Pump it up
The doyenne of cross-dressing shows NYC women how to put their best foot forward.
Thu Sep 27 2007
Photo: Victoria Heilweill
Those metallic Louboutin booties have been staring at you from the window at Saks all week. But who wants to shell out 700 clams only to fall flat on her face? Help for the heel-impaired arrives on Wednesday 3, thankfully, with the unique tutorial “Amazing Grace: How to Walk, Sit and Pose in High Heels.”
Former Wall Street trader Veronica Vera, the ebullient and bosomy brunet organizing the seminar, spends most of her time teaching men how to work their stilettos in her venerated cross-dressing academy, Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls. She’s transformed hundreds of males since opening the Chelsea studio in 1992. Two years ago, Vera extended her services to biological females with a successful one-off lesson. “Women have been asking me for this class,” says Vera. “The male students think we know how to do this from birth, but ladies know they don’t always walk as gracefully as they’d like to.”
Reflecting Vera’s varied clientele, Wednesday’s workshop (also being held on October 11) is open to bio girls, transwomen and cross-dressers. Attendees are told to wear dresses or skirts so their form can be properly assessed, and to bring shoes to practice in. (Three-inch heels or taller are ideal.)
Maryanne Byington, a former ballroom dancer and the dean of high heels at Miss Vera’s academy, will lead the class, guiding students through a range of podiatric land mines—from avoiding the dreaded “spider walk” (a.k.a. knocking knees) to getting out of a car safely and demurely (a lesson many Hollywood starlets could stand to learn).
Byington says she’ll start with the basics, teaching students how to stand before they sashay. “Women who don’t wear heels a lot lean forward and hold tension in their shoulders. They don’t settle into the heel, and shift their weight from foot to foot.” A common mistake, she explains, is taking short, choppy steps in an attempt to keep balance. “You have to stride out—it looks smoother. If you’re taking little steps, you look like a nine-year-old in her mother’s shoes.”
While there’s a clear physiological effect to wearing high heels—they lift the buttocks and define the calves—Byington believes their psychological power is more potent. “It’s no secret that when people wear sexy shoes, they project sexiness,” she says. “A man once told me that women should always wear high heels because it puts them on a pedestal.”
Vera, who will be in attendance, says that while the class will address sensuality, the focus will be on practical advice and decorum. “What size heel you can wear depends a lot on the size of your feet, not just how tall you are,” she offers as a sample tidbit. “And some shoes are made just for perching, not walking. Nobody should be hobbling down the street in a pair of posing heels.” Gift certificates and other prizes will be handed out to star pupils, but for those prone to taking a spill—as tabloid target Katie Holmes did on a recent Paris shopping spree—being able to strut your stuff with confidence is the real reward.
There are those, of course, who think pumps and platforms are merely back-wrecking tools of the patriarchy. Vera counters that “if you learn how to use them to your advantage they’re empowering, not enslaving.” Feminism, she says, “is about giving women the right to choose for themselves.”
She’s quick to add that everyone—male, female or in between—should embrace the “feminine energy” that heels impart. “Men plant their feel firmly on the ground and take control of the earth. Walking in high heels lifts us above,” she says. “It fosters a dancing movement that’s a flow rather than a pounce. It’s a little more Zen, and that adds beauty.”
“Amazing Grace: How to Walk, Sit and Pose in High Heels” will be held Wed 3 and Oct 11, 7:30–9:30pm. For more info, go to missvera.com