Recently, I have been packing up my British home to move to my renovated mas in the south of France, where I summer each year. I have a confession to make: of the many cases stacked ready for transportation, more than oneis devoted to shoes.
High heels: beautiful, artistic, show-stopping heels… Is there anything more indulgent and glamourising? Slipping on a pair of heels gives an instant boost. You walk taller and straighter; you walk with intent and a tangible sense of mastery. For indeed, you are mistress of the heel, having conquered, as a young girl, the knack of balance, of negotiating a paved street without stumbling, of walking as though your feet are as comfortable as on a soft white cloud.
Heels are empowering. Take the following excerpt from my novel Masquerade:
Luz looked sophisticated and business-like in a slick, figure-hugging Givenchy dark suit she had bought in London and a pair of Gucci high-heeled shoes which she matched with a Gucci bag. Her beautiful raven hair was not worn loose as usual; this morning she had it in a braided chignon at the base of her neck. Her eyes, though bright, were tinged with the steely grey that denoted her frame of mind: she was going out there today with the firm resolution of winning.
That resolution of winning? Its foundation is the heels! In a sense, balancing all the weight on those tiny points focuses the mind: you are more purposeful; you mean business. As Marilyn Monroe put it, ‘Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.’
Of course, those shoes could be flat. In a recent Vogue interview, designer Manolo Blahnik revealed he had told singer Rihanna, with whom he was collaborating, ‘You can be sexy and beautiful with a flat shoe.’ But she wanted high heels. ‘I loved that,’ he told Vogue,‘and I respect that. I like a woman who knows what she wants.’
And what a woman wants often is beautiful shoes! Of course, I’m not alone in my altocalciphilia (the love of high-heeled shoes). I have no doubt that a key reason for the success of the television show Sex and the City was the heroine Carrie Bradshaw’s passion for heels. Here is one of my favourite scenes, in which it finally dawns on Carrie that her shoe-buying habit, while fabulous, is costly:
Where do you think the love for beautiful shoes originates? For me, I cast my mind back to childhood, when my governess would tell me fairy stories, and I remember so well being enchanted by the romanticism of the Cinderella story and, in particular, these shoes:
The glass shoes, enchanted into existence by a fairy godmother, empower Cinders to stand as an equal with her stepsisters, and in doing so she wins the heart of the prince – who subsequently uses the shoe to find her, and then places it reverentlyon her foot. Swoon!
Amy Adams, who played the lead in the recent Disney live-action remake of Cinderella, said, ‘I like Cinderella, I really do. She has a good work ethic. And she likes shoes. The fairy tale is all about the shoe at the end.’
Sometimes, though, the true fairy tale commences when the heels are removed. In Masquerade, for example, Luz must remove her shoes in order to take a moonlit walk on the beach:
They walked along the beach in tranquil silence, moving gently beneath a navy-blue canopy patterned with merry stars that winked in the night as though they shared a private joke. The night here was tender. Most of the fishing boats, which had dotted the blue ocean so picturesquely with pinprick lights, had gone. Luz glanced up at him as she carried her shoes, enjoying the sensation of the cool sand between her toes. She was aware of the aggressively male muscled body an inch away from hers. It gave her a sense of security that she had never experienced before.
If heels make a woman feel strong, indomitable, then their removal introduces vulnerability. But to be in love, to be intimate, requires vulnerability. My advice? Wear stunning high heels on a date – but choose a pair your partner can slowly and reverently remove for you.