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Articles By Marie-Thérèse M. Norris 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

 

WELCOME TO STILETTO BOOT CAMP!
By Marie-Thérèse M. Norris
French Touch Image Consulting LLC

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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?”

“My mother got married on the beach in bare feet with flowers in her hair. She doesn’t even own a pair of high heels,” she moans.

“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 a bus.

When they arrive at their destination, a tall, slender woman in impossibly high heels is there to greet them.

“Welcome 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 with severely.”

Following distribution of uniforms and kit bags, the new recruits are ushered into a large briefing room.

“You 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 fire.

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.
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