If you were to ask someone what is the first thing that comes to their mind when they think of me, one of the first responses that people have is SHOES. I absolutely adore shoes and have a fairly large collection of them. They have become a reflection of me and my personality.
Here is the thing that most people don’t know about me, I didn’t care at all about shoes until about 7 years ago. I couldn’t have cared less what went on my feet and maybe MAYBE owned 5 pairs of shoes. In fact, I never even paid attention to what people wore on their feet, at all.
My first memory of caring about shoes was for prom in high school. I had a cream dress and needed cream heels. I went all over the valley searching every single Payless for cream heels. It never occurred to me that I could actually wear a shoe that was of a different color. Oh, I wish I could have that moment back. I would so have rocked that prom.
The second pair of shoes that I focused on were my shoes for my wedding. My husband was not tall. At all. In fact, he was shorter than I was. I was very self conscious of my size when I was with him, as he was a small man and I wanted to feel smaller than him. It is not as taboo today as it was then, but maybe it was just my insecurity. So, when I got married, I bought the thinnest, smallest, flattest ballet shoes that I could find. I also bought my husband shoes with the tallest man heels that I could find and would hold my hand on his back during all of our pictures to ensure that he would stand tall and look bigger than me.
When I was married, the ONLY pair of shoes that I owned that ever got a compliment or anything said about them was a pair of nearly knee high boots that I would wear with my one of my two dresses on Sunday or when I went out. My mom called them my hooker boots, and I secretly loved it. I felt tall and liked that. I never really wore them with my husband.
So, the first real time that I was newly separated from my husband and had gotten together with some friends for dinner. I took Kyra with me. It got to be late and she got tired, so she laid down on the bench seat and put her head onto my lap. She looked under the table and piped up that she loved the shoes of one of my friends. It surprised me that my daughter would notice such a thing, and asked to see them. My friend, an amazingly put together fashionista, was donning leopard print stilettos. They were really cute and I was fascinated that she had chosen those shoes for her outfit. They didn’t match. She was wearing jeans and a red top. I think it was the first time that I realized that shoes don’t need to match. I soon after learned that leopard print is a neutral (thank you Oprah!) In retrospect, this was the moment that my eyes were opened to the world of fashion.
My separation and divorce were very hard on me. It took a very long time and was very draining, emotionally, physically, financially, and psychologically. The first Easter that I was alone, not divorced yet but separated, I wanted to get my children Easter clothes. Problem was that I had no money. I ended up making my boys ties out of scrap fabric and made Kyra an easter dress made out of some bed sheets that I had bought earlier, but never used. My mom told me that I needed a dress for Easter and wanted to buy one for me. I resisted saying that I just wasn’t in a place to buy myself new clothes and wanted to wait until I was in better shape emotionally and physically. Finally, she told me something that has always stuck with me. “Darci, you may not feel good inside, but the rest of us see you as strong. You need to dress the part until you feel the part.” Wow. What an impact. Here is the ironic part. My mom isn’t fashionable and doesn’t care about fashion at all, but she understood what I needed.
We went to Dillards, bought a dress that actually looked similar to Kyra’s. I was in love. She took me to a shoe store and had me try on a pair of pink heels. I have never seen my mother wear a pair of fashionable shoes, heels or even the color pink. I tried them on and felt SO tall, “Wow… I feel 10 feet tall mom.” My mom retorted, “Then, they are perfect.”
These are my “MOMENT” shoes.
That day I got so many compliments on my shoes. I felt so liberated. I was able to express myself in a way that I hadn’t been able to before. I could wear anything that I wanted without having to worry how I looked next to someone. I didn’t have someone expressing negativity that I looked too tall or that I made them insecure. I could just be me. I was relieved that first Easter that people’s eyes were focused on my shoes and not my situation. I am sure that that was all in my head, but for me, it was a nice mental escape. That was the day that I fell in love with shoes.
I truly felt shoes as an escape. I started noticing people’s shoes and what they would wear them with. I noticed that heels were not just an option for Sunday or formal occasions. Heels could be worn at any time and with anything, from a cocktail dress to jeans and a t-shirt. I find that it makes me stand a little taller emotionally when I slip on a pair of heels. When I am having a hard day, a pair of heels, can lift my spirits as I literally and figuratively raise myself up.
The first time I purchased a pair of heels on my own, I was with my friend, Kristin. We were at Kohls and found ourselves in the shoe department. Kristin picked up the pair of burgundy heels and we both fell in love with the color. The price though, scared me to death, $35. I hadn’t ever spent more than $19.99 on a pair of shoes before in my life, and that was expensive in my book. I told Kristin that I couldn’t spend that much money on a pair of shoes. I couldn’t justify it.
