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By Design | FIRST PERSON

She's Fallen for Ferragamo, Heart and Sole

November 21, 1996|MICHELLE WILLIAMS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Genetics can be a wonderful thing.

Thanks to that mysterious coding--mysterious, at least to this biology-for-liberal-arts-majors mind--I have my father's nose and my mother's smile.

Unfortunately, I also have their feet. (For you science majors, that would be the Big Foot gene.)

Coffins. Boats. Lotta Trotters.

Take your pick. When you're 13 years old, already tall for your age, and wearing a size 9 shoe, there are few nicknames smaller classmates haven't showered upon you.

I try not to hold my parents or their parents or their parents' parents too responsible. After all, you meet, you fall in love, you're so busy courting that you forget to ask: "So, Honey Lamb, exactly what size are those doggies?"

I'm certain when Father (a size 14) first met Mother (a very wide 10), they didn't give much thought to the inevitable--that one day they would have children and those children would have feet from here to there.

And my sister and I do.

The good news is that we didn't average out to a size 12. We're mere 11s, dainty little things next to some of our girl cousins, who are 12s and 13s.

Try lacking the Y chromosome, walking into a shoe store, picking up a lovely brown suede pump on display and asking the salesclerk, "Do you have this in an 11 1/2?"

The clerk just stares.

"Well," you backpedal, "I could probably squeeze into an 11 if you have it in a wide."

Uproarious laughter.

I don't bother with those stores anymore. Haven't for years. I'd like to say that I took a moral stand, but the truth is, I was forced out. About a decade ago I advanced from a size 10 to a size 11. It was a sad day--even sadder than the day I moved from a 9 to a 10 and realized that the only thing shrinking was the selection of shoes.

Thoroughly depressed, I resigned myself to the fact that I'd go to my grave wearing sneakers--and men's sneakers at that.

And then I discovered Salvatore Ferragamo, maker of fine shoes big and small. At last, I was among my people.

"I'd like these in an 11," was not greeted with a look from the salesclerk that said, "Yeah, and I'm Barbra Streisand."

Over the years I've amassed a Ferragamo or two.

My favorite style is the classic Vara with its gold "signature ornament" and trademark bow on the toe. I have them in navy blue (leather); black (leather, patent leather, faux croc and a pattern I call teeny croc); brown (faux croc and a steal at $30 at the Bullocks-Wilshire final days sale); fuchsia (hey, they were on sale too); red (the perfect disco shoes); and ivory (brought out for weddings only).

I snatch up the shoes wherever I see them. I've dragged them back from New York and San Jose. Even my annual Thanksgiving trip to Maui, where the sales tax is only 4%, has turned into a Ferragamo event. When you're talking about shoes in the neighborhood of $165, the savings add up . . . eventually enabling you to buy another pair.

Unless you have big feet, you just don't get it. You don't understand why I'd give my unlisted home number to salesclerks Scott and Celia with instructions to call me when something I might like in an 11 comes in.

When your trotters are small, you can't appreciate the thrill of walking through LAX, exhausted at the thought of getting on a red-eye, and seeing her . . . a tall flight attendant making her way toward your plane in a pair of navy Varas.

Or of being in the locker room and across the way spotting a tall gym-dweller's Ferragamos, the gold ornament glistening in the fluorescent light.

OK, this doesn't quite explain why I have as many pairs of Ferragamos as Ferragamo (or the growing collection of Ferragamo purses). Or maybe it does.

Obviously, the Gratitude gene.

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