Years ago, while in pre-production, I was working with our brilliant but mercurial Wardrobe Designer, groping towards a specific and unique look for an actress.
I kept talking about blouses and skirts, fabric, cut, silhouette. I was, I admit, showing off my knowledge of Hollywood costume design history. I dropped learned references to the great designers: Adrian’s (real name: Adrian Adolph Greenberg) brilliant work camouflaging Joan Crawford’s linebacker shoulders with sharp padding, Travis Banton’s Pygmalion transformation of Carole Lombard (real name: Jane Alice Peters) from a cheap tootsie into a sophisticated clothes horse, and Helen Rose’s classically elegant and ultra-feminine chiffon creations for Elizabeth Taylor,
My Wardrobe Designer waved away my suggestions and said:
I was like: “Huh?”
She said: “For women, I build the wardrobe from the ground up. Footwear.”
My head was, I kid you not, spinning.
“The shoes a woman wears defines who she is.”
Wardrobe Designer gestured to an actress tipping around in fire engine nose-bleed stilettos.
Nodding towards a female production assistant clomping back and forth in thick-soled brogues, Wardrobe Designer said:
“Sudden attack of manhood.”
Light bulb ablaze over head. Ah, enlightenment.
Wardrobe Designer concluded: “Show me a woman’s shoes and I know everything about her.”
Our interior designer, the exacting, but client-friendly Erin is back. So much work and so many visits to get a master bedroom into a livable, sleepable, workable space.
Looking all crisp and businesslike in dark pencil skirt inscribed with barely-there pinstripes, Erin listens as our electrician explains why he missed an appointment at Casa Avrech the other day:
“My union called me, out of the nowhere, said I had to take an unscheduled drug test. It’s like this thing the union does with the membership.”
Erin chuckles, makes excellent small talk, putting the electrician at ease, then shoots across the room and examines an outlet. She talks placement, junction boxes, annoying wall studs. The electrician is putty in her hands. Erin is simultaneously boss-lady and girl-buddy. She’s got that elegant Norma Shearer vibe cross referenced with tough girl Ida Lupino.
Her shoes—on sale at Saks—definitely carry the message.
Yes, that’s what these Chanel pumps reference.
But the design builds on Keeler’s single strap shoes. Chanel adds two more straps—good things come in three’s—and with the needle high heel we’re getting a sultry hint of the combustible Brigitte Bardot in Viva Maria.
As we’ve said in previous posts, great footwear:
1. Inspires awe.
2. Intimidates with tiny shivers of fear.
And now we add a third commandment: Great footwear has:
3. Architectural presence.
The three straps echo the great flying buttresses of the Chartres Cathedral.
And the three pale shoe buttons recall the Napoleonic march of ivory buttons on leather opera gloves—a great romantic gesture—think Jeanette MacDonald in, oh, any of her light opera movies.
How to describe the color of the shoes?
Frankly, yours truly is stumped. It’s an existential moment. Where to turn, what to do?
Florence kvells over Erin’s shoes and absolutely nails the color:
Slip me on, whisper the shoes, and I will transform you into a terrifyingly capable woman, a woman who can easily kibitz with rough hewn electricians, go on to design and build great spaces—and yet remain special forces feminine.
Karen and I wish all our friends and relatives a lovely and meaningful Shabbat.