Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Friday, 7 November 2008
But as I push through the door of retail A & E and into the sumptuous scarlet interior, it's a little like walking through the gates of heaven. Shoe upon shoe -each more exquisite than the last-is displayed in its own spot lit case. In precious metals and skins (alligator, python, sting ray and lizard, lovingly immolated on the altar of mammon) in glassy patent, sequinned, pastel satins, with and without the legendary concealed platform, sling backed, or buckled, in 120cm heels or just 100: every one infinitely desirable, utterly alluring and perfect. I'm hard pushed to remember when I've ever experienced such a rush of desire. Somewhere on these shelves is the reward I've earned for my forbearance over the travails of the last year.
My hand reaches out to caress a few and a flurry of sales girls apparate from nowhere. I sink onto something plushly velvet and boxes of gleamingly extravagant shoes start mounting at my side. I think to myself, "Let the cure begin."
But as I slide my stockinged feet into another pair, and stand to admire the height they give to my instep, the lean tautness lent to my calf and the length to my leg, I have an unexpected pauline moment (though you'd be hard pushed to walk far down the road to Damascus in shoes like these). The scales - possibly from an endangered reptile- fall from my eyes. The thought of new Louboutins has long been an amulet protecting me from the bruise on my soul yet I discover I may no longer need their therapeutic powers. I mentally blink in disbelief. Now I'm finally here, will it really help my psyche to spank 400-odd quid on a pair of shoes?
Is Mr Louboutin's carefully crafted product mere snake-oil? Quite possibly. They won't cure me of what ails me. But finding the strength to extricate myself from their lure just might.
So, the charm of the glossy Louboutin's I've been yearning for suddenly palls. How would it feel if I found a way to repair the Louboutins I already own? Could they, once renewed, offer the consolation I crave? Would re-heeling offer the well-heeled some much needed healing (tee hee)?
I take the opportunity to have a super-clever conversation with myself about object reification. New 'stuff' doesn't actually make you feel better. Ok, so that last bit wasn't very intellectualised, but it's no less true for all that. It seems to me that this 'credit crunch' (god I hate that expression: makes me think of rubbish french apples and their annoyingly insistent seventies ad campaign), anyway, that the economic downturn or whatever we're calling it may well make us reappraise our relationships with what we own, and get us to think about why we all seem to be on a desperate hunt for the new, the latest, the expensive. Self-possession in better than possessions. Not that I love my vast collection of beautiful things any the less, but it does occur to me that I might not actually need to add to it. And not just from the point of view of thrift, either.
So I'm resolved to stop all the mordant longing for things that I don't have, and start appreciating that which is already mine. I'll get the existing Louboutins mended.
But to whom can I entrust this great and significant act of renovation? One of the glossy sales girls gives me a card for the Mayfair Cobbler. I'm not absolutely content with this endorsement, but a corroborating second opinion from the wisely wonderful Frances Wasem at Harper's Bazaar has me at White Horse Street a week later bidding the super-sexy, super-luxe black patent sling backs a teary and fond adieu, with exhortations to the cobbler to treat them with kindness. Spookily he was really unfazed by such madness: perhaps all women with a taste for posh shoes are also quite bonkers?
A week or so later, after a Wolseley breakfast, I make it to the Mayfair Cobbler to pick up my shoes. They're near perfect. Even the worn soles have been slicked scarlet once again. I'm not without some regret for the pair I determined to do without, but I do have a conviction that this was the Right Thing to Do.
And as I write this, and reflect on the inner melancholy that new shoes were supposed to heal, I realise I am neither shoeless, nor melancholic, nor any longer The Unconsoled.
Mayfair Cobbler, 4 White Horse Street London W1J 7LB. 0207 491 3426
Thursday, 30 October 2008
Friday, 3 October 2008
But as usual, I digress and it's not the hair that's troubling me as I stare into the full length salon mirror opposite. It's the shoes. More specifically, a pale blue and almost impressively ugly pair of MBT's which look utterly appalling with this season's keynote grey tights and YSL-inspired cinched in peplum jacket over black pencil skirt. This look craves vertiginous heels with cruelly pointed toes: assertive, purposeful, ball-breaker stilettos with a touch of the dominatrix about them. It doesn't work with trainers. How has it come to this? Am I not the last person you'd expect to sacrifice style for comfort? Oh hear ye, all ye style victims: the day of judgement will come when God will punish you for your Vanity. As I am now, so you will be. You knoweth not the time not the hour etc etc etc.
Hmmm. I think we all know it's not God who's doing the punishing here. I am the author of my own discontent, with a big toe joint so agonisingly painful that even I can't feel the pain and do it anyway. I'm now totally over empathising with Cinderella's uglier sister in the terrifyingly grim, Grimm's version: you know the one - the only way the uglier stepsister can jam her foot into the glass slipper is to slice off her toes, and away she goes with the Prince till a bird grasses her up, flying after them tweeting 'tirrou, tirrou, there's blood in the shoe'. Nasty little sneak.
