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Shoes, Glorious Shoes!

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I absolutely adore shoes, and can never have too many. Unfortunately, unlike the legendary shoe aficionados Imelda Marcos and Carrie Bradshaw, I will never have enough money to fully support my habit (god only knows how Bradshaw, a supposed newspaper columnist, did). So I came up with a way to satisfy my shoe jones–miniatures.

I come from a long line of collectors. Uncle Yernie collected blue Wedgewood, my mother showcased her hundred or so pill boxes in a china cabinet, my sister’s condo teemed with rams, and, in a previous incarnation as suburban housewife, I collected salt and pepper shakers. But times change, and so do people. Salt and pepper shakers no longer match my self-image—or, more importantly, my soul. Miniature shoes do.

Let me emphasize: I began collecting miniature shoes a full decade before Just the Right Shoe, Imelda’s Closet, or any of the other mini-shoe corporations set up shop. My shoe collection began purely by chance, circa 1989. At that time AIDS was devastating the gay community, and weekends featured yard and estate sales throughout the Castro district of San Francisco. As one might expect, while these events evoked a good deal of sadness, the pickings were of far greater interest and quality than those found at yard sales in, say, Concord or Walnut Creek. One Saturday, a sweet little pale yellow shoe sitting forlornly on a blanket, with a bit of lace at the toe, called to me. It was adorned with a slightly chipped rose, so I got it for a buck. I didn’t mind the chip, in fact, it added to the slipper’s charm, reminding me of some lines by Leonard Cohen: Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack, a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in.

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I put the little shoe on a shelf alongside other chachkalas, where it sat unpaired for a good five or six years–until my trip to Italy. In a Venetian gift shop four exquisite little wooden shoes covered with fabric were arranged in a semi-circle, nearly dwarfed by hand-blown glassware. The saleswoman told me they were created by hand by some little old lady over near the next canal. The cost in lira came to about 25 US dollars. “I guess I’m collecting miniature shoes,” I told my boyfriend, and spent the next ten minutes deciding which one to buy, finally settling on the brown.

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When I got back to the States I began seriously seeking out miniature shoes. The hunt took me to craft shows, dollhouse exhibits, and antique shops. My friends and relatives were put on alert. As noted, my relatives are big on collections, so it came as no surprise when my next shoe(s) were sent to me from my mother in Florida. She happened to be passing a shoe store and spotted some miniatures on display behind the cash register. Upon close inspection, she found they were little shoes, and immediately asked if she could buy them. The shopkeeper, clueless as to their true worth, let her have them for five bucks each. I love these shoes for their realism.

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My boyfriend’s daughter was in a fabric shop when she saw this pin cushion:

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At 12 years old, she was enthusiastic about my enterprise, and kept her eyes peeled: she found this ruby slipper at a sales table on Gay Day:

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My boyfriend was in Venice again; with his legendary directional skills, he found the shop with the shoes and bought me another one:

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An old friend and her husband were going to Italy, so I gave her explicit instructions, hoping she’d find miniature shoes in Venice, even if she couldn’t find the exact same gift shop. She ended up buying me a shoe in Taormino, but the shopkeeper conned her into paying $75.00. While this shoe is slightly larger than the Venetians, it’s made exactly the same way–of fabric-covered wood.

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This was the priciest shoe in my collection to date, but its status was short-lived: a few weeks later I found a German porcelain shoe in an antique shop on Union Street. I’ve seen nothing even remotely similar to it in all my shoe-hunting.antique.JPG.

Carol Queen and her partner Robert are antique hounds who go foraging for treasures wherever they travel, and they travel a lot, since Carol’s in pretty big demand as a sex educator. We were speaking together on an erotica panel at the California Writers Club when she slipped a teensy tiny white slipper out of her pocket and handed it to me.

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Even before mass produced miniature shoes made their debut, art museum catalogs began putting out their own line, to be used as Xmas tree ornaments. I don’t usually have a Xmas tree, but if I should decide to do it up big one year, I’ve got a good start on decorations, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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By this time shoes were beginning to crowd me out of my studio apartment, what with everyone giving them to me on birthdays or other occasions. I hung up one shelf, then two…they were becoming seriously crowded when someone in my building had a moving sale, and I scored a corner cabinet that lights up inside.

