Tell the Tale: Julie Alvin’s Ferragamo Slingbacks
I wear heels a handful of times a year—to weddings, mostly, but also the occasional cocktail party or job interview—and on these rare occasions, I still pack a pair of ballet slippers in my bag. I wear Keds to work, and I’ve even convinced an affianced friend to let me upend her chosen bridesmaid uniform, eschewing the three-inch nude pumps in favor of some strappy, champagne-colored flats, lest I mar her special day with a stumble down the aisle. I don’t feel like myself in heels—they add a certain strut to my step that some women relish but that makes me feel like I’m trying too hard, and in a city where I use my own two feet to get almost everywhere I want to go, I hate the idea of making the miles I walk each day at all uncomfortable. It’s unusual then, for someone who likes to scoot around town in the footwear of a twelve year old, unencumbered by any additional height or awkward arch, that one of the most treasured items in my wardrobe is a pair of heels.
It took some convincing to get my mom to pass along the oxblood Ferragamo slingbacks. Her feet had long since decamped for the more cushioned confines of Geox flats and Merrell slip-ons, but still she was reluctant. I had admired the shoes for twenty years—I don’t know if I noticed the dainty, rounded toe, the retro bowtie crafted from sturdy leather, or the demure heel, but I certainly noticed that she loved them. And that these were the shoes she wore whenever she got dressed up. Not Sunday-at-church dressed-up, but really dressed-up—the kind that meant she and Dad were going out to a party: bouncy hair, Clinique raspberry glacé lipstick, a cloud of Tresor following her through each room. She paired them with a silky green dress with strong shoulders, gold buttons, and a black tie at the neck—a garment that didn’t age quite as well as the shoes.
When she finally agreed to part ways with them a few years ago (I’m sure I wooed her with some promise of a short-term loan—no really, just until I come home to Michigan next), I felt like I had been gifted some entry into the adult world. No adolescent could wear these shoes. They were the accessory of someone who went to ‘functions’ and drank pinot grigio and arrived at get-togethers holding a tray of cream cheese and black olive pinwheels. I may smell like lilac fragrance oil rather than Lancôme, and I may wear skinny jeans more often than ladylike dresses, but when I put on those shoes, a handful of times a year, I feel like a grown-up. —julie alvin