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The fact that I’ve made it the subject of a blog post should be enough to tell you that this wasn’t an ordinary lunchtime for me. I know you’ll see the odd post on my feeds of me trying to look nonchalant with a celeb, but usually they’re the type of celebs that my mum will respond with, ‘Who’s that? They look like they need a good wash!’. Due to my job, which includes interviewing or being in the vicinity of music type people, these days I rarely get excited or flustered about the prospect of meeting ‘celebrities’. But I actually sort of miss that separation I felt as a youngster, when I almost thought of these beings as a different (and richer) species. But after a few interviews you soon realise that on the whole they are just like us…the same stresses, foibles…and bodily functions.
I think musicians in particular feel fairly accessible in this social media era, it’s not actually that far fetched to be in the company of or communicating with your favourite bands, and in smelling distance of their tour bus breath. However, A-list or Hollywood actors still maintain that ‘other’ factor to an extent. So there are a few names I’ll admit to being extremely capable of weakening my knees and inducing an extra surge of sweat. Ryan Gosling instantly comes to mind…
So although I don’t get hysterical or flustered I do look forward to the prospect of being able to converse with people who are behind, or part of, sounds/visuals/text that have had a notable impact on my life. I love being face to face with and partaking in natural conversation with people who have written my favourite songs, created artwork that I’ve found myself immersed in, or been part of my favourite movies or TV shows. I love hearing the stories about the creative work that has made me laugh, educated, or pulled on my heartstrings.
So to put the event into context I feel I should explain my feelings toward the hit HBO show Sex and the City.
When I was young there were films that taught me valuable life lessons. My Girl shocked with the reality of premature death, Mrs Doubtfire portrayed how divorce pulled a family in opposing directions, Hook showed the importance of embracing childhood, Beauty and Beast told us that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s amazing how many Robin Williams films contained important life messages….I digress.
As I got a bit older I found most of my references and quotes were coming from Friends, Waynes World and gross-out comedies, but many topics of discussion were also being raised because of an episode of SATC.
Sex and the City’s influence during and after it’s airing was so influential I believe it caused a cultural shift. It not only had an effect on female friendships, but people’s expectations of how women should behave, as well as what they can achieve (with or without the partnership of men). Not to mention the educational benefits for stealth male viewers, which has undoubtedly effected the behaviour of men on dates and in the bedroom.
The frank and unfiltered chats between the friends over their brunches, phones calls, shopping trips and NY strolls lead to a new openness within many of our own friendships groups. At first it would start with us talking about the latest episodes and our different opinions about the events within it . Without realising we soon found ourselves talking about subjects that were previously taboo or embarrassing, without the context of an episode. Seeing this group off friends talk about STD’s, Aid’s tests, Religion, money issues, Sex problems, cheating, pregnancy difficulties and more, invited our generation to do the same.
For so many years we’ve been conditioned that some things should be dealt with privately and quietly. This show proved that a problem shared (however mortifying) really is a problem halved. In being open about such life effecting subjects we could pass on useful information and tools to each other to enable us to cope with them better. It also showed us that everyone makes mistakes at times, that we should try not to beat ourselves up when we do, but also try not to be judgemental when others inevitably stumble. Of course all friendships have their moments – disagreements about certain choices made, or clashes when lives go in different directions, but the SATC showed once again, that with talking, things could be healed or at least improved.
Of course I don’t need to hark on about the show’s fashion credentials. It’s place in fashion history is firmly cemented. We tuned in every week not only to dissect and debate the characters opinions and decisions (mainly regarding Aiden) but analyse the outfits Patricia Field and the team had put together. We’d either be gushing, lusting and coveting, or raising eyebrows at some more unorthodox pairings. Either way, we loved to critique and discuss whether we’d be attempting to recreate the looks.
Obviously the character of Carrie was known for loving shopping and dressing, artfully and daringly combining vintage finds with high end designer, but it was her relationship with shoes that was one of the most significant themes throughout. She stepped in poop in Paris, had her favourite strappy sandal Manolos stolen at gunpoint, found her the ‘urban show myth’ Mary Janes at Vogue, tripped on the catwalk, decided to marry herself and register at Manolo…and of course the Big proposal with those beautiful blue satin pumps. Sadly my own relationship with footwear is a very turbulent and untrusting one…and far less glam.
