The great Swedish Wagnerian soprano, Birgit Nilsson, when asked what was the most essential requirement for singing the role of Isolde, is said to have replied: “Comfortable shoes”.
Although none of my choir’s upcoming performances is likely to require me to be on my feet for as long as even a single act of Tristan and Isolde, the start of the new concert season made it imperative that I acquire a new pair of black shoes that are both elegant and comfortable.
I put this challenge first to the shoe salesman in one of the Jerusalem branches of H&O. He did his best, poor man, but his quest was doomed to failure. Everything that seemed half way suitable was either unavailable in black, unavailable in my size or unavailable as a pair!
Still, my foray was not a complete waste of time. I came home with a new little black dress (of the kind every woman should have, according to Coco Chanel) and a new black blouse – both of which I should be able to wear for spring and summer performances and neither of which were strictly necessary, as I have an abundance of festive black clothing for concert wear. Still it’s always nice to have something new 😉 .
The following day, I tried my luck at the downtown branch of Hamashbir Latzarchan, which, when I first came on aliyah, over 40 years ago, was Israel’s only real department store and not exactly a flagship of Fashion.
It has changed. I presented my challenge to the head of the shoe department, Gazi. “Elegant – and comfortable?” he said, stroking his chin. “They don’t always go together”.
How’s that for a masterpiece of understatement? In my experience, they hardly ever go together – if at all 😦 .
I was looking for a pair of simple court shoes (pumps) with a fairly low heel – but a heel, nonetheless, and preferably a wide one, as these are far more comfortable when one is going to be on one’s feet for any length of time. I would have considered a cone heel. I refuse to wear stilettos. I won’t even wear kitten heels. I have no intention of torturing myself. I can’t imagine how the fashion industry has managed to convince women that tottering around on four-inch stilts is “power dressing”. To my way of thinking, the kind of man who thinks women look sexy in such instruments of torture is no different from the kind of man who used to fetishize the bound feet of Chinese women. As for Lady Gaga – she must be a masochist!
Gazi first showed me a display stand full of patent leather (or fake leather) shoes. I waved them away. I don’t really care for patent leather. I spotted a stand displaying the Fly Foot brand. These are supposed to be orthopaedically designed – not that my experience in the past with orthopaedically designed shoes has been a happy one. I once bought a pair of Lady Comfort shoes which turned out to be the most uncomfortable shoes it has ever been my misfortune to wear. I couldn’t even wear them long enough to break them in.
I found shoes which looked suitable but turned out to be too narrow. Another pair, which were similar, but wider, were not available in black, only in dark blue. I thought I might be able to get away with that, if I were to wear them with a long skirt or trousers, but it turned out that the size I usually wear was too large for me (or maybe too small – I can’t remember!) and the next size down (or up, as the case may be) was out of stock.
I was beginning to think that I had embarked on Mission Impossible. In despair, I turned back to the black patent shoes Gazi had first shown me.
They fit! They were even moderately comfortable. I began calculating. Could I stand in them for one hour? Just one hour. I believe I could.
I bought them. What else could I do? I must have elegant black shoes for our concerts, especially when I am – occasionally – a soloist. And next week, I am going to the opera. I need to be elegant there as well.
As Gazi said – one has to suffer a little to be beautiful (I retorted that that’s easy for a man to say).
Well, what’s done is done, so let’s hope for the best. When I got them home, and tried them on again with my concert clothes, they were actually more comfortable than in the shop. That’s a promising start. Plus – they were really quite cheap. They were on sale, besides which, I have a Club Member’s card which gives me a considerable reduction.
And I doubt whether they are actually made of real leather, so I can feel virtuous about not being responsible for the slaughter of some hapless animal just to provide me with footwear 😉 .