Wednesday, June 17, 2015

a mile in my shoes: my life in five pairs.

I’ve owned a lot of badass shoes in my lifetime. Lion King shoes. Dinosaur shoes. Batman shoes. Light-up Barbie shoes.

I love a good pair of shoes.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve formed emotional attachments to certain pieces of clothing. Call me crazy, but I will have a certain shirt or sweater or what have you that brings back great memories of the places I’ve worn it.

Shoes are especially so. Since we tend to wear a certain pair of shoes more often than our shirts and sweaters, I can get a lot more memory mileage out of them. Like the black-and-white gym shoes I had that everyone thought looked like soccer balls. Or the Velcro shoes I bought at Kmart because I thought they would be ironically cool, but my mother thought were (and this is a direct quote) “uglier than sin.” Or the vintage spectators I bought at Goodwill eons ago.
They were amazing.
My shoe life has evolved over the years, but I think it can be broken into five shoe milestones. Allow me to take you on a shoe journey through my past!

jelly shoes
When I was growing up, I lived in jelly shoes: those flimsy plastic slip-on shoes that generally came embedded with glitter and were guaranteed to give you blisters. As a five-year-old, I found them to be terribly classy, and I wore them all day, every day. They were meant to be summertime shoes, but I was known to wear them with socks so that I could stretch out their season a little longer. My favorite jelly shoes were a dusky purple pair with a peep-toe and slight wedge: clearly very sophisticated. 
The last pair of jelly shoes that I owned were pink with an open back and little spikes on the bottom (for all your hiking and soccer needs, I’m assuming). I got those in third grade, so chances are excellent that they would still fit me now. 
Chances are also excellent that they're buried somewhere
in my childhood closet.
Jelly shoes have experienced a resurgence in recent years, but I haven’t jumped back on the wagon. Some things are better left in the early 90s, and jelly shoes are one of them.

navy blue clogs
This outfit sure left a lot to be desired.
When I was in fifth grade, clogs became a big thing. They were not something I would have picked out on my own, but since everyone else seemed to have them, I also had to have them. This was the first time that I wanted something not because I liked it, but because everyone else had it. Thanks a lot for opening THAT door, clogs. After many months of enviously watching my classmates clunk around in their clogs, I finally got my own pair. They were navy blue and came from a consignment store in Brookings called Country Peddler (which is still one of my favorite stores of all time). I bought them with my allowance and a little bit of help from my mom, and I wore those clogs until they fell apart. Which was fine, because it was high time to move onto the next shoe trend anyway. (Could it have been platform flip-flops? Yeesh.)

$5 ShopKo slides
You saw this awkward picture in the last blog post,
but I only have so many pictures of these shoes.
This pair of shoes represents the birth of my appreciation for bargain shopping. It was the last day of fifth grade, and Mom took us shopping in Watertown to celebrate. We went to ShopKo –  an essential stop on any Watertown shopping trip – and browsed the shoes. I wanted a new pair of shoes, and I had something like ten dollars to spend. There were two pairs of black shoes that I was eyeing: one pair was ten dollars, and the other was five dollars. I remember liking the ten dollars shoes a little better, but my inner spendthrift emerged – I decided I would rather have a pair of five dollar shoes that I mostly liked and thus have five dollars left to spend on something else versus the ten dollar shoes that I liked slightly more and with zero dollars left to spend. Up until that point, I had bargain shopped out of necessity (see: consignment clogs). As a ten-year-old relying solely on birthday money and allowance, you don’t have much choice. However, these ShopKo shoes were the first time I had a choice: I bought the less expensive pair not because I had to, but because the logic made sense and I WANTED to. And I’ve been bargain shopping ever since.

black Converse All-Stars
My black Converse All-Stars are so important to me that I’ve already written a whole blog post about them. However, if I’m doing a story on shoe milestones, it would be a travesty not to mention them again. So here’s the condensed version of my long story: I bought them during my last semester in college and wore them until they fell apart. I wore them on all sorts of college adventures, including Denver, New Orleans, and Minneapolis. I wore them through endless part-time jobs, and I wore them when my life started to fall into place. They were the first of many All-Stars, but these will always be my favorite shoes.

bitch boots
Ok, technically, these aren’t boots. But “bitch boots” is too catchy to pass up. I bought these from a Delia’s catalog – no lie. I bought them for my college graduation: I wanted something that made a statement as I strolled across the stage and was awarded my liberal arts degree. They were taller than any shoes I’d ever worn before, but contrary to what you might expect, I did NOT trip or stumble. The spiky heels did sink into the grass, but I could deal with that. These shoes made me feel like I could conquer the world. Don’t mess with me: just look at my shoes. They weren’t dubbed “bitch boots” until many years later: I wore them to an event that I really didn’t want to attend. I was telling my brother about said event and told him that I had this bitchy all-black outfit planned to go with my bad attitude, and I told him about my ass-kicking shoes. He called them my bitch boots, and they’ve been bitch boots ever since.