But, obviously, slicing off my toes, whilst tempting, is impractical. So I take myself off to the Royal Ballet's pet podiatrist, figuring he'd understand all about women who uncomplainingly wear crippling shoes for a living.
He looks a bit like a superannuated Patrick Swayze. Maybe an early brush with Dirty Dancing got him into the whole foot business in the first place as he ushers me to his consulting couch at one end of his tiny office and I find myself quietly mumuring, "no one puts Baby in the corner".
Half an hour and £90 later he assures me that the problem has everything to do with the way I walk and nothing to do with my addiction to fabulous shoes. This is cold comfort, since he’s also told me that I have arthritis in my big toe (arthritis? Go directly to smelly Old People’s Home, do not pass Go, do not collect £200), and another unpronounceable issue that he believes is totally curable if I wear custom-made splints on my feet every day and do vast amounts of physio. And yes, I can still wear my more fanciful heels. He says.
However, when I try to jam my feet into my best shoes whilst wearing the splints, I again know exactly how the ugly sisters felt about bloody Cinderella. The splints force my feet into such an anatomically correct position, there isn’t a single beautiful shoe I can cram myself into.
I’m devastated: I feel like the basis of my entire sex appeal has been summarily excised (and am probably still stinging with the granny-implications of the arthritis). Will I be shopping in Clarks from now on? Will Velcro become my fastener of choice? Do I really care about being able to be able to walk without pain? Is there such a thing as a sexy flat shoe?
In the meantime, before I can, ahem, hot foot it to Ferragamo in search of a sexy flat, let’s hope people are distracted by the great hair…
Friday, 26 September 2008
Who knows? It's just that, in amongst the chiaroscuro anonimity of a work uniform of DVF wraps, Armani trousers and Prada pencil skirts, lurk clothes imbued with meaning. Some of these wear their significance loud and proud: leading the parade is the fabulous and timeless Paul Smith I wore for my wedding with its bold print of ochre, aubergine and viridian leaves and the accompanying provocative pair of purple satin stiletto boots. Every time I put it on I’m suffused with the peace and joy and expectation of that hopeful, sunny October day.
And thus, getting dressed is more a sentimental journey than a simple act of modesty or modishness.
This is brought home to me as I sort through my summer clothes. Finally defeated by the weather, I beat their retreat into plastic boxes where they regroup to fight another, warmer day.
But as I start putting things away, fugitive memories writhe from the folds of a scarlet Ghost dress, plangent with remembrance of times past yet unworn for several summers. A little Proustian madeleine of a frock, it winds me with a sudden punch of feeling, sensation collides with sentiment and I sit down suddenly on my bed, clutching it to me, its fibres great gouts pooling in my lap. Memories start and tremble, calling me by name. At once I’m back at its last wearing: a sultry June day when the cling and drape of its fabric moved over me like urgent fingers, a lover of a dress, enfolding me in an erotic complicity of cloth on skin. The sights and sounds and sighs of that day are as vivid as the flagrant red of the dress and I am overwhelmed. My breath catches.
I fold it, firmly and determinedly, into its box. I shan't wear it again, yet I can't let it go.
Time present and time past
are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.
Thursday, 18 September 2008
And of course, when one person suffers from a delusion, it's called insanity. When many people suffer from the same delusion, it's called religion. And, this religion is fashion: there's High Church-couture and designer - and Low Church -high street- and the evangelicals, who are usually devotees of Primark rather than Prada and get all happy-clappy about bagged bargains and luxe-for-less sample sales.
And it's a religion with its own festivals: namely fashion week. I can see that this is hardly an original concept: after all, Vogue's been called the fashion bible since it was first published (which kind of begs the question: what's Bazaar? The Apocrypha? The Dead Sea Scrolls?)
Anyway, I've got myself sidetracked-where was I? Ah yes. If fashion is a god, then I'm feeling peculiarly agnostic. I'm Scrooge shouting 'bah humbug' to fashion Christmas as the Mercs line up outside the office to ferry acolytes to ceremonies, or editors to shows. And how anyone can get excited about what we'll all be wearing (or what we'll be told we'll be wearing) next Spring/Summer has always seemed to me faintly ridiculous. I'm only just walking up to the idea that a lot of eye-makeup and a tough black cuff might be all it takes to get me through this season's Rock Gothic trend(though as always, totally over-excited to be able to give up fake tanning my legs and get back into black opaques).
That's not to say that the Shows aren't a beautiful pageant, but it is the apotheosis of the superficial. And also rather odd (I'm not even going to step into the quagmire of the seating hierarchy-this really isn't something to shed tears over, but they do, every season without fail. The General Synod is has far fewer internecine traumas than the fashion pack). And also horribly groundhog day: trends, like history, repeat themselves: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce (well, fashion is rather extreme). Next year we'll all be wearing navy peg top trousers, continuing this season's ankle skimming look and guaranteed to make everyone who isn't 15 and Duchess of Windsor thin look like a dumpy middle aged maths teacher from Wolverhampton. This is the very peculiar contradiction at the heart of my industry: looking au courant has very little to do with looking good.
