MY ROLE MODEL WHEN I was six was my aunt Dorothy. She was 5 ft tall with a 1 ft black beehive, red lips, a black skin-tight suit, high heels and a boyfriend who was bald and 6 ft 2. And I still remember when I first saw them – looking at her in awe and looking at him and screaming. This memory is indelible. My aunt lived in Canada so I only saw her once every five to ten years.
Fast forward to the future. My aunt Dorothy is living in L.A. and she must be in her sixties by now. I’m in my twenties and for some reason I’m also in L.A. and so I get a chance to meet her again. And as I step into her flat the first thing I see is that she has fifty pairs of Fredrick’s of Hollywood, from the Fifties, shoes. There was one pair I just fell in love with as soon as I laid eyes on them. They were a pair of wooden mules in cheetah skin – just incredible!
My aunt saw what an effect those shoes had on me and, in an act of great generosity, decided to give them to me. I still have those heels. They’re the oldest objects in my possession and considering how much I’ve moved how I’ve managed to keep them is simply beyond me. But those shoes have always been with me.
Sometimes they’ve been stored at some friend’s house and sometimes they’ve been packed away at the bottom of a suitcase for months, but they’ve always been there. They’re so old now that the fur is cracking and they’re so small my hand barely fits them. But I just can’t get rid of them. Those shoes are an architectural wonder and the size is just… I love them for all those reasons and also perhaps because they are a memory of someone who did have a visual impact on me, a twisted Ronette, a Shangri-La or a Shirelle. I never really knew my aunt, but to some extent I guess those shoes represent my family, or the family I never had. This striking woman, very tiny, in black and with red lips. There’s my fashion icon. I just don’t do the beehive.
Anja Aronowsky Cronberg is Vestoj’s Editor-in-Chief and Founder.
Jenny Mörtsell is a Stockholm-bred, New York-based illustrator.
This article was originally published in Vestoj On Material Memories.