Well, look at that! Five shoe milestones over a fifteen-year period. I have a lot more ridiculous shoe stories (see: Velcro shoes), so you haven’t heard the last from my shoe closet.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

my childhood in five dresses.

When I was a kid, I loved to wear dresses. I would have worn a dress every single hour of every single day if I could.

(Except in the winter when wearing dresses meant wearing tights. I hated wearing tights then, and I hate wearing tights now.)

I wore dresses constantly until a few months into elementary school when the gym teacher informed my parents that I should not wear dresses on gym days – sit-ups were a part of every gym class, and dresses + sit-ups = visible underwear.

I was mortified, and that effectively put an end to me wearing dresses to school. From that point on, I only wore dresses to school for programs and when I was absolutely positive that I would not be doing any kind of activity that would accidentally show my underwear.

But I still loved to wear dresses.

Then, somewhere around the age of twelve or thirteen, something in my brain snapped. I stopped wearing not just dresses, but also shorts and swimming suits – anything that would show my legs was out of the question. Even when I (grudgingly) went to the lake with my family on hot South Dakota summer days, I wore jeans.

I was an idiot.

It took until well into my senior year of high school to get past that unfortunate phase, but I’ve been wearing skirts, dresses, and shorts ever since. My love of dresses has returned, and while it’s not quite as strong as it was when I was a kid, I have been known to get awfully excited over dresses now and again. (Especially if they have fun patterns, like hot air balloons or bikes.)

But I digress. Let’s rewind to when I was just a young’un and dresses were my thing. My childhood dress experience – approximately ages four to twelve – can be captured in five distinct dresses. Dresses that I couldn’t forget if I tried.

the pink and purple tie-dyed dress.
The Mickey Mouse socks are a nice touch.
Anyone who has kids will talk about that one favorite piece of clothing that their child would wear every day for the rest of their lives if they could. This dress was it for me. I think it originally showed up in a bag of hand-me-downs from one of my mom’s coworkers, and I wore it to death. I wore it exploring in the woods and playing in the dirt – places that dresses aren’t really meant to be. I wore it with jelly shoes for my fifth birthday. By some miracle, just as the first one was falling apart, Mom found a duplicate at a rummage sale. Oh, the good times with that dress.

the crazy black dress.
Note the jelly shoes.
After the second tie-dyed dress finally bit the dust, this dress moved into position as my new favorite. I am fairly certain I wore this dress to kindergarten as often as my mother would let me. (Until tights season, that is. Then it was pants for me.) This was the very dress that got me in trouble in gym. I recall being absolutely devastated when I outgrew the dress: the great injustice of growing up. Incidentally, right when I grew out of this dress was about the time I stopped being cute. It was a rough time for me.

the flowery Easter dress.
Being eight is tough.
Speaking of childhood injustices, everyone has been forced by a parent into wearing something they don’t want to wear. I used to have these brown lace-up boots that Mom would insist I wear to church in the winter. I dreaded wearing them not because they were uncomfortable or ugly, but because they were the kind that you actually had to unlace and relace to get them on. And I’m lazy. Can you blame me? Like the boots, I tended to shove this dress to the back of my closet and hoped that my mom would forget it was there. But moms never forget. I thought the lace yoke and the big purple ribbon made me look like a dork: and with my gigantic glasses and my crazy soon-to-have-braces teeth, I did NOT need any help in that department.

the daisy dress.
This was during my "I have braces and therefore refuse to smile with my teeth" phase.
This dress was the first dress I owned that made me feel – dare I say it – sophisticated. It was either a hand-me-down or a rummage sale find, but it was spot-on perfect for the urbane tastes of a Midwestern eleven-year-old in the late 90s. Wearing this dress made me want to put on platform shoes and tinted lip gloss and go to middle-school dances like they did in the movies. (Not that my school had middle-school dances, but whatever.) I wore it to a great aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary party, and I felt like a million bucks – I even curled my hair and painted my fingernails. For one so impatient as me, that is nothing to sniff at.

the stretchy striped dress.
Why, yes, I AM wearing an ankle bracelet.
The final dress on my list is indeed a milestone dress. This was the first dress that I ever saw in a store and wanted to own. The details are hazy on where the dress came from (Maurices?) and who bought it as a gift (my grandma?), but I wore it for basically the entire summer between fifth and sixth grade – the last summer my legs would see sunlight for some time. I felt SO COOL wearing this dress, although I wasn’t confident enough to wear it without the goofy white t-shirt underneath. I did wear it with a hemp necklace (ridiculous) and a pair of foam platform shoes that I bought myself with my allowance (also ridiculous). I felt like a girl from a Delia’s catalog, and that is saying something.


Many dresses have come and gone, but these five encapsulate my childhood. They have all gone to the big Goodwill in the sky, but I'll never forget them.

We’ll talk about shoes another time.