The Shoe Princess' Guide to the Galaxy

Has motherhood impinged on your shoe collection?
Has motherhood impinged on your shoe collection? 

Shoes, I am afraid to say, really do mean a lot to me. You know how men seem completely incapable of going down a street without eyeing every woman in a fox-like flash? Well, that’s me – but with shoes. I simply cannot help it. It’s reflexive. Addictive. Compulsive. Trainspottingly, planespottingly mad.

In fact, it’s probably true to say that all the most memorable events in my life can be linked with shoes in some way:

Current count: fifty-five pairs of pink shoes - but this does also include multiple coloured shoes and some rather gorgeous jewelly slippers.

First Love
Definitely the canary yellow, patent leather ‘Mary Janes’ adorned with white, daisy appliquéd motifs and secured by chunky, plastic daisy shaped buckles that I wore to Sarah Nelson’s 4th birthday party.  They were like giant Jelly Beans on my feet – a constant source of temptation.  I wore those shoes until my toes crumpled up so hard against the front that it was an art to walk without wincing.  (A useful skill for my later stiletto-wearing life!)

First Illicit Tryst  
Secretly spending what seemed like hours hiding in the forbidden womb of Mum’s shoe cupboard, with my next-door neighbour and co-conspirator, Will - aged six. We took it in turns to try on four-inch red platform wedge sandals and fabulous black, French faux patent-leather ‘sock boots’ of 1960s vintage. Several years later, they made it into our dress-up box; and we spent many happy hours dancing and miming the words to ABBA songs in them. And no, Will is not today a transvestite cabaret dancer at Madam Jo Jo’s. He is in fact a librarian.  

Best Advice
“Good grooming and good shoes hide a multitude of sins.” Mrs Kitty Trigby, guru on all that is sparkly and gorgeous in the world, c1980. I vividly remember her ‘shoe stories’ – of journeys to Harrods to get her “little Amalfies” and “little Ferragamos” or down to Chelsea to get her “little Manolos” (decades before Carrie made them famous). I’ve certainly made a few more “little” friends of this kind since then, like: Gina, Jimmy, Sergio, Anya, Christian, Robert, Chloe, Jesus, Patrick, Lu Lu, Kert and Jil.  

First Broken Heart (mine, not his)
Mr two-toned brogue, caddish rogue. I should have known not to trust such a show pony. Never made that mistake again. Point to note: a similar theory applies to men wearing bright red, yellow or purple shoes. Like a luminescent rainforest snake advertising his lethal venom, stay away from this predator.

THE One
When I agreed, without a moment’s hesitation, to go on a romantic, post-dinner stroll along slushy, snow-covered streets in my kitten-heeled, candy-pink, suede sling-backs – I knew Tim was THE one. Shortly thereafter we moved in together – minus one pair of candy-pink suede sling-backs.      

Wedding  
Sometimes I despair that I’m the only person in the whole wedding-industry-world that understands the true importance of the wedding shoes. Quite simply, they dictate everything: I could not possibly have been expected to decide on my dress without having first chosen the shoes. Have you ever heard of a skyscraper being built before the foundations are laid? I think not. Hence the parade of wedding shoes rejects and my final choice:  

- Emma Hope Elizabethan brocade slippers. Tim was mortified by my suggestion of velvet pantaloons, trumpeters and a gothic reception hall, grumbling that I wanted to turn the whole event into a ghastly costume drama.

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- White, kid leather, Vivienne Westwood platforms, studded with chrome, spiked hearts. ‘Start as you mean to continue,’ I always say.  Tragically, the junior bridesmaids would have looked a tad vulgar in their bustiers and matching three-inch platforms. Far too risqué for Dad and any attempt at the dance floor would have been suicidal, á la Naomi Campbell.

- I finally settled upon a pair of crimsony/cerisey/raspberry toned, hand embroidered, Ottoman silk Manolo Blahnik court shoes, with exquisite ten-centimetre stiletto heels, lined in gold leaf with a delicate silk faille ribbon tie across the instep. In turn, parting with more than a sizeable chunk of my last pay cheque as a single girl. They peeked out from underneath the hem of my full-length, silk organza Grace Kelly inspired gown like the cheeky little courtesans that they were – a sure clue to Tim of adventures ahead.     

Honeymoon
Rather a disappointment. Thanks to the ‘hiking boots from hell’ – my wedding gift from Tim. I was so sure that he was going to whisk me away to a sophisticated pamper palace in the Seychelles, I had taken it upon myself to buy a full suitcase of coordinated resort wear and shoes. (The last big splurge as a single girl thing again. Goodness knows I had left enough brochures of ‘6 Star Resorts of the World’ around the flat for him - with dog eared pages and little yellow sticky notes with flight numbers and sample itineraries on them.  Instead, we went hiking. In Scotland. NO ONE goes to Scotland for their honeymoon. Not even the Scots. It rained for ten days straight. I buried the boots in a muddy grave at the end. And didn’t speak to him for days.   

Pink Period  
Current count: fifty-five pairs of pink shoes - but this does also include multiple coloured shoes and some rather gorgeous jewelly slippers.  

Pregnancy and Childbirth  
How could I forget Clotilde! She was in my ante-natal class, and defiantly wore clicky, swingy, sexy high-heeled shoes throughout her entire pregnancy. Not to mention effortlessly chic black Lycra tube dresses and g-string knickers (when we were all in granny-maxi-supports) - to the jubilation of the dads each week. You really have to give it to the French - they know how to tie a scarf and not let little things like a gravity-defying watermelon stuck to your stomach get in the way of appearances. An inspiration to us all.

On the flip side, I discovered the hitherto unknown benefits of flat mules – at Tim’s insistence. He was so worried I’d take a tumble and squish ‘our’ baby in my usual spikes, that he dragged me into town to trade them in. I’ll forever remember the miles I walked in my red and white polka dot ‘flats’ during the early hours of Millie’s labour, and not to mention the succession of nameless, bad-arse midwives in appallingly dire shoes (white cloggy things with impatient little snub toes).  

Motherhood
By rights, I should today be sitting in the front room of my five-storey Primrose Hill townhouse. Kicking off my sassy yet sensible work pumps and unwinding from a hard day at the London offices of the United Nations, where I head a team of lawyers on the intricacies of international human rights in war zones. The peaceful karma of the house interrupted only by the rhythmical drone of the breast pump, and the contented gurgling of Millie and her adoringly attentive nanny in the nearby nursery. While the housekeeper cooks a scrumptious meal (and a snack for the night nanny) for me to share with Tim when he returns home from a day’s hectic trading at the investment bank.   

That’s what us Cosmo-career-girls do, don’t we? Have it all. Funny how things pan out, isn’t it. In the REAL world.

Extract from The Shoe Princess's Guide to the Galaxy by Emma Bowd.