I was running errands the other day when I saw the most glorious pair of shoes. They were perfect…the kind of shoe that goes the distance, goes with everything, picks you up on a gloomy day, elevates you higher on a glorious day…the kind of shoe that loves you back. And they were on sale…but… I had arrived too late to the party and they didn’t have my size. We went down 1/2 a size…up a full size…but like Goldilocks, one was too big and one was too small and alas, there wasn’t a size that was just right. Rather than curse the dawn I shrugged and made a mental note to try to find them on line when I got home.
My daughter looked at me and said “you took that rather well…” and I replied that there was no point in buying shoes that don’t fit because you’ll never wear them. When I got home I looked in my closet at the myriad of dresses and skirts and whatnot that represent a lifetime of sizes and experiences. Why is it that we as women (or am I alone in this?) will invest a king’s ransom in a dress with the prospect of it fitting, or save a particular outfit for the someday that likely will never come, but we are (I am) so practical and pragmatic when it comes to buying shoes that actually fit?
As a society we are ingrained with the notion that dress size is the true measurement of character – clearly a size 4 is better than a size 6 – better, of course, being relative. Just open any style magazine and you will read editorial that highlights the featured model/actress/celebrity’s dress size or measurements…”…Jane, having finally achieved sobriety and winning an academy award now enjoys the fruits of her efforts in diminutive size 2 palazzo pants…” “Hilary, sporting a size 12 pant suit, hit the book tour hard, despite somewhat lackluster reviews of her latest literary opus.” Nowhere do they ever mention shoe size.
How often have we made assumptions about a person based on their body size? How often we been on the receiving end of someone else’s judgement because we have gained or lost weight? Or how many times have we criticized our own selves when familiar styles don’t fit the way they used to. Not too long ago I was stocking up on some Lululemon garb. I grabbed my regular size and checked out. When I got home everything was snug. Forget that Lululemon has recently undergone significant corporate changes and is likely using different fit models and size scales…I immediately assumed that I was either bulking up with too many push ups, or getting bloated from too many gin & tonics before dinner. Clearly the bad fit was my own fault and responsibility and indicative of my personal choices. But if I had been in City Sports looking for a new pair of tennis or golf shoes, the practicalities of fit would lay solely with the manufacturer and have nothing to do my exercise or drinking habits.
But during all this self-flagellation and peer induced judgment do we ever praise or condemn a person for the size of their shoe? Would Hilary win an election because she has a smaller shoe size than, say, Sarah Palin? Do we wonder if a person is having marital problems because their feet look swollen or excessively boney? Do we predict a good day because our favorite suede pumps slide over our feet or because our toe cleavage looks particularly sexy?
During recent closet purges I have thoughtlessly tossed shoes that were old or worn or passé in their fashion. I didn’t mourn a former self or think longingly about adventures past when shoes were sent to Goodwill. Perhaps it is because my feet have been pretty much the same size since I was a teenager. Or because age and wisdom have taught me that comfortable feet are the foundation of a happy spirit. I don’t put on a pair of shoes and wonder if I look fat or if they make my ass look wide. I choose my shoes based on my activity. I have a lot of shoes. They range in sizes, but I couldn’t tell you which ones are a 9 and which ones are 9.5 or 10. Some are worn more frequently than others, but the common denominator is they all fit. My dresses, and skirts, and pants, however, tell a different story. Some fit. Some don’t. Some are worn all the time. Some haven’t seen daylight in eons. Each item has a vibe to it – this one has to be worn on a skinny day, this one will make your bust look bigger – but the shoes are just shoes that either match or don’t. There is no character value ascribed to a shoe and how it fits, there is just character.
I’m getting more practical with my clothing – both in terms of what I wear, what size I buy, and what I hope to achieve from each choice. Maybe I’ll feel like I have achieved sartorial enlightenment when I have the same zen attitude about my dress size as I do about my shoe size.