Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Comfortable shoe of the week

This Donald J. Pliner, Ursola, from the Sportique collection, has it all: it's funky, spunky, and outrageously comfortable. There is absolutely no breaking-in period: your toes have room to wiggle, the heel is comfortably aligned in a decidedly non-chafing position, and they are, of course, flats, which should give you no shoe-related stability problems right there. Great with jeans or khakis or any other kind of casual trousers, the red soles of these shoes will take you far. The hair-calf printed upper will surely demand attention, which will in turn demand extra efforts from you pretending not to notice the gawkers and the occasional whistle. I can't recommend them for great arch support, but overall, they're a great shoe.

And best of all, it's at a fantastic price: $109, down from $244! I got them a few weeks back from Zappos for about $150. Normally, I would consider the $40-dollar difference a loss for my miserly self ("had I waited....etc." ), but in this case, it couldn't have happened to a nicer shoe.

Out of the closet!

This is what flew out of my closet the other day (and into the consignment boutique down the street). This pair of gold leather Etienne Aignier were sexy as hell, in all their 3 3/4" stiletto glory, so I couldn't resist them 3 years ago, when I snatched them on a super-clearance-we'll-pay-you-to-get-these-shoes-out-of-here kind of sale. I've been known to be a sad sucker for clearance values, which cause me to fall into the capitalist trap of buying what I clearly don't need just 'coz I can afford it. At any rate, these heels were even more beautiful on my feet, and they fit well, so I threw the proverbial caution out the proverbial window and bought them.

Too bad nobody else got to see them out of the house, because I was never able to wear them anywhere else. Wobbling around the bedroom in them, trying to figure out whether I could stand up for more than 10 minutes, it became clear that no, I couldn't. And they're dressy in that caliente summer way, begging to be taken out for a night at the disco or something. I pondered briefly over wearing them to a wedding, but there was so much walking around and then standing around and then dancing involved, that I eventually opted for my trusted pair of Donald Pliner slides, dressy, but comfortable enough for a whole day of sightseeing topped with a night of dancing.

Along with the ride went this pair of Anne Klein pumps:
These actually left the house on one occasion: walking to the neighborhoood bar, a mere 2 blocks away. About 100 feet into the endeavor, I thought I for sure was gonna die. The constrictive toebox, the low-cut vamp, the painful heel--aayyiiii! I didn't remember any of that when I had tried them in the shop! I limped into the bar but refused to get up for the entire evening. I blocked out the memory of the walk back.

The moral of the story? It's not that I don't like sharp heels. I do, but in an aesthetic sort of sense. They're beautiful. There's no denying it. They make your legs look beautiful. They spell SEX-AY! But don't you dare tell me that they're comfortable. I make special allowances for chunky heels, provided they're no higher than 2 3/4", but every time I see a woman in spiky 3- or 4-inchers trotting down the street, I KNOW, for a fact, that I see a woman in pain. And I can't help but wonder how on earth can you feel truly sexy when you're in pain. Anyone?

Yesterday I went into Philadelphia's Boyd's (19th and Chestnut) for the first time since they seriously re-vamped the women's section. My head exploded. There were about 3,000 pairs of Manolo Blahniks, Jimmy Choos, Ferragamos, etc. For the record, I don't recall seeing ANY flats or even low heels. Rarely, you could see a kitten heel, very pointy and thrust down the middle of the heel, which I personally find not that comfortable. But oh my God, were they gorgeous! I touched the luscious satins, felt the supple, colorful leathers, caressed the dainty curves, admired the ultrafine jewelry adorning the shoes, marveled at the artistry. But that's all they were to me: exhibits in a gallery.

I left without regrets.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Guilty Pleasures

I have many guilty pleasures, but some of my darkest, deepest, and guiltiest (and also most delicious, natch!) are the Internet fashion/gossip columns. Especially:
- Fashion Police at EOnline!
- Undressed! on MSN.com
- And of course, the awesome duo at Go fug yourself.

It's also fun to see how much they agree or disagree on some outfits. On numerous occasions what one site deems to be fashion forward, another would call gawdy or dawdy or both. Which sort of serves as a reminder that, well, somebody will always have something bad to say about your outfit, and that the world's most famous designers are also likely to produce the world's most notorious fashion faux-pas. Chanel, Dior, Balenciaga, Cavalli--you name it, are often slammed for their productions. Good taste and style may be universal, but it's not something universally agreed upon.

