Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Should feminists wear high heels?

The Wrong Shoes!!!Ah, now there's a loaded question if I ever saw one. My first instinct screams, "Well, what kind of a dumb question is that? They can wear whatever the hell they want. Scratch that: ANYBODY can wear WHATEVER THE HELL she or he wants!"

And look, Bitch Ph.D., a passionate feminist and academic, has on more than one occasion professed her love for super stylish, professorial budget-defying high heels. (It is through her that I also discovered The Manolo.) If I remember correctly one of her older posts (like months and months ago), she used to do the "feminist" thing (not shaving, etc.) but now she's into "femme-y" things, like high heels and lace lingerie, and that's what she wants to do. And who can argue with that.

Certainly not me.

I'm a feminist--in that, like any sensible person, I expect (and demand) equal rights and responsibilities for women and men (equal pay, etc.), I support a woman's right to her own body (yes, pro-choice all the way), and I am sensitive to any way, shape, or form of gender discrimination, whether it manifests itself in issues such as rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, promotion, salary, or cornering women into stereotyped gender roles that prevents them from expressing their own personhood. I am also favorably disposed towards a variety of issues on the feminist agenda, too numerous to list here, so let's just stick with the basics.

Austrian fetish shoe, 8 inches, ca. 1900Where was I? Oh yeah: cornering women into stereotyped roles that squash their personhood in order to re-assert societal (that is, patriarchal) norms, which basically can be reduced to the following barebones caricature: men are the strong, dominant sex in power, with more rights and privileges, and women are the second-class citizenry, kept around the house for the purpose of servi(ci)ng men by carrying their offspring, cleaning the house, and offering sex. Oh, and being pretty--for, no matter what progress we've made as a society, the pressure is ten thousand times-fold greater on women to be pretty than on men to be handsome, n'est ce pas? And if you still persist (wrongly) in believing that American women have gotten all the rights they'll ever need (again, you'd be very very wrong), all you have to do is cast a jaundiced eye to our sister south of the border. Or in Africa. Or anywhere in the Arab countries. Get the picture?

English 5 inch shoes, ca. 1890But hey, this is a fashion blog that attempts to put some sense into shoe-wearing, so why get into all these heady issues, indeed?

There are two main historical threads intertwined with the status of the stiletto today. The first is class. High heels were indicative of one's higher social status in 15th century Venice or 17th century France, for example. Higher status was literally translated through height. The second is sex fetishism. Bizarre forms of high heels have been used from the Victorian era on in order to exacerbate shapes and curves (e.g., making the instep protrude, etc.) as well as to immobilize the wearer in erotic stances.

Turkish or Syrian platforms, early 20th centuryThe modern stilettos and high heeled platforms no doubt owe some of their allure to these two historical trends. The classist hint assures their prominence in "haute couture" or "high fashion." The "sexy" hint (somewhat diluted from the S&M games they was once confined to) has been preserved in all of their incarnations. I have my own reservations to the kind of "sexy" the high heel alludes to, but hey, I'm not going to judge.

Fetish boot, Austrian, ca. 1890My main problem comes (no surprise here!) from trying to reconcile comfort with stlye. While I am aware of the feminist (and Marxist) critiques of fashion, I love frou-frou (to quote Henri V), I love style, I love clothes, I love shoes, I love pretty things; I am a feminist who shaves her legs and armpits and plucks her eyebrows and likes to play with fashion and will even wear mascara every once in a while. I regard it as a game to be enjoyed, as yet another avenue to explore beauty in our lives. Our sartorial choices, as I've pointed out in an earlier post, always say something about ourselves, the kind of person we want to be or want to be perceived as, even if it's only something like, "lover of color," or "lover of comfort," or "thinks layering is fun." The people who claim they don't care about what they wear will still send the message "I don't care how I look, and I don't give a damn about what you think of me either," which in and by itself is always telling, depending on the context. So, I have no problem with wanting to look "sexy" or "desirable" to a point, but I want to do it on my terms, terms that will make me feel good and make me feel comfortable (after all, I've never had a single masochistic tendency in my life). As such, taking care of myself, highlighting my strong points and de-emphasizing my flaws is part of the image I want to project for the others as well as for myself. I draw the line, however, when that requirement cripples my movement, makes me dependent on Band Aid and podiastrists, and sends me into middle or old age with back or knee problems.
The ill-famed bound or For the record, I also abhor plastic surgery of any kind and I also think we’ve gone too far with the ubiquitous “pamper yourself” and “indulge” slogans (they’re everywhere people, from beauty treatments to chocolate to department stores! Doesn’t that make you a bit self-reflective?).

