So, I mentioned that I hate shopping? Well, this all centres around my very specific hatred of shoe shopping. Shopping, shoes, and shoe shopping are a great love of many women, women who do not feel inhibited if they can’t climb trees, who can make a pair of shoes last longer than a year and who are prepared to wear something that causes them pain. I am not one of these women. Even so, my relationship with shoes would have been greatly simplified if I were able, as I am with clothes, to walk into a shop, pick something in my size, try it on to decide it suits me and walk out the shop again carrying it (after paying, of course). Or even order something online – what a fantasy that would be! But no. I have wide feet. Buy boys’ shoes in my size, and they fit. Buy girls’ shoes in my size, and they won’t – or almost always won’t. And so I have many many childhood memories of my mother dragging me relentlessly round shops to try on more and more shoes which hurt my feet in the hopes of being able to go home at the end of the day with something that fitted me. I hated it – any child would hate it! It wasn’t as though I ever got much of a choice in style, colour, et cetera, because there would probably be only one pair of shoes in the shop that were okay.
I browsed wedding shoes online. I looked at blue. I tried one expensive pair on in a shop. Then my mum said she wanted me to have ivory. Ivory?!? Okay. Fine. Ivory shoes.
White wedding dresses were banned, but white shoes weren’t out of the question, and they might be easier to find than royal blue. If my mum felt I would be appropriately bridal with ivory shoes, I would get ivory. I normally wear 3 inch heels, so I set the range at 2.5 to 4 inches – something I could walk in and which would work with the length of the dress. I also didn’t want something slip on. It needed straps of some description to keep it on my foot when I was dancing, and for me to feel confident that it would stay on. So ivory, 2.5-4 inch heeled strapped shoes that fit me.
It took MONTHS.
It actually isn’t as hard to find formal shoes to fit me as it is other shoes – boots, for example, because they’re so open at the top, which allows more flexibility. Also, whilst I wear size 6, a 6 is a bit big for me and allows the extra breadth, so in heels I can wear my foot only as far as it slides into the toe.
It still took months.
I went shopping with my mum. I went round Oxford and Sheffield high street shoe shops, designer shops and department stores. I looked up places online. My aunt sent my details of wedding warehouses. I wished we’d kept to black and blue! And this wasn’t something Guy had to share with me (even though he is quite easy to shoe) – he already had his shiny black formal shoes, and all he had to do was polish and shine them!
I began to feel that I would never get the shoes sorted, and by this time I had a shoe headache. I had seen hundreds of shoes and pictures of shoes. To give you an idea what this feels like, here is what happens when I type “ivory satin strappy heels” into google. Now, I want you to analyse every shoe, decide whether it is appropriate for my requirements (ivory, 2.5-4 inch heeled strapped shoes in a wide size 6) and rate it compared with all the other shoes, by preference.
I will leave off after 7 pages, as I don’t wish to be too cruel, and this is only a taster. But I hope you get the message now.
The good news is that I did eventually get shoes. I went round all the wedding shops in Sheffield with a guy friend of mine (men are great to take shopping – they hate it too and will do anything to get you out of the shop faster – just what I need!) and ended up in Pronuptia, where I tried on all the dresses. They took us upstairs to their shoe rack, which included several sale items. I grabbed all the size 6s on the sale line and put them on my feet. One pair had a buckle across the top and I needed one hole more width to fit – I could do that, surely? Then I found another pair that fitted. The strap was round the ankle, which I thought might make dancing a bit tricky (as your ankle gets fatter when you bend it), but I could wear them in.
I was shopping with a bloke, so no umming and ahhing. I bought the second pair of shoes.
I had shoes! HURRAH!
In the end, I wore them in so much that they weren’t especially clean and shiny and perfect on the day (experimenting with the strap was vital, trying them on with the dress was important, and wearing them to dancing for the last few weeks before the wedding (not on the street, changing when I got there) a sound plan). I was quite happy with this, and as you can see from the photo it wasn’t that obvious, even to someone who wanted to point a lens at my feet.
But now I would have to move on to handbags.
I’m aware some brides don’t do handbags, but there were things I wanted to keep hold of for the reception, whether it was bits of makeup, speech notes or my watch (I feel bereft without my watch, but I also felt it wasn’t my responsibility to schedule and I should put it aside and let go for a few hours). So I needed a handbag. But only a tiny one, as all my packing is minimalist.
After browsing handbags for a while, I quickly realised that HANDBAGS ARE UNREASONABLY EXPENSIVE. I wanted something ivory I could pay a fiver or so for. I did not want a luxury version of the baby-bearing handbag from the Importance of Being Earnest, nor was a strapless clutch bag I’d have to have in my paws all the time appropriate. Charity shops didn’t do much in the way of ivory and handbags are UGLY. I was not doing well, and I was developing a handbag headache, which is much, much worse than a shoe headache and much more easily brought about. On a few occasions I had to lie down.
One thing I did like, but which was £17 and thus seemed unreasonable, was this handbag.
I don’t like pearl beads, but other than that it’s lovely. It has shape.
And so, in desperation of a repeat of the shoe fiasco and sick of handbag headaches, I decided to make my own handbag, with this as the model. I bought some ivory satin material to make it and cover our guest book, and then moosed about for something to give it a hard inner structure – something like cardboard perhaps. I opened our wrapping paper/gift bag drawer and had a rummage. I turned out several of those folded paper bags, including a very small H Samuel one. We’d only been there twice – to get my engagement ring and necklace. So this bag was a little bit special.
In a few hours I transformed it into a mini handbag, covering the burgundy bag with white paper, then satin. I made some pretty bits on the outside (which dropped off on the table at the wedding breakfast, got stuck back on and dropped off again in our honeymoon bag) with organza flowers, beads, blue ribbon and satin, and used some of our thick blue ribbon to make a strap. The strap ended up being quite lovely, because the bag just rested on my arm at the elbow and seemed to have no weight to it at all!
Excellent! Sorted! And now I was free to return to planning the things I was really interested in…