Ok, I have to put this in a blog post because it's too long for Facebook and I'll feel better after off-loading! Stick with it, because it's so ridiculous, you couldn't make it up! So Friday was the day we'd been waiting for, the Irregular Choice 'Alice In Wonderland' collection launching at 12pm. Some of you know I'd been invited to London to view (and buy) the collection. Like seriously, how freakin' awesome would that be? I'd have LOVED to go. Health-wise I'm absolutely nowhere near ready to do something so huge (it would've been quite the trip even in full health), so I unfortunately had to decline. Over the 14 years I've been ill, I've obviously had to let people down a lot and deal with the mental impact of doing so (it's no fun for me either) and honestly it never gets any easier. There's the obvious practicalities of buying instore; getting to see them in the flesh rather than stock photos, trying them on and getting the size right and just that security of knowing you're (most likely) definitely going to get the styles you want. I knew buying online would be stressful, I've had a gut feeling from the start, though I couldn't have predicted how bad it was going to go. This is important to mention (because I've seen a lot of hateful comments over the past few days that I feel are rash and somewhat harsh), but throughout the whole thing I've never blamed anyone or even been angry. It's been upsetting and stressful and an unfortunate set of circumstances, but I'm not mad about it.
One of my many concerns was that unlike previous character heel releases, I wasn't buying one or two pairs, I wanted a LOT (more on that later)! That means going back and forth between the shoes and adding the correct sizes to my basket, whilst other people are probably already checking out with one or two pairs and by the time I'd finished, they'd be gone. It's not like I'm inexperienced in battling virtually for limited edition shoes, but I'd never attempted it on such a grand scale. So I prepared for this event with the seriousness of someone hoping to qualify for The Olympics. Like my life depended on it! I spent more hours than I should probably admit to, sussing out sneaky photos of the styles long before any official teasers were shown. Infact, I'd managed to find 12 of the 17 styles beforehand. Yeah, the fact I found out there were 5 'unseen' pairs happened late in the game and blew my mind and plan, but I coped (more on that later too)! I find it difficult to choose between pretty things at the best of times, but this was only further hampered by the fact this was such a strong collection (I'd expect no less from Dan Sullivan and Irregular Choice by now). I didn't want them all just for the sake of it or to be greedy, I simply fell in love with everything I saw.
The only thing in my favour is my ability to turn into an utterly clumsy pleb in any shoe without a heel. I trip over my own feet. My balance is off kilter, to the point that even standing still is a struggle. I genuinely lose the understanding of placing one foot in front of the other in order to walk. I just can't lift my feet off the ground and I have no clue how to place them on the ground once they've taken that step. My legs ache. My not so massive size 5 feet look huge. Everyone including myself discovers just how short I am and what a lie I've been living my whole life in high heels. Like I say, it's valuable in this instance because the 4 beautiful sandals and pumps I'd ogled (and they were seriously gorgeous), wouldn't work for me and I could add them to the "no" pile and pat myself on the back for making adult decisions. Disregard everything before that last sentence and I totally did! So I was 'down' to 8 heels (well, so I thought). The teacup/teapot shoes and boots were two I wasn't prepared to discuss. They were must-haves for me. Everything and more that I'd expect of Alice themed footwear and so chaotically "irregular". You have no idea how giddy I get over a fancy boot, I don't even understand it myself, but it happens...and bows, damn the bows! Both Alice heels appealed and seemed so different to one another that you could justify the purchase of both. Could you really ignore the title character in her own collection when buying multiple pairs? I think Disney might have unwritten rules about that. Then there was the two white rabbit heels. They were whimsical and I've developed a hankering for pink shoes of late, anything sickeningly girly or Barbie-ish and I'm drooling like a 13 year old in the front row of a One Direction concert. I'm no mathematician but I realised quickly I'd just put 6 out of 8 on my virtual wishlist. The other two were also beautiful (honestly you won't find a dud here), Queen Of Hearts printed courts with mesh heart inserts, contrast patterns and images from the film on the toes. The knitted Cheshire Cat flats I'd fallen in love with also came in a heeled option, one I would actually be able to walk in. However both shoes had the flashing heart heel (remember True Love?) and already owning that pair, I felt I didn't need another style or two with the same heel no matter how different they were to those. Take note, another adult decision made and another 2 on the "no" pile. Yep I know, 6 "yes" shoes out of 12, 50%, half, yeah yeah, but could you choose between your babies? That's how this feels to me!