Italian chopines, 16th century. Talk about non-existing arch support!I guess that the idea of somebody dictating us what to wear in the name of "sexiness" should be at the very least disturbing (and don't forget who you want to be sexy for, ladies!). The pictures I've peppered this rather heavy entry should be enough to start questions the standards of fashion we are forced to measure up against. And looking at them, the question I posed in the title of this post doesn't seem to be that stupid, all of a sudden. How high is high enough? How painful or impractical does a shoe have to be to cross the line between couture and fetish? What kind of message are we transmitting when we walk in these shoes? If you are a feminist (and you SHOULD be!), how do you reconcile the classist and sexist assumptions embodied in the notion of a high heel with your own convictions about women's rights? And, finally, if you don't really care about that, the still most important question of comfort still remains: can we walk in these shoes and feel good (comfortable) at the same time?

And as I write this, I just saw, from the window of the coffee shop, a young girl walking barefoot on the (most unsanitary!) streets of Philadelphia, carrying her 3" or higher black slides in her hand.


All the pictures in this post have been shamelessly scanned from Linda O'Keeffe's great little book Shoes: A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers & More, which contains, despite the evidence collected for this blog, a large number of really beautiful shoes. Mouse over the images for a brief caption.

Monday, March 27, 2006

HHH is for High Heel Hater?

Somebody accused me of hating high heels, a hatred motivated by my recent diagnosis. However, I'm far from being a black and white issue sort of person. I don't hate high heels per se. In fact, I think many are quite beautiful, and I even kept a few pairs in my wardrobe (after getting rid of about 6 pairs recently). Why, since I've expressed my general disapproval of maiming one's feet deliberately? Well, because 2 of the pairs I've kept are just too beautiful to be thrown out, and on certain occasions (limo + night at the opera + limo back) I can imagine wearing them, and the other 2 or 3 are in fact incredibly comfortable, due to the fact that one is a Taryn Rose (more on this wonderful brand later) and the others are between 2 and 2 1/2", a height almost acceptable with a certain type of heel construction.

In general, I agree with the fabulous Erin at A dress a day that no matter what one wears, it's ok with me as long as it's apparent that they put some THOUGHT into it and made an effort to express themselves through it. So, yeah, if stilettos are who you are, sure, go ahead...

Still, every single day I will spot women in 3+" spike heels, holding on precariously to their balance, while their knees are locked into awkward positions as they're trying to inch their way acros the pavement. I see them walking slowly, in a somewhat undignified way--legs shaped as a horseshoe, stopping frequently in front of a window or other, grimacing from time to time, or sometimes a perpetual frown etched between their brows. I see sweet girls on dates inching along in their 4" stilettoes, 3-4 band-aids perking up on their heels on underneath the vamp. At times somewhat plump women (who, you know, must suffer even more) sex up with a pair of dangerously high and slim heels, trying to balance their suffering by an exaggerated sway of their ample hips. I see petite women who, a la Carrie Bradshaw, try to achieve stature by putting on a 4-incher, and they move fast, as fast as they can, for they know they can't stand the pain any longer and they must get there quickly or die.

I find it hard to believe that stilettos express who these women are. Rather, they express what they want to be, or, rather, what a patriarchal society wants them to be.

Women who "can" wear high spike heels on a regular basis simply have a higher tolerance to pain than those who "can't." They might also have more fragile egos. While I certainly wouldn't seek to ban such heels from usage, I think I see them used inappropriately far too often. We're not at the Oscars, for Chrissake, when we go shopping or having coffee with a friend or to school, or even to work. Fashion is meant to make us look beautiful, and we can't be beautiful if we're not comfortable in our skin (a woman comfortable with herself is infinitely sexier than one riddled with insecurities)--and those stilettoes aren't going to do anything for your comfort.

Of course, this widespread use of the stiletto in what I think are inappropriate contexts comes from the idea that stilettos make us sexier (you know, make our butts protrude 25% more, our breasts perkier, and our sillhouette more "feminine"), which in turn is based on the idea that women must achieve sexiness at whatever cost. It's no longer crippling corsets, it's crippling heels--and that's fine, as long as we're desirable to the opposite sex. As long as, in other words, we're tools of the patriarchy.

I'll pick up this thread in another post.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Latest shoe trends

Thanks to Henri V, I got this JC report, whose current issue is on (drum roll!!!) SHOES!
There are three words you need to know: platforms, velvet, patent--in short, PVP. I love all of them, so it's all cool! In fact, here's my latest purchase, which I probably won't be able to enjoy far longer this season:
Pretty, aren't they? It's a teal patent leather Espace boot (sorry, I got the last pair on Zappos at an 80% discount. I'm turning into a regular Bargain Queen!).
As about platforms, all you need to remember is NOT to get the type you need a step ladder to get up on (like the well known Balenciaga runway platforms).

So, if you want to hit all three at once, why not these YSL Velvet platform moccasins with patent leather piping? Of course, this is for those of you with slightly more masochistic tendencies than me.

Two trends I won't go down with, however:

1) fish skin shoes (like, ewww! I don't care how supersoft they are, just ewww!)

