If you were to assess my appearance (5-second glance, say on three different days) you could draw a myriad of conclusions but one of the more likely ones would probably be that I wear ugly shoes.
It’s true. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but ultimately it boils down to my oddly shaped, overly large feet that prefer resting inside rectangular, orthopedic-looking vessels rather than anything that might fall under the category of fashion.
Whereas I might spare the briefest of considerations for my apparel, I give footwear almost no thought at all. Basically my litmus test is: ‘does it look awful‘ in which case I might be persuaded to try one of my other three pairs of shoes (assuming I have the extra minute to spare on my way out the door). But, barring something akin to retinal pain at the sight of my chaussures, I inevitably shrug and say ‘agh, it’s not the worst’ and continue on my way.
But now that I have 2.4 children in school, in addition to saddling myself with impossible expectations regarding my use of the (almost) 10 hours of childfree time I have each week, it occurred to me that I should, perhaps, ‘up’ my game a bit where my outward appearance is concerned.
In addition to writing regular blogposts, keeping an organized home, exercising regularly, meeting friends for coffee and making spectacular dinners, perhaps Nicola-with-2.4-children-in-school should also be reasonably well-dressed. And possibly wear shoes not intended for medical professionals.
Perhaps this line of thought is less the result of my having 2.4 children in school, than my spending most of Tuesday on a friend’s Pinterest board to avoid a particularly unfocused, heinous-weather, day. (Lest we forget: it snowed, a lot, in Calgary this past week.)
My friend had pinned one of those ‘pack 14 items in your carry-on and get two weeks’ worth of outfits’ articles and, for whatever reason, it inspired me to rid my closet and dressers of their truly horrible contents; things I haven’t worn in a year or more, things that looked tired, the $4 sweaters I thought ‘might work’ but never did.
This ruthless purging left approximately 10 items in my closet, all in a very similar color palette. Apparently I don’t stray much from the blue-gray/taupe-black genre, and striped if at all possible. With the vague intention to eventually acquire Pinterest’s suggested flowy cardigan (sans zipper or buttons) and some (so-called) skinny jeans I declared victory over the closet. Which left the matter of shoes.
Pinterest told me I needed to acquire some sort of ankle boot to accompany my (not quite) 14-item wardrobe and, given the fact that Calgary had gone from sunny and summery to snowing in the span of a day, I quickly latched on to the idea of finding something that covered my entire foot up to the ankle.
But, and this has been the biggest sartorial problem for me, how to translate a vague desire into reality. It’s one thing, deciding I need a pair of ankle boots, but finding (and purchasing) ankle boots is another thing entirely. Oh, sure, perhaps you have a conventionally shaped foot and wear a single-digit size shoe and buying footwear is as simple as showing up at a store, asking for a 7, trying it on and paying for it. Superhappyforyou.
In my experience, shoe shopping goes something like this: ‘Do you have that shoe in a [blank]?’ ‘No, I don’t think so,’ accompanied by a wide-eyed look of horror that I, a relatively unsasquatch-like individual, would own up to wearing anything besides a 9.
Occasionally, the scenario plays out like this: ‘Do you have that shoe in a [blank]?’ Salesperson disappears for 20 minutes looking for my size, and returns triumphant with a box in their hands. I excitedly try on the shoes in my size only to discover my feet feel like they’re wrapped in a tourniquet. I then prod and poke, asking myself: ‘how much does this hurt’, ‘is this normal growing pains that might subside once the shoe is ‘stretched out’, or is this point-blank ‘do not buy this shoe you will regret it every time you wear it’ kind of pain?’
Depending on my state of desperation, I sometimes buy the shoes and hope for the best, but increasingly I decide fashion’s not worth it, stuff my feet into a pair of Born clogs (I own them in red and black) and return home for yet another year of outfits rounded out with the shoe equivalent of a big, fat splat.
But 2.4-children-in-school Nicola was determined: I would find one pair of ankle boots even if it killed me. And it very nearly did. For two whole days, I scoured websites – the Bay, Nordstrom’s and many more. I put something like 20 pairs of shoes in various websites’ shopping carts and just before I agreed to spend $3780 at Nordstrom’s in the hope that one of my chosen pairs would actually fit, I dragged the boys to Winners and Shoe Company after school.
If shoe shopping is unpleasant under ordinary circumstances, it is far worse in the company of three grumpy post-school boys who would have rather been at the dentist (they have a Wii) than sitting around waiting for me to find a pair of shoes in my size.
Surrounded by shoes of all makes and sizes, I was reminded that part of my shoe-problem is I think 95% of shoes out there are ugly. I tend to fixate on whatever bothers me about the design or the craftsmanship to the point where nothing appeals to me: the heel is too chunky, it’s not chunky enough, it looks cheap, the color is weird, it will make me look like I’m trying too hard, and on it goes.
Hours later, the boys and I returned home with groceries and library books and an empty package of fudge. No shoes.
Today, after lamenting my shoe-lot in life to a friend over coffee, I came home determined to buy a pair of shoes online (so as to avoid the shopping-with-boys scenario as well as the wide-eyed, visibly shocked salespeople). I sifted through nearly all of The Bay and Nordstrom’s shoe selections, ultimately settling on a pair of reasonably priced taupe-ish colored ankle boots.
After I submitted the order, I began fixating on the buckles, because I kind of have a thing about buckles. And I started second-guessing the color because so often you think the shoe you’re seeing on the computer is taupe and it turns out to be grey or just plain brown. And.