High Heels



I am a practical traveller. I own Gore-Tex and wind fleece, those ugly zip-off convertible pants and I always leave my hotel wearing comfy shoes. I layer my clothes and carry a backpack instead of a handbag, as I know it will distribute the weight more evenly across my back. It is rare you’ll find make up in my bag, and you sure won’t find jewellery. I rarely even brush my hair when I travel.


And yet there is one city where my sensible shoes, baggage allowance and comfort-first mantra goes straight out the window. A city where you need to own it. New York city is one of those cities. Years of diligent chic-flick and chic lit had slowly ingrained in my female psyche the need to look good in New York. The Devil Wears Prada, Cruel Intentions, Sex & the City and Gossip Girl all had their part to play in my decision: if I was going to do New York for the first time, I was going to live the fantasy and do it in style.


I’d sourced my outfit from a vintage store in New Orleans. A Mad Men-esque 1950s twin-set pinched at the waist and topped with a thick woollen cape. Four-inch high heels and fishnet hose and my hair flicked up in a French roll with giant oversized sunglasses. A retro bowling bag style handbag covered in Vang Gogh’s cherry blossoms that matched the colours on my coat finished the look.


I only had 24 hours in New York, and I knew I couldn’t do it all, so I decided to do very little-wondering the streets to take it all in. I set off from my hotel on Broadway at Midday in the vague direction of Central Park, my map tucked away in my bag.  It was 6 degrees and it was chilly, but the park was stunning under clear blue skies, showing off what is one of the concrete jungle’s greatest beauties. Despite feeling overdressed at first, my confidence had been boosted by the once-overs and nods from passing fashionistas I’d been given, a few clicks of the camera from tourists and one fashionable gentleman had told me “Honey, you got it, you got it” as he passed me by.


But when I exited the Park near Central Park Zoo I realised my heels had magically clicked together and brought me to the shopping girl’s spiritual home: Fifth Avenue, home to FAO Schwarz and Saks, Bergdorf’s and Barney’s and of course, Tiffany’s.  There are few women who don’t understand the significance and power of the little blue box. Their trinkets and diamond rings and bracelets and necklaces are the souvenir of choice for most friends I know who have been to New York City.


It’s all Audrey Hepburn’s fault, swanning about in front of Tiffany’s in a ball gown at dawn, coffee in hand, her face hidden behind sunglasses and her hair swept in a glamorous up-do in the iconic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  She represented the outsider looking in, desperate to get a taste of that world where she didn’t belong. Looking in through the window where she stood in the film, I had to laugh at my own reflection. Just like her character Holly Golightly, I was playing dress ups, too. And I was having a lot of fun doing it.


My feet were hurting a little by the time I kicked them off in my hotel room. But I realised I was comfortable in a different way. Dressed as I was, I felt like I belonged to the city, and that made walking over fifty blocks in high heels worthwhile.



Disclosure: The writer stayed as a guest of the Hotel Beacon New York: www.beaconhotel.com