The great shoe hunt of ’10

I’ve been hunting for a pair of shoes for my wedding for months now. What I’m looking for is a pair of kitten-heel sling-back sandals (or d’orsay pumps) in either red, blue or purple. I have found nothing to my taste. This proves – if proof was still needed – my shopping theory that you will never find something that you urgently need. You will find a million and one other things, including 734,899 things you really like (only 3 of which you can afford), but not the one thing you really need.

The last time I was in this sort of predicament, I was in need in pants. I confess that, in the last few years, I’ve really reduced my pants use. No, I don’t go around in my knickers … it’s just that I’ve come to prefer skirts and dresses. I find them more comfortable, especially when you take the pantyhose out of the equation, and I think it’s pretty apparent that I’m big on comfort. A few months ago, I realized that I was down to two pairs of dress pants, one of which was ancient – and uncomfortable to boot. This was a bit of an emergency situation. As much as I may dislike pants, our climate makes wearing them (at least occasionally) a necessity. So off I went in search of pants. For months, I couldn’t find anything that was not made of unlined polyester and did not hate my hips with a vengeance. As I mentioned before, buying pants is somewhat tricky for me, proportions-wise. Finally – finally! – I managed to find some pants that fit at the Banana Republic Factory Outlet. I would definitely recommend giving their pants a try if you’re in the market. They offer a number of “fits”, with a variety of rises, so the chances that you will find a suitable one are pretty good. [Mine is the “Martyn” fit, for any hourglass gals out there].

Experiences like that have taught me the importance of snapping up wardrobe staples whenever and wherever you come across them. For example, last year I found a beautiful black Tahari pencil skirt on the clearance rack at Winners. The fit was superb. A few weeks later, I found the identical skirt (in a lighter fabric) on another Winners clearance rack. You see where this is going, don’t you? I bought it. I was initially going to wear one and save the other one for the future (to use when the first one wore out), but I abandoned that plan in favour of wearing the heavier one  in cold weather and the other one in warmer weather. This way, the shelf-life of both skirts is extended. And (as an hourglass shape) you can never go wrong with a well-fitting black pencil skirt. The best part was that I got both skirts for less than the full retail price of one. Score another one for the bargain queen!

I know … it seems silly to buy multiples of things, and I don’t advocate it for all clothing. First, you have to know which pieces are worth the investment. This will depend on your personal style but, generally, things like a good coat, pair of black shoes in the preferred heel height, black pants or skirt, and black or white shirts, tee-shirts and tanks are good places to start. They will need to be pieces that are simple, whose style (and colour) you won’t feel the need to change from season to season. There is no point in buying two pairs of yellow formal shorts today, if next year you decide that you prefer orange pedal-pushers … or buying the same cap-sleeved cardigan in 5 colours only to decide that you hate cap sleeves … well, you get my point. Second, buying multiples should make sense from a financial perspective. A $500 pair of shoes may not be a good candidate, no matter how wonderful, because chances are that you will always be able to find a pair of shoes that you like for $500 (or less). Buying 6 fine merino wool V-neck sweaters (in different colours) for $30 each, is a much better bet – as my V-neck-sweater-loving fiancé learned … eventually.

In shopping, as in life, you will generally come to regret the things you didn’t buy (or do) rather than the things you did. That is another important lesson to remember, especially for, ahem, frugal shoppers like me.  As much as I pride myself on being a good bargain-spotter, I’ve missed out on some great deals simply because I hesitated at the wrong moment. Life’s too short to second-guess love at first sight – whether in matters of the heart, or of shopping. Not the worst mantra to live by.

Now, if only I could find some damn wedding shoes to love!

Friday wrap-up

I’ve decided to take a stab at a couple of regular features. I’m getting adventurous, I know. Hold on to your hats.

The first feature I’d like to attempt is a little bit tricky because it requires me to depend on the kindness of strangers. I would like to have a “personal style” section where I can post photos of people whose style really catches my eye – if nothing else, to prove that Edmonton is not quite the backwater dump that some trumpet it to be (I’m looking at you, Calgary. And also, everyone else, including half of Edmonton). I can foresee this being a somewhat difficult task, not because I’m not often inspired by people I see out and about, but because I can be pathologically reserved. I haven’t yet quite figured out how to approach a total stranger and ask to take her (or his) photograph without sounding like a total creep … or being mortified (because I think I sound like a total creep). I’m, um, working on it. In the meantime, I’m going to have to rely on friends and volunteers. So anyone inclined to step up to the plate, speak up.

The second feature I’ve decided to introduce is a weekly “best of” post, showing my most successful sartorial effort of the previous 7 days – as judged by me. It’s going to be a bit like keeping a diary, but with less doodles and initialed hearts. Naturally, a wholly subjective exercise, but feel free to pipe in with your comments at any time. Friday seems like a good day for this sort of thing, so why not kick it off right away?

I present: Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The details: cardigan, Mexx; belt, JCrew; skirt, Tahari; shoes, Modern Vintage; bag, Arcadia.

The reason why I loved this outfit is the colour palate, especially the dove grey and pale lilac. They’re not colours to which I would have gravitated a year ago, but … well, we all grow up sometime. I think the flower adds a little bit of whimsy (and I love whimsy) without being too twee. And the shoes — ah, I love those shoes!

Ginger snaps

“It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.”

Of course it was a blonde. It’s always a blonde. From Cinderella onwards, it’s the same story. Gentlemen prefer blondes. And, sure, sometimes they marry brunettes. But what about the gingers? Tell me … who’s looking out for the gingers?

I’ll tell you who: no one. We’ve got “kick a ginger” day and Ariel, the flipping mermaid, as a consolation prize. We’ve got Pippi Longstocking and jokes about Lindsay Lohan’s lady bits. The fact that other women might say “oh, what lovely hair colour, I wish mine was like that” doesn’t make up for any of it. Because the thing is — they can have it. It comes in a bottle, and takes about 15 minutes. What it doesn’t take, for the bottle gingers, is a painful adolescence and a lifetime of remarks about fiery temperaments and other such, well, tantrum-inspiring nonsense.

Some women have a contentious relationship with their bodies. For as long as I remember, I’ve had one with my hair. As a little girl, I fervently dreamed and prayed for long, curly blonde hair the way some people dream about winning the lottery. All I ever got for my trouble were salad bowl haircuts from my grandmother. As soon as I could convince my mother to let me, I began to experiment with hair colour, slowly making my way through the colour spectrum. I’ve been everything from a (strawberry) blonde to a rich mahogany brunette, and I’ve loved (almost) every second of it. It was only recently that, in growing back my hair after an extreme pixie cut, I began to embrace my ginger. I haven’t coloured my hair in over a year and, finally, my hair is back to its natural state. Of course, it’s not the deep copper hue that plagued my childhood, but a mellower auburn that, if perhaps less striking, is also less evocative of carrots. I’ve briefly debated whether to colour my hair for my upcoming nuptials, but ultimately decided against it. Let it be a testament that, at the grand old age of almost-30, I am finally at peace with my calamitous hair.

See, I told you — carrots!