LaVelle Olexa: If the Shoe Fits
I can still remember a day in the early 60s when I walked into a shoe store in Texas and spotted the most incredible pair of black suede lace stilettos. It was love at first sight, and I knew immediately that my life would not be the same without them. Although the only pair remaining was a size 6 ½ AA and I was a 7 ½, I wedged my feet into those Cinderella slippers and was determined not to leave the store without them. I completed the purchase, walked out of the store, and never looked back. I wore those shoes at every opportunity—and even though my feet suffered each time, the compliments alone found me floating on air.
The trend continued. As a fashion model for Neiman Marcus during that same decade, I enthusiastically embraced that it was all about shoes—any fabulous shoe, any size. As models, we often wore shoes that were too small, too large, sometimes even crimping our toes to keep them on. As long as the shoe looked right, that was all that mattered.
I carried that general theme into my retailing career. I continued to wear heels—the higher, the better—running through market appointments, dashing from place to place from early morning until late at night. A friend even suggested that I might have Barbie feet, with the high arch molded in place (it was perhaps not very far from the truth). High heels had become a necessity, a blending of vanity and power. After all, to look tall was to feel tall.
Sometimes, it wasn’t so bad. But I recall being at the Met Costume party one year, wearing a pair of stilleto Manolo sandals with a clear plastic thong that cut between my toes and into my foot with piercing pain at each and every step. As I smiled and chatted at the event, I missed much of anything and everything around me. All I could think about was whether I’d be able to hold out until that precious moment arrived, when at long last I could sit down at my table. But, I looked good (or at least I assumed I did—as long as the excruciating pain I felt wasn’t reflected on my face!).
Looking back, that moment captured a lot of wisdom that I wish I could share with my younger self—beyond the obvious “please don’t buy shoes that don’t fit.” I’d tell my young self that she shouldn’t be deceived into making impulsive decisions based only on appearances or based on how she thought others would perceive her. To take the time to consider her choices. And, ultimately, to have the confidence to make those that provide the best fit.
Should you give up on fabulous shoes? Of course not. Just choose ones that allow you to enjoy the journey—or perhaps a stroll!
For more in this series, check out: Lessons To My Younger Self
LaVelle Olexa, after a 35-year career in retail, created an empowerment group for young women in 2009. Over 30 powerful women, including Mindy Grossman, Evelyn Lauder, Nicole Miller, Emily Rafferty, Deputy Mayor Patti Harris, Tory Burch, and Janet Robinson, have spoken to the this group of amazing young leaders of tomorrow. A native of Dallas, LaVelle began her long retail career at Neiman Marcus. Her tenure at Lord & Taylor included SVP of Public Relations, Fashion Merchandising, Advertising and Windows. Learn more at www.lavelleandco.com.More from this Author