Either that, or the world is full of mean bitches. In which case, I'm proud to be one of them.

You have enough shoes when...

...you can use them to open a museum large enough to boost the tourism in Manila.

I guess my question is answered.

But really. I would go see it. How else would I know what kind of shoes to wear when, for ince, I flee the presidential palace after a popular uprising overthrows my husband's dictatorial regime?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Shuh Wiedersehen?

Heidi Klum is a remarkable beauty and an accomplished and quite often stylish woman (and no woman with HER face and figure and wallet size should ever dare not to be stylish, I say!). Love Project Runway and her Teutonic determination to take over the world--or at least, that part of the world that is moved by fashion.

However, she is also the endorser (creator?) of this oxymoronic footwear line called "Sapphire," brought to us by Birkenstock:

SapphireWhile I do admire Birkenstock's efforts to promote sensible shoes for good posture, healthy feet and pain-free back, I could never get over the dowdy, stodgy built of the shoes, which seemed better suited to grace the muddy, sturdy splayed feet of the peasant girl bringing home the cows from the pasture, against the backdrop of a remote German province, one melancholy bell tolling in the lonely Gothic spire of the village church.

Attempting to "glitz them up" with the Heidi Klum collection strikes me as futile as, say, making a pearl-string wig for the bald man in order to hide the lack of follicular activity.

And at $300 dollars suggested retail price, well, I simply think there are better alternatives.

Robert Clergerie, GuepeSo if it's the shine that you lust for to adorn your tootsies, may I suggest instead spending about 75% less for this beautiful pair of Robert Clergerie sandals, the Guepe, currently on sale at Zappos.

Taryn Rose, ChayaOr, if you've got that kind of money to spare, spring at least for a nice pair of Taryn Rose footwear, such as this beautiful thong sandal with the stylish bling:

Donald J Pliner, FemieOr even go for a very similar look at 1/2 price with this model, the Femie, created by one of my favorite shoe designers, Donald J. Pliner:

Birkenstock Wild Life, by Heidi KlumAnd whatever you do, do NOT cough up $600 for the Wild Life canvas boots simply for the pleasure of wearing Heidi's logo. For they will most definitely not help you look like her!

Were there a Project Runway for shoe designers (I'm hoping someone will pitch this show, eventually), I fear Heidi would be given the boot.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

How much is enough?

My husband has become in recent years somewhat of a clotheshorse. He signed up with listserves and became active on forums devoted to men's clothing. He started ordering custom-made shirts and pants and suits. He found a tailor nearby where he goes for all his bespoke needs, as he has learned that even high-end ready-to-wear doesn't really satisfy him. He's still a bit of a cheapskate, like me, so when he finds an exotic place that can produce high quality clothing that fits, he's ecstatic. He orders bespoke shirts from Italy and Hong-Kong. He orders shoes from London and Paris. He orders custom-made shoes and bespoke suits from Eastern Europe. He combs intently through swatches and catalogs, engages in passionate debates on the best double-welted shoes on the Internet, has regular appointments with his venerable 80-year old Italian tailor, and every morning asks for my advice whether the outfit he put together that morning, neatly displayed on his mahogany valet, "works," down to the color of the socks.

So we were talking about shoes, bien sur, the other day, and he mentioned his 16 pairs of shoes, and how he needs a better place to store them so he can see them properly. I wholeheartedly agree, and mention casually that I would like a better storage space for my 45 pairs of shoes.

"45 pairs?" He raised a surprised brow. "And here I was almost ashamed I had as many as 16 pairs of shoes. Have you been purchasing shoes secretly lately?"

Apart from the fact that yes, I have, but I didn't mean it to be in secret--I just buy and wear for all to see, right?--the question got me thinking about how many pairs is enough for a woman. See, I don't think 45 is all that unreasonable. First, women's outfits are so much more varied and colorful than men's. I have red, green, blue, yellow, white, pink, and multicolor shoes, all colors that he wouldn't even dream of wearing. I have knee-high boots, mid-calf boots, ankle boots, and booties. I have numerous pairs of sandals, again a category of shoes he would never wear (and I admit it's hard to find tasteful man's sandals, otherwise known as mandals). I have dressy shoes and I have casual shoes. I have high heels, mid-size heels, and flats. I have leather and satin shoes, I have suede and cotton and nubuck shoes. They go with skirts or pants, with different types of fabrics (again, fabrics used for women's clothes I think are much more varied than for men's clothes). So altogether, I don't think I have too many shoes. In fact, at the time of the count, I was expecting no less than three deliveries of shoes from three different places! (In all honesty, I had to get rid of some pairs shortly after, but that's a topic for another post).

