|A fresh-faced 20-something moves
to the big city for her first big job and tiny apartment (you
know the drill). She has hitherto spent her life in flip-flops
and sneakers. Every day on her way to and from work she passes
a shoe store with a pair of black crepe stiletto pumps in the
window. She hardly notices them at first. And then, suddenly,
she realizes she is finding excuses during the day to walk by
that window – lunch, errands, afternoon lattes. Maybe
it’s because she’s just been paid or maybe she’s
just been watching too many “Sex and the City” reruns,
but one day she plucks up her courage and walks in.
A snooty salesman with a foreign accent removes them from their
velvet perch and she slips them on -- a perfect fit. She never
knew that anything made by mortal hands could make her feel
like this! She stands up and begins to walk. As she starts to
clump, shuffle and stomp, the salesman raises a horrified hand.
“Stop!!!” he yells, “I can’t
take it!! Take those pumps off immediately! You don’t
deserve to wear them!”
Without a word, she takes them off and slumps into the nearest
chair, her naked toes curled under in shame, her chin resting
in the palms of her hands. The spell is broken; the dream is
gone. She has never felt so dejected.
The salesman softens slightly. “You know, you’re
not born knowing how to do this. Someone has to show you. Didn’t
your mother teach you how to do this?”
mother got married on the beach in bare feet with flowers in
her hair. She doesn’t even own a pair of high heels,”
“Oh, I see,” he says with a
sigh. “Well, I simply cannot allow myself to sell you
these pumps until you have learned to walk with the grace and
elegance that such fabulous footwear requires.” He sits
down next to her.
“You see, my dear, there is
magic in a pair of high heels. The minute you slip them on,
your feet take on that lovely, rounded arch; your calf muscles
shorten to create a shapely leg, and with every step of that
heel, less than a square centimeter in size, a small shock wave
sends a tiny tremor up the leg to create that lovely, womanly
wiggle. Suddenly your legs are impossibly long and lean and
become what Frenchmen call the “Stairway to Heaven;”
but until you have learned to move in them like a beautiful
melody, there is no magic.”
She slumps deeper in her seat, not even daring to look at him.
When she does look up, he is holding a card out to her. “Here,”
he says, “call this number. If they can’t help you,
no one can.”
She looks at the card -- “Stiletto Boot Camp” and
a phone number underneath. That night she calls. The following
Friday night she and dozens of young girls just like her board
When they arrive at their destination, a tall, slender woman
in impossibly high heels is there to greet them.
to Stiletto Boot Camp, Girls. During the next two days, you
will work harder than you have ever worked. You are coming in
girls, but you are going out women. You will be issued regulation
uniforms, which must be worn at all times -- white cotton blouses
with starched collars and cuffs, black pencil skirts, and black
pointed-toed, four-inch stiletto heels. Your kit bag contains
band-aids, lavender foot spray, gel insoles and Epsom salt foot
soak packets. You will need them.
The Rules here are simple but strictly enforced. Anyone caught
not wearing her regulation stilettos or smuggling in sneakers,
flip-flops or (visible shudder!!) Birkenstocks will be dealt
Following distribution of uniforms and kit bags, the new recruits
are ushered into a large briefing room.
will now be shown a training film in which a series of gorgeous
Hitchcock heroines walk, in some cases float, across the screen.
These, Girls, are your role models. Study them, emulate them,
think of them every time you put on a pair of high heels. By
the time you leave here you will be them.”
The lights dim and a hush descends as they watch Grace Kelly
make one spectacular entrance after another into Jimmy Stewart’s
cramped apartment in Rear Window.
Each outfit is more stunning than the last from a voluminous
tulle skirt that barely fits through the doorway to a filmy
negligee she had earlier removed from the world’s tiniest
overnight bag. (Who says we gals can’t pack light?!) One
of the last of the great cinematic floaters, Grace’s feet
never seem to touch the ground.
Then, they watch a reluctant Kim Novak in Vertigo
try on a pair of black stiletto pumps she doesn’t want
just to please Jimmy Stewart. Even with a sullen look on her
face and her hands stuck resolutely in her pockets as she walks
up and down in front of him, her womanly body cannot help but
respond to that small shock wave, and neither can he.
And finally, they watch as Eva Marie Saint in North
by Northwest gracefully descends the steps of
a train in a form-fitting little black suit and heels. With
pluperfect posture she walks the length of a long platform carrying
a fetching little train case, a smiling Cary Grant admiring
the view from behind.
“Get a good night’s sleep, Girls. The hard work
begins tomorrow. Dismissed!”
Early morning maneuvers are conducted in front of a full-length
mirror. Here our young recruit works on posture. When you put
on a pair of high heels, your body’s center of gravity
shifts slightly forward to the balls of your feet. To correct
that imbalance, she learns to arch her back slightly, which
automatically moves her shoulders back allowing her to stand
up straight. She then practices the pelvic tilt, which creates
a nice, flat tummy.
At this point, the angle of the head is most important. It should
tilt back ever so slightly, chin up (does wonders for your neck!),
so as to complete the line of that perfect posture and add just
the right touch of hauteur as she looks down on the
world from her new lofty height.
Now she is taught how to walk and, equally important, how to
move her arms. Arms must never be held rigidly by your sides,
nor should they flail about like demented windmills. They must
move forward slightly from the elbow, no more than six inches,
with the opposite foot, and back again. The aim is to create
a single, fluid motion, with elegance and grace, even under
The final day is devoted to conquering the stairs. Our recruit
is taught to ascend the stairs on the balls of her feet, never
letting her heels touch the step. (Great for keeping the legs
toned!) When descending the stairs, she learns to touch down
with the toe and then lightly and quickly with the heel before
moving on, never, ever looking down at her feet, which is the
quickest way to lose your balance and end up in a little heap
at the bottom wondering how you got there. The entire stairway
is to be taken in a long, graceful swoop. (My old ballet mistress
called it “swallowing” the stairs as you would a
raw oyster -- in one glorious gulp!)
That night, on the bus going back, she rubs her sore, tired
feet and smiles at the thought of the awkward, clumsy girl who
arrived a few days ago -- now but a distant memory. As she dozes,
she dreams of her miraculous shoes.
Early the next morning, she passes the shoe store on her way
to work and there they are on their velvet perch – her
beautiful shoes. The hours tick by more slowly than usual until,
at last, it is lunchtime. She can’t resist the urge to
run, not walk, to the shoe store. But, as she approaches the
storefront window, her heart sinks. Oh, no! They are gone! In
their place is an insipid pair of brown T-straps with stacked
heels. Someone has purchased her shoes! Distraught,
she turns to go and then realizes she cannot leave without knowing.
She enters the store. It appears to be empty. Suddenly, the
salesman emerges from the back and cradled in his hands are
her black crepe stiletto pumps.
“I believe these
are yours, Mademoiselle,” he says. She sits down. Without
a word, he kneels down in front of her, removes her shoes and
slips her feet into the new pumps. As she floats out of the
store, she knows there will be lots of grilled cheese and tomato
soup dinners in her foreseeable future; but she also knows that
that is a small price to pay for a miracle.
She still passes the shoe store on her way to and from work
every day, but she doesn’t go in. She never sees the salesman,
and somehow she knows she never will.