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Sarah (4)

Sarah (who now insists upon being known as The Sarah) is a poet, an academic, and a professional dillettante and flaneuse.

DEC
2011
24

Santa Manolo?

N.B. Our dear friend the The Sarah has returned with the startling theory!

I’m starting to get a little suspicious about Santa.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I still believe in him! Of course I believe in him. One would have to be entirely foolish not to believe. I have, after all, read my Pascal. And I have small children. Santa’s real all right.

But here’s the thing. I think I know who he really is. I mean, I think I know who he is the rest of the year, when he’s not flying around the world, scampering down chimneys, and dispensing delightful tchotchkes to the deserving.

Consider, my dears, the evidence.

1. His origins and whereabouts are mysterious.

2. We have seen evidence of him, but no one has ever seen the man himself.

3. He is known for his sartorial excellence (Or possibly his peculiarities. I suspect this subtle distinction turns on one’s personal feelings about ermine and red velvet.)

4. He is an appreciator of fine food and drink. Cookies! Milk! Booze! (When I was growing up, Santa expressed a strong preference for a nice single malt.)

5. He is decidedly European in affect, but seems to be most lauded in the US.

6. He has a startling fixation on footwear. In the US he leaves gifts in stockings. In Austria he leaves the gifts in shoes. In Aruba, kids leave shoes filled with food for his horses outside their doors. When the food is eaten, he fills those shoes with gifts. And on it goes. In Belgium, France, Hungary and Germany (where kids apparently polish their shoes in preparation), the Netherlands, Romania, and I’m sure in a lot of places I didn’t manage to google, footwear features heavily in the celebrating of either Christmas or Saint Nicholas’s Day.

And now, my darlings, to the second half of my argument.

I refer you to this very website’s description of our good host. He says of himself that he is, “two parts high-class shoe fetishist, one part Ricky Ricardo, and one part Jacques Barzun, a dash of Ignatius J. Reilly, shake vigorously and decant liberally, and you’ve got Manolo the Shoeblogger.”

Now I ask you! One need not have a PhD in logic or analytical philosophy (and let us be clear that the Sarah does not) in order to figure this out.

Faithful readers, the Manolo is the Santa.

And I’m a 6 ½ B. And I’ve been very very very extremely good this year. And these are tweed Alexander McQueens with sparkly skulls on them. They’re creepy, impertinent, and professorial, much like the Sarah. And they’d add just the right touch to my next discussion of Hamlet.

I’ll leave cookies. I promise.

APR
2011
10

Bronze Boots — My Descent into Sin

N.B. The Manolo’s friend Sarah (who has the new blog!) is back with yet another literary shoe moment which will edify and amuse.

The first shoes I remember wearing were Buster Browns. Every fall my mom would buy a brown pair for my brother, a red pair for my sister, and a blue pair for me. They looked, more or less, like this:

Buster Browns

(It was the early 70s. Toddler-aged boys could wear this kind of thing their fathers worrying about some bizarre danger to their toddler-aged machismo. Darth Maul sneakers hadn’t been invented yet. Darth Maul hadn’t been invented yet. STAR WARS hadn’t been invented yet. I digress.)

For very special occasions, like church and birthday parties, my sister and I had patent leather mary-janes, like these.

My Special Shoes

My Special Shoes

They had soles so slick that Mom had to put strips of electrical tape on the bottom to keep us from wiping out on our way into the Sunday school room. To keep them shiny and prevent them from cracking, we rubbed them with a thin coat of Vaseline every now and again.

You’ll note that the striking thing about these shoes is their complete and utter tediousness. I suppose they’re classically good-looking, but they did nothing to set my poetic little heart on fire with a deep and abiding passion for the cobbler’s art.

No. For that awakening it was necessary, as it always has been, for me to turn to the revelations contained in a good book.

The book, in this case, was Louisa May Alcott’s An Old Fashioned Girl. (I bet at least one of you is already nodding and smiling. I can’t be the only one.) And the scene is this one:

“There’s one thing you must have, and that is, bronze boots,” said Fan, impressively.

“Why must I, when I’ve got enough without?”

“Because it’s the fashion to have them, and you can’t be finished off properly without. I’m going to get a pair, and so must you.”

“Don’t they cost a great deal?”

“Eight or nine dollars, I believe. I have mine charged; but it don’t matter if you haven’t got the money. I can lend you some.”

“I’ve got ten dollars to do what I like with; but it’s meant to get some presents for the children.” And Polly took out her purse in an undecided way.

“You can make presents easy enough. Grandma knows all sorts of nice contrivances. They’ll do just as well; and then you can get your boots.”

“Well; I’ll look at them,” said Polly, following Fanny into the store, feeling rather rich and important to be shopping in this elegant manner.

“Aren’t they lovely? Your foot is perfectly divine in that boot, Polly. Get them for my party; you’ll dance like a fairy,” whispered Fan.

Polly surveyed the dainty, shining boot with the scalloped top, the jaunty heel, and the delicate toe, thought her foot did look very well in it, and after a little pause, said she would have them.

And the picture. Oh my dears, the picture! (Yes, I still have my childhood copy of this novel. And yes, I knew exactly where it was. And yes, I remembered the picture in every tiny detail. It’s my Proustian madeleine, all right?)

