February 1, 2007

Shoe Savvy

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Not long after all my Christmas presents had been opened and my gift money distributed to various funds, namely Spring Break, I had the sickening realization that a good pair of casual, yet stylish boots were completely absent from my wardrobe. I set off at once on my self-imposed mission, redistributing my money and scouring the internet for the perfect pair — classic, just-below-the-knee-riding boots. I finally came across just what (I thought) I was looking for at jcrew.com in what appeared to be a sturdy, burnt-sienna-hued leather pair — on sale! Although they were still rather expensive and bit lighter toned than I had imagined, I clicked “add to cart” without looking back, as it seemed that my fashion woes were, for the time, quelled. After days of eager waiting, I tore open the large cardboard package to find outrageously yellow leather boots, much more Texas cowboy than equestrian chic, as advertised on-line. I fought back tears when I read the words “final sale, no returns.”

After a week of trying to forget about the unpleasant boots tainting my closet, I found myself in a J. Crew store on the other side of the country trying on the exact same pair, this time in a rich, chocolate suede. I realized they were the boots of my dreams and, at greatly reduced price, I obediently swiped my credit card and signed the receipt — after all, two pairs is better than one, and besides, they go with completely different outfits. Happy with my day’s work, that night I received a call from my mother. Traveling in Argentina, capital of leather goods, she had just bought me the perfect pair of, what else, leather riding boots in reddish brown! Going from zero to three, non-returnable riding boots in a matter of a week, I am lucky that this style of boots is just about the most timeless item in fashion.

Infatuated with my second and third pairs, I would have no regrets had I not bought the unsightly yellow pair. As I learned, on-line shoe-shopping can be tricky and misleading, as well as expensive with shipping. In an ideal world, we would be allowed to see each shoe with our own eyes before committing but, living in Ithaca where Fontana’s limited selection is the closest thing to a trendy shoe boutique, we aren’t so fortunate. But, while I had a wretched internet experience, there’s hope yet as the World Wide Web is sprouting with mega-shoe-sellers. The ever-popular zappos.com carries over one-thousand brands in every style of shoe imaginable and, better yet, has a 365-day return policy as well as free shipping both ways. If you are unable to find what you are looking for there, you might try onlineshoes.com and shoes.com, competing websites which offer similar shipping and return policies. Online bookstore turned one-stop-shop, amazon.com, now also a popular shoe dealer, has recently launched the new site endless.com, supplying the fashion-deprived with endless styles of shoes and handbags with free overnight delivery and a no-regrets return policy. Of a similar concept, piperlime.com was started in the fall of 2006 by Gap and offers just as much variety and deals for a trendier, youthful crowd.

By sticking to these websites, you’re sure to avoid a fate like mine, left instead to enjoy the success of your purchases and celebrate spring’s fun, bubbly trends. Unsure of what to buy, you can’t go wrong with ballerina flats, which now come in every fabric and print imaginable, either as slip-ons or tied around the ankle with ribbons. In contrast, Chloé-style chunky wood-stacked heeled sandals with thick crisscrossing straps are invading the fashion scene. And, just when you thought its golden days had passed, comfy suede moccasins are back, this time in a rainbow of colors from light-blue to red. If its casual comfort you’re looking for, the season’s funky converse-like sneakers are perfect, laden with quirky accents like jewels or heart buttons sewn on the sides and colorful laces. If you don’t already own a pair, consider picking up some rain boots, not only a full-blown trend but also utterly functional come springtime showers. While rubber wellies can spotted everywhere in crazy colors and patterns, sometimes a solid, neutral color like green or navy is a better bet as it easier to match, but still looks chic. As much of the country is on the brink of spring, these few weeks are the perfect time to find great deals on winter’s most popular boots that, in Ithaca at least, still have at least a month’s wear in them. Look for some flat-heeled slouchy leather boots in black, brown or gray that you can wear with skirts and tights or over your skinny jeans. Furry snow boots are also a popular choice, keeping you glamorously toasty. If you favor a more classic look, riding boots are an unfailing option — in fact, buy a couple pairs!