2) 3" and over stilettoes (quel surprise!), or alternatively high chunky/platform heels. I don't care whether you call them "vertiginous" and "feminine" and "sexy" and whatnot: as long as they condemn women to either pain or immobility and very little in-between, they're pretty much iredeemable as a global trend.

So, here's to more patent, velvet low-heeled platforms from your favorite designers, then!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Bracelets of Gloom

Am I the only one loving these?
They're beyond hilarious, and as a matter of fact, they just made my day. I think I'm going to order a set.
(Via Fashiontribes.)

Quick! Great finds at Zappos!

This is an emergency post: these pretty things are sure to fly off the racks of the Zappos warehouse like, this very instant:

Beautiful Rafe snakeskin and metallic leather clutch, 75% off ($75.95, down from $298.95!):

Pretty Moo Roo handbag, 79% off ($143.95, down from $678.95!:

This cute and practical Michael Kors suede hobo, 47% off ($142.95, down from $271.95):

A Tosca Blu large shopper, in turqoise or black leather, 58% off ($ 130.95, down from $308.95!):

If you're a size 10, there's one more Icon skimmer left, 57% off ($ 108.95, down from $248.95!):

Get it now before I do!

And while you're there, be sure to check the Taryn Rose sale page. The cheapest thing in my size is still, at 60% off, about $160 (steep!), but in Taryn Rose's case you should believe the hype: the shoes are really that good and comfy. Check it out, maybe something pretty and at a decent price comes up in your size.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The plantar truth

So, I guess this was bound to come up sooner or later. I have plantar fasciitis.

It started, of course, with excruciating pain with the first steps in the morning, as it seemed that a rolodex of razor blades wreaked havoc through my heels. The torture resumed after each extended period of sitting around, and came back in the evening with renewed force, turning me into an instant Quasimodo, hunching and limping back to bed in agony.

I am, as a rule, brimming with health, stoic, and not at all prone to whining, so it took me a while to realize that this went beyond "normal" foot pain. I did some research on the internet, self-diagnosed, but eventually I had to bite the bullet and see a podiatrist. The radiography also revealed a lovely 1" heel spur in my left foot.

I got out of the doctor's office with a regimen of stretch exercises, Motrin, and (gasp)...orthotics. Yep.

The damn orthotics cost more than I ever paid for a shoe in my life ($375), though on the bright side, they're never likely to go out of fashion. They do fit in any shoe (they're 3/4 length, and meant to protect my heel and support my "huge" arch). It's going to be a while until I'm healed, but I already feel sooooo much better.

The bad news is that orthotics, of course, don't belong in "open end" shoes--mules, slingbacks, slides, sandals, thongs, etc. The good news is that spring is still elusive and bitter cold in this part of the world, meaning I still have time to heal before I just can't keep my sandals in the closet any longer.

So there, you have it. You can choose to dismiss any of my shoe critiques or recommendations on account that I'm bound to be picky, or you can say hey, if those shoes are comfortable for her, then they really must be comfortable!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Outlawed stilettos make Scarpediem mad. Say whaa?

A staggering piece of news (bear with me, you will soon be apprised of my ironic twists of words) has been making the rounds on the internets, for example here and here.

In short: a woman in Mobile, Alabama, caught her high heel in a sidewalk grating, falling and injuring herself. She sued the city for negligence, and as a result, the city passed a law making it "unlawful to wear women's pumps with sharp high heels."

I've only been able to find accounts of this on blogs, although the law is documented, together with other examples of governance stupidity, on this site.

Now, assuming this is, in fact, true, I must give a Steve Colbert-ian wag-of-the-finger to the woman who should have sued her own bruised ass for being ditzy enough to wear, in all probability, Pleaser USA 5" heels outside the bedroom. Hello! Somebody please explain her that stilettos were invented in order to entrap and fetishize women's feet rather then aid them in performing their natural function, such as, oh, I don't know, walking?

One of the astonishing achievements of modern fashion, style magazines, and overall culture of advertising, is making women believe they can only be sexy if they were stilettos, or that wearing stilettos equates sexiness, a fallacy so outrageous I won't even dignify it with a scoff.

It would have been funny to see the woman sue, say, advertisers, image makers, shoe designers, or the fashion industry as a whole for compelling her to wear precarious footwear that endangered her life. Or her heinie, we're not sure at this point.

Suing the city for negligence is only proof, alas, that not enough oxygen got to her at the dizzying heights achieved on her stiletto, causing grave impairment in judgment--judgment which, as we've already established, was not that sound to begin with, as proven by the choice of shoes.

That being said, the counteraction taken by the city council is equally stupid, and even more dangerously so. I am opposed to ANY sort of attempt to control what people do with their bodies (including attire!), even though it means they may make, um, unwise choices. What's next--outlawing body piercings or tattoes because they might get infected? long skirts and/or scarfs because they may get caught in doors? (Remember Isadora Duncan's story? She died when her long scarf got caught in the wheel of the car. Hm. There's another wasted opportunity for litigation and/or stupid law right there.)

