Sunday, April 30, 2006

Carnivale of the Couture--the Cruelty Edition

When I saw the topic suggested by Sense of Soot for this week's carnivale, I almost choked. Why, it's about torturous fashion! And what does one think when saying "fashion" and "pain" in the same sentence? Shoes, of course!

As a matter of fact, this whole blog is against torturous fashion, as manifested in painful footwear. I've blogged about it here, here, and here. And here. All over the place, really, including the motto of this blog ("Faut-il souffrir...?"). And I've documented some of my painful mistakes in matters of shoes on various occasions--here and here, for example. In fact, I blogged about getting rid of shoes that, however elegant or coordinated or emotionally meaningful, were simply not be worn ever again, on account of their impracticality and/or pain factor. I'm a practical person, you see. And I do walk a lot--and want to do it in shoes that are as fashionable as they are comfortable.

However, Sense of Soot calls for a reveal of our dark, masochistic side--the fashion choices that have tortured us but that we can't let go of.

You shouldn't be surprised that even Scarpediem, the champion of sensible (and stylish!) footwear has a dark side, should you?

Exhibit A:

I believe I've briefly mentioned these Dries van Noten pair before. Gorgeous dark grey distressed leather. 3 3/4" Mary Janes. Rich, deep blue flower embroidery on the spectator-style vamp. Gold leather cutout insole. Heel that curves gracefully to make even a size 10 foot appear dainty. Bank account substantially depleted after purchase.

Last known wear: walking from the 22nd South block to the 16th Walnut block (Alma de Cuba restaurant, a friend's birthday celebration). Walk must have been, um, .5-.6 mi or so.

At the point of arrival, I scoped hungrily for a seat, which I speedily occupied without any intent of leaving it until the end of the evening. Dancing? Forget it! Going to the bathroom? Postponed until the very agonizing last minute, and then accomplished with great pains and much hobbling. Walking home at the end of the night? Sheer torture. Worth it? Sort of--I looked smashing! Or was it smashingly uncomfortable?

Either way, these shoes will not be soon forgotten--nor will they be forgiven!--not these shoes... Although I successfully got rid of every pair of heels over 3" in my closet, these are staying. And that's that. Thankfully, I won't be tortured in them more than once a year (or less), and deep into my old age, I'll sell them as vintage Dries van Noten in mint condition for a hefty sum, which I'll leave to my grandchildren. Or so I'd like to fantasize.

Shoes may be the logical choice when scoping for torturous fashion, but they're not the only items that will test your endurance. In my opinion, the second place on the scale of pain/discomfort an article of clothing can cause is occupied by an ill-fitting bra.

Such as this delicate pink/peach La Perla, resplendent in all its lacy glory, which I purchased online (it was the right size! and discount!), and which leaves the lingerie drawer only for, um, very special occasions.

It cuts into the sides. It kind of itches. It rubs underneath that which it supports. It can only be worn with certain outfits. It may look pretty on the outside, but fels kinda itchy on the inside. But! Don't think for a second I'm going to get rid of it! I'm not! One day I'll find the right outfit+time of wear combo for this bra to cause minimum discomfort. Until then, just the thought that I own it gives me pleasure.

After all, don't all the pieces in our closets, after a certain point, become museum exhibits? I'll just have to start adopting this mentality a little bit early than I thought when it comes to certain painful (yet irresistible!) fashion items.

That's all.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

I'm a rock chick

Your Theme Song is Back in Black by AC/DC

"Back in black, I hit the sack,

I've been too long, I'm glad to be back"

Things sometimes get really crazy for you, and sometimes you have to get away from all the chaos.

But each time you stage your comeback, it's even better than the last!

What's Your Theme Song?

(I've also got the right boots for a proper comeback.
Fear me, for I'm a power pack!)

Friday, April 28, 2006

It ain't ugly until it's expensive enough

As much as it pains us shoelovers, the world is full of ugly shoes. You only need to walk in the midst of the throng for approximately 2 nanoseconds before this cringeworthy truth hits you in the face. Still, nobody seems to care about ugly and CHEAP shoes, the type you find for $10 at your local Payless or on sale at WalMart--and I can't even argue too much with that. After all, not everyone has the money to shop for Manolo Blahniks, or even for the Target-variety Isaac Mizrahi, for that matter.

However, when the shoes are both expensive AND ugly, well then, that's something to be pointed out and ridiculed--the poor man's Schadenfreude at the realization that money can't buy taste. Such as, for example, this fugtastic pair of Gianfranco Ferre boots (5 1/4 inch heel!), which I seem to recall that The Manolo himself ridiculed a while back: A mere $2793.95 will buy you the most ostentatious sprained ankle you are ever likely to suffer.

Cavalli is, I know, I know, an obvious contender to the most (expensive+ugly+painful) prize. Behold these 4 1/4' mules:

Which, I believe, were made by making minimal adjustments to this tribal mask:

I wonder if part of the $970 price tag is going to help charities in Africa. Ha! I can't even WRITE this with a straight face.