Obviously at this point we had no idea of pricing and as flimsy as my decision making may seem up to this point, my eyes were wide open to the fact this was going to cost a fortune. I can't tell you how many sleepless nights I've had trying to give up one of my "babies" and thus make my wishlist more attainable and realistic. I know wanting two of each heel seemed silly, but I just couldn't separate them. I'm aware of how lucky I am that such a large portion of my income can be spent on shoes, but my total income isn't large in the slightest, so I knew I was on my own and would have to really save to afford all these. Let me tell you I suck at saving money. More than making decisions on pretties! I knew it was coming though, so time was on my side, but temptation was all around. Really pretty temptation. I can turn a blind eye to January sale stuff for so long, then it gets to a point it's such a bargain and I've lusted after it for so long I can't resist. Three beautiful Collectif coats I'm looking at you. In my defence, I did spend the last year pining over not buying the Pearl coat in the last sale, so it was a long time coming. I felt guilty everytime I spent though (no matter how small) because I saw it as "potential Alice money" (Mum and I have realised money means absolutely nothing to me, but everything is measurable in shoes), but sometimes stuff just comes up. I've not felt up to selling on eBay the past couple of years, but I told myself to go for it. I needed the boost of cash. So I tentatively put up a few things and lo and behold they sold and I made over £300. Using the Star Wars collection as a guide (we had nothing else), I figured that was 1 1/2 Alice pairs. Not bad for a first effort. Though making money isn't the issue, it's the saving part that is my problem and I promptly proceeded to spend all that dough on flamingo and dice heels, poodle shoes, teddy shoes and a unicorn clutch in the Vivienne Westwood sale. Oh and the rest on my eBay fees. I suck. Somehow though over the past few months through sheer determination (amazing what you can 'achieve' when the end goal is so desirable) I've managed to spend less and a last ditch eBay attempt at the weekend made me just under £300 from 3 pairs. I've never had so much money in my account since my student loan on the first day of a new term and technically that wasn't my own or at least not 'earned' in any way. I felt quite proud that I'd actually managed to independently fund my shocking shoe habit and not do the usual 'borrow from Mum then pay her back in installments' that I'm so good at.
So I felt reasonably prepared for the launch. The chances were I could probably afford most of my wishlist. Yes, I still had no idea about sizing, other than my 'shoedoo sense' of deciphering the fit from looking at photos of them online. Shoedoo sense is unscientific and unreliable, though I do surprise myself with how accurate it can be on occasion! This method led me to decide to size up on them all besides the floral Alice (they looked quite shallow, like your foot would fall out if they were too big and that they'd be softer and therefore the easiest to stretch with wear), as I find too big shoes easier to fix than too small. At this point I wasn't even sure I'd keep all six, but I really wanted to try them and perhaps I'd dislike them in person (unlikely) and return the unwanted pairs (I feel mean just typing that). Then I found out there was another 5 pairs (no idea what) and that kinda put a kink in my well oiled plan of action. I likely couldn't add any to the chosen six, so would've had to *gasp* choose between my babies. Noooo, say it ain't so. I heard whisperings of possible price points and that the pearly rabbits were the highest at £340 (which was confirmed on the day). To be honest I found a slightly better photo of them very recently and they were starting to slip off the yes list anyway and certainly at £340, they were out of my league when I was buying others too (though I've since changed my mind again, they were absolutely stunning, but still out of my league when buying so many). I didn't find out what the other styles were until Friday morning and surprised myself by making decisions quickly about them. Ok three were flats, so that was easy and one was a black version of the pink bunnies (so another easy one, as I preferred the pink) and the other style though beautiful, felt like a less intricate version of the floral platforms and I loved their craziness, so could live without this 'new' pair too. I was still going for the 5 original pairs.