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Then came that historic moment when I wandered into my local card shop and there, dominating the entire store, was a giant shoe upon which miniature shoes were arranged. A sign read “Just the Right Shoe.” I shrieked. I really did, I actually screamed, drawing the attention of the owner and several customers. Now everyone and her nieces would be collecting miniature shoes, while up until then the field had been completely and uniquely mine. I glared resentfully as a woman at the cash register bought a rhinestone sandal. Besides feeling resentful, I was panic-stricken: I felt that my collection wouldn’t be complete until I owned every shoe in JTRS’s catalog. By now I own several.

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I calmed down–what else could I do?–as miniature shoes became all the rage. Soon enough the mania ran its course and mini shoes were going for five or three bucks on eBay. Here are just a few I lust after:

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To give you an idea of scale, here’s a pair of my actual high heels beside some of the mini’s. Notice that some are miniatures of miniatures.

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Finally, check out this little sandal; it was made out of potato chip wrappers by a woman in prison.

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I had a dream once that illustrated perfectly what my little shoes mean to me: I was eating the shoes, happily biting into them one by one. I can’t say I have a favorite; they’re all my babies, and therefore all are precious. I might love them in different ways, but basically, I love them all. bottom-shelf.JPG

A note about the pictures: As is glaringly obvious, I’m no photographer–I don’t even take pictures of my grandsons, that’s how much I dislike doing it. Even with a digital camera, I had a helluva time snapping these, and I apologize for the mediocre quality of the final products. I don’t know how professional photographers do what they do, especially those like my friend Phyllis Christopher, who frequently photographs still objects like these for newspapers and magazines. It’s quite an art.

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20 responses »

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this article — including the photos of the shoes for which you apologized. It was as though I had the privilege of watching your collection grow, and sharing your delight in your “babies!”

    Alas — collections can become tiresome and obsolete as we change over time — and mine is now taped up in cartons in the garage. But I remember when it was exciting — and how I cherished each item at the time. Thanks for writing that — truly a feelgood piece.

  2. It’s been almost 20 years and I still haven’t gotten tired of miniature shoes–I’m even thinking of rescuing some of the abandoned shoes now selling on eBay for mere pennies. Somehow I don’t think my shoe collection will ever become obsolete.

  3. Sweet piece! I think you did a really good job with the photos. Great memories of Venice, and of Morgan’s contributions to your collection. Thanks!

  4. Great article, Marcy! We had no idea your collection was so expansive! We will be keeping our eyes open at all fairs, flea markets,etc. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I love my Just the Right Shoe collection. Some of the shoes I would love to have in my size.

  6. I share your love of miniature shoes. My collection now numbers around 400 pieces. Everyone of them has a story as to where I found it or who gave it to me. The shoe collecting has run over into collecting anything with a shoe on it. It is amazing what you can find and where.

    Wow, I bow to your collection–in awe of your 400 pieces. I only have around 100. I also have other things with shoes on them, a kind of secondary collection. Would love to see yours.–MS

  7. I WILL SEND SOME PICS SOON

    Can that be done, to a blog? I’d love to see them! And will even post them!–MS

  8. Have you seen the shoe collections offered from The Hamilton Collection? They are beautiful and very well made. Go to their website and type in shoe in the search box. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area…last night my husband and I stopped at Lucky’s supermarket. I came home with three shoes. They were displaying a Betty Boop Collection. I bought miniature shoes with Betty Boop sitting in them. They are so cute.