I have to admit though that these two examples are as cute as a button compared to this monstrosity from Dsquared2:

What the hell happened here? Although Dsquared2 are not my favorite designers (they seem to favor the 4" spike heel a little too much for my taste), at least their shoes were, by and large, cute and chic, with beautiful curves, tasteful jewelry, and pretty colors. But this--it's like Jack the Ripper paired up with Dr. Jekyll and decided to go into the shoemaking business. The Ripper took his slashtastic tendencies on an innocent flock of sheep, and Jekyll came up with the schizoid design through which he hoped to further torment womankind with the perilous heel and the uncomfortable sensation of having cutout shearling on your feet, which can only feel sweaty on warm days and drafty on cold days. To top it all off, they charged a ridiculously high price ($670) for the privilege of having your feet tortured, thus ensuring a steady supply of rich but kinda ditzy followers.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


I always knew in my heart that shoes were quasi-magical objects, but this most amusing list of shoe superstitions (pardon me, shoe-perstitions!) proves it a thousand-times over.

One example, at random:
If you repeat "Hoping this night, my true love to see, I place my shoe in the form of a T" (Place your shoes heel against instep and do no speak again that night. You will marry the man you see in your dreams.) (Emrich, D. The Folklore of Love and Courtship, 1970).
Now, there's another use for all those Blahniks you have stashed in your closet!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

If I were a rich girl....

...and if I had all the money in the world, I'd probably buy the entire Marc Jacobs shoe collection for this spring/summer. Don't these super-adorable yellow sandals embody all that's fun, cheerful, and carefree about summer? They do, they do, and they do it in style! Yellow is a tough color for me (and many, many women, if I were to listen to my friends), but don't these just go with anything summery and breezy? You can wear them with white, red, (ahem), yellow/gold, black...and a good dose of optimism.

These fuchsia sweeties ain't half bad either:

They make me happy just by looking at them!

But alas, at about $300 a piece, they're still a dream for this particular shoelover.

Closer to my budget, however, is this last pair in my size on the last call clearance at Neiman Marcus:
Only $70 + S&H (down from $200) ... they are just so cute I wanna giggle. In Japanese, preferrably.

My policy of late when I get that strong, strong urge to buy shoes: I wait a little. Count to 2000 in my head. Sleep it over. If they're still there the next morning, and my desire is still that strong, I take the plunge.

I'm gonna start counting right

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Clean Laundry Carnivale!

This week, the extraordinarily talented Danielle at Final Fashion (seriously, check out those drawings!) asks us to describe that favourite outfit that we always like to wear still warm from the dryer.

To which my first response is, "my pajamas, of course"! To be even more specific, it's a very simple, long ,white, empire-waisted, lightweight cotton nightgown, just perfect the warm summer nights.

But seriously--fresh out of the dryer, I think I like my Gap solid-color tank tops (gasp! ze horror!). Yes, I have a bunch of them and I think they're supremely versatile because I can layer them ad infinitum, without going through the same outfit twice.

In all honesty, my all-time favorite outfits do not take lightly to the washer and dryer cycle, and require the gentler touch of dry-cleaning. Hence, I will only briefly mention here my all-time favorite flared black jersey pants, long-waisted and creating the most streamlined, feminine sillhouette that I could ever hope for. Or my favorite black and grey leaf-print Dana Buchman silk flutter sleeve top, which also creates the illusion of a much slimmer waist.

And because everybody loves clean, bright socks, I'll have to mention the red giraffe-print socks I'm quite fond of and which make a cameo appearance in this picture:

...which also reveals that my dog is, in fact, the biggest clean laundry afficionado of us all. He likes to get in on it as soon as I get it out of the dryer. For those of you horrified by this, don't worry: Idefix is cleaner than most people I know, since he takes a shower every day after coming from the dog park, with lukewarm water, please, and Earthbath shampoo. And yes, he's the most snugglicious creature I've ever encountered.

Whiny post

I've been cranky for a few days, and now I realize that it's because my feet have been bothering me--that pesky plantar fasciitis has been acting up recently. As soon as I sit down for more than 20 min in a row, when I get up I get the most excruciating pain in my heels (especially in my left, where I also got the heel spur). I stretch and stretch, but still, the pain is there whenever I walk.

Which is neither here nor there: this is a chronic condition and I'm prepared to put up with it for at least another year or so (it takes that long to recover), but you know what that means, don't you?

That Scarpediem can't wear some of her favorite shoes.

Like this Casadei slide, which was also her first ever purchase from Zappos. And at a ridiculous discount of, I believe, 95% off (yep, $33 altogether). Had I waited a little longer they would have practically paid me to get rid of it (ha! I kid!).

But--pretty, n'est ce pas? And only 2 1/4 heel. Still, when I finally considered wearing them outside a few days back, when it was reasonably warm, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I even put those semi-useless Insolia inserts in, to help. Strutting in them in front of the mirror (oh, they look positively yummy!), further convinced me that I didn't stand much chance of survival in the rather long walk I had planned that day.

I can't tell you how eager I am to have healthy feet again.

Until then, I will be looking to branch out into sensible footwear, like the ones some conscientious readers recommened--Anyi Lu, or Tara Subkoff for Easy Spirit. Similarly, I think I want to try Beautifeel (not carried by Zappos, either! for shame!), Mephisto, and Arche.

The problem is that I can't find the first three of these brands easily--or on sale, as I'm accustomed to (honestly, I can't remember the last time I paid full price for a pair of shoes).

Like, sure, I could shell $280 for this adorable pump from by Tara Subkoff, given that I am a sucker for anything patent (the shinier the better), but in all likelihood, I won't. And they can't be found anywhere else on the Internets, as far as I can see. I'll keep looking. Plus, they're 2 1/4" heels, which in my current state of foot discomfort is, really, out of the question.