This law makes just as much sense as the law passed by another city in Alabama that says that it is illegal for a husband to beat his wife with a stick larger in diameter than his thumb. Oh, I wish I was making this up!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

It makes perfect sense

I am an Advocating Artist:
Advocating Artist

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Facts, facts, who needs facts?

Women everywhere in general and Carrie Bradshaw-channeling women in particular, don't like to be bothered with the unpleasant side of the high-heel wearing coin. I mean, it's enough that they have to endure the excruciating pain in the ball of the foot (metatarsalgia); why should they also have to be reminded of blisters, corns and calluses, arch pain, heel pain, ingrown toenails, bunions, hammer toes, Morton's neuroma, shortening of calf muscles and tendons, chronic back pain, knee problems, posture problems, and general safety issues?

If one, however, would like to learn more about problems caused by high heels, one can click here or here. Or, for an entertaining survey about the high-heel purchasing and wearing habits in the adult American female population, one could go to High Heel Survey from APMA (American Podriatic Medical Association).

Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Shoe Poetry Corner, # 1

Ah, sometimes, some shoes really stir my creative juices!

Robert Clergerie, Jardin, $453.95

Some say that these platforms are comical,
But from all points of view anatomical,
I would say that they bomb,
'Coz they're really that dumb,
Though they come at a price astronomical!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Bits and pieces from all over

- I have not ignored the NYTimes article about Birkenstocks. Manolo and others covered it succinctly, so I won't beat up a dead horse much longer. I just want to say that it worries me that I, too, might have fed the masochistic fantasies of Birkenstock lovers who enjoy being insulted for their choice of footwear. Still, the shoes remain ugly, though perhaps not unsuitable for trudging about a campsite deep in the woods, while preparing breakfast over a makeshift stove.

- I salute the Elle Shoe Designer Competition, which is just that: send in your shoe design ideas for a chance to... actually, they're very evasive about the reward there, but hey, it's a fun idea anyway!

- What is with this trend of wearing dainty, strappy sandals with socks--3/4 or knee high, sometimes not even sheer? The Sartorialist has a few examples in his photo series documenting "real" fashion on the streets of New York. Am I too old for this? too conservative? I would NEVER wear socks or any kind of pantyhose with strappy sandals. It only seems to me like a toned-down version of the ever-popular college trend of grey flannel socks paired with Birkenstocks, which I always regarded as an abomination. Should I really get over my gut-instinct here and regard it as actually acceptable? To me, if it's breezy enough to wear socks, perhaps it's more appropriate to wear a closed-toe shoe, and conversely, if it's so warm to warrant a sandal, why would you wear the sock? I know that common sense rarely, if ever, governs fashion, but feel free to attempt to convince me otherwise on this particular issue.

- I finally updated my blogroll. So many fashion blogs and so little time to read!

- I got a beautiful pair of green Delman ballet flats at an incredible discount, of course: $50, down from $244 (damn, I'm good). Can't wait for the rain to go away so I can wear them!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Funking it up

Although my taste usually inclines toward the more classical, clean-cut look, I am the first to admit that, on occasion, a girl has to funk things up. For example, if one must wear sneakers (and who doesn't, every once in a while), I am of the opinion that one must choose an appropriately colorful, funky, and comfortable pair, such as this printed distressed leather number from Kowalski:

You can buy this sneaker (in an even more girlish print) on their website, though I warn you, it's quite pricy: $260! Hopefully you'll be lucky, like this bargain queen: I managed to get it for a mere $80 from a Head Start Shoes sale. Kowalski shoes are made in Spain, and I've always had a soft spot for the mix of stylish and funky that the Spanish have in all things fashion. I love the little charms and beads on the shoelaces, and the print that goes with virtually everything (preferably jeans and corduroy, and just about any kind of top you like). The only drawback: those pink beads at the tips of the laces prevent you from taking them out and washing them, as I'm inclined to do, since after many wears, they're bound to get a little dusty.

However, there is such a thing as too much funk. Behold this number, available at Zappos from Irregular Choice:

Now, I know Irregular Choice is a brand that is supposed to be just that, um, irregular and not the same old same old. However, I venture to say that the way this pair was created, was by dusting up the floor after a Project Runway team of designers had sweated away for 24 hrs on their creations, and thinking hey, this would make a rather practical duster, but then someone knocks you in the head and in the subsequent altered state of consciousness you become convinced that this would make just a fab pair of perilous wedges to go with, say, a Santino outfit, but then nobody on the show buys it and you end up taking your idea to Irregular Choice, who is more than happy to sell it for, oh, a mere $124 of your hard-earned money.

The amazing thing is that all the reviews for this shoe on Zappos are glowing (except for one earnest soul who admits they're actually painful and narrow). I guess you must REALLY love boho and have a rather high tolerance to pain to dare go outside in these monstrosities made up what was left after a whole army of Muppets threw up their meal.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Holy mother of shoes!

