As many of you know, I am quite proud of the fact that I am a bargain shopper. This especially applies to shoes. One of my proudest purchases? These adorable black and white chunky-heel shoes I used to wear when I went swing dancing—purchased for……(drum roll)……. FOUR DOLLARS from Ross.
I’ve been hunting around for wedding shoes for awhile now. I know there’s a bunch of bargains to be found on the Internet, but given my size 6 feet which are also wide and flat (curse of my dad’s genes), it’s extremely important for me to try on shoes before I purchase. I know Zappos and other online stores have a good return policy, but it’s just too complicated to deal with when I’m living here in Korea. I could have them shipped overseas, but that jacks up the price, makes returns a lot harder, and takes more time in general.
Given these circumstances, I headed to Seoul on Tuesday determined to find a pair of white shoes for my wedding dress. First I headed to Dongdaemun shopping district, one of the largest shopping areas in Seoul. There are hundreds of stores here, selling everything from shoes, clothes, camping gear, accessories, hanboks, blankets, craft supplies, you name it. And I pretty much feel like I must have gone through at least a hundred stores here looking for the right kind of shoe: white, open-toe, heels that were about 2.5″ or less and wide (instead of pointed) because I want to be sure I’m comfortable (and I know from past experience that wearing uncomfortable dress shoes during a formal event can probably qualify as a new level of Dante’s Inferno).
No luck in Dongdaemun, so I moved on to stores located in Itaewon, the foreign/imports shopping district. Strikeout. Next, the stores near Seoul Train Station, and finally the stores at Yongsan Station. This excursion took me over SIX AND A HALF HOURS. I went to some of the best places I could in the whole friggin country for a good shoe bargain!
At one point, I found a potential candidate that was only about $20, but when I tried them all, all I could think was, “These are gonna give you grief after a few hours.” But otherwise, I came up empty. Why?! How could this be?
First of all, it’s still early spring. The kind of open-toe sandal-like heels I’m interested in won’t really be in stock until later in the spring. However, given that I’ll already be heading back to the US in just over two weeks and I’d like to get my wedding dress hemmed before I cross the Pacific, I really can’t afford to wait.
Secondly: I’m short. Let me explain: I’m almost 5’2″. While that is pretty short in the US (after all, Kris used to joke that the top of my head made a good elbow rest for him, since I think he’s over 6′), in Korea, it’s pretty normal. I feel like women hear have a greater desire to compensate for their height with high-heeled shoes because by default, it seems like 97% of the shoes I saw were REALLY high-heeled: easily 4-5″. The other 2.5% were ballet flats, which still seems a very popular fashion trend in Korea. That leftover 0.5% is all that remained of the shoes in the height I was looking for.
Now, some of you have seen my shoe collection, and know that I’m not afraid of some hookerish 5″ stilettos (I’m particularly thinking of my black Two Lips beaded heels with the infamous clear stiletto heels).
However, I have two overriding concerns with shoe height for the wedding reception: Comfort & Courtesy. What do I mean by courtesy? Yoongu has requested that I not go for my usual preference for crazy-high-heels so that our heights can be well matched. Yoongu’s not really that tall either, and I would also like for him to remain taller than me during our reception.
Thirdly: it’s not easy to find white shoes. There were a number of good candidates, but they were in non-white colors, like champagne, grey or black.
I was on the brink of despair, and tired and cranky to boot. I finally decided to give in and see if these beautiful Pierre Cardin heels I had tried on just for fun at a department store in Yongsan were still available. I had tried them on when Yoongu and went there to find him some dress shoes a week ago. There they were—calling to me. They were just what I wanted: open-toe, strappy sandal like heels with a wide, not-too-tall heel. I tried them on: comfortable! I turned them over to see the price tag: EGADS! $200 for a pair of heels? NO THANK YOU!
A sales clerk saw my consternation and how I was about to put them back on the shelf. He rushed up to me and said, “These heels are on sale! They’re only $109.” To me, that’s not really a bargain, so at the time, I said no thank you.
Fast forward one week: I have spent over 6.5 hours dragging my tired ass around the city looking for a mythical pair of shoes that don’t seem to exist. I’m hungry, exhausted and generally just pissed-off. I remember the vision of those Pierre Cardins, and I say, screw it to the bargain shopping diva inside me, and head off for the store. Now that I’ve made my decision, I’m praying that the shoes are still there.
Ack! They weren’t in the same place! But fortunately, as I looked around, I located them. The store had simply rearranged their sale display. I try them on: the ones on display are just my size 6.5W. A sales clerk comes up to me, ready to schmooze me into buying these, but I beat him to the punch by saying, “I’ll take these. Do you accept credit cards?” He’s a little dumb-founded at the ease of the sale, but he gladly processes my purchase.
So here they are. I am loathe to admit their price, but at least I really like them, and if I average out all my shoe purchases, I guess it’s still a deal since my four dollar swing shoes help to lowever the average!