Where plenty of women have gone before.

by Amy

Last night, I found myself wandering around in Kohl’s after picking out a few new items for my wardrobe. Visions of the cute dress I had just tried on and the stomach dimples that it revealed were flashing in and out of my head. I am still pretty far from being able to shape my body to look great in a dress with good old-fashioned exercise, and I found myself standing next to the pantyhose. It’s then that the thought “maybe I should see if they sell Spanx here” popped into my head.

They did. They do.

I pawed through the racks until I found a few different kinds and fits of “shapewear.”

For the record, I haven’t subjected myself to this since they were just called girdles. I decided I would start slowly.  From my pile of shapewear, I picked up the piece that was supposed to fit kind of like high-waisted bike shorts. Steeling myself, I put it on. And stopped at my knees.

“Wow. These are WAY small. But it’s the biggest size they have.” And then I thought, “Ohhh. They HAVE to be this tight. That’s where the shaping part comes in.”

5 minutes later, I was shoved in. They did actually fit. And then I thought, “What if I wear these to work and I have to go to the bathroom?” Then I decided to marvel at my new shape. Maybe it would be worth the added time to pull my pants up and down.

I didn’t like it. It was nothing like my normal shape, which, although I profess to loathe, is familiar to me. My hips were smooshed in, and I realized that although it’s not great, I do kind of know how to work with my body. I peeled the bike shorts off me and got dressed, taking the entire pile that I hadn’t tried on and putting them back on the rack.

After that, my first thought was, “I don’t want to have to wear a wetsuit under my clothes to feel good about myself.” Followed immediately by, “Maybe I should just look for some heels. They make me look more polished in clothes.”

I forgot to mention, all of this has been kicked off by a new job that I just got a few weeks ago. I like the job, I mean actually like it, maybe the first job I have ever liked. It’s in a corporatey-corporate environment, where it’s not uncommon for me to feel lost, bobbing in a sea of pantyhose and high heels and polyester dresses. I have a few passable outfits, but overall I feel pretty sloppy at work – so I have been trying to pick up a few pieces here and there to spruce up my saggy old wardrobe.

So. The heels.

There seems to be an entire section of stripper heels at Kohl’s. Nothing against strippers. Girls, you go on and do what you need to do. But what about me? What about the not-so-strippery among us? I’m relatively sure that strippers are a minority within the female population, and yet… the shoe section tells me something else entirely.

Usually, I just get overwhelmed after seeing the first few pairs of sky-high heels and leave. But I dug in. I really looked. And my conclusion is this: we are in a dark time for shoes. I did find a pair of black peep-toe platform shoes that I liked. I wore them around, feeling ridiculous with the withery tops of my disposable shoe liners sticking out. I looked at them from the front. I looked at them from the side. They were comfortable, but something was off. There was something holding me back. For some reason I couldn’t imagine myself wearing them to work. The silhouette was off.

They were stripper shoes, trying to masquerade as cute black peep-toe platforms.

I thought about this post all night last night. I thought about trying to make some statement about how this is jacked up, ask questions like, “why do we women feel the need to teeter around in 4-5″ shoes that look like they should be wrapped, upside down, around a pole?” Thought about how weird it is that we are trying to squeeze and shape ourselves and then elongate our lines with these damn ankle-breaker shoes.

But then I thought, “That’s not the point.” Everything doesn’t have to be molded until it means something, just because I want to write a poignant blog post about the state of… the state of what? Is fashion just fashion, and that’s it? Or does it reflect on who we are and what we value as a society? Clean and sleek, hide the lumps and smooth out the silhouette, put your best foot forward even if the shoe on it is making you wince.

And then I thought some more, until it hit me what is really at the heart of all of this. I have always looked at older women who seem to have a uniform. You know – polyester, elastic waist pants, floral shirts, sensible shoes that are a little odd-looking at the same time. And I have always wondered how it happens. Because that’s not the kind of look that just sneaks up on you. You do it all at once. One day you are putting together sassy outfits, and then you blink and you are driving a Rascal through Walmart with a taupe pocketbook that matches your taupe oxford comfort shoes. And I have always wondered what must be the breaking point. What puts you over the edge? What makes you think that maybe owning all ten colors of these pants is a fabulous idea?

I think  it might just be strutting around in a pair of high heels in the shoe section, and when trying to figure out what’s not quite right about them, you realize, “These look too young.”

I think I’ll start with the “royal jade” and “fresh strawberry” pants and build form there.

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