After a brief conversation, we came to realize that I had always been worried about getting into trouble spending money in my marriage. I had the money and I didn’t have to ask permission from anyone to spend it. I bought the shoes that day just to make a point to myself that I was in charge of me. It was a very striking moment of empowerment. To celebrate my moment of liberation, Kristin bought me a pair of leopard print heels that were on clearance that I kept eyeing. I wore those two pairs of heels every day for months.
The famous shot heard round the world heels on the right.
My leopard print. My student was so excited that we wore matching shoes that day.
Over the next few years, my shoe collection grew slowly. My sweet sister has always been very stylish and likes to downsize her wardrobe often. She would hand her beautiful clothes and shoes on to me. I was giddy every time she would bring me something new. She has such good taste and her hand-me-downs were amazing.
The day my divorce was final, she brought me a shoebox and inside, wrapped in white tissue paper, was a beautiful pair of strappy, red, Marc Jacobs stilettos. She had bought them when she broke off an engagement. They were her break up shoes and she had moved past them. She was passing them onto me. It was a small moment of connection that meant the world to me. My sister understood. I needed that.
A year after my divorce was finalized, I moved out of my big beautiful house, and to a tiny basement apartment. By this time, I had gone from 5 pairs of nondescript pairs of daily shoes to a larger box of cute sassy shoes, mostly by the grace of my sister, and some by other hand me downs and bargain shops.
The break up shoes are in the top left hand corner of the box.
I married again, this time a much taller man and a shoe lover! The best type of guy right? He loved my shoes and would compliment them frequently when we were dating. I still remember sending him a picture of pink glitter heels and was THRILLED when he text back saying they looked like honeymoon shoes. Oh. My. Goodness. My heart stopped. I had found my prince charming.
Well, we all know how that story went down. My marriage was not what I expected and money was very tight. I found myself extremely stressed over life and had very little escape. I stress easily and one of my releases is shopping, but I couldn’t afford it any longer.
At this time, my friend introduced me to facebook yard sale sites. They are phenomenal places where people from each city get online and sell things that they aren’t using or don’t need anymore. It truly was a virtual yard sale. I went online and saw that people were getting rid of shoes that they didn’t want any longer. WHAT!?!?!?! Why would someone get rid of these gorgeous, stylish and amazing treasures. I had found my new drug.
My first pair was a pair of red satin heels. They were a total steal at $3. The owner had only worn them once and they didn’t fit her style, so she was getting rid of them. I immediately snatched them up!
Still a favorite pair of red go to heels with a hint of sexiness.
My second pair became quaintly nicknamed, my picnic basket shoes, by my son. He wasn’t far off. They did resemble a picnic basket. An adorable, darling, wicker and checkered pair of NAME BRAND heels. They were well worth the $4 that I paid for them. For a pair of shoes worn twice before the previous owner had gotten pregnant and couldn’t wear them anymore. My moment of Woo Hoo was when a local celebrity and friend told me that she loved them and asked to borrow them. I was hooked.
The picnic basket shoes.
I was in a position where I really had very little money but was in a bad place in my life. I couldn’t afford to buy $35 shoes at Kohls, but I could afford a second hand pair at $5 each every once in a while. I would watch the sites and look for cute shoes that were within my little budget. I was selective. I looked for them to have little wear and have a different look. I like unusual and different. I like cute. I like sparkle.
My blue polka dot that matched a top perfectly. I love wearing these on the 4th of July. A favorite hand-me-down from my sister.
A friend saw my cute houndstooth and red shoes on a yardsale site. They had never been worn because they were too busy for the previous owner. Nope, never too busy for me. A steal at $5.
I bought these at a consignment store. I fell in love with them as they reminded me of Carrie Bradshaw’s Minolo Bhlaniks. They help me feel sassy!
I have lovingly named these my Mary Poppins shoes. They are little heels in a mellow color with a cute bow. More sweet than spice, but ironically, one of the only pairs of shoes that cut my feet.
As my obsession with shoes grew, so did my obsession. People started noticing what I was wearing and commenting on them. They were so surprised that I had found them at such a great prices. After a while, friends would call and tell me that they had some shoes for me. They no longer wore them because of fit or something similar and wanted them to go someone who loved them. Oh, boy, did I ever love them.