They've done it! What do you mean, "what"? The Glamour Stiletto Run!
Like the flagellant monks of yore, these ladies braved the cobbled, wobbly streets of Amsterdam in 3" or higher spike heels, suffering arduously for their salvation. If by salvation you mean, of course, a substantial amount of money for your future purchases of stilettoes. Oh, and suffer they did, suffer they did, my friends! (I really hope Spirit Fingers will give us some hilarious coverage of this event). Oh, there's also a video here.

The Foot Pyramid

I know it's hard to limit the number of shoes one must own (I for one wince at the idea), but as I'm starting to step back and look at my shopping habits, I'm trying to see what the pattern is, how I'm buying shoes: Do I need them? Do I invent a need? Do I buy on an impulse? Do I buy because they're too beautiful and the price is right and I don't want to miss the opportunity? What drives me?

The answer is, of course, all of the above. Just yesterday, as I returned, sobbing and sniffling, the beautiful Hollywould Bateau flats which had the unfortunate quality of both fattening and lengthening my foot to unbelievable proportions, I found a pair green Delman ballet flats that I knew I must absolutely have, because, c'mon, who doesn't need green shoes? And when they're Delman and at an absolutely bargain price, how I can resist?

An article in the Chicago Tribune two days ago posed the question of what basic pieces should be absolutely present in a woman's shoe wardrobe. The answer was the "magic 5," suggested by Meghan Cleary, author of "The Perfect Fit: What Your Shoes Say About You." These five would be:

- black stiletto or kitten-heel pump
- cute flat (ballet or loafer)
- brown or black knee-high leather boot with a heel or flat
- glamorous metallic heels (bejeweled and strappy, if possible)
- stylish sneaker

Um..hmm... okay... Me, I would forget about the metallic strappy stilettoes and cling on to nothing higher than a kitten heel. But really, the number and styles of shoes you own should be driven by your needs and preferences. I for one know that I must have both a cute ballet flat AND at least a couple of pairs of comfortable loafers (in a black and in a brown palette).

I also need to color-coordinate, which requires that the purchase be made with an outfit or a purse in mind. There is always the need for the pair of, say, orange or green shoes that go so well with your wardrobe or because you look soooo yummy in orange or green.

I would also put on top of the list at least three or four pairs of sandals, some more "sporty" or less fussy, and some dressier (kitten heel acceptable).

As for boots, I would require no less than one pair of knee-highs and one pair of ankle-high boots, perhaps two of each, again, one "dressier" and one capable of taking you through slush without getting your feet wet or getting damaged by the snow or mud.

I would also need some sort of slip-on shoes, like some comfortable and pretty mules, that I can just jump into and go at a moment's notice.

And yes, one needs the career shoes, preferrably devoid of stiletto heels: we must keep them stylish (though understated) and very comfortable, since you're supposed to have them on your feet all day.

And whatever you do, I think that you MUST have at least one pair of red shoes. Ok, I have just about 5, but I adore all of them.

Instead of suggesting a strict number of shoes (you must admit that 5 is pretty constricting!), I propose therefore a Shoe or Foot Pyramid (TM) as a guide to how much and what type of shoes we should consume:

And now it's your turn: what are your shoe basics? Do share!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

You know high heels are overrated...

...when a seasoned transsexual complains:
So why do we torture our feet? I, like many a transgender, have been wearing heels up to 5" for years, and many a night I have gone home with sore feet. My soles are sore sometimes, but toes take the most abuse, being crammed in that small pointed toe box and having nearly all my body weight on them. I sometimes wonder if I have some masochistic tendencies, or maybe I just tolerate the discomfort because it is a constant reminder of something sexy on my foot.

S/he goes on to recommend open-toe, sandals, and round-toe pumps, without forsaking the spike heel, though (which, as we know, is bound to create that burning, excruciating sensation in the balls of your feet, pain only slightly diminished by Botox-injections and fat-pad surgery so popular among Hollywood starlets). Why? I would argue that the high-heel is NOT what makes her feminine, it's the attitude, the whole look put together, a certain naturalness and ease and comfort of being in your own skin. When you are constantly tortured, where, oh where is the fun in being a woman?

You, stiletto-lovers, can you answer me that? Shouldn't we give transsexuals a more humane, more comfortable model of femininity, or do you insist they they suffer as you did, since a woman's destiny is, after all, suffering into perpetuity for the privilege of being sexy, i.e. an immediately available toy in the perverse hands of the patriarchy?

If you don't care about your comfort but care about being desired, just like Cinderella's unfortunate sisters, can you at least find it in your heart to ease the pain of the transgender community who aspires to be like you? You've heard them: they do suffer, captives in the sharp-heeled accoutrements that have come to define sex-appeal. Start a revolution! Wear comfortable footwear! Do it for our transgender friends!

