My mother is a girly girl. She grew up wearing dresses and heels and pearls. She went to dances and events dressed in gowns or fancy dresses and wore 4-inch heels. I was fascinated by her high heels.
She was born in 1919 with ankle problems and had to wear corrective ankle boots. In middle school when her younger sister started wearing fancier shoes with a heel, my mother still had to wear the corrective boots. She hated them. But in high school, the Doctor allowed her to start wearing heels and she never looked back.
I was born in 1961 when my mother was 42. I was the last of 5 children and the third daughter. The oldest was a girly girl like her. She was born in 1941 and was my mother’s constant companion when Dad went to war. Her next child, a girl, was a tom-boy who followed her father around and then there were two boys, who also followed their father around. She was hoping that her last girl would be the bookend to the oldest and also be a girly girl. My mother was disappointed.
In our neighborhood, there were no girls my age. The two siblings closest to my age were both boys. I ran with the boys. I played football and basketball and baseball. I was a marble champ at school and ruthless in kickball. Once, Santa brought me a doll carriage with a baby doll in it. I cried because my brothers got Tonka trucks and I didn’t.
One year, my mother made me a beautiful gown out of navy satin material. She had me put it on and while roughhousing with my brothers, my nose bled all over it. That was the last time she made me anything to wear. In fact, it was the last time she sewed any outfit. Instead, she gave her sewing machine to my sister and only hemmed pants from then on. Although, this was also around the same time my mother started working full-time, so that may have had an impact on it.
Even though I didn’t like to dress up, I did love to watch my mother get dressed up. She would transform herself from a tired mother into an elegant partner for my father. Her clothes were fancy, but it was her shoes that drew my attention. She had over 50 pairs of them in two containers under the bed. When she would get dressed, it was my job to pull one container out at a time while we looked in each slot for the exact pair of shoes she was going to wear.
While there were some sandals in her collection her preferred shoe for dancing was the pump. The pump with the 4-inch heel. (The 4 inches added to her height and made her the perfect dancing partner for my father.) She had black pumps and navy ones, taupe ones and white ones. There were some that were both black and white while another pair was red, white, and blue. She even had a silver pair and another pair that was gold.
I think she felt I would grow out of it. Maybe by the time I got to high school, I’d be into makeup and jewelry and dresses and shoes. Not happening. In high school, I wore hiking boots (and platform boots too!) and I joined the hiking club. Sometimes I dressed like Annie Hall, mostly, I just dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt (yes, a flannel shirt, it was the 70’s.) My one nod to shoe fashion was that on my Converse sneakers I tied bells so that each step rang out my presence.
Of my mother’s shoes, the pair that I was most fascinated by was pink. But the shoes weren’t just pink. They were encrusted with crystal sparkles and winked and blinked in the light. They drew my attention right away. It was these and the gold ones that she saved for the most special occasions. I must admit that I would look at these pink shoes the most. I would take them out and admire their rough surface of sparkling crystals. I’d turn them in the light marveling at the sparkles. I’d try to imagine wearing them, but couldn’t really. Even then, I hated heels.
When I was married in the 1980’s, big everything was in. Big hair, big shoulder pads, and massive gowns. None of it was me, it just made me cringe. While shopping for wedding gowns, my Mother was trying to find fancier gowns with a big train and lots of lace and beading. I was looking for something different and I found it. A simple empire gown with off the shoulder sleeves. No beading. No lace. No train. Even my mother had to admit that it was the perfect dress for me. Being only 5’ 1” tall, I did make one concession that my mother approved of. I wore 4-inch heels.
You can find more stories about my mother at Mommyisms.