Love those red shoes!

When in doubt, wear red. Red is the ultimate cure for sadness.” –Bill Blass

Big news for devoted fans of red shoes: A pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz will be auctioned off in December by Profiles in History, a California auction house.

As MSN Entertainment reported last week, replicas of the ruby slippers, including stunt shoes for the film, were sold in previous auctions. But the pair that’s up for bidding at the “Icons of Hollywood” event is one of four original pairs used in the filming of The Wizard of Oz in 1939. (One pair is displayed at the “Icons of American Culture” exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.)

I’ve always thought it strange that the famous shoes were called “slippers” in the classic film. Most women would agree that they were actually pumps with substantial heels. Those heels took Dorothy on a major detour through the haunted woods and held up for her big chase scene at the Wicked Witch’s castle. By the time she finally reached Oz, her footwear hadn’t lost a single sequin. That was one powerful pair of slippers.

The ruby slippers inspired me, early on, to start my own small collection of red shoes. Shopping online last month, I discovered a glittery pair that conjured a cheerful memory of Garland dancing with Ray Bolger’s “Scarecrow” down the Yellow Brick Road. Mine will likely dance with my husband at a Christmas party or a wedding reception. But even though I had no specific occasion in mind — and I really didn’t need more shoes! — I had to purchase the pair right away.

So, what is it about red shoes? Aside from their literary ties to the fabled Oz, why do red shoes seem to possess magical attributes?

For some fresh insight, I approached a long-distance friend, Bridgette, whose delightful blog is titled Life in Red Shoes. Bridgette claims that you can’t have a bad day if you’re wearing a pair of red shoes.

“I love them, wildly, madly, deeply. Just can’t get enough,” Bridgette told me.

“It was during a low point, one that lasted several years, that I bought my first pair of red shoes. It must have been the late 80s, and color was all the rage…remember neon? I was in a Payless shoe store, the only place I could afford at the time, and there they were — a pair of cherry red moc crock loafers!”

Bridgette was smitten, but she wondered: Were the shoes too bold? Do I dare wear them? What would people think? Of course, she bought the shoes anyway, and it didn’t take her long to find the courage to wear them. Today, she owns an impressive collection of footwear in riotous shades of red.


So, what is it about red shoes? Aside from their literary ties to the fabled Oz, why do red shoes seem to possess magical attributes?

As most women agree, red shoes aren’t for shrinking violets. They’re for women who refuse to surrender to a lousy mood; women who believe they have a God-given right to have fun — at any age.

“Wearing red shoes makes a statement,” Bridgette explains. “When you wear red shoes, you’re saying: I don’t take myself too seriously, I laugh out loud, and I don’t let the bastards get me down! Wearing a pair of red shoes is like adding an exclamation mark to your outfit, a smile to your feet, sunbeams streaming to your toes!”

But Bridgette’s blog isn’t limited to the topic of collecting shoes. For this grandmother in Utah, “Life in Red Shoes” is a byproduct of her midlife mission. It’s all about rediscovering what makes her happy — and finding inspiration in her daily round. She might post a reflection on her experience as a school teacher or share photos of a new craft project she just finished.

That said, when I first discovered Bridgette’s blog, I was inspired to pull my own collection of red shoes from the back of my closet — and to start wearing them.

My red shoes are a small but powerful antidote to the problems I’ve been wrestling with lately — including finding the right help for an elderly mother who’s falling under the cruel spell of dementia. As Bridgette reminded me, it’s important for all of us to savor the simple pleasures that lift our spirits, and to seize, as Dorothy did, every chance we get to step out of our comfort zones.

If you’re not a wearer of red shoes, do you have another article of footwear or clothing that wakes you up and makes your heart sing? — Cindy La Ferle

QUICK UPDATE: Bridgette, otherwise known to her friends as “Red,” just posted some photographs of her feet wearing red shoes from her impressive collection. Click here to see the photos on “Life in Red Shoes.”

Vintage duds

Clothes make the man.  Naked people have little or no influence on society.”  ~Mark Twain

I have a love-hate relationship with fashion — or, should I say, fashion trends? I’m suspicious of magazines that try to dictate what’s in and what’s out. And I resent the fashion editors and “style experts” who make me feel old or uncool or unattractive if I’m not following their advice or wearing what they advertise. (Who the heck are these people, anyway?)

Yet I’ve always adored beautifully crafted and unusual clothes, new and old.

I’m especially intrigued by vintage clothing, and for years I’ve haunted thrift shops in search of one-of-a-kind treasures to mix with my own wardrobe basics. What I enjoy most about vintage pieces is how they make an outfit totally personal — especially when combined with something classic or relatively new.

Among my favorite pieces: A vintage Christian Dior tux jacket; a way-cool military style coat with unusual detailing; and a double-breasted black polyester blazer with big buttons, circa 1975. I also own vintage scarves, belts, and evening bags — always handy for jazzing up an outfit. While some of my evening dresses from the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s are collectibles and not entirely suitable for wearing out, I use and enjoy most of my vintage clothing.

Luckily, I have a large attic for storing my finds. And lately, some of the things I’ve collected have come in handy for my part-time work as a background extra in films.  Typically, background actors are given costume guidelines and asked to bring their own clothes to a shoot. The wardrobe department must approve our choices, or provide another option. The more clothing options we have, the more likely we are to make the production people happy — and ultimately snare more bookings. So it helps to keep a variety of clothing at the ready for this type of work.

Earlier this summer, though, Doug and I were cast in a scene calling for western wear, which sent us on a quick search for western-style shirts and cowboy hats. This isn’t the sort of attire we’d typically sport in suburban Detroit unless we were invited to a Halloween party. So thank goodness for the local thrift shops, which happened to have all kinds of affordable options.

A week later, we were booked for two scenes set in 1980s Paris.  As it happens, I own an Ungaro khaki blazer and a cool trench coat (both thrift-shop finds) from the era. I made a quick trip to the Salvation Army thrift store (during their summer sale) and picked up a couple of 1980s dresses for less than four dollars each.  I brought it all to the fitting with my vintage Chanel scarf — and voila! — the wardrobe people were duly impressed.

Whether I’m shopping for a costume or my personal wardrobe, I carefully examine thrift-shop clothing for damage before I make a purchase. I’m not an accomplished seamstress, but I’m handy with minor repairs and stain removal — and always willing to change buttons.

An added bonus: Some of the best thrift shops in my community support local charities, or are run by charitable organizations. It feels good to know that my purchases will benefit others in need. Fashion is fleeting, after all, and I’m glad I don’t have to break the bank for it.  — Cindy La Ferle

If you’re new to “thrifting” or want to learn more about vintage clothing, start with a copy of The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping, by Melody Fortier, which provides a good introduction and is one of the newer books on the topic.