‘Red shoes in a country town: Why I wear what I want and so should you!’

Mar 28, 2020
Jacqui supports people having the confidence to wear whatever they want. Source: Getty Images

It’s funny how one sentence can set you off on a journey. Make you think about life and its unspoken rules. Not that I agree with this of course!

“She was wearing very high red shoes, well you don’t do that in a country town do you?” This remark came from a friend as we played Mahjong.

In our particular country town ladies once dressed up to come to town on Friday. They wore gloves and hats in the 1940s and through to the late-1960s. They always had their hair set neatly, and wore … You guessed it, high heels or at least smart shoes. I know one lady who still does this, and she is beautiful even in her more mature years. She’s always had her own standards. Looking elegant and bandbox smart whenever I see her.

We are a town where milking and farming rules, and sometimes you don’t want to change to go and grab something for dinner, or get some cash. People wear all sorts — blue vests, worn out boots and shorts that might have seen better days, hats that look like they might have lived more than their owners have. Women sometimes have to get through mud to get to town, so the shoes have to be practical.

Why was my delightful friend worried about the red shoes I wondered? Perhaps another point about red shoes was related by a teacher. As a young teacher fresh from the big smoke, she was taken aside and given rules when she came here to teach.

“You are not to wear red high heels or any glamorous shoes, as it attracts too much male attention!”

She was also not allowed to wear trousers, women had to wear decorous skirts. Imagine being told that now … It would set off alarms in all directions. From the purely sexist angles, personal freedom issues, and many others. Women’s rights had a way to go then.

My reply to my friend was: “Perhaps she was passing through and going to a special event, like the races or something?”

I hate to admit it, but I am shamefully over-dressed most of the time. I dress up just to put the bin out. I put lipstick on to get the post in. I can’t help my addiction to looking better than I do without help; nature is working against me and after 80 hard-lived years, I need all the help I can get. I blame my mother as she wanted to see me on the stage, I danced from about three and did shows until I dashed her hopes and gave up at the age of 11.

Yet for many of my special friends this is the routine. Comfort is the aim.

No make up at all unless going to a social event, bra off as soon as they come through the gate to home, pyjamas or a dressing gown as soon as you can shut the door to the world. Going to the shops? Well a clean T-shirt and perhaps a change of shoes from the comfy slippers.

My madness on the other hand, is deeply troubling. I have been out in the garden in one of my op shop midi dresses, weeding and wearing a blonde wig to stop my flyaway hair from blowing about … I kid you not. One day I was actually ready for a special evening and I just strolled outside and before I knew it I was pulling out weeds in my rather sparkly outfit.

I used to help my husband clean a school locally — we did that for 11 years! — he was also a shire councillor. The event we had to go at Council, meant we would be home late and he had an early appointment in Melbourne so we needed to do the cleaning that night. I got ready in my smart suit and managed to clean all the desks and the toilets etc., as he vacuumed and did his jobs.

I managed it without ruining my clothes or getting my hair messed up. It was funny, as one of the teachers was late leaving and she nearly fell over in shock.

“You must be the best dressed cleaners I have ever seen,” she said.

I like the idea that we are all different and hope we can tolerate the differences. I have friends who are more twin set and pearls types, friends who love to wear comfortable tracky dacks and a few hippy types like me who love to make a statement sometimes.

Let the wild side out. We just need to live and let live. Wear the red shoes if you like, I will love them (not to mention my envy for anyone can wear high heels, as my feet are well past wearing them).

Keen to share your thoughts with other 60-pluses? You can sign up as a contributor and submit your stories to Starts at 60. While you’re at it, why not join the Starts at 60 Bloggers Club to talk to other writers in the Starts at 60 community and learn more about how to write for Starts at 60. Community blogs published on the website go into the draw for some great weekly prizes.

What do you enjoy wearing that might not be to the fashion tastes of your friends?

Please sign in to post a comment.
Retrieving conversation…
Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up