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What Time Marches On In

August 29, 1996

Platform shoes and David Cassidy. We're talking the '70s, man.

But Bally of South Coast Plaza went beyond conjuring that now-hot decade at its recent reopening party. The company, which specializes in women's and men's footwear, apparel and accessories, displayed 35 pairs of shoes representing styles from 1881 to 1996.

The shoes can be seen in windows of the Costa Mesa store until Tuesday.

Carl Franz Bally cobbled his first shoe in 1851 in Schoenenwerd, Switzerland. Back then, it took more than a month to make a single pair. Today, says spokeswoman Ernestine Sclafani, the work is still specialized, but handmade custom shoes take less than a day to create and cost about $675.

Each is branded with a number that is kept in a log at the company's Swiss headquarters. "The number is like a guarantee, ensuring lifelong repairs," Sclafani says.

The vintage collection, culled from the company's archive, includes shoes from these periods:

* The turn-of-the-century: pointed toe pump with embroidered beadwork for her and gored ankle boot for him.

* The '20s: green lizard T-strap pump with a Louis XV heel and men's lace-up Oxford spectator with perforations.

* The '60s: a sexy, Gina Lollobrigida-ish gold pump with beaded black ornament.

* The '70s: an orange and rust platform Oxford lace-up with stacked wooden heel and men's slip-ons with perforations.

"Long before we knew about endangered species, we made shoes with crocodile skin inlays and other exotic skins," Sclafani says. "And I don't know how women wore shoes back then. The shoes are so slim you'd think every woman would have had to be squeezed into them."

For fall's knitwear dressing, Sclafani predicts boots of any length--from the ankle to the knee--in black or brown will be the must-have footwear. Men, she says, will go for a suede ankle boot that matches khaki slacks on casual days and a three-piece suit when it's time to be fancy.

The reopening cocktail party and silent auction at the store benefited the AIDS Services Foundation/Orange County. The 30 items bid on included time at the Aida Spa, a Tourneau sport watch and Bally handbags, briefcases and wallets.

Four chefs--Franco Barone of Antonello Ristorante, Ulf Anders Strandberg of Gustaf Anders, Alan Greeley of the Golden Truffle and Michael Kang of Five Feet--whipped up the appetizers.

Cassidy flew in from Toronto, where he is performing in "Blood Brothers," to emcee the event. And did he sing? Nope, not even a note from his hit "I Think I Love You."

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