Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why They Called Me Imelda

There was a time when I had what you might call a shoe fetish, though mine paled in comparison to Imelda Marcos’ addiction. Accounts vary, but the former first lady of the Philippines is reputed to have owned more than 5,000 pairs of shoes. Certainly it is a fact 2,700 pairs of her shoes were left behind in Malacanang Palace when the Marcos couple fled their country. While under attack for such mind-boggling excess, Mrs. Marcos claimed in defense, “I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes, I had one thousand and sixty.” Okay then.

I admit to once having around one hundred pairs of shoes. Miniscule though my collection was compared to Mrs. Marcos’, it was large enough for friends to fondly bestow the nickname of Imelda upon me. In lieu of the real thing, they gifted me with scores of shoe collectibles, ranging from exquisite ceramic replicas to a pair of salt and pepper shakers. Shoe cards, shoe calendars, shoe soaps, shoe tee shirts and shoe everything else you can imagine were added to the collection over the years. Now safely stored in my garage (because I no longer have shelf space for them) they’ve become as much of my past as my shoe shopping binges. Also tucked away in a safe place, is the farewell card from my last place of employment. Dominating the front of the card is a life-size painting of a sandal. As you might guess, there’s a story there….and here it is: the shoe addict will stop at nothing to find a shoe they want, need, AND MUST HAVE in their size. The dear friend who indulged me by accompanying me on this quest will remember the search that took us from one end of Miami to the other, desperately seeking the pair of shocking pink sandals, now immortalized on a goodbye card.

But back to Imelda Marcos. Having once been a shoe addict, I have a sense of what drove her to such extremes. For the shoe addict, shoes are more than attire for your feet, more than the component of an outfit. Shoes are Cinderella’s glass slippers. They are Dorothy’s ruby slippers, one pair of which sold for $15,000 in an MGM auction and are now on permanent exhibition at Washington’s Smithsonian Institute. Another pair was originally owned by Roberta Bauman from Tennessee. This pair was sold by Christie’s for $150,000 in 1998. A third pair of the ruby slippers were auctioned, again by Christie’s, for $666,000 on May 24, 2000.

No shoe collector would be surprised at such a sum being laid out for the pair of shoes that are among the most treasured and valuable of all film memorabilia. I confess I would die to own the ruby slippers. But more precious by far are the shoes my mother wore when I was a young child. I remember a pair of bottle green suede pumps in particular. Perhaps my lust for shoes began on the day I sneaked my four-year-old feet into them and wobbled precariously across the floor. I've come back full circle to that day. Walking in high heels has become a precarious undertaking. And yet, I confess to recently yielding to the temptation of a pair of black patent leather pumps with impossibly high heels. I knew I’d never wear them, but I couldn’t bring myself to return them. One day, I removed them from their box and placed them on the top shelf of my desk. After a few months, someone asked what on earth they were doing there. How would I have explained what only a shoe addict would have understood?
Platform shoes made yet another comeback in 2011, but did you know they date back to the 16th century when the courtesans of Venice wore them to protect their feet from dirty streets? The style was called the "Chopine" back then and they were sometimes as high as 20.” Ouch. Think even Lady Gaga couldn’t walk a block in those babies.


  1. I've never gone in for expensive shoes, but I do remember wearing high heels that were so painful it was torturous. But it was essential to my sense of drama at a certain age. And glamor. And being somewhat shorter than most, the extra height gave me the advantage of being literally at a higher level. I wish they made high heels that were comfortable as well as lofty!

  2. The best pair of shoes I ever had was a pair of Charles Jordan evening sandals. The heels were very high, but I could actually walk long distances, and even run a few feet in them. Expensive though.