These beauties remind me of Jack Skellington. They were given to me by a friend that decided to give up heels. I don’t know who does that, but I am glad she thought of me.
Ten months later I moved again, this time to a MUCH larger house. By this time, my collection had grown to a whopping two boxes of shoes. I was thrilled that I moved into a home with a walk in closet in the master bedroom with a shelf above the clothing rod. It was a perfect place for my little shoe collection to be housed.
My beginning of the end with that marriage was a week after we moved into that house. We only lived in that house together for a few weeks, before we separated. I had such a huge range of emotions at this point in my life: depression, disappointment, fear, empowerment, stress. I was in a rush to get a new job and move forward. I got together the few things that I had at that time, and tried to compile my first month wardrobe, including awesome shoes.
With all that was going on in my life, I went into buying clothes for returning to the workforce and needed the shoes to go along with them. 90% of what I bought was second hand and I found a lot of pride in the fact that I was able to put together amazing wardrobe collections on a next to nothing budget. I had soon filled my closet. Each pair of shoes added a new story and a piece of diversity to who I am. It built my spirits and my look without breaking my bank.
I loved each and every one. My cute girlfriends would come over to shop my closet when they were getting ready for events, night outs, formals or family pictures. It made my day. It made theirs too.
Once I got a little bit of work and money under my belt, I for the first time in my life, found that I was able to step outside of my comfort zone and splurge a teeny bit on a couple of pairs of shoes that were ooooooh so me, but more than I would ever consider spending on ANYTHING, let along a pair of shoes. I have to say, they are unique, and uniquely Darci. I was spending a little more time with my girlfriends and getting out and having a little fun on the weekends that my kids were with their dad.
One night I went to the mall with a friend to help her choose some shoes. I went along for the ride only, since my budget was slightly tight at that time. I looked at these, and was INSTANTLY in love, until I saw the price tag. $200. WOW. Let’s just say never. Never ever could I justify that, especially on a pair of shoes without an occasion to wear them to. Well, the salesman overheard me talking to my friends about how much I loved them. He came up to me and said, that he wasn’t going to pressure me into buying them, but could tell how much I was in love with them. He asked if I was interested in seeing if he could get any sort of a discount for me. Hey, it never hurts to try. He came back and said that he applied every single discount that he could possibly find, think of and weasel out of upper management and got them down to $49.99. Now, that was still pricey for me, but really, that was one that I was willing to skip lunch for for a few weeks. Plus, I got them to double as my shooting shoes. Because hey, if you are going shoot, and you wear stilettos, you better learn how to do them both at the same time.
By the time I moved out of that house, 2 years later, my collection had gone from 2 boxes, to several, well… maybe close to a dozen boxes. As I was packing up my shoes and boots, I had a friend helping me who watched the boxes fill up. When we hit the third box, he said, “There is no way that we can label these shoes and not have people get on your case about them.” So, instead of labeling my boxes “Shoes” he labeled them with titles such as “Second Grade Curriculum,” “Mismatched Tupperware,” and “Stuff Darci Really Doesn’t Need.” He got in trouble for the last one.
The fun part is that I have expanded my horizons from amazing glittery stilettos to fun flats (much better in second grade) and even my running shoes have to have personality. I even drag my kids on board with me. Really? What is cuter than an adorable photo of your children’s feet all wearing the same shoes?
I have now moved and settled in to my adorable, cute little house… with absolutely no closet space. Most of my shoes are still packed up in strangely described boxes. I miss them! During this off track time it is my goal to refashion my unfinished bathroom turned into a decent closet. Stay tuned for the amazing transformation that will hopefully be forthcoming!
So, what do I do now that I have run out of room? What is my plan? Am I going to get rid of them? Am I going to stop buying? The answer…. oh HEAVENS no. There is always room for more. I am very selective in my choices now and I am always on the look out for a cute new pair. These are ones that I wanted, but passed on because they didn’t quite pass my rigorous test.
So, I completely 100% believe that we all need to have an outlet to express ourselves. Some people have amazingly designed homes. I have a cute home, but it will never make it into the pages of a magazine. Some people make gorgeous cupcakes. Well, we are lucky if we recognize my cupcakes for just that, and not doorstops. Some people have a great car. Well, I am not even going to go there because you will all laugh.
Although shoes do not define me, they help me express me. They help me fake it while I am well on my way to making it! They lift me high, raise my spirits, strengthen the legs on which I stand, make me look above the clouds and help me keep my head up while all else seems grim. They bring color to my world, sass to my attitude, style to my nature and class to my soul. This is my expression of Darci.