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Confessions of a designer shoe hunter

Cinderella once said one shoe can change your life. I so agree.

My fascination with shoes came at an early age. Being identical twins, my sister and I had many shoes, but my favorite was a pair of red Mary Janes. I do not find it ironic that I have a similar pair now, but in a 4-inch stiletto.

College opened my horizons to the designer shoe. I got a pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes to wear at graduation, which I still have. They are purple with a Lucite heel. No joke.

After moving to Tampa, I was in graduate school working as a zookeeper at Busch Gardens. There aren't many high heels there, but I still managed to find the cutest pair of Timberlands. I needed something to make that polyester khaki fashionable. Not long after, I discovered Manolo Blahnik and fell in love. This is when I knew for certain that shoes were my vice and Cinderella was dead-on.

My love for shoes has taken me around the world. I have shoes from my travels to London, Dubai, Madrid, Barcelona, Sydney, Berlin, Rome and New York (the Saks shoe department has its own zip code, 10002-SHOE). Blahnik's flagship store in London is amazing. Double that for his studio. Going there was like opening the gates to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

I bought my first pair of Manolos at Neiman aMarcus in 2001 when I was 24. It was my treat to myself for a job well done, and cost me almost my entire paycheck. Still have those, too. Wore them last week.

My shoes share my memories of many pla­ces walked: dirt in the Outback, wine country in Italy and sheep herding in New Zealand (I wore pink pumas for that adventure). I hesitate to put down on paper how many pairs I own, but suffice to say it's in the hundreds. I even had to up my homeowners' insurance to cover all of my babies.

Having such an extensive shoe collection requires help to manage it. My friend Heather Lambie of Your Home Editor is a certified professional organizer. She has helped me catalog my collection and organize my darlings by designer, style and color in a custom closet I had built. Call her, she's a genius.

I also have a few shoe "sole'' mates, if you will, friends who share my love for shoes, but unfortunately not my size 91/2 feet. We can trade handbags and clothes, but, oh, if my shoe pals Kelly, Jodi and Tiffany could share shoes, we would have the Prada Empire. At least we can enjoy each other's love for the perfect fit in a Jimmy Choo, Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Brian Atwood, Fendi, or even the flip flop we all adore.

And let's not forget our latest dream man, Christian Louboutin, who had a loyal following long before J.Lo put his name on the airwaves. His iconic red-soled heel is now the fantasy of many a pedicured toe. I like to refer to my Louboutins as "sex on the feet," because if you don't turn heads in his shoes, you are doing something wrong. I have visited his boutique in London and his new signature store in Miami, and three little letters sum them up: OMG!

Finding the perfect glass slipper can, indeed, change your life. So if the shoe fits, I'm buying.

— Brooke Palmer is an event planner for her company RSBP Events in Tampa.

Confessions of a designer shoe hunter 04/22/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 22, 2010 4:21pm]

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