Doodad Kind of Town

A Frugal Fashionista looks at Shoes on Ebay
March 11, 2007, 4:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

(At left, the shoes I have long coveted – photo from Ebay)

I am what you might call a frugal fashionista. There are two kinds of fashion thrills in my life.

One is when the new issues of Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar hit my mailbox. I pour over them for hours, admiring the beautiful shapes, lines and colors of the latest fashions. But I NEVER actually purchase any of the lovely things I see. ($3000-plus for one lousy purse? Louis Vuitton, Schmouie Vuitton! The bag may be beautiful – even breathtaking – but when it’s choice between a handbag and five or six mortgage payments, the mortgage company is gonna win every time.) These are my vicarious fashion thrills.

My hands-on fashion thrills generally involve an outlet mall. Typically, a trip to an Ann Taylor Factory Store is the highlight. (Take a look through my closets sometime. Were you to peg me as the kind of gal who puts her name in all her clothes, you’d be convinced my name actually was Ann Taylor.) One of my proudest moments in the last couple years was scoring a gorgeous black burn-out velvet cocktail dress at the AT Factory Store for a mere $29 – marked down from $110. Paired with a floaty black evening shawl, it looked gorgeous when I wore it to Elton John’s show at Caesar’s in Vegas – even though I was surrounded by concertgoers decked out in denim shorts, white Reeboks and fanny packs. Oh well. My personal philosophy is when in doubt, over dress!

Anyway, as fashionistas go – frugal or otherwise – I am also a proud member of the fashionista subset called Shoe Whores. I love shoes – but more than that, I love getting a great bargain on beautiful shoes.

My biggest shoe disappointment of 2006: Saying goodbye to a pair of Impo faux-snakeskin mules I had purchased off the deep discount racks at the back of DSW for $19.50 in 1999. I loved those shoes – I wore them with jeans, sometimes with denim skirts for 7 years, always to appreciative compliments from fellow shoe lovers. They were fun, funky – and surprisingly comfortable. Last summer, I had to toss them out when the left shoe literally snapped in half at the instep. I wore the crap out of those shoes – I milked that $19.50 investment for all it was worth. And I really wish I still had them.

My biggest shoe triumph of 2006: scoring a pair of Christian Louboutin burgundy sandals for a mere $99 plus shipping. How was this possible? I have one word for you: Ebay. (or is that 2 words?)

Disclaimer: Yes, there were used shoes. In the parlance of Ebay, they were “gently worn.” But I couldn’t be happier with them. They arrived in excellent shape and looked fabulous. Which brings me to my latest Ebay shoe adventure.

If you are a “Sex and the City” devotee (as I am), perhaps this line – delivered with wide-eyed awe by Ms. Carrie Bradshaw – will ring a bell:

“Manolo Blahnik patent leather Mary Janes! I thought these were an urban shoe legend!”

As Carrie held the magical, mystical Manolos in her trembling hands, the Shoe Whore inside me whispered “I will have those shoes someday!”

The Frugal Fashionista inside me then whispered “If I can get them at a discount.”

And ever since that episode was broadcast in Season four, my quixotic shoe-loving quest has been to obtain a pair of Manolo Blahnik black patent leather mary janes – for well under the original $595 retail price.

When I first spotted a “gently worn” pair on Ebay last summer, I confidently entered a maximum bid of $175. I immediately became the top bidder – a status in which I remained for about half a day. Outbid, my confidence shaken, I quietly searched my soul. What was I really willing to pay for those fabled mary janes? What amount could I justify to myself? One the one hand, $175 for used shoes seemed ridiculous – on the other hand, these weren’t just shoes! More like a fine museum piece really, I reasoned with myself. Upping my bid to $215 seemed reasonable. So I entered my higher bid and sent myself off to bed, dreaming of how great those shoes would look paired with my new beige and black wrap dress from Ann Taylor.

To no avail. By morning, when the auction closed, someone else had swooped in and pushed the winning bid up to $425! While I was disappointed that the shoes had not come to me, I was, at the same time, greatly relieved that I didn’t have to cough up $215 plus shipping costs for a pair of worn shoes, gently or not. I had never paid that much for a new pair. My practical self had quarreled inwardly with the my lover-of-beautiful-things self. I’m not sure which side of me won that round – I just felt worn out.

I think I wanted to just avoid that inner turmoil again, so I put my shoe quest aside and went about my life, making the occasional trip to DSW, scoring a great pair of brown, kitten-heeled Franco Sartos here, some black suede boots there. Always fun, never too heart-stopping.

Then, last Friday afternoon. during a late afternoon, end-of-the-workday, time-killing Internet browse, I got pulled into the designer shoe listings on Ebay. And there they were. Those magical MB mary janes, size 38, gently worn (“worn only twice – both times to local business meetings” the seller assured. Thank God they weren’t worn to Walmart!) The high bid was $177.50. I began to quiver a little. Should I risk it again? Should I put myself through the wringer.

I decided to be cautious. I added the shoes to my Ebay watch list, and went about my day. At ten pm, the shoes were still going for $177.50. By Saturday morning, the bid was up to $220 – already past the amount I had long ago decided was my maximum. I continued to ponder, but couldn’t bring myself to make a bid. Sometimes I just don’t have the will to find out whether my love of beautiful things trumps my love of financial stability. Manolos are beautiful, but money in the bank is safe. Eventually the shoes sold for $370. Again, I’m relieved that I’m not the one paying the $370 – but I sure do like those shoes? Will the day every come that I can own these shoes for $215 or less? Stay tuned…..


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