Knowing this day was coming and the fact I have no life anyway, I 'cleared' my diary in anticipation. Actually this whole week has been spent emailing, sharing sneaky photos privately between friends and discussing what we thought about fit and prices. It's amazing how many days you can while away talking shoes. I've barely slept for the past couple of weeks for worrying about what could go wrong, so have been feeling pretty frazzled lately. It turned out not to be irrational. I had my routine 2 year eye appointment in January. Exactly 2 years since I'd left the house last. I unexpectedly had a school reunion that I agreed to go to at the end of January (story on that for another time), which was a colossal decision considering I'd been housebound all this time, so I put the eye exam off until I knew I'd survived my first outing! I did and the optician could take me this Wednesday. I know that's like 2 days away from the shoe launch, but I still didn't like it being that close, because I knew I'd be knackered afterwards and didn't need anything else taking up my time or distracting me. Like I say, time this week has flown, so I found myself removing the chipped nail polish that had been there since the reunion night and painting my nails (another thing I recently did for the first time in 2 years) at half one in my bed the night before the opticians! Showering, washing my hair, all stuff that able-bodied people can take for granted are big chores for me and have to be planned around outings, so I felt pretty pooped seeing to all that, when all I could think about was this launch. I've been worrying about other things this week too (things more serious than shoes), but come Wednesday morning I woke up to find out the optician cancelled because he has tonsillitis and rescheduled. Time well spent painting my nails and trying to sleep in a polish fumed room the night before then! I get geared up for these things, so I was pretty annoyed (I know it's not his fault), but the worst was yet to come, the new appointment was for Friday. This Friday. The one I'd cleared all non-plans for! Mum had the choice of 12.40pm or 2pm and opted for the latter, believing it would give me time to get the shoes. "You usually have them bought by 2 minutes past anyway" she said. True and years of buying Westlife tickets for my sister who will only sit in the first few rows, preferably in the centre block, meant I was pretty skilled and quick to pounce in these tense online 'battles'. That's not to say it's always worked though and like I said earlier, this wasn't the "usual" situation and I really wished I'd trusted my gut, put my foot down and rearranged the appointment for another time, because I just knew it was going to bite me on the bum.
So Friday morning, I got up, washed, dressed, put on makeup (another thing I'm trying to get back into doing) and made it downstairs for 11am for breakfast, which I barely tasted because I ate it so quickly. My laptop decided to freeze or do some weird thing where I couldn't even put my password in (great start), but once I got on, I began sussing out those extra styles I hadn't seen and rather helpfully someone included a price list (pleasantly surprised at most to be honest). I was able to calculate if I had enough funds (short by a tenner, though I had a discount code for Schuh so hoped at least some of the styles could be bought from there and therefore I'd have enough) and I felt ready to 'battle'. The new Irregular Choice site even had a cool countdown thing so you knew exactly how many minutes and seconds remained. I logged into my accounts, had my card details ready, my discount code 'copied' ready to paste and after all these months building up to it, everything I could do had been done. My priority was to buy as many as possible from Schuh (every little helps) then the remainder direct from IC. I also had a backup list of other stockists, but as everyone was so tight lipped about this launch, we didn't know who was selling what. A couple of minutes before 12 o'clock the styles appeared on IC, though you weren't able to add any to your basket yet. 12 came and went and the IC site crashed. Full blown, no way of getting on the site, error message crashed. I didn't panic. Onto Schuh (I had so many tabs open I suspected crashing my own internet), no sign of anything. So I tried the other retailers to varying degrees of success. A few had none yet, others had some I wanted (the most was 3 styles from one site), but did I really want to buy them if I could get them cheaper at Schuh? No, not when I'm spending that much money, plus it as more of a hassle if I needed to return any. Everyone was reminded of how the same thing happened with the Star Wars launch (on the old site), but I'd been lucky in that instance that I wanted R2D2 and got them hassle-free from Schuh, so when the IC site crashed, I didn't even bother to look any further, happily knowing I'd secured the style I wanted and subsequently missing all the drama. On Friday, the IC site would flash up for a second then revert back to the error message. I have to admit I really wasn't overly stressed by this point, because I felt at least nobody could get any, it's not like they were selling out and it was just me that couldn't get on. Mum went into live chat on her Kindle with Schuh to ask what they were getting and when, as it was now half 12 and I was mindful of the clock. Schuh said they'd be up in 5-10 minutes, still nothing on IC or sometimes I'd get onto a shoe, but the 'add to basket' just kept spinning and never did anything. I never got to the point of anything being in my basket. I began to worry when the other shops started selling out. It took away my options and I was realising IC probably wasn't going to be back up and running before I had to go out. I tried to rationalise it to myself that it was "just shoes", but no, I've been preparing for this for months and was willing (and able) to spend literally every penny I had, so I wasn't going to be satisfied unless I got everything I'd been planning on. I haven't wasted the last few months for nothing! Schuh eventually put up 5 styles and I was disappointed to find only one off my list. My Mum was trying to calm me, because by now everything had gone from the other retailers in my size and again she spoke to someone (different) who said Schuh were also getting white rabbit, but there was a technical issue and it would likely be 1pm until they were up. I decided to go ahead and buy the one pair anyway, then by the time it took to checkout, I realised 1 o'clock was only 13 minutes away and I could 'bravely' wait and get the bunnies with them.
