First off, we all have our vices, our armour. Something that brings us joy (perhaps even confidence) every time we look at it, shop for it, use it, spend time with it. There are car people, bag people, makeup junkies, but me? Hi, my name is Karen and I just realized I have a lot of shoes. These days not many of them get to see the light of day. I wear wellies out the back door (to pick up poo) and utilitarian Uggs out the front door (to brave the snow and slush 🙌).
I thought that today I’d share the stories behind each of my Prada shoes. Prada is my favorite designer and brand. I love Miuccia Prada’s story, her vision, and how she’s unafraid to use her platform to be political. Going to The Costume Institute’s exhibition, “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations” made me fall even more in love with Prada. It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. Since that show in 2012, my next most memorable art moment was when I finally got my behind to the Fondazione Prada in Milan. Like, HOLY COW, that is how art is meant to be experienced. It was terrifying, enlightening, funny, provacative, unsettling, and enjoyable ALL AT THE SAME TIME. I actually felt like a changed person every time I walked out.
The 2010 Quest for the Desert Booties
All I wanted for Christmas were these desert boot inspired booties from the J. Crew catalogue. They were a heeled version of the classic men’s desert boot. I even have a sketch of them in my sketchbook because that was the only way for me to “own” them haha. Anyways, I wasn’t gonna get them for Christmas because my mom said J. Crew isn’t known for doing shoes and it wasn’t worth the money. Then she said we could look for something similar when we went on vacation in Italy. (There was nothing similar in any store we visited, btw.)
When I got to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II in the heart of Milan, I saw the very first Prada store. Written on top of the door was “Fratelli Prada”. Of course, I HAD to go in. (This was the point in my life where I was really following fashion.) Inside was the most BEAUTIFUL store I had ever seen. It truly is unlike any other retail store in its league (which to me were all very severe and cold). The store was ornate, had beautiful fixtures, plush carpets, green walls, and gorgeous details everywhere. It’s almost like the antithesis of what you think a fancy schmancy store would look and feel like. It’s not girly, it’s not snobbish, it’s not sterile. It had character, warmth, and yet a playfulness to it.
There I am wandering around the store touching things, picking them up, taking in the smell, feel, of objects I couldn’t afford. Hey, touching is free, after all. I’m a very tactile shopper. Shopping in real life is like reading a physical book, you know? Like, yeah the e-book is fine for most books, but for a REALLY good book, you want to experience it as it was meant to be.
On the shelf were brown sueded platform booties with a crepe heel. It was not what I was looking for, yet it was exactly what I was looking for. My mom encouraged me to try them on, and I was like yeah right, what’s the point, it’s not like I’ll get to buy them. Next thing you know my mom was like, if it’s really what you want…. My brain was imploding at this point. My internal dialogue was like, “WTF… do I take advantage of my mom, who has clearly lost her mind?”
Next thing I know, my sister is encouraged to find a pair of shoes she liked. (Years later my sister would be going to robotics meetings wearing pink goat suede Prada boots. *face palm*. #thisiswhywecanthavenicethings)
I remember the red glasses wearing sales lady spraying a green Prada ribbon with the latest fragrance and tying it around my wrist.
But what I will always remember was what that moment was for me at the time. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was my first time with depression. Those shoes were a moment where I felt real joy in a long, long time. I had forgotten what it was like to be giddy with happiness.
To Prom and Every Event Henceforth
I have been an online shopping addict since I could use the internet, basically. So needless to say, shopping for shoes (and a dress) to wear to the grad year formal started WAY before I was even close to graduating. It’s just fun to shop for an imaginary event. If you invited me to a red carpet event tomorrow I would know exactly what I’d buy. My plan was to buy ONE PAIR of REALLY NICE high heeled shoes for my grad year to wear to semi-formal and formal. I did a co-op where I was gifted a $500 gift card. I knew exactly what I would be spending that gift card on. I spent it on a bottle of Deborah Lippmann nail polish and a pair of black patent Prada pumps. At the time it was the single biggest purchase I had ever made. And I used “money” I earned from my first job.
I remember as soon as I had purchased them my dad non-chalantly goes, did you consider those ones over there? The construction seems to be better. No dad, I didn’t want the Louboutins and I still think I made the right choice.
These still remain my one and only pair of formal high heel shoes. There’s a good chance I’ll wear them to my best friend’s wedding. I bought these shoes when she first started dating her now fiancé. That’s kinda crazy…
The shoes for my future office job xo. mom
For my birthday I went to NYC with my mom. The trip I got to visit FAO Schwarz for the last time. While walking down Fifth Avenue, I had to pop into the Prada for the sake of just popping in. They had some shoes that were on sale, but unfortunately this lovely pair that my mom thought were very work appropriate were sold out in my size in all the local stores.
When we walked past the Madison Avenue Prada store, my mom was like, well, why don’t we pop in just in case. And LO AND BEHOLD, they had those shoes in my size. They are literally the perfect shoes in so many ways. The perfect shade of nude, the perfect heel height, the perfect toe shape.
They were the shoes that would take me from the interview and onto a nice office job. Weeeee. Those shoes still have never seen an interview nor an office job. One day, shoes, one day.
The make myself feel better purchase
I was living in Nicaragua and let’s just say, not loving it. It was too. damn. hot. Also really boring because there was nothing to do. I just needed to do something to make myself feel better so I bought these shoes online.
At the time it was the first country of three countries I was going to be living in within the span of a year. I had never been away from home for so long and it was really a trial to see if I was emotionally stable enough to be away from home. I packed my suitcase and took off to a place where I didn’t know anyone. I’m glad that first trip I had the safety net of having the school arrange my transportation and accommodation. I didn’t have to figure out where I was going on my own as soon as I arrived. Fun fact: there isn’t a formal address system in Managua. Looking back, Nicaragua was probably the hardest place to adjust to. I was lucky that I was eased into the living abroad experience as much as possible. I was away for 4 weeks, went home for a week, and then went back for another 4 weeks. It is still one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. (By the end of the year I was SO GRATEFUL that I could buy cheddar and make a grilled cheese in a panini press in little dorm room in Milan – it’s SERIOUSLY all about the small comforts.)
These shoes were the reward I bought for myself for surviving that first part of my CEMS year. It was SO nice to go home and open the box containing these shoes. They were really nice took just look at. I didn’t actually wear them for the first time until well over a year later. They are kind of the summer counter-part to the suede desert booties.