  9. I loved the Leonard Cohen lines you quoted. I have used them too.

    I had never heard of miniature shoes until reading this post. Now I will be watching. But never fear, I will not compete with your collection. I’ll just think of you when I see them.
    julie hursey

  10. Hi, to another miniature shoe collector. I inherited my grandmother’s collection in 1993, one she began with her first shoe in 1911. Although I have a couple of the newer collectible resin shoes, most of mine are older. I have over 650 shoes and 60 shoe related items. Yipes!
    I have just recently started a rather detailed blog on miniature shoes, though I only have about 30 shoes catalogued so far.
    Come and visit.
    It’s so exciting to find another collector on the internet!
    http://theshoecabinet.com/
    b-

    This collection is unbelievably amazing. So far I’ve seen only her featured baby shoes, but I’m going to keep on going back to see everything. She’s got them all catalogued, with information about how, when, and where they were made, history behind them…she could open her own museum! Anyone interested in shoes or other collectibles has to see this!–MS

  11. Wow. These are Truly amazing and I absolutely ADORE everything about these pictures.
    Great Job. Keep up the OUTSTANDING work!!!
    -Shanaenae Liqua

  12. I inherited my shoe collection from my mother who began collecting over 60 years ago with a birthday party favor. Her collection numbers well over 2500+. She was quite particular about what she collected and many of her earliest shoes are museum quality. Since her death, my daughters still keep their eyes open for more shoes for “mamaw’s shoe collection”. Now the love of this wonderful collection is passing on to my first grandchild (little girl) and her first great grandchild.

    Keep your love of collecting . . .

    Wow, 2500! And, that was WAY before companies started flooding the market with mini shoes! Is there any way I can see them? You should do what I did–post pictures online (please?). Thanks for stopping by. –MS

  13. I have collected miniature shoes more than 150 since 2000. I am happy to find the person who has the same appetite for the cute shoes. I enjoyed pictures and essays on the miniature shoes.
    I will let you know when I open my showcase of miniature shoes, in blog or homepage!

    Please do. It’s great to meet a fellow small-shoe worshipper–MS

  14. Hello All,

    my relative and I, we also started collecting shoes, it grow up to 3300 unique mini shoes, originate from a total of 40 countries worldwide, have been made of 50 different kinds of materials (silver, porcelain, leather etc…) and represent 60 different functions (cigar clipper, lighter, sail-boat etc…).
    The collection contains only one specimen of each single shoe or pair of shoes.

    Originaly we wanted to make a Guiness Record, but when we saw that this is about 7000 or maybe more then we had to realize that it is better to sell them, maybe for the collectors who started collecting it, it will help for a new record…

    If there is somebody who is interested in the unique mini shoes collection, please do not hesitate to contact me: danihonti@hotmail.com

    All the Best,

    Daniel

  15. Hi, love your collection!
    I just inherited an interesting collection of miniature shoes and have no idea what to do with them. As I don´t have the time to work on the shoes, I would love to sell them. Any idea where I could find shoe fanatics or forums of miniature shoe lovers? I would appreciate your help.
    Thanks in advance, Susanne

    As mentioned in my piece, you can sell them on eBay, or at dollhouse/miniature shows–though I don’t know anything about how to get onto their circuit as an exhibitor. Or just post pictures of them on any site that sells stuff, like Craigslist. Sorry, I don’t know much more than that. Good luck.–MS

  16. Wow! what an idea ! What a concept ! Beautiful .. Amazing GREAT

  17. Hi fantastic blog yea nice work You are a very smart person!

    Thank you very much! I went to check out your site – nice stuff.–MS

  18. My mother (age 86) has been a collector since age 12! She has over 12,000 miniature/collectible shoes and related items with shoe as primary theme. She is interested in selling her collection, ideally in total. However, I have no idea how to help her or even where to start this process. Any suggestions?

    E-Bay is the best bet for selling collectibles; I see a lot of miniature shoes there. It might also be a good idea to create a blog with pictures and prices. I’d love to look at them. I wouldn’t buy an entire collection, but I’m interested in seeing the shoes, so if you do put them up, please let me know..–MS

  19. I have a miniature shoe collection for sale. I have around 300 or so from all over the world. Many occupied Japan and china. I acquired the collection from a friend who needed to borrow money and he offered the collection, so I am not a collector and really need the room it takes to keep them. I’m happy to send pictures. Mkenastonoffice@aol

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