I'd had no lunch (I wasn't even hungry to be honest, shoe stress is a clearly a great appetite suppressant) and I really needed to pee, so did that (!) and organised my coat, shoes and bag, so I was ready to leave. When I got back the rabbit shoes still weren't online (after 1pm) and the pair I'd almost bought were down to two sizes remaining, so I didn't hesitate and got those. I was starting to gulp back the tears and I really don't cry easily these days, because it was dawning on me that everything would probably right itself once I had no computer access. All that planning couldn't have prepared me for this, it was out of my hands and I felt so deflated and disappointed about that, it had all been for nothing. As it was my first time out of the house in so long, Mum and I were going to go out for an ice-cream sundae and make the trip a little more fun and enticing, because it's been boring medical related appointments for me (other than the reunion) for over 2 years now. I blooming well deserve a little treat, but before we left the house, I said I just wanted to get back home as soon as possible and didn't want to go anywhere afterwards. I'm really disappointed in that too because I didn't have the opportunity to appreciate being out and seeing places I haven't seen in years, as my mind was elsewhere and I barely mustered up coherent replies to people pleased to see me out for the first time (I think they suspected I'd died)! The appointment seemed to drag on, but my prescription hadn't changed much and I could've picked new glasses if I wanted, but I refused as I wanted to get home asap. We got home reasonably quickly and I rushed in and opened the laptop, clicked on IC and Schuh and one thought that had run through my mind before leaving was, what if Schuh got the black rabbits? They were called the same thing, so it was possible. They had, so I knew I now had to find the pink ones elsewhere. On IC the website was working and I clicked on the boots first, gone in everything but one size. Not mine. Mum hadn't even got the wheelchair back in the house and I started sobbing. I couldn't help it. It was part disappointment, part temper and just utter heartbreak. I felt a little foolish because it's shoes, nobody died, but I was devastated to have to turn down the event in the first place, annoyed I'd missed out on getting outdoors to do something vaguely fun and now I didn't even have anything to show for what I'd been working towards all year. I checked all the other styles and was only moderately relieved to find 2 styles in stock in my size. It was short-lived, as neither had sufficient stock to add to my basket anyway.
Still half blubbering, I went on Facebook and saw somebody say Office had some Alice styles. I hadn't been sure if they'd get any in and certainly they had nothing at launch time. They had the sparkling Alice heels and the pink white bunnies in my size, so I got those. It was little consolation for the pairs I'd missed if I'm honest, the teapot boots being my favourite. I realise some places find more stock later and returns are made, but I'm sick and tired of stalking. It's hard work, doesn't always pay off and I've now developed 'absentee stalking' where I feel like I've constantly forgotten something if I currently have nothing to stalk. It's no fun. I'd been going to phone IC before I left on the off-chance they could do a phone order, but hadn't had time and couldn't get the number as the site wasn't working (!), so this felt like my last resort. My Mum was bordering on force feeding me by this point (I think it was the back of 3) and I rang the engaged number non-stop. I eventually got through and they said Camden would be taking phone orders. I never got hopeful or excited, I was rather dejected by now and prepared for further bad news. Again I tried ringing but it was permanently engaged. In the meantime I found the boots on an American site (I detest paying customs and have told myself never to order from the US again because of this), so was debating whether or not to break my own rules. They had an 8 and 10 left, the 8 being the UK 6 I needed. Shipping was free which was enticing, but I'd still have customs. Just at that, I managed to get through on the phone. I spoke to Leah who was completely unfazed by the whole thing and very calming. She said she'd check for the boots and I got the impression from her tone, it was likely they had them. Surely not though. "Yes, we have a 6 in those". My reply wasn't even words, just a wavering, trying not to cry, appreciative sound! I asked about the only other style I still had to find, the floral Alice shoes and remember this was the pair I was hoping for in a 5, but would've taken a 6 and I was astonished to find they had those too. If it was possible to kiss someone through a phone, I'd have done it. I gave her my details and in the style of that whole day, my bank card was declined! I suspected this would happen, given the huge amounts I was spending and it had been one of my many worries in the run up to this launch. This was also why I'd hoped to buy from no more than 2 places (Schuh and IC and quickly before it got the chance to decline it) as I've shopped with both regularly (not suspicious), but I did realise several big transactions in the space of a few hours would look suspicious. Luckily my Mum was able to give me her card to use and that went through no problem. My voice was shaking (yet again) as Leah reassuringly said, "don't worry, you've got your shoes now, it's ok". 15 minutes later I got an automated phonecall from the fraud squad, asking if a declined transaction at Camden and two accepted purchases at Office and Schuh were mine and I was able to confirm and reactivate my card. Phew!
