Monday, May 5, 2008

hot fashion story

There comes a time in every girl's life when the Dr. Scholl's or the genuine Swedish clogs simply don't provide that certain je ne sais qua required for full enjoyment of modern life. Sometimes you just have to ditch the jeans (or the overalls), put on the cute little dress and step out in something fancy. Let the world know when it comes to style that you set the trends and not by buying the season's latest as dictated by Sears or JC Penney.

Living on the east coast clothes were not the problem. Several times a year my friends and I would head to Filene's Basement Store in Boston early on a Saturday morning. They had clothes from all of the most expensive and exclusive stores in the country with the incredible benefit that the minute an item went on sale there it was already marked 50% off.. and there was a little date sticker on each price tag. Every day the price dropped by another 10% so it was easy to buy a lot of very cool clothes for a small amount of money. We'd dive into the chaos of the double deep Basement with the plan to meet at a particular spot some hours later. To give you an idea how big the place was (and may still be) we hardly ever met each other while there. The other weird thing was there were no changing rooms so you had to try things on in the aisles and hope nobody took the clothes you'd arrived in as a particular great bargain. People (well okay, men) would stand up on the balconies just to watch the women shop. The lingerie department was always well observed.

Shoes, cool shoes, were harder to find and percentage wise as expensive then as they are now. Plus, there were no Manalo Blahnik's or Roger Vivier's even if you were crazy enough or had a serious enough foot fetish to consider spending thousands for a pair. Nevertheless, shoes can make us feel beautiful and when you've just bought a little red silk dress for $15 instead of the original $300 asking price, it would be neat to have a pair of shoes to show it off.

In downtown Providence I found 'Adele's' - a store that had been opened in 1932 - and one look in the window was all it took to know I'd found the holy grail of fancy shoedom.

There were some odd things about the store once you went inside, the most noticeable of which was that they appeared to have shoes dating back to when the place first opened. Shelves of shoe boxes stretched to the ceiling and there were shoes on tables, under tables, in cartons, racks and stacks everywhere. There was even a floor above used as a warehouse for the overload. Two nice young men, her nephews, were always pleased to help but there was something funny going on too. You see, tucked away among the shoe boxes, there was a very old lady sitting on a little platform. If you liked a particular shoe (and you could only ever find one of a pair) one of the men would take it over to her and a quiet conversation would ensue. If the woman liked the way you looked or behaved or whatever, then the guy would go off and find the matching shoe. If you wanted to buy a pair another private conference took place about the price. She must have liked me because I bought a collection of antique shoes from the 30's, 40's and 50's for about $2 a pair. Most were Italian made and a few were snakeskin and alligator - platforms, wedges, maryjanes and 3+ inch heels. I was a tall, sexy lady in those shoes.

Wearing our designer dresses, garters, bustiers, seamed stockings and fine shoes we were a party waiting to happen and happen it did. I have this good friend, really good friend, really really good friend I've been living with for a long time and among his many talents is being a musician and song writer. At that time he'd written some new songs and was planning to perform them in front of a genuine audience - on a stage, with lights, with microphones, with a sound system. I mean REALLY.

For a very brief time we were a band - kind of like a reprise of Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. We were the Andrews Sisters, Tina Turner and the Lickettes rolled into one tight little group singing backup and playing percussion. Everybody should get to have that much fun at least once.

Like innocent bystanders watching our time go by (I just had to quote my favorite song by Dan Hicks - Moody Richard) we witnessed the day when a local cooking school bought up the block in downtown Providence where Adele's store sat. Deals were done and everybody moved out - everybody but Adele who owned her building and refused to sell. So far as the school was concerned plans were far advanced with construction scheduled, students accepted and one little old lady with a shoe store was in the way of progress.

Funny how these things happen but one night the building caught on fire. Nobody was hurt but the building, shoes and all, was gone by the next morning when the fire marshall declared it a total loss. I've always wondered about those two nice young men..


  1. Hmmmm, doesn't sound so "nice." Susan, you have a way with stories. I admire this talent.

  2. scarlet - Better known for being 'good' than 'nice'.

  3. This is such a great story and I love your illustrations. You have a wonderful way with story telling and your illustrations further bring the story to life!

    Adele's sounds like a dream. How I would love to shop there and see how the older woman favored (er, or maybe did not favor?) me. So very suspicious how her building burned down. And quite tragic. Have you found anything like that (aside from Filene's?) since? Have you ever posted photos of these fabulous shoes you found at Adele's? I'd love to see them! :)

  4. b - Glad you enjoyed the story.. with me it's always the pictures that come first and the the story follows along if I'm lucky.

    No, I never took pictures of any of the shoes although there may be photos of me and my friends wearing them You'd be able to tell by the grins.

  5. That really fascinates me, that you can draw the picture and then come up with the story. For me, visual stimulation often inspires my writing but it would be a sad day if I attempted to draw anything and go from there! :) Truly, you are very talented in both regards!!

    The grins never betray, do they? :)

  6. b - Yeah, I've grumbled now and the about not being a very good writer in spite of having read several miles worth of good, as well as just plain fun, books. I have a distinctly visual imagination and my only problem is finding the time to draw.

    and no.. grins don't betray :-)