But still, his question did give me pause. Do I have too many shoes? How much is enough? How many shoes does a woman need to have? Does the word "need" even belong here? I know my husband, with his keen scientific mind, and with the help of his internet friends, worked out a formula regarding the number of shirts, suits, jackets, pants, coats, ties, socks, and shoes that the well-dressed man must absolutely have to get enough variety in his wardrobe. As far as I know, such a formula does not exist for women, and only a man's sick mind could devise it.

But seriously, how much is enough? Is there a limit other than your limited storage space? Help me out here!

Friday, February 24, 2006

It's not about the shoes

Before you recoil in horror at the title of this post, let me explain:

It's not just about the shoes. Never just about the shoes.

Big deal, you're going to say. We already know that! It's clothes, too! and accessories! and attitude! and style!

I say yes, especially to an expanded definition of the last term. It's about style, sure, but there's something deeper than that.

It's the way you live your life as a complete, rounded human being who knows beauty is the ultimate pursuit that separates us both from animals and from robots.

It's the capacity to be moved by Keats' Ode to a Grecian Urn, declare The Sound and the Fury your favorite novel, admire Henry IV and Solon as historical heroes, enjoy a good movie and a good glass of wine, equally enjoy the wit of Martial AND of Spirit Fingers, be a kind, generous, and witty human being who appreciates the good, the stylish, the beautiful things in life.

And yes, of course, all the time displaying the unflinching love and impeccable taste in the most super-fantastic shoes.

Such is The Master Manolo, recently profiled on Normblog, and who was gracious enough to write yours truly a personal email AND add her to his blogroll.

Thank you, Manolo.

Shoe reviewer

Is there such a thing as a shoe reviewer? For I'd like to sign up.

And don't tell me that it can't really be done because fit is such a subjective experience. So is movie watching and book reading, and yet there are plenty of jobs out there as book reviewers or film critics.

A shoe review that's based solely on the looks of the shoe, to me, is similar to judging a book by its cover or a movie by its poster or trailer. Sure, aesthetics are paramount--I would be the first to say it. But if the shoe is torture on your feet, what's the point? (and for all of you who think that women should just suffer in silence, nay, smiling, for the privilege of wearing $800 5" Louboutins, I say go back to your BDSM lair and find another sharp object to pierce your nipples or something).

A shoe reviewer, like a book reviewer, would receive the latest styles in her size and get to keep them. Of course, she would get to try them at various events, for various lengths of time. She would be an expert in shoe construction and would juggle terms like last, vamp, brogue, and winklepicker in the same breath. She would be able to pinpoint the pluses and minuses of the shoe, the occasions and outfits it goes with. Every once in a while she would write reviews of collections or designers and would tailor a column a month to a specific audience and purpose ("The perfect walking shoe for the 30+ year old mom.") She would be able, through the prestige of her column alone, to end the nauseating flip-flop fashion that infests all of this country's college campuses for about 75% of the year, and would relegate Uggs into the ugly cave from which they sprung in the first place. She would be able to combine style with comfort, and reveal the ugly truth about stilettoes.

In fact, she would be more like a wine or chocolate taster.

And I think she would agree with me that a woman who recommends strutting around in 4" heels as the best form of exercise has no place "designing" her own shoe collection. It comes to no surprise that 99.9% of said collections contains ugly high heels (3 3/4" minimum!), with the single exception of one slouchy horror of a pixie boot. Gah.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Via Twisty and so many others, really, I found out about the Cruelty Against Women Event of the Year that has shoes at its core: The Glamour Stiletto Run organized in Amsterdam. If you click on the link, you'll see an example of the kind of behavior women are supposed to engage in to win a 10,000 Euro shopping spree. There are rules, too, regarding the accepted levels of painfulness of shoes. These levels are, as you expect, quite high.

Penetrated by the generous spirit of this event, I have a few more suggestions for future Glamour fashion contests:

- The World's Fastest Full-Body Wax. The title should be self-explanatory. The winner gets $10,000 worth of Brazilian Bikini Wax Microwave Kits.
- The World's Pushiest Push-up Bra. Whoever gets her boobs closest to her nose (no lower than chin!) wins a year's supply of gel bra inserts.
- The Biggest Implants. Need I say more? Implants have to be done simultaneously by teams of plastic surgeons gathered especially for the event. Whoever is first to get up and run in stilettoes down the slippery hospital aisle wins a free nose job!

