Style Stories

3rd August 2010

My snakeskin shoes were part of my grandmother Gally’s trousseau as she made the gruelling passage to India to start a new life in the 1940’s.

She sold most of her possessions to get the fare, but the shoes survived. The uppers are soft and matte, cradling the foot like a pouch. The diamond-shaped scales perfectly emboss the snakey markings. The high collar at the back comes right up the ankle, so that in combination with the three inch heel the foot is given a long-line elegance.

The toe puffs of these handsome shoes are unusually bulbous, in contrast to their slenderly waisted lengths. The sole is the same rich tan leather as the trim around the edge of the shoe, adding luxury in the same way as the red sole of a Louboutin might.

Gally’s stories about India and Egypt were tales of a lost time: of the red sea, sea horses, elephants, hard conditions in army barracks, and then later, holidays on houseboats down the Nile accompanied by cooks and caterers. Talking of my grandfather, she always said that he taught her everything she knew about life.

The idea of a trousseau, the carefully itemised clothes and embroidered linens to take into marriage, has always held a great appeal for me. I love the idea of preparing these sturdily-made items, with all the hopes and fears, love and excitement imbued into every stitch.

Gally had to write to the MoD five times for permission to travel to India, where her husband was stationed during World War II. Every time, in the box labeled Reason For Travel, she would state, to be married. They repeatedly refused, and finally she begged, please, it’s my last chance, as the final boat allowing civilians on board was set to leave. I’ll not give up, she wrote. Finally she received the answer she had been waiting for, with a handwritten note wishing her joy.

It’s love, and life, in a pair of shoes. Should the day come for a special celebration of love in my life, I’ll be wearing these shoes. And of course, they come with a bag, but that’s another story.

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