Anyway: what about the ritual of the Show? Obviously, you've first to practise your fashion face-this is much like a poker face, but rather more bored, dismissive and disdainful. The etiquette as a member of the fashion congregation is to maintain this face at all times: one must never look entertained, interested or even bemused. Catwalk models are particularly good at this, though the boredom part of it probably comes easy: being shoved in and out of clothes can hardly be a fascinating enterprise. It possibly helps with the wearing of the clothes: catwalk samples rarely make it onto the rails, being not only tiny but also what's called in the business 'directional', which loosely translates as unwearable by anyone sane. My particular favourite this week was a succession of dresses which all made the wearer look like they'd lost an embittered struggle with a metal zip, and had just decided to wear it anyway, half on, half off.
And of course, the debate that never tires of itself during Fashion Week is the extreme thinness of the models - true, they're all skeletal teenagers with the appalling posture of a scoliosis sufferer, but this has nothing to do with the pressure to conform to a rigid stereotype of 21st century female beauty.
The reason they don't eat is much more obvious than that: They're merely fasting to get closer to God.
Friday, 12 September 2008
So I'm going to attempt to stem the tide of egoistic self-absorbtion. Though I suspect that the very act of blogging is firmly predicated on the self-conscious and self-regarding, like a diary one deliberately leaves in a taxi in the hope that someone might read it and secretly find one fascinating.
And I'm quite sure there's something deeply suspect about my colluding with the whole conceit, but since I've started, I shall make a heroic effort to do away with the weltschmertz and angst. I shall cast off Werther's yellow waistcoat, whilst keeping my vest pulled firmly down over my navel, to discourage gazing at it.
If this is an online diary, let it at least be something sensational to read on the train.
Monday, 8 September 2008
It's certainly not the place to be a mere hour before an awards ceremony, locked in futile combat with the zip on a catwalk sample, and where the threatening rustle of silk and scratch of taffetta seems to grow and swell in the racks into a merciless whisper of 'impostor'. Exotic regiments of impossible shoes look down from their shelf in quiet pity. Perhaps I could file myself neatly away somewhere in the 'returns' rail, and await collection.
And then I pull myself together - though it's a shame I couldn't do the same for the sides of the fabulous but hunger-strike skinny dress.
Evidently, I have hidden shallows. Whilst I acknowledge that most of the people I will meet this evening won't even notice what I'm wearing (as long as it conforms to the narrow confines of expectation in these circles), I also acknowledge my dependence on the armour plating good costume provides. It's a handy barrier against an aggressively superficial world, where appearance is everything and content nothing. And I do belong to this world - albeit by default - so feeling neither beautiful or thin enough for it is utterly pointless. I wouldn't dream of actually eating a chip - so there's no point having one on my shoulder.
At last, I find a retail sample, less fabulous, but not designed to fit only the etiolated or permanently hungry.
It will do.
Friday, 5 September 2008
Is he living in the Shampoo of his own life? Am I supposed to be playing Julie Christie to his brought-up-to-date-for-a-contemporary-audience Warren Beatty? Is this more Blow-up than blow-out? Is this all going to end horribly badly, or could it be the start of a mutually rewarding relationship? I do always slightly regret eschewing the attentions of the wealthy American who took an unhealthy interest in my shoes at the Ritz one evening (but I was in a terrific hurry and didn’t really have the patience to indulge the fetishistic whims of a stranger in the lobby of a hotel, but I have always rather wondered whether it wouldn’t have been a case of fair exchange being no robbery – his slavish devotion to a well-turned ankle and narrow foot, and my penchant for seriously expensive shoes). Putting fantasies of free twice-weekly blow dries – albeit off-beat ones – to one side, I pay his, ahem, styling technique closer examination. I think I’m relieved to discover that he’s actually blowing on it – presumably to cool it down and set the curl. Very strange. Finally, his creative genius exhausted, he brandishes a vast bottle of Elnett, and I’m done.
Mr de Mille, I think I’m ready for my final close-up.
Friday, 22 August 2008
Anyway, after a not very long while I worked out that I could buy a new pair of Louboutins every month for exactly the same money as it was costing me to snivel incoherently and self-pityingly at the head shrinker. And it also occurred to me that if the thought of new shoes was infinitely cheering, then I was probably feeling rather better.
Shoes should always be comforting rather than comfortable. I'd like to think this is the secret etymology of the word 'consoled'. I have been placated by Prada, mollified by Manolos and, once, bright orange Bottega Veneta sandals were just the balm I craved. But in extremis only the mystical properties of Mr Louboutin's red soles will restore one's amour propre.
I have yet to buy the Louboutins. Do I unconsciously anticipate a time when my stiff upper lip will weaken along with my resolve, and my need for consolation will only be assuaged by a trip to Mount Street?