If you saw my shoes collection (although it doesn’t really warrant the word collection but…) you’d see that the majority are in the form of a boot or trainer. Essentially the remit is that they either have to support my weedy little ankles or be flat enough to limit the potential for hazard. If you asked those who know me to sum me up in a few words, I can guarantee clumsy, accident prone, embarrassing and similar adjectives would make the cut. The list of falls, trips, collapses, unintentional exposing is not only endless, but well reported. In fact they are regaled amongst my friendship group whenever alcohol is consumed to a giggly level. Unfortunately, due to my T total status I am completely alert in these moment (well as alert as I ever am) and able to feel the blush return to my cheek as if the event was happening again.
So my point is, that you will find few examples of heels in my cupboards, and the ones I do own are on the slightly medical looking variety. Due to my apparent death wish, high arches and child sized feet, I often have to opt for clunky or rather unsexy examples of heels – opting for comfort and safety over aesthetic allure. They tend to be cheap, heavily strapped, chunky heeled or have an unflattering element of some sort.
My resolution to only purchase shoes I can walk in, doesn’t mean that the lust for beautiful shoes has diminished though. The style that makes me goo goo constantly changes, at the moment they feature a an elegant pointed toe and multiples straps, or have some form of glistening embellishment. On the practical side, the lustworthy useful shoe is a clunky boot that would may be look like I should be part of a lank haired grunge band. It feels silly for me to spend money on high heels when they wont get worn (or be destroyed by a calamitous event if I dared to), even if they are beautiful enough to be own purely as displayable artefacts.
When I worked in the fashion cupboards of magazines I’d look enviously at those that could master a day of work in heels, looking glamorous but accomplished. I’d be on my knees filing returns, trying to ensure there weren’t any remains of my secret KFC lunch on my face, and wearing flat worn out ballet pumps or ankle boots. There were a few occasions I attempted to wear heels, but they were vintage ones, so fairly modest in heel height…even this was very short lived after a few wobbly dashes to get the editors their coffee. I often see bloggers posting outfit pictures showing them in heels walking the streets of London, or that week’s glam holiday location. I wonder if they are blessed when it comes to walking in heels or whether they just swap their trainers for their stilettos just in time for the shot….
So how did I end up shoe shopping with SJP I hear you ask? So the lovely Emma Fish @‘d me in a post that Sarah Jessica had shared on her Instagram. It stated that she would be heading to Shoes on floor 2 at Bloomingdales helping on the shop floor to try on her the new spring styles of the SJP collection. As soon as the news broke in my Air bnb Brooklyn apartmen,t I rushed to the lounge area to share it with Zoe, hoping she’d jump up and down with me in a very girly fashion, and create a harmony to my high pitched squealing. She is infinitely cooler than me, so I should have expected the far more muted response. It soon became clear she would not be venturing to Bloomingdales with me in pursuit of SJP, which was fair enough considering it was her last day in the city and she had some serious Soho shopping left to do. I knew therefore I would have to persuade my boyfriend that this was a worthwhile way to spend one of our last mornings in New York. Of course I didn’t convince him of this, but I think he quite rightly realised our lives would be very miserable together if he didn’t allow this to happen. You know what they say ‘happy wife, happy life’…well I’m guessing the rule applies even if you’re still just a girlfriend.
Assuming a SATC based Bloomingdales Pilgrimage was due to take place I wanted to get to Bloomies early (I presume that’s what regular shoppers of the iconic store may call it), so that we would be in a good position should it be a first come first serve basis. At this point Si’s expression was a manageable level of grumpy. There was still an element of willingness in there, but I think it was the planned post SJP brunch at Penelope’s that was keeping that afloat.
I was surprised to find that there were no queues or crowds formed on arrival on the 2nd floor. There were a couple of beautiful blondes (who must be models with their length of limb) with their stunning mum (who I later spoke to and who were utterly charming) and a few more people gazing around the room in hope, who you could deduce were there for the same reason as me.
When I arrived a member staff asked if I was here for the event, and with my positive response advised me to sit down on one of the leather seats. Unfortunately I had realised a bit too late that others were being instructed to queue. Once we realised there was a strong line forming on the other side of the central shoe trying on area, we sprinted over in an embarrassingly eager manner.
So it turned out that if you wanted to just take a picture of SJP at work in the department then you could hang around surrounding the fitting area and stood behind some ropes at the side of the escalators. If you wished to try on shoes and meet SJP you’d have to queue. So I felt I was doing the right thing, but felt slightly perturbed when I saw many others laden down with shoe boxes. I was asked a few times by staff whether I wanted any styles from the backroom, but I declined not knowing the shoes in the collection. I presumed it would be fine to have a look when I was up there and ask footwear expert SJP advice on what shoes may suit me and my strange alien feet.
