Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Sometimes you just need to buy the shoes.
I’m frugal, like my father. I shop sales, use my Fuel Perks and have loyalty cards from a half-dozen pharmacies and grocery stores.
My clothes are practical: Pants and shirts that are tan, white and black in cotton and wool, with a few silk-blend sweaters. I’ve worn the same Ann Taylor navy blazer for 12 years. Footwear? Sneakers, clogs, flat sandals and practical pumps.
My clothes are conservative today, but 15 years ago I moved in a different orbit. Didn’t we all? Back then my wardrobe was… not daring, exactly. Let’s say free-spirited. Skirts were shorter and fabric was shiny, glittery or an eye-popping color like chartreuse. I wore things I wouldn’t dream of wearing today (looking at you, leather pants.)
I’d like to tell you I purged my closet when I realized that character and kindness were more important than a flashy wardrobe. But gravity had more to do with it. It dawned on me that nobody wants to see a 45-year-old woman’s knees in a miniskirt. And there is nothing sadder than “mutton dressed as lamb,” as the English say.
Thus my wardrobe today is based on these facts: 1) It’s illegal to leave the house naked so I have to wear something and 2) Tailored and classic will take you further than bright and trendy. A gray wool pantsuit can be worn to funerals, meetings, interviews, weddings and court. A mermaid-hemmed Lycra sundress from Wet Seal can be worn to a beach party. See the difference? I like to get more bang for my clothing buck.
I’m telling you all this because last week my sensible, calm wardrobe got a great big jolt.
At my mother’s memorial service, I wore a sleeveless dress with a bell skirt and a ribbon waist sash. In the black hole that is my closet I unearthed a long-forgotten pair of summer sandals in a pewter color with a modest heel. Perfect.
Towards the end of the service I looked down and saw my shoes literally disintegrating before my eyes: The “pewter coating” or whatever it was, was peeling off in chunks. I clenched my toes over the bald spots and prayed no-one would look down and say, “Honey, your shoes are melting.”
When we got back to the hotel I threw them in the trash can.
But then I fretted about having no “dress” shoes. Seldom do we wear fancy togs, but one has to be prepared. So I began looking online for a cute pair of sandals. I didn’t want black or brown or white, or a clunky heel--and they had to be comfortable. Such shoes are hard to find.
One day after weeks of searching, I saw them: A pair of Ralph Lauren gold sandals, strappy and sophisticated with a three-inch heel. Not daytime, going-to-the-library shoes, but dazzling, after-dark date night shoes. They were perfect! Then I saw the $90 price and groaned. I couldn’t justify paying that much.
Every day I’d go back to the site (Zappos) and sigh over those shoes, then scold myself for being frivolous. I’d never wear them enough to make it a good investment. Maybe I’d find a cheaper pair somewhere else.
Then one night Widdle Baby walked behind me as I stared dreamily at the screen and said, “Buy the shoes.”
“But—but—“ I stammered.
“Buy the shoes,” he repeated. “Life is short. Buy them.”
So I did. And they are perfect. They fit, they’re comfortable and I get a little thrill every time I look at them.
Widdle is right: Life is short. Buy the shoes.
Julie R. Smith, who’s also changing her mind about chocolate, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.