Louisa May Alcott's Bronze Boots

Look at those shoes! They beat Buster Browns and mary-janes without even trying. That scalloped top! The curved heel! The instant sophistication! Not to mention the enticing, and to my childhood mind, utterly mysterious descriptor of them as “bronze.” Were they just bronze in color? Were they shiny and metallic like Mom’s fancy dress up sandals? Did they have metal tips on the toes like my tap shoes? What could bronze boots possibly be—beyond beautiful, unattainable, and forbidden?

My desire knew no bounds. It still doesn’t. Looking at that picture again…who wouldn’t want those shoes?

I should, perhaps, be more cautious in my lust. Because there is something about that scene I had forgotten. Because (since An Old-Fashioned Girl is that particular kind of nineteenth-century fiction for girls that, as Alcott put it, “is not intended as a perfect model, but as a possible improvement upon the Girl of the Period”) our Polly learns a sorrowful lesson after buying her boots.

It was all very delightful till she got home, and was alone; then, on looking into her purse, she saw one dollar and the list of things she meant to get for mother and the children. How mean the dollar looked all alone! and how long the list grew when there was nothing to buy the articles.

“I can’t make skates for Ned, nor a desk for Will; and those are what they have set their hearts upon. Father’s book and mother’s collar are impossible now; and I’m a selfish thing to go and spend all my money for myself. How could I do it?” And Polly eyed the new boots reproachfully, as they stood in the first position as if ready for the party. “They are lovely; but I don’t believe they will feel good, for I shall be thinking about my lost presents all the time,” sighed Polly, pushing the enticing boots out of sight.

Bronze boots were clearly going to lead me immediately down the path of temptation, sin, and financial irresponsibility.

I was doomed.

Happily, I am all but impervious to moral instruction, as my detailed recollection of the boots and complete failure to recall their intended lesson clearly indicates. To this day, I am on the alert for bronze boots, in the hopes of dancing like a fairy and looking perfectly divine.

And I swear I shall keep buying more shoes until I find them.

MAR
2011
30

Déshabille

N.B. Here is another guest blog by the Manolo’s friend Sarah, who last time posted about the Shakespearean Stockings

The Manolo and I have had a bit of email correspondence, from time to time, on the entrancing subject of la nostalgie de la boue—longing for the mud— wherein otherwise apparently sensible people spend a few thousand dollars on clothing that appears to have been grabbed from the rag bag moments before being used to shove into a gap that is allowing the fierce winter winds to penetrate one’s attic garret while one burns blog posts to keep warm.

At the far end of the scale from this is the formal, mannered, perfect-in-every-detail, extensively focused on cravats and crinolines kind of style that, for me, is all about the movie, The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Straight Up Pimernelin'

…and Grace Kelly, in Rear Window.

Grace Kelly

Grace!

Somewhere in an erotically-charged sweet spot between the two extremes though, is the delicious notion of déshabille—careful carelessness, artful artlessness, delicately tousled perfection. This is where poetry lives. And poetry lives here because déshabille is all about suggestion, implication, nuance, and detail.

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MAR
2011
14

Malvolio’s Cross-Garter’d Yellow Stockings

N.B. Several of the Manolo’s internet friends have responded heroically to the Manolo’s plaintive call for help. This post, by the marvelously erudite and witty Sarah, is the first of the guest posts provided by these wonderful friends.

The Manolo is in the rut. The Manolo is filled with the ennui.

The Manolo has brought me such pleasure over the years that I have been reading his blogs, and has added so many touches of beauty to my life that I find this douleur completely unacceptable. It is true that March does have a tendency to bring in da funk, but the Manolo must not be permitted to suffer. I am compelled assist him in rediscovering his joie de blog.

And so, with no further ado , let’s talk about Shakespeare.

The great fashion joke in Shakespeare comes in his play Twelfth Night when a pair of wealthy party animals joins up with a clever maidservant to convince the uptight and unfashionable Malvolio that his beautiful young employer, Olivia, is in love with him. As a sign of his passion for her, he is told that he should wear yellow stockings and cross-garters. Our merry pranksters consider this to be as hilarious and humiliating as Charlie Sheen’s latest antics.

For those of us who aren’t living in the seventeenth century, however, the joke falls a little flat.

Here’s what’s going on. Sort of.

The truth is that even those of us who study this stuff aren’t entirely sure why yellow stockings and cross-garters are hilarious. So really, the most famous fashion joke in history is something of a mystery. But I can give you a few possibilities to bring up the next time Shakespeare comes up in conversation as he so often does.

First, yellow stockings and cross garters look like this:

Yellow Stockings and Cross Garters

So that's comedy gold right there.

Second, the flashiness of the cross-garters and yellow stockings is over the top, even for the excesses of men’s fashion in the Renaissance.

Here’s Henry VIII, who was no slouch as a sartorialist. Notice, though, how plain his stockings are.

Henry VIII

Hank 8, Rocking the Stockings and Garters

And he was King! Malvolio is just a steward (a high level servant/manager type).

So, they’re funny-looking, and they’re overly flashy.

It gets worse for Malvolio, though. In the Renaissance, great legs were one of the most enticing and macho things a man could put on display. The other, well….
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