Overhearing other conversations between customers and staff it appeared we’d need some shoes already in our hands, to speed the process up when it came to our personal styling session. I had remembered seeing that she had included a shoe clearly inspired by those wonderful electric blue jewelled shoes Big gives her in the movie, the ones she teams with that cream vintage suit for her eventual wedding. Unfortunately they didn’t have my in store in my size, but I said I’d take the size up anyway. It wouldn’t matter as I wouldn’t be buying them….or so I thought.
After a while I’ve earwigging it became apparent then we were probably expected to purchase som shoes. The lucky lady in front with three boxes stacked on top of each-other wasn’t just ensuring she had some options, she was intending to go home for 3 pairs of signed SJP shoes. Imagine!
I’m the furthest from a rebel one can be, I’m an anxious soul and find comfort in toeing the line. So I wondered if I should say that it wasn’t a given that I would make a purchase? I couldn’t help but wonder if I should sheepishly evacuate the queue in nestle myself into the bystanders snapping away pictures of SJP from afar…
Seeing Simon’s face progressively tire of the situation I didn’t feel this a viable option. He’d already waited in this queue of excitable women for a considerable amount of time, the only comfort being that we would be getting a significant experience at the end of it and in turn have a very happy and grateful girlfriend. We’d also already had a bit of a fall out too, and tensions were high. He had missed capturing SJP walking right past me when making her entrance on the shop floor. Sidetracked by sports results and/or Instagram, he didn’t notice the raised chatter in the room and the snaps of the hundreds of other cameras. Anyway…all is forgiven now…right Si?
In attempt to manage expectations and ensure they didn’t have angry high heel wielding SJP fans on their hands, we were warned prior to our styling session that there wouldn’t be time for posed shots with Sarah. So at that point I realised that the experience was likely to be very swift, but I might be able to come away with some candid shots of us talking shoes.
The girl in front of me was a big fan and appeared to be extremely nervous, the shoe box containing the sparkling Mary-Janes noticeably vibrating. It’s odd how nerves can almost be absorbed like osmosis, it made me start to feel a little on edge. My vast history of personal embarrassments and the possible faux pas I could make started to take over from the worries about purchasing the shoes.
My time was had come and Sarah extended her hand to introduce herself. She exuded a warmth that would instantly put the nervy at ease, and maintained a level of bubbly that was sincere throughout her visit. She wore some perfectly fitting blue jeans (an item still elusive to me), an effortlessly slouchy grey jumper, and teamed with some tangerine t-bar shoes from her collection, which added a zesty boost of fabulous to her minimalistic outfit. She looked great, much like her character in SATC, she’s one of those frustratingly effortless people that can pull of anything and look chic or cool, or whatever the desired aesthetic is. If she wasn’t so lovely, it could be quite annoying!
In my experience most celebs are smaller than you think, and SJP was no exception. She made my 5’6 frame feel heffer like, and I very much regretted opting for a chunky knit with vertical stripes! Foolish.
What I hadn’t prepared myself for was that I would not only be advised by SJP, but also her business partner George Malkemus, CEO of Manolo. Shoe power couple or what? I explained to both that I am not a natural heel walker, telling them that I fall down…. a lot. Sarah laughed, saying that ‘they couldn’t fix the general problems’ with me. They could see they had their work cut out with me but were enthusiastic about the challenge. They encouraged me to walk in the the Angelica Satin High Heel Pumps I picked out. As I said before they didn’t have the right size in stock, and my highly arched feet didn’t quite go parallel with the shape of this elegant pump. I was feeling more relaxed now, I figured they’d understand if I didn’t make a purchase considering they weren’t the right size.
Using their expertise they deduced that the Aurora Jeweled d’ Orsay Pointed Toe Pumps might be a more suitable option. I started to panic – what if these ones did fit. I would definitely have to buy them, surely? They were equally stunning but with a heel I wouldn’t usually veer towards, I used to be slightly opposed to a kitten heel. When I first saw them on my foot I swiftly forgot my past prejudice.
Trying to discretely tell SJP my legs are very hairy
One area of my life that is consistent is my tendency to overshare, and to do something others would deem cringeworthy. SJP said that she wanted me to remove my tights so that we could get a real idea of the fit and also how they looked on. If I were to purchase, I wouldn’t be teaming them with thick opaque tights after-all. I tried to cover my mouth slightly as I told her I hasn’t shaved my legs. I really hoped I’d sidestepped humiliation when swapping my usual holed odd socks for brand new tights, but I hadn’t factored in the possibility of having to expose my dry and spiky wintery leg. She and the Bloomingdales member of staff that overheard tried to ease my worries by explaining that they too are not regular with leg grooming in winter. But the fact remained it would be me that would be exposing them in front of this crowd. By this point the shop floor was heaving. Hoards of people were viewing us as if we were visitors to a stylish zoo. It was fairly intimidating to be honest, particularly for someone so inept at walking, weighed down with legs that were almost cuddly with hair.