[Sponsored by the Front for Feet Liberation, a non-profit radical group based in Footopia, PA]

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Shoes for March the 8th

Today is March 8th, International Women's Day. As usual, this day is met with general ignorance across the US, though most European and Asian countries make a modicum of effort to mark the occasion. If you're a feminist or feminist sympathizer, you know the kind of issues that you should be concerned with (if not, get a dose of good ol' Twisty).

Since the scope of this blog is to fight for every woman's right to stylish AND comfortable footwear, let me answer a question some readers may be wondering about. What kind of shoes should you get your woman? Well, whatever you do, avoid anything with spike heels. Really. Even if she's a lover of high heels, she will still love you (all the more so, perhaps) if you give her feet a break with, say, some beautiful Icon shoes. For example, this nice ballet skimmer:

Or, for even warmer days, a pretty slide:

They are whimsical, yet sticking to classical shapes and fit you can't go wrong with. They are supremely comfortable, with soft insoles and incredible arch support. The leather is soft and supple and there is virtual no break-in time. They may not be glamorous or couture or even high-fashion (and by all means, avoid the styles that might remotely smell of kitsch); however, they are clearly made keeping in mind how a woman should feel and walk in her shoes. So, even though she may love her Louboutins, know that her tired feet will be eternally grateful for a pair of Icons. They are also happy, happy shoes: you can't look at them and not smile. Right?

You can buy them on Zappos,, and various other places on the Internet or specialty stores (in the greater Philadelphia area, the Benjamin Lovell stores). You can even find them at, where all shoes are on sale for $99, though in a limited number of sizes and styles.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

All of feminism, Joe knew, could be encapsulated in women's struggle to forsake the spike heel

Here's a quote that nicely describes the scope of this blog:
While Joe was no stranger to shopping for shoes, he was aware that shopping for women's shoes was another upheaval entirely. Joe's mother, as far as he knew, had never purchased a comfortable, well-fitting pair of shoes. If the shoes were comfortable, they would undoubtedly be ugly, orthopedic in some way. Women suffered for their shoes. Women's shoes were designed to be antithetical to walking, let alone walking briskly. As a child, Joe had once stepped into a pair of his mother's high heels. At first he had welcomed the additional elevation, but then he had experienced only torture, via shooting pains in his shins. All of feminism, Joe knew, could be encapsulated in women's struggle to forsake the spike heel.

- Paul Rudnick, I'll take it

Where I am reminded that I should perhaps try on shoes before I buy them

I LOVE Internet shopping, but it comes with its own perils.

A little while back, I confessed I was smitten with these adorable Hollywould Bateau flats, currently on sale at Zappos. They are pretty, aren't they? And devoid of painful heels, too! Attractiveness + (perceived) comfort + sale price means that Scarpediem gets all googly-eyed and MUST have them.

They have arrived today and made for one of my recent major shoe disappointments. Yes, they're pretty, and they are comfortable, but they are cut so low that they make my foot look like it's mass of whitish cargo overflowing out of a tassel-embelished dinghy. And I'm a medium width! Quite unflattering, overall. Back they go. Thank God for the free return policy at Zappos!

I'll take a short break from shoe-shopping (gasp! I know! I'm going cold turkey, which for a shoe addict like me, it's sure to result in seizures sooner or later), but will take some time to review a few shops and products, such as Insolia. This product claims to take the pain out of wearing high heels. Claim will be scientifically tested and results will come to this website soon. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 06, 2006

To Dries or not to Dries?

I love Dries van Noten. I find her clothes and shoes tasteful and pretty, and overall refreshing. I own a pair of Dries van Noten heels, which will probably make the subject another post.

Right now, I need advice on these babies:

They're 50% off at one of my favorite shoe stores in Philly, Head Start Shoes. They would still set me back some $185, but they're pretty and fit me quite well. They're both comfortable and stylish. I am, however, not that enamored with the upward pointing toe. So, buy or not?

The requisite Oscar post

Everybody and their brother, sister, and twice-removed cousin are blogging about the Oscars, and in particular about Oscar fashion, since nobody seems to have seen the movies anyway. (Can this ceremony become any more vacuous?)

This is just a humble shoe blog devoted to comfortable shoes, and since the Oscars adopted stilettoes, aka the world's cruelest shoes, as the footwear of choice for the ladies, there isn't that much for me to blog about.

I can, however, be amused by the various fashion columns, newspaper reports, and blog posts from all over the place (start with the blogroll on the right, please!). Said amusement comes primarily from the universal disagreement on who "rocked" the red carpet. Some just love Keira Knightley's look, some think it was horrendous. Some applaud Charlize Theron's daring Dior choice, and some derride it. Since all the people I read claim to have good fashion sense, discernment, etc., it's quite droll to see them clash in such absolute ways.

