shoes Are you a shoe or a bag person?

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I don’t like shoes. There, I admitted it. Actually, I have nothing against shoes per se- they excuse me from the tedium of having to get a pedicure more than once a year, and I can’t imagine going to Coles without them (that floor gets so chilly in the dairy aisle!). More correctly, perhaps I should have said that I’m not into shoes. I don’t get shoes. For the life of me I can’t understand how other women become so worked up about the damn things- loopy about Louboutins, manic over Manolos, cuckoo for Choo.

This was first brought home to me years ago when I went out for drinks with a (quite literally) well-heeled friend. She insisted we find a seat at the bar rather than standing, then curled her legs around her in a way that might have seemed girlish and fetching if she hadn’t confessed later that she did so for a reason. Forget diamonds on the soles of her shoes- this woman wanted everyone to notice her trademark red Prada slash instead. “But they’re just, you know, shoes,” I told her, nonplussed, and she looked at me as if I’d spat on her mother.

It gets worse. I’m not into bags either. I’m not into makeup. I’m not- deep breath- into clothes. An online friend visiting my home town of Melbourne once asked me where she should shop. “Shop?” I queried. “Dresses,” she replied. “Something for the races, and something strappy and elegant for summer, and also maybe a leather jacket and some new wedges.” I was, again, nonplussed. If she’d asked for great Turkish bread or artisan chocolate or fabulous books, I was her girl. Heck, I could have helped her if the wedges she was dreaming of were the type that came with sour cream, but as it was it was like asking the Pope to recommend a gay bar.

I didn’t dare tell her that my own wardrobe consisted pretty much of jeans, white t-shirts, presents from my sister and a nice line in polar fleece. If tracksuits suddenly come into fashion as the last word in after-five wear I’ll be set, but until then it’s fair to say that I’m not a shopper.

It’s not- I hope- that I’m unfeminine. I’ve never, ever been a girly-girl, but I have a thing for gorgeous underwear, a penchant for rings and pearls and silver necklaces, a deep secret desire to one day be mistaken on the street for Angelina Jolie (which, admittedly, is unlikely, given you hardly ever see her in polar fleece).

I love looking at spreads of Oscars frocks and Derby day fashions on the field, but the whole thing is more confounding to me than nuclear physics. Actually, physics- both nuclear and garden variety- is a breeze compared to the agonies of accessorising, the mysteries of trans-seasonal wear and what the heck the point of those teensy little shrug things is anyway. I am a professional woman in my early (enough) forties who has to admit that she doesn’t truly know how to put an outfit together. I have a PhD in neuropsychology, but I cannot layer. This is a big admission. Living where I do, the latter would have been more useful.

I can’t blame my gene pool. My mother could shop for Australia, and frequently does. My sister understands what ‘bias-cut’ means, and has the receipts to prove it. Pity, then, my poor ten year old daughter Cameron, who seems to be budding from the same branch of the family tree. The only time Cam will ever deign to wear a tracksuit is before one of her swimming meets, and even then it has to be pink velour with a grosgrain trim set off by ballet flats and a satin head band.

I catch her looking wistfully at other more sartorially-gifted mothers, and though she’s too polite and loving to say anything to me, I know what she’s thinking. She caught me recently heading out the door to a friend’s book launch in a grey wool dress, knee-high suede boots and wearing lipstick, and her little face lit up. “Mummy,” she exclaimed, “I love it when you try.”

What she doesn’t understand is that I do try. I do, I really do- I have a job and a social life and some days it’s just too hot for polar fleece, so every now and then I make the effort and go shopping. But it never works. All that choice overwhelms me; all those styles and colours and things that I might put on backwards by mistake. It used to be that jeans, like milk, came in one variety only, but on a recent trip to Westfield I’d encountered at least ten types before I even made it to the food court: skinny leg, wide leg, low rise, boyfriend, calcium enriched…

Thankfully clothes often find me. That grey wool dress was thrust into my arms as I went to try something else on at (cough) Target in (cough cough) Broome. “Here,” said the woman handing out the security tags, “someone else just tried this, but I reckon it would look good on you.” It was 40 degrees in the shade outside and Broome Target simply had no reason to be selling lovely fitted wool dresses, but my new (and sadly temporary) personal stylist was right- the dress was a find.

Then there was a gorgeous lightly sequinned green top that I discovered hanging on a tree by the local creek, left either by a swimmer or a stylish amnesiac; the mint condition silk shirt that literally fell off its hanger onto my feet at the Camberwell market; my favourite red jacket, which my best friend purchased online then passed on to me when it turned out to be too small for her. I’m grateful for these garments, and I hope they keep turning up. The alternative, I’m ashamed to admit, is a night class in layering or a life of leisure (wear).

Kylie Ladd is a novelist, freelance writer and neuropsychologist. Her novels include  After The Fall, and  Last Summer. Follow her on Twitter here

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Are you a shoe person or a bag person?

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