But if the CEO of Manolo and SJP ask you to take off your tights you do so, so I found a changing room and did so. Spotting my chalky knees that resembles rhino skin I tried to diminish the white glare with a bit of spit…I know, SJP deserves better than this! I totted back to the viewing pen, revelling in the fact I’d survived the journey and managed to walk with relative elegance. When I came back George said they looked fantastic, and then SJP turned and told me I had great legs… me…great legs…. words that have never been put together before. She also asked me why I was hiding….
I’ve never been that confident showing off my body, I very rarely wear things that show of chest or a lot of leg (although since doing this blogging stuff I’ve had to post pics in bikini’s – terrifying). When I was at school I was underweight and looked rather sickly and skinny at times. On more than a few occasions I would be called twiglet legs and when people talked about ‘getting off’ with me, others would joke saying ‘no way, she’d break if you touched her’. I’ve filled out since those days but with the added weight I don’t think there has been a huge increase in my confidence levels – probably in part due to some cruel exes. It’s not something that effects me in a huge way, I have different things like my finances concerning me more, but it’s there all the same. Although, I am/was extremely awkward when paid a compliment, SJP’s comment about my legs definitely gave me a little boost and made me smile bashfully.
So the perfect shoe for my tiny curved feet was discovered, and I fell hard for it. Not literally for once. They were exquisite and for once I felt like a proper lady. I really wanted to come back to the UK with them, they would have been temporarily homed in in my hand luggage to ensure their safety in to the country. Should I just be naughty and await an irate call from the bank? Should I wack it on the credit card and worry about it later?
I was completely torn. I’d finally discovered an elegant heel I could walk in, and it would have the bonus of being signed by these wonderful people – a memento of this special occasion. But I could see from Si’s glare that there was only one decision I could really make…I knew it too. (bugger). I told the Bloomingdales staff that I’d have to go away and see what I could do to sort out my finances and I’d aim to be back. Because there was no guarantee I’d be back for the dream shoes they told me that I couldn’t get the shoes signed, because they wouldn’t be able to sell them to anyone else.
Sarah hadn’t heard this discussion so was eager to sign the shoes. George also seemed so pleased that he’d been able to find the perfect shoes for my unique feet and inability to walk, it broke my heart a little bit to half explain that I‘d have to go away first to sort out my finances and that they therefore weren’t able to sign the shoes. One part of me felt I should quietly tell SJP about my financial quandary, she was incredibly down to earth and I’m sure would not be shocked to learn that £500 was a lot for someone like me to spend on shoes. I also remembered that episode where she realises that she couldn’t afford a home but she’d spent $40,000 on shoes….In my case, I don’t have the shoes, nor my own home. This isn’t a woe is me call to arms, not at all. I’m incredibly lucky that even though I can’t afford rent, I do have a roof over my head, and I have an abundance of high street clothes. No sympathy needed here. But I did feel wracked by guilt, I’d hate for them to think I’d been wasting their time, and they had put in so much time with me to find my ideal shoe match.
I left, completely elated, but a tad gutted I was without my new found loves. I posted one of the pictures of myself and SJP on Instagram and was flooded by intrigued comments. A few hours later my dear friend Kelly messaged me saying this…..
Unfortunately, it was too late to get back to Bloomingdales to get them signed, but the fact she had offered was so touching.
So, yes of course I wish I had been able to come home with those stunning electric blue embellished beauties, but as Simon reminded me, I came home with something far more valuable – a unique moment that can’t be replicated….as well as pretty great pictures (thanks Si, and don’t worry back scratches and food rubs a plenty for your efforts).
I’ve had been dreaming of coming to NY for over 20 years, and during my first trip I got to shoe shop with a person that allowed me to build a relationship with the city via the moving image. She played a huge part in my cultivating and enhancing my NY wanderlust to the obsessive level it became, and then she ended up being a surprise part of my dream finally coming true. She always spoke of the city as if it was the love her life, and I think her affection for it transferred through the screen. Now that I I have been there it has become my new life partner. It may not be an exclusive relationship but it’s definitely an important one.
I know some of you will think I’m a ridiculous hippy, but I couldn’t help but wonder…Did fate played it’s card here. Were all all the disappointments, broken promises and delays in making this trip a reality because…? I best shh or you may feel compelled to send me dream catchers and a tie dye maxi dress, but it is pretty peculiar that I would be in NY during this wonderful event at Bloomingdales.