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Vintage Shoe Love

As I've spoken about previously, I mostly wear Terry de Havilland wedges- they are really the only shoes I can find that have the 70s look I adore (since he's been making the same styles since then). If my feet weren't quite so large I'm sure I would instead clad them in vintage wedges and platforms, but I've only found two pairs ever that actually fit unlike the actress Billie Madley who was profiled in the Telegraph the other day because of her vintage shoe collection- over 800 in all. Quite remarkable, right? Below is her interview.


Vintage shoe collector Billie Madley. Photo: NOEMIE GOUDAL.


Billie Madley is an actress and former burlesque performer who grew up in Miami and now lives in New York. Her vintage shoe collection is an inspiration to fashion designers and featured in 'Sex & the City: the Movie.'

"When I was 13 my gay best friend bought me a pair of white ankle-strap heels. We would hang out at his house, and I'd walk back and forth as he blew a referee's whistle so that I could learn how to walk in them.

It was very important to be glamorous. I never took off those heels and never looked back.

I have no idea how many pairs I own – more than 800 for personal use and more that I sell. I have 600 in my flat, stored in three expandable shoe racks stacked up to the ceiling (I rotate the shoes in and out of storage based on trends and what I'm feeling at that moment). Lately I've felt like wearing white.

I wear a lot of platforms and shoes that are light in colour – they act like a flashing light on the foot. I like shoes that are an exaggeration, that look like a piece of sculpture, a little piece of art. I don't like shoes that look vintage, just ones that look extraordinary – like old Lucite wedges.

I find it strange when people don't want to put their foot in a vintage shoe. I think there's something magic about imagining the foot that first wore them. Where is that foot now? There are ghosts in old shoes. If I'm wearing dancing shoes from 1930 I'll wonder where they used to dance. I love a shoe that looks like it had a good time.

At one point I had gay friends all over the world who worked in fashion and they would send me shoes they found in charity shops in Miami, or Paris fleamarkets. They'd see an American size-six shoe and say, 'Oh, that's Billie.'

I met Quentin Tarantino and he went nuts over my shoes; I told him I was all about fabulous shoes. Vivienne Westwood gave me a pair of bright orange courts, which I've worn to the bone.

Shoes are a commitment; you walk on them, you depend on them. My collection features lots of Charles Jourdan, Norma Kamali and Maud Frizon. A boyfriend in the 1980s owned Maud Frizon boots and I couldn't afford them, they were so expensive. I'm now Maud Frizon mad. I also love Onex, an American brand: the shoes are chic and fabulous, like throwaway shoes, made from moulded plastic or metallic with a ball as a heel and strange cuffs.

My favourite shoe is always the last shoe I bought. Every shoe I want, I desire with all of my body; I want to put it on my foot and never take it off. I think my life will be complete. But deep down I don't want the shoe superglued to my foot because, as much as I desire it, I know that there is another one out there."

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