I think this gives us all a good start.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Interview attire

I went for an interview today and I was at a loss as to what to wear. I had bought some special shoes for the occasion: Anne Klein, mid-size heel, black, sober but not too sober, just enough not to draw too much attention. I wore them once--not for the interview--but soon found them a tad more uncomfortable than I would have liked them to be. I can do pointy, but these had too much cleavage, plus the heel, I feel, was not broad enough, and the combination ended up being perhaps less stellar, despite the Flex sole. I'll keep them for other occasions, who knows.

Luckily for me, look what showed up soon after, on sale: a beautiful pair of Robert Clergerie pumps. At $93 (as opposed to $403) they were a steal. God, I love Zappos!. These are really pretty and the stretchy suede top is just flawless, plus the 2" heel is really comfortable.

However, I strongly believe in dressing appropriately for the season. And it's been COOOLD. And I've also had a cold (one of those big, nasty ones that fogs your head and fills it with godawful nasty goop that ends up oozing out of all your head openings all at once). So yeah, I had felt less than fabulous, so instead of dainty shoes, I opted for my trusted dainty Coach boots. They're still elegant under a wide-leg pant, and the low heel makes them comfortable enough to trot around the interview site for a while.

My dilemma came with the bag: I'm all for dressing demurely and showcasing myself rather than the clothes in interviews, but I was feeling so drab, and my pant suit was so appropriate, and my shoes so proper, that I felt like taking a risk and adding color to my outfit with my fabulous pony-hair bag. Ok, lots of color.

FYI, it's a one of a kind creation from The Village Tannery in New York, which means no, unfortunately you can't have one. And it's large enough to hold my laptop and two volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica next to it, thank you very much! The bag gave me enouch confidence to get it through the interview unscathed. Yay me. Isn't that the whole point of wearing fabulous accessories?

In completely unrelated news, the name of the taxi driver this morning was Damocles Dufleurs. Damocles. Dufleurs. I just thought I'd mention it.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Dating the shoe

Do you remember that episode in “Sex and the City” when Carrie is going out with Big again before he returns to California? the scene in which she’s walking down the street chatting away with Samantha, and then she stops abruptly in front of a store window featuring a gorgeous hot pink Christian Louboutins sandals with 4” stiletto heels and she purrs, in her smokiest bedroom voice, “Hello, lover!”

And in the middle of the carriage ride Miranda calls because she’s in labor and Carrie has to leave Big and then Miranda’s water breaks all over the pink ruffles of her new shoes.

I guess my point is that we often approach shoes like we approach lovers. First, there’s the first sighting of the shoe, which sparkles at the very least curiosity, and usually some sort of moderate to extreme lust. If you’re a little on the shy side, like me, you plan your strategy of dating the shoe. You gaze intently and pretend to look away when it looks back. You ask the shoe salesperson about its behavior. What’s it made of? What’s its name? What do its parents do? Does it go with this dress? Does it drink or smoke? More importantly: does it fit in the all important places? And even more importantly: is it on sale? Depending on the answers, I date the shoe for a while. And if the combination [lust] + [sale factor] + [current size of wallet] + [real/imaginary need justification] + [impulsivity] hits all the right places, you’re damn right I’ll pop the question. “Can I have it in a 10, please?”

Of course, some more seasoned fashionistas, such as Carrie herself, would have it in bed within 5 minutes of the moment her first lustful gaze landed on the precious heel.

I dated a pair of MiuMiu once for a few months. Every time I passed by the Joan Shepp boutique (really the only high-end couture boutique in center Philadelphia), there they were, in all their glory, and in several color schemes.
But! $360! I’m a woman on a budget. $360 seemed like an unwarranted extravaganza. It’s not like I needed them or anything.

And then one fateful day the sale sign came up. 50% off everything. Just like that. The 10 was tight but the 10.5 fit really well, and they looked so damn good on me, I was out of there in 5 minutes, clutching the precious package, and stoically resisting the attempts of the salesman to push a matching purse.

I haven’t had a chance to wear them yet, as winter has been rather unforgiving lately. But I’ve taken the liberty of dating several other shoes in the meantime, also dreaming of warmer climates. I'm a convinced polygamist in that regard. However, I’ve had my heart broken over several of those romances. First I hesitated over a pair of pretty Marc Jacobs green patent flats with a cream bow. The price was right (60% off!), the shoe was a bit too pointy to be trusted in that size, I delayed by a day or two, and poof, they were gone.