And then there's the question of how many shoes do I really need, for crying out loud. I mean, my closet is already overflowing (although I can't wear, at the moment, at least 1/3 of the shoes I have, and then another 1/4 or so are, for now, out of season). Luckily, we'll be moving in July to our first home where I'll have my own walk in closet and, hopefully, enough space to organize my collection. Right now, our storage situation is dire in general, and, at least where my shoes are concerned, it's downright disastrous.

I guess I'm also pretty annoyed at the possibility that I'll never get cured, that I'll be one of those persons with "bad feet" my entire life, that I won't ever be able to wear some of my prettier shoes, and will have to replace my shoe wardrobe in its entirety (a pricy, scary prospect). Luckily, I've already made some strides in the right (and stylish!) direction.

So where was I? Oh yeah, I'm cranky. And I want the rain to stop already. There's only so many pairs of shoes you can wear out in the rain, especially when it's quite warm outside. But really, one can get tired pretty quickly with a pair of Sperry TopSiders.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Shamelessly stolen from Grannyvibe

Apropos of a few exchanges buried in the comments of previous posts: some more thought-starters:

About ten years ago, while reading a biography of the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, I came across something he said about women that struck me as uncomfortably true: women want to be wanted, not loved. He meant that women sought to be desirable rather than fully known...

I now believe that Lacan was basically right about the problem of female desire, but instead of seeing it as a normal aspect of female character, I see it as a damaging
affliction of female development in societies where women are expected to please men. The compulsion to be desired and desirable undermines self-direction, self-confidence, and self-determination in women from adolescence through old age, in all our roles, from daughter to mother, from lover to wife, from student to worker or leader, whether or not the affliction is conscious...

Wanting to be wanted is about finding our power in an image rather than in our own actions. We try to appear attractive, nice, good, valid, legitimate, or worthy to someone else, instead of discovering what we actually feel and want for ourselves....

Nor is wanting to be wanted the expression of a desire for intimacy or closeness. Rather, wanting to be wanted makes us feel as though we have no clear desires of our own...We have been culturally programmed so thoroughly to tune in to the subtleties of whether or not we are having the "desired effect" that we fail to tune in to what we really want or to see how strongly we are motivated by wanting to be wanted.
(Polly Young-Eisendrath, Women and Desire : Beyond Wanting to Be Wanted)
(via the fabulous Grannyvibe)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Hooked on Taryn Rose

Taryn Rose got a lot of press in the past few years: she's an orthopedic surgeon who, appalled by the number of foot problems she saw in women, created her own line of footwear, which turned out to be wildly successful. A quick perusal of the site convinced me that she seems to understand the needs of women's shoes better than most other shoe designers out there.

So I'd been long wanting to try a pair of Taryn Rose, but let's face it: the prices are prohibitive, and when you don't quite know what exactly you're in for (after all, it's not a Manolo Blahnik, which even has collector's value), it's hard to shell $400+ for a pair of shoes, especially when they might look like the pair on the left. While there's nothing particularly wrong with these shoes, there's nothing particularly uplifting about them either. They're the shoes your mother would wear on a shopping trip. If they were a person, they'd be the trusty middle-age librarian at your local library--somebody you know and you can depend upon, but nevertheless, somebody you would never date. Many other styles looked similarly dowdy, so I was put off for a while.

Some other styles looked nicer, so I waited and watched like a hawk...and when finally a pair in my size was on an adequate sale (70% off, which still means over $100, but still!), I got it. I wanted to see whether a 3" heel can really feel that good.

Well, it does. First of all, the shoe looks just about 10 times better in person than in the image online. Second, it's very light, almost (almost!) weightless. Third, it fits like a glove (well, granted you go about 1/2 size up of what you usually wear--my usual 40 went up to 41 for these shoes). Fourth, it has plenty of arch support. And last, but most importantly, it's OUTRAGEOUSLY comfortable. I mean, no shoe with that high a heel should feel that good. It defied all that I thought I knew about shoes. My guess: it's a combination of materials, shape, construction, and the way the heel (which in Taryn Rose shoes is NEVER a stiletto) is attached to the sole--at an ever so slight angle:
Granted, it's not like it can feel like a sneaker: it's a high heel pump! Still, I could walk about 2 miles in them, and not feel like I would die (any other shoes over 2" would not take me farther than 1/2 a mile, not without blisters, excruciating pain, and gradual darkening of the spirits to untapped levels of bitchiness on my part). By the end of it, it's true, I couldn't wait to take them off, but for most of the walk (which btw, included frequent stops in shops and a lot of waiting around--so in all fairness, more mileage could easily be added)--they felt light, comfortable, just delightful.

Encouraged by this experiment, I also got these mules from Zappos, and I'm currently bidding on a couple of pairs on Ebay. Again, the mules looked just about 10 times better when I got my hands on them, and they, too, are very comfortable.

So, if you've got the money and/or the patience to watch the prices drop (or, otherwise, Ebay stamina), these are the shoes to buy that will make you feel both elegant and comfortable.

Currently I'm coveting these sweet wedges:
... but I guess I'll wait for the sale...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Shoe of the week: for the emancipated princess in you

These Robert Clergerie Ravhi sandals are definitely not for everybody, but they're definitely for me. Although they're a bit flat for my taste (two words, you shoe-designers, you: arch support! it can't be that hard!)--they're still supremely comfortable and eye-catching.

