Monday, March 27, 2006

Some women are head over heels for shoes

By Laura Elder
The Galveston County Daily News

GALVESTON, Tx. - When island resident Stephanie Vasut sees a fabulous pair of shoes, her pulse quickens and adrenaline flows.

“Shopping for shoes gets me so excited,” Vasut said. “I see a pretty pair of shoes and I get all worked up.”

Vasut is enamored with Jimmy Choo, a designer who can fetch $400 to $1,100 for a pair of shoes.

“When my husband sees those pale purple boxes, he gets all nervous,” Vasut said.



Vasut, 35, certainly isn’t the only woman to get pumped up about pumps or psyched about slingbacks.

Whether for Payless or Prada, last year consumers spent $20 billion on women’s footwear, according to The NPD Group. (That’s about equal to Honduras’ gross domestic product).

So what makes someone drop $92 for a pair of Nine West wedges or $4,500 for Louis Vuitton ostrich leather boots? Is it the hunt, the fairytale promises of prince-snagging slippers or just pure fun?

Meghan Cleary, author of “The Perfect Fit: What Your Shoes Say About You” (Chronicle Books, 2005) has some notions.

“My basic theory is that shoes, more than any other accessory we might put on our body, really indicate a woman’s state of mind and mood in the moment,” Cleary said. “You could be a Mary Jane girl on Tuesday morning and a stiletto girl on Friday night.”


What’s Your Shoe?

Some turn to astrology for answers. Cleary turns to “shoestrology,” on which her book elaborates.

Wear stilettos? “You move through the world with an über-confident horsey walk and are often found on a city street, hailing a cab while talking on your phone … ” said Cleary in her book. She also blogs about shoes on her Web site,

How about sneakers? “The sneaker girl is all about cool, but very accessible cool. Normally seen dashing about town, you always know the coolest music and films …”



Shoes are about form, function and architecture, said Cleary, a Manhattan resident. Their designs are fun to look at.

“It’s like a nice car you look at and say, ‘How fast does that go?’’’

A pair of shoes can be mood altering, she said.

And so can shopping for them, said Mary Chambers, director of planning and development for League City.

Dorothy used a pair of ruby slippers to get out of Oz. Chambers, 43, uses shoes for a different kind of escape.

“I go into the store and look at the shoes and try them on, and it really helps me leave everything behind,” Chambers said. “I like that aspect of it.”


The Shoedown

At one time, Chambers owned 120 pairs. She scaled back because of a knee problem.

Chambers searches for pairs in unusual colors and has a weakness for Michael Kors and Stuart Weitzman.

But her husband doesn’t always share her enthusiasm for shoes, she said. So she’s gotten good at hiding the evidence of a spree.

“The stores where I shop know I do not want the box so I can take them in the house in the bag,” she said.

Once, her husband offered to help her organize her shoes with clear boxes and labels. It seemed like an innocent gesture, but Chambers said she was suspicious. She saw it as an attempt to manage her shoe shopping.

“I nipped that in the bud,” she said.

The couple resolved the shoe showdown by each agreeing to stick to an allowance, she said.


Cinderella Story

Susan Reynolds, author of “Change Your Shoes, Change Your Life,” (Polka Dot Press, 2005) connects a woman’s passion for shoes to the Cinderella myth.

Reynolds said she isn’t referring to the Disney version, where Cinderella lands her prince with a glass slipper. Reynolds is talking about Cinderella stories dating back 1,100 years that have been told in 700 cultures.

In those tales, it’s often a shoe that helps the heroine find her true worth. That the story is found in so many cultures is telling, Reynolds said.

“To me it’s a primal urge,” she said. “It has to do with transformation and how you see yourself and what kind of ground you’re standing on. There’s a lot of symbolism in shoes.”


A Long Tradition

Texas City resident Jennifer Eggleston comes from a long line of shoe shoppers. Her mother and grandmother are legendary, she said.

Eggleston shops at stores such as DSW, where ad campaigns, playing on wildlife documentaries, have portrayed women shoe shopping as hunters moving in on their prey.

What is it about shoes?

“It’s hard to explain,” said Eggleston, 28. “I think the accessories make the outfit.”

Eggleston’s 4-year-old daughter Bella has inherited her mother’s love of shoes. When shopping for a spring break trip recently, Bella decided she needed five pairs of sandals in various colors.

“When I can’t buy shoes for myself, I turn around and buy them for her,” Eggleston said.


Bills Or Heels?

Vasut said she isn’t as extravagant as it may seem. She donates her shoes to charity and isn’t obsessed with quantity.

Her husband is a physician at the University of Texas Medical Branch. The joke among his colleagues is that he works overtime in the emergency room to pay for his wife’s heel habit.

Vasut said she knew she loved shoes when her parents sent her money to pay bills in college.

“Do I pay the electric bill or go get some shoes?”

She got the shoes.

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