It wasn't always this way. I used to hate shopping for shoes. Shoe stores became a battlefield backdrop for my worst insecurities and self-loathing. I hated how California-appropriate sandals strained against my wide feet. I hated how the pumps that looked so chic in a size six became boatlike monstrosities in a size 10. Salespeople tried to console me by pointing out that a size 10 was proportional for my 5'9" frame, but that just made me even more disconsolate, since I hated my height. I hated being the tallest person in elementary and middle school. I hated being taller than all the men I knew. I hated that an ex-boyfriend (who was also 5'9") used to complain about my height. I hated that I felt self-conscious enough to pay attention and hide in flats.
When I moved to Madrid at age 22, I lived right around the corner from Augusto Figueroa Street, with the most amazing shoes I'd ever seen. Seriously, it's a Spanish shoe shopping destination. And yet, within a week of arriving, I learned that almost no stores carried my European size 42 (damn tiny Spanish women). So I started wearing a 41 - when it was available - and more often a size 40. Also, since I'd managed to move to a country full of short, olive-skinned people, I figured that adding a few more inches to my obscenely tall and noticeably fair frame couldn't make me any more obvious than I already was, and I finally embraced heels. In the process, I learned to despise how painful shoes could be, I gave myself permanent hammer toes, and I fell completely and utterly in love with shoe fashion.
Surrounded by shopfronts full of lovely shoes and finally unburdened from my adherence to flats, I fell in love with heels. Heels were intoxicating as they made me instantly noticeable and powerful (though sometimes intoxication was the only way to manage the late-night pain). A tall woman who wears heels has to be brave. She has to be self-assured. And even if she isn't either of those things, heels help project it in a business meeting anyhow. My height became a source of pride. I no longer needed to waste time with the small-minded ex-boyfriends who insulted my height because they felt threatened. Instead, I announced it upfront in my online dating profiles, daring tall and self-assured short men to reply: ""The first thing people notice about me is that I'm 5'9" without heels. And I've been known to wear heels."
When I met Jason, whose height tips out at around 6'3", I indulged in new four inch heel snakeskin(esque) stilettos. Then slowly, as our relationship sank in, I realized I could wear whatever I wanted and my shoes weren't a statement. They weren't a reaction or a rebellion. They were just fashion. I bought more ridiculous shoes to celebrate.
And then, once we were past the "celebrate his height" and well into the "this is my wonderfully partnered life" stage or our relationship, my back went out. And by saying "my back went out," I mean I slipped a disk and spent three entire days unable to move a centimeter (literally) without excruciating agony. It took two months to fully recover. And then my back went out again. And again. And at that point, I realized I had a chronic issue and finally began changing my life to accommodate my back via ergonomic supports at work and home and by taking up a lot of core-focused back exercises.
But then my back went out again, and I finally had to reassess my collection of shoes. I had to look into my closet full of varied heels (black business pumps, pink pointy springtime wonders, red satin peep toes, black suede stiletto boots, etc...) and start the mourning process as I moved my favorites to the back and started buying flats. Boring sensible flats. Flats that steal my joy in the shoe store. Flats made by shoe designers who think that throwing a garish poofball at the end of a flat counts as fashionable (it doesn't).
Kate Spade, Via
Me Too, via
All of this would be less frustrating if I weren't looking for flats and near-flats as wedding shoes. Because flats and near-flats don't get celebrated on most wedding sites. And most wedding sites definitely celebrate shoes (see: Tuesday Shoesday. Yes, this is a real thing on wedding sites around the web). Women who are generally sensible about budgets have Louboutin-gasms or Manolo Blahnik-gasms or pick-your-designer-gasms as they finally identify one occasion that miiiiiight finally justify pretty shoes. Well, I just don't have that option. Or budget. And yet, of course I still want pretty shoes. Even though I find wedding shoe photography horrific (taking pictures of the shoes is a fun-but-silly indulgence. Elevating the photos on blogs about weddings helps promote the idea that weddings are about expensive details more than marriage)...but I still want photo-worthy shoes. However, I also want comfortable, match-my-dress, 2 inch heel max, wide-foot, photo-worthy shoes for under $100, and this is a pretty tall order.
So I just wanted to take a moment to celebrate the practical wedding shoe. The affordable and comfortable wedding shoe. The wedding shoe that won't give you blisters while you're dancing. The wedding shoe that you can wear as an actual shoe, instead of as a just-until-the-reception $500 photo prop with your backup "now I can DANCE" shoes waiting in a bag. The wedding shoe that stands up to a 10 hour day of running around, ceremony, photos, reception, and after parties. The wedding shoe that transitions easily into a for-life shoe, that doesn't get relegated to the once-a-year-special-occasion outfits. A shoe for those of us who don't have $500 (or even $200) to blow on shoes. A shoe for all of us who don't get to participate in Tuesday Shoesday. These shoes are for us:
Classic Bridal Whites and Pale Tones
Blowfish Naked in Cream Lace
Spring Troxler in Blush Lace
Me Too Linda in Soft Silver Metallic
Seychelles Cream of the Crop in Pewter
A Little Bit of Fun
Romantic Soles Geneva in Purple Satin
Gabrielle Rocha Neve in Purple Patent
French Sole Sloop in Zebra Suede
Report Lilburn in Dusty Pink
Pour La Victoire Morgan in Dark Teal
Notes on flats: I've found, via rigorous testing methods (aka dancing around our apartment to possible first dance songs) that the best sorts of dancing flats have flexible soles. Like real ballet slippers, but with a bit more protection. This lets you move your feet around to the music instead of possibly falling out of stiff shoes as you twist your ankle.
Feel free to throw links to your own favorite flats in the comments or pipe in with recommendations for buying affordable, comfortable, and stylish flats! Or tell stories about how you were also traumatized by/embraced your height, if that's the part of the post that resonated more. Or just gush about affordable cute shoes. I'm okay with that too.