The canals in Venice are clear again. Cows are returning to the sea. My feet, soft from 100 days of walking around barefoot inside, look like they haven’t known a day of suffering — not a single tan line, callous, or blister. I have not seen my feet look like this since my infant brain could first differentiate my own body parts from a houseplant. Now, when I look down, I get vertigo: My feet, serene and chill, peer up at the rest of me, which is roiling with chaos. I have stress rashes on my face, my hands are like blocks of concrete, and my guts burn each time I read the news. My head and my heart are world-weary, but my feet are brand-new.
My feet are healing. Shoes are their virus.
The other day, I put on a pair of shoes just to see what would happen. I was doing a lot of this kind of visceral revisiting during this latest month in quarantine, trying on many aspects of my old life just to experience the sensation: Ordering a meal via a delivery app, watching a reality TV show that used to feel cathartic, straightening my hair in front of the mirror. Each made me feel a sense of sadness but not exactly in a yearning way. It felt like a bummer, a once-familiar, now-foreign thing that didn’t comfort nor satiate me. It didn’t fit with my current life, and I couldn’t imagine a future one in which that takeout, trash TV, and a flat iron would play a role. Too much had changed, myself included.
But when I put on those shoes — mules with apple-sized red orbs for heels that I had always considered too ridiculous to wear in the Before Times — I didn’t feel sad. In my maternity sweatsuit and the topknot bun that’s become my standard work-from-home look, I looked ridiculous, but I still stood a little taller, and felt a little lighter. Walking from room to room, it felt good not to plod. It didn’t matter that I only wore them for a couple of hours, most of which were spent at my desk taking Zoom calls, but the shift boosted my disposition for the rest of the day. I can’t explain the psychology; why my mood was lifted with the addition of a hard sole makes no sense. But all I can say is that it felt strange and new to wear shoes inside, and it felt good to experience strangeness that didn’t crush me.
Shoes have never been part of my indoor life. Like lots of city dwellers and neat freaks (and Asians, too — hey guys), I leave them at the front door so I can preserve some sort of threshold between the grime and burdens of outside and the controlled serenity of inside. But these days, I find myself wanting to bring shoes inside. I’ve found all my old house slippers, acquired some new ones, and matched them to my inside clothes. When I need an extra pick-me-up, I’ve been reaching for pairs of rarely worn, clean-soled shoes — fussy slippers, too-small heels, obscenely patterned clogs. I wear them for no one to witness but myself. Inside shoes have helped me feel comfortable in navigating unusualness, and settled in these new patterns of solitude and chaos. I doubt they’ll be part of my After Times, but I feel like they’re helping me arrive there with some good humor and lighter spirits.
Below, we’ve asked a few of our favorite stylists to show us their Inside Shoes. Hope they provide a mood boost for you, like it did for us.
Christine Nicholson — "I turned 30 last year, and I've finally found comfort and joy in my style. I love UGGs (sue me); they're incredibly comfortable and feel like an outside slipper on days when I have to make a grocery run. My socks are by Comme Si. They're very soft and perfect for doing the shoe-with-sock look."
Margaret Williamson Bechtold — "I’m barefoot most days, so I had to dust off my shoe shelves for this assignment. Featuring my favorite gloves I uncovered when reorganizing my styling kit for the billionth time during quar."
Danasia Sutton — "This look was inspired by how I would like to feel about summer right now. Unfortunately, COVID-19 had other plans for us. So I decided to bring a spring/summer feel to this look! The white reminds me of the beach and clear skies, while colorful socks remind me of all the pretty flowers that flourish during this time."
Doria Santlofer — During quarantine, I try to wear things that made me feel good that also visually give me some pleasure, like a fuzzy red sock or a colorful beaded ankle bracelet. My outfit here includes vintage moccasins (a pair I've been cleaning and refurbishing for over a decade), a sweatsuit from Entireworld, a California-based brand that uses primarily organic or recycled fabrics and who enforces strict fair trade factory standards, plus accessories from two local, independent NYC designers: Comme Si socks and Sasha Samuel jewelry. Being home the past few months made me realize how much less I need to own and consume and the value in supporting brands who have responsible sustainability practices and stand for social justice.
Anahita Moussavian — These slides from American Eagle have been my vacation slides for the last two or three years, but have become my go-to shoe during this stay-at-home time. Slip-on and shiny: instant mood lifter! A prop styling bonus: this sweet little rainbow, flowery sculpture lives at the gallery space where I have been quarantining, and has provided a lot of joy during these strange days."
Kimberley Gordon — "I'm quite the homebody, regardless of COVID-19; as a designer who works from home, I need a relief from fashion. I have lots of things I love to do, but collecting and creating miniatures is one of my most relaxing pastimes. I like wearing colorful slippers pretty much all day. I have a collection of fancy feathery slides also from one of my favorite brands, Brother Vellies. My dress is from my own line, Selkie."
Eliza Huber — "I bought these loafers right before quarantine began after months spent contemplating whether or not they were worth the splurge. I got to wear them one time before storing them away for the first six weeks spent at home. Then, one day, I decided to put them on, just to wear them from the kitchen to my bedroom and back again (for my sixth snack of the day, of course). I wear them all the time now, whether I'm going anywhere or not (usually not)."