Their primitive aura leads me to believe that these were the shoes dragons made for all the princesses they stole and kept in a far-away tower. I mean, they needed footwear, right? And as long as they were there, the dragon had to take care of them, right?

I suspect this is what a dragon shoemaker in love might produce: give him the hide of a giant wild boar for the sole, and the soft suede of some enchanted deer fallen in the evil traps set up by the dragon's minions on the fringes of the Dark Forest, add a handful of studs, and then a few more studs, and voila. Complete the look with some of the dragon's own scales, lovingly and painstakingly collected and glazed and polished to adorn the sandal.

The princess tries it on her delicate foot and they fit pretty well. Granted, these were not her shoes of choice, but the Cinderella slippers had been lost during the abduction, so what's a girl to do?

So the princess wears the fierce sandals for lack of a better option, and she gradually finds them so much more comfortable than those dainty Cinderella shoes, that she starts enjoying walking around, takes up fencing and weight lifting, and by the time Prince Charming comes to the rescue she's actually in better shape and saves him from the clutches of the hopelessly-in-love dragon.

She could actually give him the final blow with a kick of those pointy dragon-scale-ornaments, but at the last minute she sees his eyes and understands. So she spares his life, sends a befuddled Prince Charming off on his way, and sets out to start a Center for Princess Empowerment in a remote corner of the kingdom.

The symbol on the Center is the Gold Dragon Sandal, of course.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fashion and the male gaze

Go read this wonderful Web Essay on the Male Gaze, Fashion Advertising, and the Pose. The images really say it all (would be curious about your reaction), but here's a sample of the conclusion:

But the omnipresence of images like the preceding in our culture for a century now almost certainly helps cultivate "the craving to attract and captivate" among women, and to the extent that women get caught up in that craving, they are less likely to seek satisfaction and rewards in their own accomplishments, and in mutually respectful, supportive relationships with men and others around them.
The whole article is more image than words, but it ought to give you an idea of how women are conditioned to always be looked at--essentially, posing for the male gaze. (It also couldn't have come at a more appropriate time given the recent critique to one of my posts.)

(Via Bitch PhD.)

How did I ever live without these?

Gel socks, that is.

The link doesn't get you to the pair I puchased, which was from Bath and Body Works, from the True Blue Spa collection, which, btw, also makes fabulous foot scrubs and creams.

So, after a good scrubbing and ritual slathering of the cream, I put on the gel socks (which, I read somewhere else, are discontinued; too bad!). In an hour I had the softest, sandal-worthiest feet of my life.

I'm a firm believer in self-mani-pedi, for the simple reason that I am very (very!) good at it. I am, in fact, ruthless, and much more detail-oriented than any manicurist or pedicurist I ever dealt with. So now, I don't think I can envision another pedicure without these incredibly moisturizing socks.

Oh, and if you leave them on for the night, you'll get the softest tootsies imaginable, not to mention the evil specter of cracked heels will be kept at a considerable distance.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Ok, so here's my first attempt to participate in one of the Carnivales of the Couture. This time, the Fashionable Kiffen asks:
What item/style/look do you wish would become a trend? Or what trend from the past would you like to resurrect?
I puzzled over the second part of this question because I think designers are already trying their best (and worst) to bring back just about any trend of the past, from the psychedelic and the boho to the leggings and the shoulder pads.

However, there is one field in which they absolutely refuse to look at the past: men's fashion. I was just watching a rerun of The Sting and I realized that I would really, really like to see revived the time in which men paid attention to their attire and wore perfectly tailored suits and fedoras with aplomb, also pulling off the other important accessories in a man's wardrobe that today only belong in the all-important business meetings, the very formal affairs, or some conservative pundit shows: the tie, the cravat, the handkerchief gracefully poking out of the chest pocket, the elegant wallets and shoes, the vests.

Ok, so maybe we shouldn't see the revival of all of the above, all at once, but at the very least, I would like to see a revival of the art of dressing the man, which has been preserved only by a precious few. Personally, I'd like to reverse the proportion of men who wear flip-flops, mandals, poorly-crafted shoes, or sneakers, paired with shorts or scruffy khakis and T-shirts or polos, in favor of men who understand the value of a bespoke jacket and of well-made accessories.

As about women's fasion: what I would first and foremost like to see is a revival of real femininity - of real women - in the way fashion is presented. I'm a beating up a dead horse, I know. Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty has started something, but it has as many detractors as defenders, and let's face it, patriarchy wants us to look more like Pam Anderson and Claudia Schiffer than like...well, ourselves.

Still, I would really like the fashion industry to try to shake the 6" tall, size 0 stereotype of beauty off its back. The stick figures that populate the runways are not representative of how women like you and me look. I would like to see a trend in which models look more like real, healthy, women of all shapes and sizes (anything above a size 4, or below 5' 10", please!).

I would like the fashion industry to celebrate the glory and beauty inherent in women, rather than the fake glamour achieved through their dimensions. I would like them to teach how each of us can be beautiful in our own way, rather than by trying to fit the mold they present as acceptable. I would like to see a culture which strives to eradicate rather than encourage self-image and self-esteem problems in young women, which can lead to so many dangerous behaviors, disorders, and psychological scars. I would like to see high fashion get down to earth for a little while: it might not be as bad as they think!

To me, that would be the most glorious revolution that the fashion industry could accomplish for women everywhere.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Stilt Walking into Spring?

