I have a borderline OCD recollection of every pair of shoes I have ever purchased, and where they came from. Be it the moccasins I got in Taos NM, or the cowboy boots from the streets of New York, I have a serious memory and knack for shoe buying, which is exactly why the bulk of my work on Three Sisters revolves around shoes.
The beauty and horror of costuming period shows is the specificity of shoes required. Some period shoes are made just like they were a hundred years ago -- take the men’s Stacy Adams boot featured on most of the men in the show -- and others don’t exist at all anymore, like the fancy pumps Natasha would have worn, so we have to get creative.
For instance, Natasha wears two pairs of ballroom dance shoes, and Olga’s Amish boots came from Amish boot makers that don’t have a website or accept credit cards. The men’s military boots are in fact authentic Russian military boots from a brusque Russian gentleman in Los Angeles. Andre has a hip pair of suede boots from Urban Outfitters -- the mix and match of old and new shoes is the most exciting part.
Perhaps the greatest shoe featured in our smorgasbord of footwear is the traditional Russian slipper, the valenki, sent with love and high shipping prices all the way from Russia. Valenkis have been a Russian staple for hundreds of years.
They are crafted from a thick, seamless lambswool felt in what looks like a cross between a crude Ugg boot and a loaf of bread. At first, they are roomy and awkward, like you have stuffed your feet into empty Kleenex boxes (which I did in fourth grade), but as they get moist from your sweat and the elements, they mold to your feet, creating a soft, warm, weatherproof shoe. They come complete with pop-on rubber galoshes so you can wear your valenki outdoors as well.
Now, being the shoe-obsessed costume fellow that I am, I’ve been eyeing a pair of valenkis for myself, so if you find yourself outside of Moscow in the near future, maybe, just maybe you’ll pick up a pair for the girl back home.
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