A woman walks into a shop and asks for a size 11 shoe. The shop assistant responds: “We don’t have any 11s. Would you like to try on a 9?”
I have heard variations of this story from at least a dozen women since opening The Shoe Garden. We groan every time and wonder about shop assistants who seem to think that a shoe that is two sizes too small is an acceptable alternative.
And then we compare notes on how appalling it is that some shop assistants can barely conceal their horror when you ask for a longer size. Sometimes you get pity too.
And then we wonder why the longer sizes, if there are indeed any, are kept way out back (judging by the time it takes to fetch them) as if they are contraband and couldn’t possibly be on display for all to see.
I could go on and on. So many customers tell me these same stories, in almost hushed tones, thinking they are the only ones.
May I share with everyone … you are not alone!
So many of us have had the same experiences … crying because we couldn’t find shoes for our school formal or wedding; losing feeling in our toes because the shoes we have bought are much too small; trying to stretch too-small shoes and paint or cover shoes that are too dull and ugly; not to mention, avoiding even entering conventional shoe shops after a while because it’s not worth the hassle and the disappointment. It’s no fun seeing gorgeous shoes that will never fit your feet just because they are a few centimetres longer than what is considered the norm.
When I lived in Vietnam in the late 1990s, I was desperate for a pair of closed in shoes as I hadn’t realised how freezing the winters were and all I had with me was a very small selection of sandals. I found a cobbler in a tiny shop on the outskirts of Hanoi. He motioned me to put my foot on the blank page of an old scrap book so he could trace around it. But of course my foot was too long so he had to turn it sideways, all the while screaming with laughter and getting all his friends to gather round and look at my foot. It was excruciating and, in the end, the shoes were too tight anyway.
Then again, this is the country where I had a dress made and returned 48 hours later as instructed to try it on and it was too tight on my hips. When I pointed this out to the tailor, she said: “No, your hips are too big”.
I’ve heard some really sad stories too since opening my shop. One woman still remembers 40 years on how her mother told her she would never find nice shoes because “your feet are too fat”. My heart just broke when I heard that. She was only a size 11 and her feet were not particularly wide at all and yet her face was so sad as she was telling me this.
On the flip side, I love it when mothers and daughters come in to The Shoe Garden and spend hours trying on shoes. One duo, both size 11s, fell in love with the same shoe and were cheerfully negotiating who would get it until I shared that I had another in the same size. They each bought one and agreed to tell the other when they were wearing it. They were so happy and had so much fun.
That’s what I love: providing an environment where women can finally have a positive experience when buying shoes.
Whenever there is more than one customer in the shop, there is inevitable banter between strangers as they bond over their long feet and compliment each other on whatever they are trying on.
Squeals of “oh my God, it’s too big” or “I can’t believe I can pick it up from the shelf and try it on” are common.
With nearly 550 women on my database already, I reckon we are a powerful force with a growing marketshare and I am proud to be an advocate for women with longer feet who want gorgeous shoes.
We’re not alone anymore.
Ciao for now, Carol