Stilt Walking into Spring is, in fact, the title of a New York Times article that explores the ridiculousness of wearing the ridiculously high heels so in fashion this season. The heels above range between 5 1/2 and 7 inches high (that's right! the Balenciaga chunky platform you undoubtedly recognized as next to last is 7 freakin' inches high!), and the author is trying to make her way around NY in the 5 1/2 cone-heeled Lanvins, pictured fourth from the left.

Of course, she can't, and so she ditches them in favor of her ballet flats while getting into Michael's, in the company of the likes of Anna Wintour and Joan Rivers.

Quoth the Lanvin-loving author:

I mounted the curb. Now six feet tall, I suddenly felt less invincible than wretchedly vulnerable, to gross stares and gusts of wind. Michael's, barely half a block away, seemed a journey of several miles. [...]

In other circumstances, like walking on the wall-to-wall at the office or at a party where I mostly stood, the Lanvins were actually comfortable, and I enjoyed my new height and the giddy looks of fright on the men in the office.

In reality you don't wear a pair of shoes like that if you carry a book bag and share trains with commuters. You invite looks of pity. Shoes like that serve a different purpose: seduction, fun, making men bark.

A friend of mine compared their glamorous constraint to wearing a tight Hedi Slimane suit to a party. "All you can do is lean at the bar," she said. "And make sure your drink comes with a straw."

While the article is pretty much all over the place--much of it is actually devoted to explaining how women buy 5", $700 and up pairs of shoes in order to feel taller and have authority in front of their kids (whaaa???)

There are so many problems with this that I don't even know where to start.

Painful, aberrantly high (and anatomically torturous) heels are "fun" and "making men bark"? Or, alternatively, making them cower in fright? What the heck? Which one is it? I'm all for using fashion to enhance your sex appeal and all, if that's what you desire, and there's nothing wrong with beautiful shoes, but there's something painfully wrong about shoes you can't walk 1/2 a block in for the life of you, and that invite either condenscending or frightened looks.

I remember one episode of House a while back, in which the abrasive doctor refuses to hire a replacement for one of his co-workers--although she was fun, smart, highly recommended, extremely intelligent and capable--because she was wearing these 4" pointy-toed stilettoes. He quipped that he doesn't need a member of the staff who's not comfortable enough in her own skin, so much so that she needs to wear painful shoes to assert her edge. Of course, the deeper reason is that he still wanted Cameron back on the job, but that's beside the point.

The sexiness, the authority, the confidence, the whole package, shouldn't have to rely on a pair of shoes that confine you to a chair the whole evening. The "giddy looks of fright" on those colleagues' faces were probably pity mixed with fear of this crazy person who's just inane enough to subject herself to foot torture in order to attract attention. Being sexy and confident come first and foremost from within, from what you have to offer as a person. The 7-inch platforms are not going to help you educate your kids (that bothered me immensely, together with the fact that all these ridiculous shoes cost in the vicinity of a thousand, clearly a different income bracket than the majority of this or any other country). They are not going to help you be loved--they may get you a one-night stand, sure, and I guess that's what they're geared for.

However, the man who truly cares about you will beg you to please, please come down from those heights, be comfortable with yourself--be comfortable in your own skin--be yourself. In fact, if a man wants you in 7-inch heels, I recommend that you run away from him as fast as possible. (In your handy ballerina slippers, of course). The man who wants you in 7-inch heels does not see you as a person. Does not want to know you. He's fulfilling a fantasy in which you play the role of a toy or an object. The man who wants you in 7-inch heels has no regard for who you are, nor does he care. He wants you as a sex slave, but he most likely won't understand the meaning of a profound relationship. Nor does he want to: he's probably not reached that level of maturity.

The shoes of this season as depicted in this article are probably one of the most ostentatious displays of status, sex, class, and power that I've ever seen fashion do in a while. They do convey a message, all right (you obviously need to do a lot of soul-searching before you climb into these shoes)--but one that I don't care for at all. I would dare say that this is just one tiny boil as a symptom of the deeply rotten core of a particular segment of society (as well as of patriarchy at large), but for now, I'll let patriarchy-blaming to more talented people than I.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

More Zappomania

So yeah, I'm a Zappos addict. Sue me.

Major disappointment yesterday: I had left two items in my shopping bag (as it is often my sneaky habit) only to return several hours later and see them gone. Sniff sniff. See, I do that because I want to make sure that I absolutely want the item in question before I click "proceed to checkout." Only, when there is only one pair left in my size, at a fantabulous discount (80% or such)--chances are, somebody will be more determined than me to get it.

So it is that I lost the green Kate Spades pictured in the banner of this site, as well as another fabulous pair of Clergerie green slides. My heart aches, but my wallet seems to be thanking me.

Now I'm finding myself coveting this:
The Robert Clergerie Tibet handbag is just so delightfully woolly and wacky and just a little bit insane, that I am naturally and irresistably drawn to it. Not to mention that it seems to be made of the same material as my wonderful winter blanket (some of which you can see in the second of the Happy Bag picture series)--which makes me think the bag will come in handy on those breezy days, conveniently doubling up as a wind-breaker-body warmer thingy. Unfortunately, the price is still steep, but hey, I'm here and watching you, frizzy crazy handbag, just know that I'm watching you until you give in to the kryptonite Internet stare and your price will go down to the equivalent of 15 lattes, and then hey, I'll be happy to subsist on mediocre supermarket coffee for a while knowing that your woolly goodness will turn heads and, well, yes, possibly trigger smiles, or maybe snickers, but I won't care because you'll be mine, all mine, mwahhahahaahahah!

