...Then the two sisters were very glad, because they had pretty feet. The eldest went to her room to try on the shoe, and her mother stood by. But she could not get her great toe into it, for the shoe was too small; then her mother handed her a knife, and said, “Cut the toe off, for when you are queen you will never have to go on foot.” So the girl cut her toe off, squeezed her foot into the shoe, concealed the pain, and went down to the prince.
Whenever I read Aschenputtel, I'm reminded that it doesn't take a handsome prince to make a woman go through this kind of pain these days - fashion alone will do it: seemingly we're all penitents on a fashion pilgrimage, offering up our suffering as sacrifice. I've spent many happy minutes playing hookey in the fashion cupboard at work, trying on the dozens of glorious shoes that come in to be photographed for the magazine, each more exquisitely agonising than the last. I remember a pair of cranberry coloured glacé kid Louboutins which were so high they immediately hurt my knees, so heaven only knows what they'd be like after an hour, and a mouthwatering pair of Yves Saint Laurent Tribtoo shoes with a skyscraper of a platform and a needle heel that just screamed 'broken ankle'. My own shoe cupboard is full of beautiful high heels - and there are a fair few that could really do with me amputating a toe or slicing off a heel to make them anything like wearable.
There was a time when I didn't care about the fact most of my shoes made me feel as if I were walking on sharp swords like the Little Mermaid. The loveliness of them far outweighed their purpose and made walking to the end of the office without wincing seem like an indulgence. Part of me still feels that way, and now I've put Party Feet in every pair I own, and have reined in some of my ambition when it comes to heel height, I still like to sit and admire my feet in a nice pair of Ferragamos or Louboutins or even in the petrol blue Kurt Geiger shoeboots I'm wearing today.
However, the weather and the recession have instigated a recent change in Trefusis footwear policy: when I started this blog, it read 'Mrs Trefusis Takes a Taxi...because she eschews sensible shoes'. Well, um, what can I say - for the sake of veracity, I've had to remove that promise. I no longer eschew the sensible or the comfortable. Partly it's because taxis have become something of a luxury rather than a necessity - and let me tell you, I'm absolutely delighted to have discovered the bus; nearly as good as a taxi in Central London and only £1.20 a journey with an Oyster Card. Really, too marvellous. But mostly it's because that when it's wet or snowy or icy underfoot, heels just don't cut it. It's not simply that I don't want to wreck something that costs more money than I could ever admit to Mr Trefusis, it's that I'd rather remain on terra firma. I'm afraid I bought UGGS. God knows, I swore I never would, but I can't tell you the loveliness of always having warm and cosy feet, being able to walk fast - especially if I can see the right bus is coming - and of having toes and heels and insteps that no longer beg for mercy. I do call them Ugh's, because no one can deny they're works of infernal hideousness, but I'm definitely prepared to sacrifice style for comfort - at least out of doors.
But perhaps I haven't strayed that far from the Cinderella myth: according to Wikipedia, in Perrault's version, Cinderella wore fur boots - 'pantoufle en vair' - but when the story was translated from the French, vair was mistaken for verre (glass). So Cinderella was, at least in one account, a sensible girl too - and right now, in snow-bound Britain, a fur boot trumps a glass slipper, prince or no prince.