I do sense general agreement, however, on two things: Uma Thurman's grotesque makeup (too bad, she so strikingly beautiful and so was the dress), and the blechiness of Helena Bonham Carter's ill-fitting outfit, complemented by the unflattering pouffed hairdo and the white shoes which have the distinction of being both painful AND ugly at the same time:

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Cruel shoes of the week

Why do designers believe fashion is a stylized form of punishment, especially when it comes to shoes? Exhibit no. 3,988,774:

We suggest our own punishment for the designer of these shoes: Write on the blackboard, 100 times, the following quote from Coco Chanel:

"Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury."

And do I really need to add, that it must also be not life-threatening?
(via Fashionologie.)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

To platform or not to platform

Everybody's been talking about these Balenciaga striking shoes, fresh off the catwalk:

As a shoe and comfort lover, you can only guess what I'm going to say about these :) Boy, do they scream awkward, unstable, and uncomfortable from every unexpected buckle detail! Any shoe that looks like it will require you to carry props to avoid tripping (say, like a cane, or walker, or an obligatory companion fastened to your elbow) is not a shoe that should belong in my collection.

Besides, they remind me too much of the chopine:

Friday, March 03, 2006

Aaaaaand....we have a number!

I was wondering in a previous post how many pairs of shoes is too many. Churchill Insurance Agency, who thought of doing a survey about the shoe and accessory-shopping habits of the British woman, has started to dig at the heart of the issue. The survey was done to correctly assess the damages for home-insurance purposes. Some of the numbers?

The average British woman steps out in £31,680 worth of shoes in her lifetime and spends a total of three years on the hunt for the perfect must-have accessories to complement her outfits.
44 per cent of women admit that shoes are their biggest weakness when they hit the shops, with 86 per cent of women saying they buy a least one new pair every month.
... a third of women admitted to having 25 pairs in their wardrobe, totalling a value of around £1000, while a further 1.3 million women own well over 30 pairs of shoes.
Unsurprisingly, a guilty one in five (21 per cent) women hide their shopping from their partners, and another one in five (22 per cent) lie to their partners about how much they spend on accessories.

Read the whole thing here.

For some reason, it reminds me of Kinsey's sex research, only this time nonjudgmentally following the general population's habits regarding footwear (instead of sex) through large-scale surveys and interviews. The key here is non-judgmental :)

And since we're getting all scientific here, it would be really interesting to follow the shoe-shopping habits of American women. And why stop there? How about Eastern-European? French? Italian? Chinese? Japanese?

It would be fascinating, indeed.

More spring cleaning chez Scarpediem

I don't know whatever possessed me when I bought this pair of Donald J. Pliner snakeskin platform heels last year:

It might be that when I meet a pair of pretty designer shoes at a bargain price, my brain goes into momentary freeze, chanting "Must have them" in a never-ending loop, which only stops if that particular itch is satisfied.

I thought, very mistakenly, that chunky heels, unlike stilettoes, will give me the necessary stability and grounding generally lacking in 4" heels. At least that used to be my experience. Alas, not so for these babies.

I took them for a walk, one very excited spring day last year. I returned promptly, my knees still shaking from the effort of keeping me upright for the duration of a whole 3-block walk. Since then, they've been sulking in my closet, and I've been eyeing them with guilt. I like them, but not enough to put my life in jeopardy. Besides, I'm already 5' 10 1/2": what do I need the extra 4 inches for??? So, off they went to the consignment boutique where I regularly dump stuff I do not or cannot wear or use anymore.

And to think that I once thought certain heels were comfortable! Behold Exhibit B:

At 3.5" tall, these were as comfortable as could be for the following scenario:
- get ready for a night at the opera
- get picked up by date for said night
- walk from car to the hall
- walk from hall to chic restaurant nearby for an after-show drink
- walk to car again
- walk to date's apartment where the shoes get kicked off for the night (ahem).

This shoe (a cheap but solid Enzo Angiolini), walked the walk for all of these acts. The d'Orsay décolletage, the thick strap ever so euphemistically reminiscent of bondage, and the color exuded both classy and kinky at the same time, depending on the circumstances. And for the limited amount of walking I did, they were surprisingly comfortable.

And yet, they've pouted in my shoe closet, untouched, for over three years. This may be because I once tried to wear them for a night out walking as opposed to being driven places, and the effects on my feet were less than satisfactory.

I do feel sorry for the Pliners, since, as I mentioned before, Donald J. Pliner is one of my favorite designers, and the other two pairs I have by him are the both stylish and comfortable. But I'll get over it: spring is coming, and now I have room for more shoes! Hurray!!!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ballet, with B from Bondage

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I love ballet. Something about watching the spectacle of the body in motion never fails to move me. However, here's the catch: well-executed dance does NOT have to employ sadistic techniques to subjugate women's bodies into forms deemed aesthetically pleasing.