Ok, this needs to stop. Seriously, I need an intervention.

I think I'll go take a shower now.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

When appearances deceive, or, the perils of online shopping

Before I start this, a quick confession: I am an online shopping addict. I just love the convenience, the browsing, the choices (many of which I couldn't find in a store), and above all, I love Zappos, this Mecca for the shoe afficionado (ok, addict in every sense of the word). And even more than that, I looooove that free and easy return policy.

Online shopping however comes with its own disadvantages--such as, well, you never know what you're going to get. And what looks comfy and practical and whatnot (and on sale!) on screen, turns out not so great in real life.

Take these Stuart Weitzman black microfiber loafers, which looked the image of practicality: one of those shoes that you put on on days you have to run a lot of errands and they go with everything and they're comfortable enough to keep on all day. They were even marked "W"--which for my B+ size seemed purrfect.

And then they arrived, and I was all excited, and I put them on, and it suddenly felt like my feet were being slowly swallowed and digested by a boa constrictor. So, what do you think, they mistook the AAAA for an (inverted) W?

The Weitzmans went back the next day, which is more than I could say about this pretty suede and patent Delman "Wren" flat, which I actually got to wear outside. Many ballet flats pose the issue of, um, cleavage. Just as you can only put so much cleavage in a top before it falls off you, there is a limit to the cleavage you can put in a ballet flat before it becomes a challenge to just keep it on your foot. These are adorable, but cut extremely low, to the point that it's not a feasible proposition to wear orthotics in them. They are also (sans orthotics) devoid of arch support--flat as a pancake, which, in my opinion, should be avoided in any shoe. And after a moderate 10-15 min. walk, the toe-box becomes incredibly constricting and, yeah, uncomfortable.

By the way, there's a ton of pairs of this model around on Bluefly and Zappos, in a ton of colors and at good sale prices. Just be aware of your own level of comfort with ballet flats. Despite their versatility and perceived comfort, some of them are hard to keep on your feet and in general, not that well suited for long walks as I'd like them to be. I don't get to return mine this time, but hey, I hope you get to fare better.


Even a humble shoe blog can feel invigorated by a little spring redesign, n'est ce pas? (Thanks, Lol B, for noticing!) And voila, what better occasion than the fact that ShoeSense has become part of the fab Glam network.

The shoe in the banner is in fact this adorable Kate Spade number, which I'm currently coveting (and good price, too, 55% off!). Just in case you're wondering.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The reveal

I got one lonely curious reader inquiring about the origin of my Happy Bag, so I must be true to my word and reveal it.

Don't you get tired sometimes of seeing the same brands ostentatiously displayed just about everywhere--Prada, LV, Coach, Gucci, Armani, Fendi, Dior, Chanel, etc.--over and over again, their logos branding us incessantly. They need even not beautiful or comfortable or make you look good: the signature items are instantly recognizable and they sell well because they offer instant recognition and status. (I expressed my intense disapproval of signature items elsewhere).

To me, this is as close as we get to a fashion dictatorship. And, at the point where I see everybody and their sister toting around a LV bag, counterfeit or not (ugly little things!), LV is no longer luxury.

A surprisingly refreshing break with this totalitarian rule may come if you, say, have relatives in an obscure Eastern-European country, which is just happening to undergo a fashion revival. A country like, say, Romania.

That's the origin of my happy bag. To be exact, it comes from the shop of a luxury leather goods maker in a fancy district of Bucharest, Dan Coma. Dan Coma, the husband of a famous Romanian designer, Doina Levintza, designs and produces high-end leather goods in his spectacular home-based shop. The home is a regular pre-WWII villa, huge by any standards, and full of fantastic decorations that blend seamlessly with the couple's fashion productions:
Two Levintza dresses

Shoes by Dan Coma

Leather goods for men by Dan Coma

Bags by Dan Coma

More Levintza dresses on display

Trust me, the display was enough to leave all the Carrie Bradshaws of the world salivating. The shoes, bags, or dresses were all made according to your measurements and specifications; you can even go to the basement and choose your leather or materials from the thousands and thousands of rolls freshly shipped from Italy or France. The array of choices is dizzying, and the prices will, of course, beat any Western competition. My unique Happy Bag (so called because it makes me and anyone around me smile) was $250--pricy, in absolute terms, but a bargain for a fashion luxury item. Dan Coma sells his items under the brand name of Dacoma.

The downside is that you pretty much have to go over there to get an order done. They will do just about anything you ask for, and fast, but if you want to order from here, forget it. They simply don't have the mechanisms in place. They speak mostly French, and English is a tough proposition. Email communication is tenuous at best, with longs gaps in replying. Financial instruments are few and far between (we had to pay cash for all the leather goods we got--my husband also ordered a bunch of items--over $1,000 in cash, if you know what I mean). We tried to place an order with them for months--since last July, in fact, only to be told this January, after much back and forth and miscommunication, that they can't honor our order, they're too backed up. As I type this, their website,, is down--I suspect it has been for a while.

The upside is that everything we ordered is extremely well made (custom-made, of course), durable, gorgeous, and unique. When we were there, they were a pleasure to deal with, and had all the goods delivered to us in record time (less than 2 weeks). Next time I go there (not this year, but maybe the next?) I'll have him make some shoes for me. I've always liked the idea of custom-made shoes, tailored to fit your foot to perfection. I might even have Mrs. Levintza cut a dress for me. At about $600 to $800 per dress, it ain't cheap, but it's 10 times cheaper than haute couture in Paris, at comparable quality (though, possibly, more wearable).