Then, in a cruel twist of fate, my auction for what was to be my first ever pair of Taryn Rose sandals (the Mattea), took a wrong turn at the very last second. I mean it.
These grey watersnake heels were supposed to be, you know, stylish and comfortable, my personal Holy Grail in matters of shoes. And just so you know where I stand, I don’t find all Taryn Rose styles that beautiful. Some are really dowdy and clunky, in my opinion. But this one was acceptable, and I was willing to try it at that price. I’d been eyeing for days, noting with satisfaction the lack of bidding activity. Finally, with two hours left, I offered the asking price. Alas, in the last 3 minutes of my winning bid, someone snuck up on me, and although I feverishly started to outbid him/her, I lost by 15 seconds or so. Darn.

Now, to mend my broken heart, I compulsively pressed the “Buy Now” button for a pair of Casadei flats. If I’m giving up high heels, at least I should do it in style, right? I’ll tell you later if the $50 bucks I paid for them (and you know how low THAT is) were worth it.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Welcome to ShoeSense, the shoe blog with a feminist touch.

I LOVE shoes (like, what woman doesn't?). I've developed an obsession with them, and as with any obsession, I think there's no better way of dealing with it than to vent about it anonymously to the whole wide world, limited as it is for this first post to the 2 or 3 lonely spammers in search of new victims.

My eternal dilemma, of course, like any woman who aspires to have taste and sensibility, is: how do I wear gorgeous shoes that do not throw me into the ninth circle of hellish pain after the first nine or ninety or nine hundred steps for that matter? I used to like wearing high heel shoes, but that was in a place where I had to drive all the time, walk from the parking lot to the office, and sit at the desk or stand around the water cooler for most of the time. Since moving to a walkers' city and giving up my car--surprise, surprise! Walking even for 10 blocks to a bar in my 3" Dries van Noten heels, comfortable as I previously thought them to be, was like methodical, well-paced torture.

Alas, this is, to quote the Master Manolo, the Holy Grail of shoes. Designers do not care, ladies, about the comfort of our feet, about the fact that women, too, like to be mobile AND look good at the same time. So while I recoil in horror at the sight of Birkenstocks (please! enough already!), I now also shudder at the sight of dainty 4" Jimmy Choo or Louboutin stilleto heels. As beautiful as they are, they belong on display, not on real women's feet. Unless, of course, you confine said women to a sofa or bed while they wear the shoes, which of course, denies the ultimate purpose of all footwear and reduces women to museum objects as well. Or sex objects. You get the picture.

High heels, especially stilettos, are supposed to make your legs look slimmer, your butt perkier, your sillhouette more elegant, your appeal sexier. They are also, for the most part, uncomfortable, painful, constricting, and create debilitating back problems with prolonged use. They do a good job in objectifying women because of their enduring association with "sexiness." I'm pretty sure that's a recent development, historically speaking. I will have to consult a book about that. Of course, there is the rare shoe that has the high heel--usually chunky--and still manages to remain comfortable for a while. I've heard that about Taryn Rose shoes, and believe me, I will put it to the test some time soon.

I still believe that it is not impossible to have stylish AND comfortable shoes at the same time. If some people think we can't, well, I can only
blame it on the patriarchy.

So here are my rules for footwear:

1) Beautiful. It was hard to put this first, but really, if a shoe isn't beautiful, what's the point of wearing it at all. Of course, this is a highly subjective feature, and I may not be the ultimate arbiter elegantiae, but for the sake of argument let's define beautiful shoes as shoes that are at the same time stylish and aesthetically pleasing (I believe there is a subtle difference there, but the two will overlap most of the time).

2) Comfortable. Let's define comfortable as "able to walk at least 1 mile at a time or standing/dancing 30 minutes at a time without feeling tired or feeling pain or getting blisters." How's that for starters? This definition may evolve, of course, but really: comfortable is comfortable. You know what I mean.

3) On sale. That's my own subjective bias of a woman still on a budget. And let's face it, who doesn't love a sale? Rarely should one pay the sticker price for a shoe, I believe. I am on a constant lookout for bargains, and found both ebay and particularly Zappos to be of great help in that domain. I will post here my finds, ok?

This blog is therefore devoted to find such examples of sensible and tasteful footwear. Let the journey begin!