Friday, February 08, 2013

Do I Need Shoe Shopper's Anonymous?

Okay, forget all your preconceived notions of dowdy, matronly librarians. I happen to work in a library with six paid staff members, and only one of us is someone who just wears whatever is comfortable (casual pants and a casual top most of the time. To tell you the truth, I adore her, but I don’t pay that much attention to what she wears, so I can’t really describe it). The others? Oh my God! They make me feel like I need to start attending fashion shows. Each has her own style from Bohemian to funky to classic tweed, and they all pull it off beautifully.

I was beginning to feel a bit intimidated surrounded by all these glamour librarians (Ms. Musings and Zoe’s Mom, where are you when a gal needs a trip into Philly with personal shoppers?). Then, one of my colleagues came to the rescue. She’d been checking out books on fashion that we have in our countywide library system, and some of them looked quite good. I immediately began putting my own reserves on them and checked out a few that we actually had on our own shelves (she pooh-poohed these because they were all at least 7 years old – way too old for the truly chic).

My books all came in, and I began to read them. My two favorites were Wear This, Toss That by Amy E. Goodman (although I didn't always agree with her), and The Lucky Shopping Manual by Kim France and Andrea Linett (my colleague was wrong about being out of date when it comes to this book published in 2003. It has timeless, practical advice). I like these two because they’re heavily illustrated and have all kinds of great hints and tips. Also, neither one insists you define your “body type” and dress accordingly. Did I ever tell you about having my “colors" done back in the 1980s when that was all the rage? The woman who did it, ultimately couldn’t figure out if I was a “spring” or a “summer". Guess what. I have the same problem with body type. I guess I really did break some mold somewhere.

The Lucky Manual is terrific, because for each article of clothing, it provides a page of specific illustrations. I (who have never been very up on fashion terminology) could look at its dress page and know exactly what a “shift” is. I also like it, because for each article of clothing, it has a section that tells you how to build your closet for that item. It starts off, “You’re totally covered if you have…” letting you know which basic pieces you need and also what to add if, for instance, you’re “a gal who loves dresses.”

I’m busy thinking, “This is terrific!” It means I can shop my closet, streamline, get rid of what I don’t need, and buy those items that will keep me totally covered. Shopping with specific items in mind, as long as I can find them (and basics should be pretty easy to find) is far more appealing to me than aimlessly shopping, unless, of course, I’m shopping for shoes.

Which leads me to the shoe section. And this is when I realize that maybe I have a bit of a problem. Maybe I need to attend a shoe shoppers support group. I mean, up until I’d reached this section, I’d found the book to be so practical. “Okay, I need 2 good white tees, 2 good black ones, 4 tanks, 1 striped tee, and 1 henley (whatever that is) or polo. That I can do.” Then I began browsing the shoe section. Let’s just say, my blood pressure was on the rise.

Okay, first of all, it opens with this page that pictures a gorgeous array of shoes to illustrate what a platform or a clog or a flat or an ankle boot is (funnily enough, I have no problem with shoe terminology). I will forgive this section for not portraying a single sneaker or such classic footwear as topsiders or espadrilles. I mean, if we’re going to be told, basically, that we should never be caught dead in clunky athletic footwear outside the gym or off the running track – a sentiment with which, by the why, I happen to whole-heartedly agree – and should pair our tee shirts and shorts with a sleeker pair of sneakers or other casual shoes, well, you know, give us some pictures to show us what you mean. I guess I don’t sound too forgiving here, but, really, I was (how could I not forgive a book with such a gorgeous photo of shoes?) until I got to the “You’re totally covered if you have…” section.

My reaction to this section leads me to believe that when I attend that shoe shoppers support group, I will have to stand up and say, “My name is Emily. I am an acknowledged book slut, but, it seems, I am also a shoe slut.” I’ll probably never attend that meeting, though, because I’m quite sure I have valid reasons for thinking Lucky is just plain wrong when it comes to shoes.

The manual informs us that if it’s winter, here’s what we need to be totally covered:
2 pairs of knee boots (yes. That makes perfect sense. One brown, one black. Although, 4 is even better: one pair of flat black, and one pair of heeled black, and same in brown.)

1 pair of good office shoes (if you work in an office, you’re there 5 days a week. Say you wear your two pairs of boots two of those days and your good office shoes on the third – and who says you want to do that? Perhaps you’re not in a boot mood. Granted, not being in a boot mood has never happened to me, but it could, you know -- then, you wear your one pair of office shoes. Are you telling me you must wear two pairs of those shoes twice in one week, showing up to work on Friday in Mondays oh-so-tired-by-the-end-of-the-week boots?)

1 pair of evening shoes (okay, most winter evenings I’m rarely wearing anything other than pajama bottoms, a warm pullover, and slippers, so that makes sense)

1 pair of casual shoes (again, I ask, “One? Only one? I’m sorry, but I cannot be monogamous when it comes to casual shoes. I mean, think of all you have to choose from here: cowboy boots, ankle boots, clogs, loafers, ballet flats, and what about snow boots? I bet my friends in New York and New England won’t be wearing sneakers this weekend).

And that’s it, people. The book claims you’re totally covered with only 5 pairs of shoes for winter. Am I the only one gasping for air here? It goes on to say that “if the sky is raining shoes, add another pair of knee boots, ankle boots, and a flat office shoe.” Let’s not get distracted here by the idea of the sky raining shoes, which is a lovely image, isn’t it? If the sky were to open up and pour shoes, surely even I, who, when I was a kid, always came away from a broken piƱata with about 3 pieces of candy, would be able to get around to collect enough pairs of shoes to have more than 8 in my winter wardrobe. Especially, since, you know, I’m not one who is comfortable doing her workout videos in knee boots, and I don’t see athletic shoes mentioned anywhere in the “totally covered” list.

Here’s what I supposedly need to be totally covered for summer:

2 pairs of good office shoes (even fewer choices in summer for the office than in winter. The sexist in me assumes your male colleagues probably won’t notice, but can’t you just hear your female colleagues referring to you as “that woman who wears the same shoes all the time”?).

1 pair of good flat sandals (surely this is a misprint. They meant 3, right?).

1 pair of flip flops (oh, good grief. Flip flops cost about as much as a pack of Lifesavers, and certainly I need one pair in each of the five flavors).

I pair of strappy, sexy sandals (again. How could you ever decide on one color? If I own only black or white, it seems I find myself choosing a dress that screams for a pair of red or silver or light pink).

If it’s a summer thunderstorm of shoes (and they don’t pour down with scorch marks all over them), I can add more strappy sandals (oh, good. Hello, red, silver, pink, and green) and some light-colored office shoes.

Again, I ask you, where are the sneakers? I don’t know about you, but I must have at least 2 pairs of cute sneakers (not athletic shoes, mind you, but sneakers) for summer. I’m just not into the strappy, sexy sandals and shorts look at my age. I may be a shoe slut, but I certainly don’t want to look like one.

Okay, so tell me, do I need help? 16 pairs of shoes for one year just isn’t enough for me. Also, I forgot to mention the fact that I will happily wear an impulse buy once or twice and decide to get rid of it once I discover that I’m hobbling around like an ancient Chinese bride after they’ve been on my feet for 3 hours. Perhaps I’m just one of those gals whose hormones are a little different. I need 40 pairs of shoes when others need only 16. Does that make me such a bad person? As Rizzo, in Grease, might sing, “There are worse things I could do than go with a pair of shoes or two (or 40).” While I ponder all this, I think I’ll take my DSW coupon and head off to see what they’ve gotten in since I was last there.