Covid Retail Therapy: Buying in the Pre- and Post-Pandemic World

Pre-Covid, I was in the process of actively replenishing my arsenal of high heels.

When I was working, people used to talk about my high heels. Some of the women in the office would lecture me about longterm foot health, but this was in the golden age of Sex and the City and no amount of cautionary tales were going to change my philosophy about shoes. I had two things on my mind in this age of my life: cocktails with friends in the short term, and finding a husband in the longterm—and I needed the high heels for both.

Now I’m married, with three school-age children. After years of hauling baby carriers and wrestling kids in and out of carseats and often carrying at least two children at once—a lifestyle which requires a sensible shoe—my kids are at the age when they’re in school all day! I can go to lunch with my friends! I can go to lectures at a museum—and for that, I definitely need a shoe that sounds nice clicking on a marble floor.

That was pre-Covid (and what a grand time it was).

I think that every day of Covid, I have worn the same flat mules that I got at the end of last summer when I was shopping at Work the Metal and the strap of my black Tory Burch sandals broke. I bought whatever shoes they had there in in my size, and they were fine at the time. They were probably pretty inexpensive; they got me through the outing where the sandal strap broke, and I wore them to the pool after that. They were sensible and comfortable and not horrible-looking, and I even got a few compliments on them. (This is not meant as an indictment on Work the Metal; they have lots of cute and fabulous items, but most people don’t really go there for shoes).

When fall came, they were shoved to the back of my closet, only to be re-discovered the following spring when Covid struck and things like fashion didn’t matter anymore. I’ve probably worn them every day since then. Now a strip of the sole is peeling off, so I have to order something new. That made me think of high heels, and the quest I was on to reclaim beautiful footwear, in the time before Covid.

Remember parties? I went to a big Mardi Gras party right before Covid, and you should have seen the shoes I wore. They were dark pink—almost red—satin L.K. Bennetts with a sparkly spangle on the toe strap. Remember pedicures? That night my toes were painted with my signature OPI color, Lisbon Wants Moor OPI. It’s the perfect pale pink, like the inside of a seashell. I had a real blowout that day. By my calculations, it would have been my third-to-last pre-pandemic blowout.

There are so many strange aspects of Covid life, and one is that normal activities seem risky, and normal purchases seem extravagant. Just replacing this pair of sandals feels somehow scandalous. I bought a pair of blush pink Tory Burches, and why do I need those? But I actually do need new shoes, and who cares if no one else will ever see them? If I look down at my toes (which I have attempted to pedicure myself in my second favorite nail color, Mod About You), don’t I deserve some small bit of happiness?

It’s the same with children’s clothes. I’m buying school clothes for a school year that probably won’t happen. I had to buy my littles this Patronus dress from Boden. Had to. They’ve been through so much, and have been such troopers through Covid. They are huge Harry Potter fans, and the dresses are adorable. I just hope these dresses still fit my girls when they can actually wear them out of the house. But if they don’t, I guess we’ll all just enjoy them at home.

It’s so strange to think about what life was like before, and it’s hard to look ahead and wonder if life will ever be the same. In the mean time, we have to get through each day—and every day we get through, I count as a success. I’m trying to focus on this home, and the people in it. And if I need the small luxury of a nice shoe to get myself through, I’m going to allow it, without too much guilt.

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