I'll be honest, I've still not felt a sense of relief. I probably won't until I have all 5 styles in my possession and know they are ok and fit. It's like a nightmare that I'm reliving over and over and I'm also not in the mood to celebrate it 'working out in the end', when I know it didn't for many others. It feels like rubbing their faces in it and I can all too vividly remember what it felt like in those few hours that I realised I'd missed out. It's easy to sit there and tell people to calm down and think positively when you snagged everything you wanted and had a pleasant or easy process doing so. I'm pleased that was your experience and can't take it away from you, but for the majority shopping online, it didn't happen like that and similarly you can't take that way from us (no matter how much we wish you could)! It's a real pity that something I'd previously been so excited for and what should've been hectic yes, but fun, has been marred by such an unpleasant experience. Those bad memories understandably cloud what ended up as the result I wanted, but hopefully that'll pass with time. I can only liken it to a balloon filled with air being my excitement and anticipation of this collection, come 12pm someone stuck a pin in that balloon and burst it. I've not lost the balloon, it's still there, but it's sad, limp and deflated and I can never blow it up to get it back to what it once was because it has a hole in it. I don't doubt I'll adore the shoes when I see them, that's never been in question, but shopping for shoes just shouldn't be that stressful or upsetting. I'll admit, I do scoff when I see messages of disappointment when someone tried to buy character heels 'x' hours or days or weeks after a launch, I just think "mate, get on at 12pm or risk losing out", how do they not know that? That's when things go smoothly though and it's all about being quick off the mark, but Friday wasn't like that. I was there and ready at 12pm and nothing happened! Like I've said repeatedly throughout this I'm not (and never was) angry, I'm not blaming anyone, I was understandably upset and stressed at the time. I'd usually be able to spend the whole day waiting for the site to work (I don't even know what time it did start working), but many can't and on this day neither could I and that's bound to cause disappointment. Nobody is at fault and I most certainly wouldn't make the jump to say I'm never buying IC again or not shopping with Schuh or even changing banks! It doesn't change how I feel about any of those things, but "Alice" will forever be remembered as that horrid experience because that was my reality. I'm certainly not in any hurry to go through it again, but other than clearing my day which I attempted and failed, I couldn't do anything differently. If I'd had a magic wand to make myself healthy and therefore able to go to the launch, I'd have used it years ago. There's no official word on any future collaborations with Disney, but if there's anything with The Little Mermaid (my absolute favourite), I think I'd rather die of exhaustion going to the launch and get my shoes, than die from stress buying them online (!). At least I'd have had fun and can be buried in my new mermaid shoes y'know?!
So phew, well done if you read all that, how was it for you? Offload here, it'll be therapeutic. Though please refrain from being really mean about the situation, it happened, there's nothing we can do to change that, 'blame' certainly won't help. I truly hope you managed to get what you wanted. I'm really tired and sore from my outing and annoyed this had a knock-on effect and I missed my opportunity for ice-cream (we figured as I'm going to be in pain anyway, we should (within reason) make the most of it), it's just further disappointment, because I'm too knackered to do anything about it now, but hey ho, that's my life right now! My first pair, One Lump Or Two? arrived yesterday from Schuh and so far so good. Really glad I sized up, because they dig into the bony bit of your foot and I really doubt I'd have managed into a 5. I'm too shattered to take photos yet, I don't even have all the props I wanted, but I don't get paid for blogging, so have no allowance for that and spent all my money on the shoes! Schuh still have a few pairs of some styles left as do Office here and I haven't had the energy to check overseas retailers. I'm sorry I've been a terrible blogger this week, there's only so much I can do and I'm struggling right now to keep up. I'll likely pop up quick photos on Instagram or Facebook before posting proper photos here, so keep an eye out.
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