A few weeks ago, working as I do in a high-end consignment store on Newbury Street, I came across the most beautiful t-strap, open-toe, patent tortoise-shell Manolos. For those of you who have not been watching Sex and the City on repeat since age 13, Manolos refer to shoes by designer Manolo Blahnik. With Manolo, the slim stiletto heel reigns supreme. His shoes have a daintiness that comes with their classic lines. With their superb craftsmanship and materials, these babies retail for $600-$900 a pair, even higher for the especially embellished specimens. The strappy, coppery-brown darlings in my hands were size 37, 4 inch heel, worn maybe once. I immediately slipped my foot into one: Perfection. The way they made my arch curve! The way the thin straps encased my foot! The teeny tiny buckle on my ankle! So elegant, so sexy; I needed these.
Working in a high-end consignment store on Newbury St., I spend my days sifting through bags of clothes brought in by Boston-area women of every age. These bags can contain anything from worse-for-wear Urban Outfitters frocks, to dated Giorgio Armani blazers that once retailed for hundreds and now would be lucky to sell for $15 at Goodwill, to gold mines of popular labels purchased at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus or Barney’s New York. I’m talking Marc by Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang, Shoshanna, Theory, D&G…The Manolos came in with the last. From the moment I saw them, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I knew even at my store, we would be asking a price that would not be easy for me to swallow. The truth of the matter is that I have no reason to buy 4-inch strappy stiletto sandals for $229. Where would I wear these beautiful, delicate objects? To the bar in Allston on Wednesday night? It’s not like I don’t spend too much money on clothes already, but never hundreds on one item, especially one that I couldn’t wear any day of the week.
Thinking about it that night, I resolved to display them prominently and show them to any customer with a size 7 foot. If I can’t justify them for myself, then I will live vicariously through someone else’s purchase. I hope to find someone who is excited to find such gorgeous designer shoes, in almost-new condition, for a fraction of their original price. Handing them to her, I imagine I will feel a twinge of sadness to no longer be in the presence of their perfection every day, but I will take solace in imaging that they will be worn to a wedding on the Vineyard, or to a date at Bistro du Midi, or drinks with the girls at Island Creek Oyster Bar.
These shoes represent a lifestyle that I do not have but I imagine exists, and these shoes are one of the accoutrements. One customer I convinced to try them on calmly enjoyed their beauty, and but clearly remained removed from any thoughts of purchasing them. I tried my best to tempt her, but she said, “They’re lovely if you’re going out curb to cab, but that is just not where I am at in my life. Maybe in a few years. Hopefully…” And it hit me. Curb to cab. Sex and the City. This is the fantasy I imagine when I try on Manolos and Dolce and Prada at my store. When it comes to the shoes, they are not shoes made for pounding the pavement between point A and point B. If you can buy those shoes, you got mad money. You have all the cash in the world: you buckle the tiny buckle on your Manolos, admire your perfect pedicure, and step out of your apartment, into a cab and off you go to $16 cocktails. The satin on your $850 shoes remains unstained. The tip of the heel will not grind down so far that before you know it you’ve damaged the actual heel. Money, money, money. Is that what this is all about?
And then I begin to feel depression and disappointment settle in. Is this fashion obsession just causing me to covet things and lifestyles and bank accounts I will never have? No! I love those Manolos ultimately because I delight in their beauty. Such design and production is not cheap, I understand and appreciate that, and I also know there is plenty more beauty to be discovered elsewhere. What I love most about my job is that I get to play around with objects that I used to just ogle in magazines. Delight in beauty is what my passion for fashion is all about. I like to think of it as a more spiritual level of materialism. One of my greatest joys in life is reading about, looking at, touching, sharing and experiencing beautiful things. From paintings and sculptures to dresses and shoes, to furniture and knick-knacks, I delight in beauty everywhere. I find the kind of joy that makes life meaningful in colors, patterns, textures and forms. I enjoy beauty and express myself and my love for life through the colors and the unexpected combinations of prints, patterns and textures I wear.
I recently fell in love with another pair of shoes. I had to have them from the moment I saw them. Positively striking, wearable day or night…they may lack the fine craftsmanship, the precious materials and the status of the Manolos, but style-wise I am just as stimulated. All man-made materials, $28.99 at Target. I am now the proud owner of tall, strappy, leopard-print wedges. I am delighted in their wackiness and charm. They’ll get a little roughed up as I wear them from curb to curb, out wandering and shopping during the day, to the bar at night–but for thirty bucks, this is the kind of beauty that fits right into my life.