I was moved to this abrupt conclusion while contemplating somewhat absently a large poster for an upcoming Firebird performance in a bus stop on Chestnut Street [couldn't find a large enough picture of that poster, so I borrowed something similar from the net]. The lady in question was posed in a tragic, suffering stance, tightly wrapped in an embroidered red bodice that streamlined her anorexic curves, while both feet were pointly planted in constricting upright ballet flats. With that amount of bondage, no wonder suffering came naturally.

I'm going to go all Twisty on you and blame the patriarchy for the notion that beauty in classical ballet can only be achieved by constricting women's bodies in corsets and tutus and forcing women's feet in unnatural positions that cause chronic pain, blisters, wounds, and permanent distortion of the toes. In that respect, the original ballet flat is suspiciously similar to a stiletto.

Since I would never dream of trying to balance my weight on one single suffering toe, I can blissfully enjoy my own ballet flats (I know I hoard at least 2 or 3 pairs in my closet. You?)

I'm currently dating...

...This Tony Burch embroidered shearling hobo:

Is the hobo and boho thing done too much? Is it over? Is shearling too much? But it's kind of pretty. And large enough to hold my slim laptop (which I seem to be hauling around a lot these days). And $174, down from $498!!!

I'm also strongly attracted to these Hollywould Bateau flats:

I've bee dating these for a while, ever since the price went down from $423 to $162 (!!!), and they also have a beautiful version in coral. The very pointy toe, however, gives me some pause. But they're so pretty! Oh, so pretty! And only one left in my size! Oh the agony! The agony!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Pet Peeves (part 1 of many)

In today's edition: logo-pattern accessories

Oh, I hate them, I hate them with a passion! You know what I'm talking about:

Logo (monogram, signature, whatever) shoes:

Christian Dior:



Luis Vuitton:


Logo Bags:

Christian Dior:


Luis Vuitton:


And even, horror of horrors, a whole damn outfit drenched in the ubiquitous Christian Dior logo pattern:

This screams garish out of all its 900 thousand tiny logo marks tattooed on its polyester fabric.

Add to that, of course, countless accessories: luggage, belts, sunglasses, wallets, jewelry, scarves, watches, hats, etc.

Am I the only one who thinks these objects are ugly? Tacky? Tired to death? Boring? Hiding a lack of creativity? A stubborn attempt to further fetishize brands (phrase borrowed from this NYTimes article)? A constant hammering into our corneas of the omnipresence, the magnificence, the excellence of the brand, until we finally accept it? And ironically, these logo-patterns are best suited for cheaper, less luxurious materials, like fabric or canvas or synthetic leather, though of course, the price is the same as or higher than similar objects made out of more durable, higher quality materials such as leather or suede.

Is it not true that by having us believe these logo-imprinted objects are stylish and desirable, by having us wear them, the designers turn us into walking advertisements? It's a devious scheme that we fell for hook, line and sinker. In my opinion it rather turns us into chattel, branded as in imprinted with the initials of our owners. Slaves to fashion indeed! It's just a stylized form of old-fashioned branding of the cows, except we do it voluntarily, we pay for it, and we are also proud to display it.

And of course, it's an unending source of disgusting knock-offs or cheap imitiations (such as the ugly XOXO bags).
[Edited to addIt just occurred to me why they're so susceptible to imitation: ostentatious display of the signature logo on every square centimeter of fabric is also a shortcut for the confused masses, who may wonder what is fashionable and stylish, which product to purchase to be labeled as such. Why, it's easy: the logo of a well-recognized brand MUST mean stylish, right? And instantly recognizable, right? And status-conferring, right? A no brainer!!! Let's get ourselves covered in it: easy, instant elegance! Gah! The practice gets picked up by the Asian knock-off industry precisely because it's so easy--and easily recognizable.]

So, no matter how comfortable these loafers may be (and you know I love me comfortable shoes!):

I refuse to be branded.

Kelp your way to fitness

I have to share this with you:
It's an ad for Kelpamalt, some quack concoction based on sea minerals that promised to put as much as 10 or 15 lbs on your sickly thin frame in a matter of weeks. It appeared in Philadelphia's Evening Bulleting, 1937; the whole newspaper is framed and displayed in UPenn's Van Pelt's Library, 5th floor, btw (the bigger news was about UPenn alumni). I kept forgetting to bring my camera to take a picture of the thing, but today I finally remembered.

Now, how can your heart not melt to see an ad for a product that actually promises to FATTEN your skinny, weak, pale and rundown self? Considering that all you see today is the very opposite of this ad ("lose those 5, 10, 15 lbs in a matter of weeks!"), this was almost refreshing to behold. Can you think of any young starlets you'd like to try this on?

Yeah, me too.

Oh, and notice the shoes. Even in a supposed health ad, this somewhat vigorous, smiling young woman can only look "healthy" or "desirable" while wearing painful high-heel T-straps, which in this case do some obvious damage to her seriously tilted posture.

Ok, you'll say, so ads in 1937 try to sell cockamamy products by having their models pose in swimming suits and high heels. We've come so far since then, though!

Oh wait.