Yesterday the girls and I lunched, then headed off on a shoe shopping mission. One of our favourite destinations for such a mission is Alexandria’s, in St. Jacobs, which just happens to be owned by my cousin. She’s a woman with a serious appreciation for shoes… so she opened a shoe store. Her sister is something of a fashionista. She owns the women’s clothing boutique next door. Follow your bliss, man… 🙂
We were a bit disturbed that the trends this season appear to be “Transvestite Hooker Convention in Vegas” and are hoping that goes away very quickly. Seriously. Metallic gold, silver, pink, blue. Rhinestones of all colours. Buckles and rivets and tassels and… good God, did they take a Bedazzler to that bag??? Thing is, I know my cousin is not insane. Or a transvestite. She wouldn’t have stocked the inventory if it wasn’t going to sell. *sigh* Dear 1980s: Hello, welcome back. Please be gentle…
My friends and I have shopped together on innumerable occasions. When we all still worked at Descartes, we would have lunch time “professional development”, which happened to take place at the mall up the road. I can tell you colours, patterns, styles, and designers they like. To a one, finding a faboo pair of shoes is a major coup. Especially when it’s on sale (natch).
This tends to be a bit of a bummer for me, though. My failure to success ratio in shoe shopping is rather higher than theirs. Being adopted has denied me access to the genes that gave my mother perfect, normal, size 8 feet. Since birth it has been a struggle to put shoes on my feet. Literally. I have impressively wide, flat, somewhat pudgy feet. (They coordinate well with the rest of my lower body, come to think of it. Heh.) Ironically, my balance sucks. But I can wear a pair of running shoes like nobody’s business! (I spend as much of the summer sans shoes as I can.)
Baby shoes weren’t wide enough most of the time, and going up in size made them too long. When I was little and wearing sandals, there was no Velcro yet, so Mom would have to find the widest sandals we could, then punch more holes in the leather instep strap. I cannot rollerblade or downhill ski. The boots are too structured, and the pain of wearing them for more than ten minutes with my full weight on my feet is something I cannot put into words. Most snazzy women’s shoes won’t go on past mid-instep. I have never owned anything high-heeled and strappy. (I realize this is very good for my feet, tendons, legs, hips, and back, but to quote Kinky Boots: “Sex isn’t about being comfy!“.) To add insult to injury, because of my tree trunk legs, if I ever want a pair of sassy, knee-high FMBs (first definition – hee!), I’ll probably have to have them made. (We’d be talking an investment of somewhere from $500-1000 here. And yes, it would be worth it.)
And so, you can imagine, when I have success on these shoe shopping expeditions, it is an exponentially greater success than when Sherry finds yet another adorable pair of Francos, or Helen manages to match yet another coat/purse/shoe combination. It’s right up there in experiences of pure glee with when we presented Chaya with her “hot mama” (alternative to baby gift) gift certificate, and she exclaimed, “Shooooes!” Priceless. 🙂
As I mentioned, one cousin owns the shoe store; her sister owns the clothing store. This is what happens. A woman is in the clothing store trying on an outfit. It accentuates the good parts and disguises the ones she hates. The colours are perfect. She feels flirty/sassy/sexy/professional/polished. She loves it. She looks fabulous. She’s wearing runners. Uhh… no. Sales girl: “You totally need different shoes. Just let me pop across the hall and grab a pair…” Genius. Like she’s going to take off those shoes and send them back to the store when she’s done? Uhh, no.
The shoes are as important to an outfit as any other part. Not owning the right shoes to go with an outfit will prevent you from wearing it as surely as having a stain on it would. Shoes are considered accessories, but they’re not, really. Not in the same way as accessories accessories. Very rarely will a woman buy earrings or a necklace or a bag to go with one outfit (unless it’s a fancy outfit for a very special occasion). But I would bet money that every woman I know has at least one pair of shoes that goes perfectly with only one specific outfit. Seafoam pumps for a friend’s wedding. Ankle boots in an odd sort of paprika-raspberry shade. Flip flops with tropical fish on them the seemed like a great idea when you were on vacation. And they won’t be cleared out of the closet and given away until WAY past when they should have. That rule of thumb about cleaning out your closet by asking yourself: “Have I used this in a month/six months/a year?” Yeah, no. No one really does that. You can’t. Yes, logically, you KNOW you’re never really going to wear them, but they’re shoes, and there’s some aspect of them that’s totally cool. And you probably paid way too much for them.
Which brings us to the other big point of illogic: comfort. A well-made pair of good-looking, comfortable shoes is worth its weight in gold. You will wear them long after they stop looking good. You will consider ill-advised repair attempts. You will mourn their passing. You will never find replacements that are quite as good. You and your friends will swap tales of The Shoes That Were like you will swap funny stories of past lovers or drinking escapades.
But in addition to the goes-with-nothing shoes we have, we also have the shoes that anyone would swear were designed by the Spanish Inquisition. OUCH. They pinch, they rub, they leave your legs aching and exhausted and your feet feeling like raw meat. But my GOD, is there anything sexier on this earth than the moment when you first slipped them on your feet? The odds are that they’re high-heeled. There’s a good chance that they’re strappy. (“Strappy” defines shoes the way “sassy” defines women.) They’re probably black, maybe red. (It is precisely because so many people consider red a whore-ish colour that the perfect red anything – shoes, clothes, lingerie, lipstick – is so sexy. I make no apologies for my whore-ish proclivites: red is my favourite colour.) 🙂 We almost never wear these shoes, either. But we also won’t get rid of them. And anyway, they’re only intended for special occasions, or occasions when wearing them isn’t really about standing or walking, if you know what I mean. And I think you do.
Like anything else, “extreme” footwear is an extension of these sexy-yet-torturous specimens. Ballet boots, extreme heels, etc. We humans can and will fetishize anything. Fortunately, most of us are satisfied with things we can actually wear to work or out dancing. And with that eternal sense of hope that maybe, just maybe, the next pair will be It. And 50% off. 🙂