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Happy bag!

A character in a mystery novel by a grossly underrated writer was depicted as knowing the value of accessories. If I can remember correctly (I only read the book 15 years ago!), "Irina knew that even an ordinary dress can be made special by an expensive pair of shoes and the right purse." Consequently, that's where she spent her money; she also turned out to be a cunning murderess in the end, but that's beside the point.

Obviously, that philosophy, inhaled at a very impressionable age, has stuck with me. I definitely belong to the group of people who is more likely to attempt to dress around accessories rather than accesorize around an outfit. And how could I not do that when it comes to my happy orange bag!

Happy bag: front view

Happy bag: angle view

Happy bag: pocket detail

A few things about my happy bag:
- it's a frame bag made out of a rich brocade with leather trim (and rhinestone details)
- it's large enough to hold all your essentials (plus a bottle of water, if you should so need)
- it's one of a kind
- it pretty much goes with anything
- when I carry it, I feel like a princess!!!

I'm pretty sure absolutely no one who reads this blog could possibly guess where this is from. However, if anyone at all expresses any interest in it, I'd be happy to reveal its (unexpected) origin!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Shoes as props for character

Sometimes, shoes can be pretty darn uncomfortable with or without high heels. Narrow toeboxes, stiff backs, inflexible soles, and the like, can easily plague any shoe, with or without the added discomfort of the high heel. Behold this example:

Aerosoles is a brand that takes pride in its comfortable, stylish, and reasonably priced shoes. Right? I own a few pairs, most of which are comfortable, though not particularly well made--I don't expect to get a lot of mileage out of them, plus they're likely to look pretty ratty in a short time. I got the pair above for a specific purpose: to match a beautiful orange and green bag, so beautiful in fact that it deserves an entry on its own.

I expected these mules to be comfortable--after all, they were Aerosoles, had a low heel and a square toebox, plus they were as cute as a button. Wrong! They turned out to have a hidden monster inside them whose only food of choice was my little pinky. The pain was so intense that 1/2 mile proved too much; and then, my poor little toe looked like a blob of raw ground meat for a few hours. I kept them in my closet for a year, mulling over whether to give them another try or not. The specter of the pinky-gnawing monster inside them, however, turned me off, and they now rest at Sophisticated Seconds (the South and 23rd location, my consignment boutique of choice).

They were accompanied by this pair of wedges:

Now, I love wedges just like any other gal (even when they're high they can be comfortable), but these were left untouched all through last summer, and I have to admit that they're sort of blah. I mean, they're neutral enough to go with just about anything, but really, if you go one entire season without touching a pair of not particularly enticing shoes, it's time for them to go.

I was most sorry, however, to let go of these kick-ass Unisa red leather mules:

Why? Well, because, just like clothes, accessories, and objects we surround ourselves with in general, these were sort of symbolic of the stage in my life I was at. Just over a particularly significant relationship with a particularly painful end, I bought this pair because they supplied an element of confidence where I had none. I was pretty broken inside, but I resolved to pick myself together out of the dust, and what better way to rise above the dust than with a pair of blood-red 3 1/2 inch shoes, which, on top of everything, were also surprisingly comfortable (the sporty rubber sole must have had something to do with it, plus they hugged the foot rather well). Wearing them was sure to attract attention, and made me 6'2" tall (no, literally). From that height, I could tell just anyone to f@#$ the h#$% off if I so pleased. Nobody--nobody!--was going to mess around with an amazon in pointy, high-heeled red shoes.

In the end, it wasn't the shoes that restored my confidence in myself, of course, though they played their part in shaping my general attitude at the moment. I'm well over that episode now, and again, I find that I haven't really touched these shoes in a year and a half or so. That, together my growing intolerance to high heels, and an awareness that I should rid myself of a painful past as soon as possible, or as often as necessary, contributed to my decision to drop these shoes off together with the other two pairs.

The red shoes served their purpose; it's time for me to move on to footwear that molds to my (hopefully stronger and more confident) personality, rather than for me to mold myself around the shoe.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Back in the days when this little shoe blog was in its diapers, stretching out one timid antenna into the blogosphere, Scarpediem was immediately contacted by a sales rep (or marketing rep?) for a new product called Insolia. In short, the claim of this product is that it greatly reduces the pain caused by high heels by shifting the pressure from the ball of the foot to the entire area of the sole (towards the heel, in other words). This way, you'd be able to wear your precious heels longer and without (or with diminished) pain.

If you browse the site, you'll find an article that explains the theory behind this product, as well as presents some (pretty impressionistic, in my opinion) surveys of the wearers of Insolia. Not surprisingly, you'll find that the success rate is far from 100%, but the fact that enough women found this product helpful warranted the launch of a full-blown marketing campaign. The truly ironic part of the article is that the authors point out that podiatrists don't really recommend wearing stilettos or high heels at all; but since women wear them anyway, the authors feel that they can at least provide something to alleviate the pain. This, to me, is the (toned down) equivalent of telling a bulimic, "you shouldn't really throw up, it's bad for your health; but since you're going to do it anyway, here's a special tongue depressor to smooth the process for you."

