as a comfort factor for riding, I  prefer long fitted boots with a zip or stretchy elastic up the the back of the calf.

Pilion Brand Chocolate Leather Back Zip Calf Boots

Despite the fact that back zip boots generally fit and look better than side zip boots,  it is really hard to find ones that don’t blister your Achilles tendon or the backs of your heels.  However, the Savage Stocking Eating Boots are very comfortable as well as being nicely shaped. Their only failing is their voracious hunger for tights – I went through thee pairs just crossing and uncrossing my legs in them.
Of course, in Dick Turpin’s day the tights were made of sterner denier ratings. If I matched these with leggings, a floor length cape and a tri-cornered hat,  I might pass for a small highwayperson even if it is more in the manner of my style icon Barbara Windsor in Carry on (No one’s safe from big) Dick than say, the genteel Alfred Noyes:
He’d a French cocked hat on his forehead, and a bunch of lace at his chin;
He’d a coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of fine doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were up to his thigh!
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle–
His rapier hilt a-twinkle–
His pistol butts a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky.

Carry On Dick (1974) Image Credit: Peter Rogers Productions