I have a long history with dance shoes – not so much wearing them as buying them. As a kid I briefly took tap and ballet classes before getting bored and moving on to “tumbling,” but my eldest two daughters were major dancers in their youth. I cannot tell you how many tiny ballet slippers I purchased… and then, later, the costlier toe shoes which I was happy to shell out for, being kind of infatuated with the theatre of it all. Every bit of the outfit had me enchanted. Those pretty black leotards over pale pink tights… the floaty little chiffon skirts that tied at the waist. We even made our own version, years ago, of the classic, cache-coeur ballet warmup sweater. I could do without the buns being quite so severe, but the whole look is pretty perfect.
As many dollars were spent on shoes, hundreds more hours were devoted to various Nutcracker performances, which I never minded. We were mice, we were soldiers, we were angels and polichinelles and “Arabian” dancers. Never Clara. One year, when we were living in Connecticut and the principals came from American Ballet Theatre, our Louisa got to dance on stage with Wendy Whelan, prancing around as a little angel to her Sugar Plum Fairy. It was awesome. But the very best part, by far, was just sitting at dress rehearsals, a baby on my lap and a toddler climbing all over me, listening to that amazing music over and over and over again. Heaven.
Things took a sharp turn a few years later when along came the snappy jazz oxfords. You cannot even imagine those jazz classes and “team” dancing and how sexy and weird some of the moves got. They were barely needing training bras and already vamping on stage. Let me just say that it was fine that Sid happened to be traveling during those particular recitals.
Every year it was a new class and a new pair of shoes – never mind the gear for the annual recital which was a total racket. A ridiculous check written out to the studio for a few yards of cheap Lycra and some sequins. But in the dozens of pairs of shoes over the years, I never ever had to buy a pair of “character shoes” that are worn by ballroom dancers or, say, the Rockettes. Think Dancing With the Stars. I should actually say DWTS, as it was known in our house. Oddly enough, so many years later, long after Elizabeth and Louisa had hung up their slippers, dance came back into our lives when our youngest daughter entered sixth grade and developed a truly fanatical obsession with this reality dancing show. It was completely beyond me. She and her best friend would FaceTime every Monday night to watch together. The friend’s mother treated them to the meet-and-greet when the troupe of DWTS “pros” came through Atlanta and Pauline wept throughout her introduction to Val Chmerkovskiy. It was like Beatlemania. I understood the Justin Bieber thing… but Val…?
But back to the shoes. Dancing is exactly what I think of when I am wearing my absolute favorite new shoes: our Mary Jane Block Heel. (One aside here – to be honest, the “Mary Jane” term may be a bit of a stretch on this one. No woman in her right mind would want to model her look after the original Mary Jane from the Buster Brown comic strip… which is where the name comes from… she is quite freaky looking… but Mary Jane is what it is called. So let’s just get it out on the table that though this is technically a shoe with a strap across the middle, and it does bear the name Mary Jane, this is not a shoe for little girls.)
But it is a shoe that reminds me of dancing. The little heel that gives you some visual length on a stage… a strap to keep it securely on your foot when you give a little kick. I have gone on and on about a block heel already so will not rhapsodize any further on the merits of a just-tall-enough heel.
I love that it feels “open” enough for spring, but something I would wear almost year-round. Out of all the shoes I have amassed in my sixty-something years, I have never really owned anything quite like these. I have an awesome pair of vintage, ankle-strap pumps I bought on a design trip to Italy that are similar… but I have never worn them. As is often the case with vintage shoes – or vintage anything, really - you fall in love with the idea and the specialness, but when it comes to pairing them with your “today” clothes, you just feel… off. Edgy? Anachronistic? Or just somebody’s old shoes?
These, for me, solve that problem. They have all the best parts of vintage shoes, the slight retro attitude, but with none of that off-ness. I am crazy about them. Shoes are such a good wardrobe pick-me-up. All winter long I have thrown on my beloved uniform of short cowboy boots, blue jeans, and a plain cashmere sweater. It is finally starting to feel like spring, and swapping out the boots for these little high steppers is just the ticket. I am not ready for full-on sandals yet, but these seem just right. I love them with a longer silky skirt… sort of old-school dance mistress vibes. They also look incredible with the Column Jeans I wrote about a few weeks ago. You could do some serious dancing with the stretchiness of any of the Fayes.
I needed these (I promise) and think you might, too. Try them on and see if your feet don’t instinctively give a little shuffle-ball-change…