The guys behind this product (it's funny it's guys, isn't it?) are in fact quite nice and perfectly charming, at least in the correspondence and follow up. In fact, they sent me three pairs of Insolia, free, so that I could try them and spread the word.

How does Insolia look? Two teeny transparent gel inserts with a raised bump in the middle, that you stick to the insole of the shoe:

Now, if I were walking the walk and doing what I'm preaching, I wouldn't even have any high heels left in my closet to try this on, would I? But hey, I'm a former junkie myself--as I've mentioned, I used to live in a place were walking was pretty much optional (limited to apartment-parking lot, parking lot-work, and a few strolls down the hallway, plus the occasional date involving minimal walking, too), at a time when I was absolutely ADDICTED to "Sex and the City" (which no doubt threw millions of women around the globe into the throes of shoe addiction), and so I indulged in a few sharp heels, many of which I couldn't really wear and I subsequently got rid of, as documented on this blog.

However, I have my deep, dark secrets, too. I've been unable to get rid of 4 pairs of heels (read, over 2" high). I think I'll have no problem getting rid of two of them. The other two, however, are a little problematic. See, one is this gorgeous Dries van Noten gray distressed leather high-heel Mary Jane with deep blue flower embroidery on the vamp:

These shoes are just stunning, and they cost an arm and a leg, too. I wore them twice, kicking and screaming (no, literally), and I've put them to rest in my closet, where I take them out to admire them from time to time. At a 3.5" heel, they're likely to rest in peace for a long, long time.

The other is a pair of Robert Clergerie 2 3/4" chunky heels, which I bought by mistake: I truly thought the heel was 2" (why, I can't imagine). Add to that that I LOVE Clergerie shoes, the pair I already have is very comfortable and well made, I needed brown loafers, and they were on sale for $40 (which is like, 90% off the original price). How could I resist? However, the first wear brought out my inner gawkiness and awkwardness (you know, the whole pressure on the knees and such), fueled by that burning pain in the ball of the foot. Not. Comfortable. At. All. So, what better chance to use Insolia? Here's a picture of the shoe and of how Insolia looks inside it:

I am HEARTBROKEN to report that, um, no, I didn't feel much better. I did feel a little awkward, and, yeah, maybe, in terms of pain, there was like a 5-10% decrease. But at the end of 1/2 miles in those shoes, Insolia or not, I felt the same burning desire to take them off and never see them again. Oh, and it doesn't help that Insolia and orthotics don't mix (can't have one on top of the other, duh).

Now, maybe it's my feet? My shoes? My plantar fasciitis? The way I stuck the things to the insoles? (apparently that's a refined art, requiring advanced metric skills: one milimiter to the right or left can make all the difference, the makers of the product claim, which doesn't make that much sense to me: how long do I have to try to get it exactly right?). Anyhoo, I have to admit that there was an ever so slight improvement.

Will I use Insolia? Hm... I guess I'll just try to stick to comfortable shoes for a while, seems like the infinitely more sensible solution. However, I think I'll keep a pair of Insolia around for my treasured Dries van Notens. I'm not going to throw those shoes away, and I'm trying to stretch my imagination to fit a contorted scenario in which I walk two steps to the limo, two steps to the opera loge, and another two steps back and call it a night. Not gonna happen, I know--which will keep my dreams of sex and the city and its shoes locked in my shoe closet, together with the two small inserts that promised so much and, at least in my case, delivered so little.

However, I'm not every woman, and if you should feel so inclined, or you have a stash of gorgeous but horribly painful stilettos hidden away for those days in which you feel particularly prone to punishing your feet, you might want to give these a try. If not, well, I can't blame you.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The perfect Mary Jane

I am of the opinion that one of the footwear essentials of a woman's wardrobe must be a Mary Jane. Another should be at least one pair of red shoes. Should you combine the two, you might get something like this:

See, a few years back (I believe exactly 3 years ago!) I bought an adorable pair of red Mary Janes by Joseph Seibel.. I thought they were just beyond cute, what with the blue flower peeking out of the vamp and the comfortable toebox. It took a little while to break them in (a little stiff in the back), but then I wore them into oblivion. Literally--the sole in the ball of the foot area is now so thin I'm afraid my poking a hole in it is imminent. Also, the red leather didn't stand up the test of time so well, and whitish scratches and bruises are all over it, for, I guess, a genuine distressed look. Also, upsettingly enough, the black fabric lining tends to bleed (onto your socks or toes), which is on my top-ten list of aggravating things about a shoe.

Still, I loved them so much! They were sooo comfortable and cute! And I could be naughty or nice or both in them, depending on my mood.

If you want a more upscale alternative, you might try the Espace Fossey. This red leather Mary Jane is so adorable I don't even know where to begin. First, I bought it out of necessity, since my Joseph Seibels are slowly but surely dying a graceful death. Second, the leather uppper is really high quality--though the leather bottom is not going to stay red: after exactly one wear there were white streaks all over it. But the heart-shaped low-cut vamp is what will have you swoon over the beyond-cuteness of this shoe. It can only help that there's no break-in time, and they are super comfortable (even more so for orthotics-wearers like me: plenty of room and security for the inserts, unlike those damn low-cut ballet flats, which will absolutely not accommodate my orthotics. I'll vent about that some other time). But seriously, if you want a shoe for your goody two-shoes days, or one for the days in which you want to derail people from seeing your true, naughty nature, look no further. This Mary Jane will keep people wondering either way. Even better, it's 58% off, on sale for $110.