Sunday, July 23, 2006

Shoes for the domestic chores

I don't know about you, but whenever I have something really tedious to accomplish, errands to run, chores to do, I feel sort of better about it if I can wear beautiful and comfortable shoes. I am not of the philosophy that one should throw on the first pair of sneakers or flip-flops lying around to run to the store because you forgot to get milk. If the trip is a nuisance but you gotta make it anyway, why not wear nice(yet still comfy) shoes? I guarantee it, the trip is going to feel like much less of a chore. You might as well enjoy yourself--I mean, what else is the point of having a fabulous shoe collection?

Lately, my life has been consumed by trips to the likes of Best Buy, Lowe's, Home Depot, Linens'n'Things, Target, and a few other department stores, all repeated in a boring loop. At home, I've been consumed with packing, cleaning our new home, and managing the seemingly endless renovation project. It's consuming all of my time and energy, so I might as well do it in comfortable shoes, no?

So, trip to Home Depot: my Taryn Rose burgundy patent mules. Best Buy? Cole Haan G-series metallic ballet skimmers. Target? My adorable red and white Hegos flats. Et caetera, et caetera.

But for indoors--when I have to run up and down flights of stairs and land on brand new hardwood floors? Why, I think I've found the very thing:
They're dance shoes warmly recommended by Beth, a reader of this blog, who swears by them. True, she only used them indoors for swing dancing--which I, sadly, don't know the first thing about--but I think they'd be fab for my purposes, don't you think?

Described as a "feminine athletic shoe in a wingtip version," they have a flexible suede sole, which makes them great for swing dancing--or for dancing around with a mop/broom/vacuum on hardwood floors (I'm going to channel Fred Astaire for sure!). And...and....and they're only $45!

They might be able to withstand walking outside, but the sightings of these wingtips outdoors have been unconfirmed to date.

So ladies, do your chores in style and comfort (do fun things in style and comfort too, of course!). And in all likelihood, you won't hear from me for a while--got to resume the running around so we can be moved next week. Until then, groove on!

Friday, July 21, 2006

In which I have nothing to say about shoes whatsoever

I'm too tired from packing and coordinating move-related things to blog about shoes, so I give you instead this brilliant political satire.
(Via Twisty.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"The foot is the new face in 2006"

I can't help but be apalled by this article on ABC News. Stiletto training classes are kind of old news, but perhaps we need to be reminded every once in a while of their existence if only to marvel at their patent absurdity.

But this article (and video clip) also reminds us of a particularly devious form of plastic surgery: foot surgery meant to make stiletto-wearing more bearable, such as injections in the ball of the foot and (wait for it) TOE AMPUTATIONS.

Oh, it's not so drastic, says Dr. Levine, interviewed for the article. Toes too long? Too wide? Don't fit in your Blahniks? No problem. We'll remove some of the bones for you.

The same good doctor admits that wearing any heels over 2 inches high is painful (they put three times more weight on the ball of the foot) and can create all sorts of problems (I've covered them before on this blog: chronic ankle, knee, and spine pain, among others).

Isn't this a crazy world to push women to amputate parts of their body in order to fit into the fashion standards made mainstream by, say, HBO shows?

Shouldn't we try to make (and wear) appealing footwear that fits, rather than go under the knife (a costly procedure, for sure) to fit into what the high fashion industry dictates?

This just makes me soooo mad. There is a lot at stake in a woman's stiletto: supposedly, it's about power, sexuality, confidence, attraction, fashion, etc. I firmly believe that all of those things have nothing to do with the height of your heels. On the contrary, when you strive to achieve them by suffering debilitating conditions and being in pain all night, I say the message you convey is quite the opposite.

It IS possible to look sexy, confident, and fashionable while also being comfortable. This is what blog is trying to demonstrate. There are beautiful shoes out there that will not require injections in the ball of your foot. That will not immobilize you on fixed routes from limo to bar and back and thus objectify you into sexbots. That will allow you to walk miles in them without feeling the pain. That will not require amputation. That will still be sexy enough to turn heads. And that will not give you chronic and painful conditions as years go by. The truth is out there.

Yes, some Blahniks or Louboutins or Jimmy Choos are works of art. But they're definitely NOT worth amputation. Use them very sparingly, if you must. Shoes should not require training classes, stiletto pole dancing, stiletto strength sessions, and foot surgery. It takes away from the joy of wearing beautiful shoes and kind of defies the purpose of fashion, at least for me.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

More espadrilles? Why, yes, please!

The New York Times has a little slideshow about espadrilles, which they see as THE summer shoe to beat the Croc craze. And I say, not a moment too soon! Especially when they look like these: These are available at The String Republic, a store that features espadrilles with original designs created by artists just for you--and at reasonable prices, too! I wonder if 30 Euros means that they ship to the US? I surely hope so! For I'd love to get me some of these:
...or these:
Ranging from whimsical to creepy but always fun, these are the seasonal shoes to brighten your summer--and erase any memories of those ugly Crocs!

Confessions of a shoe-deranged mind

I've been fantasizing over these Kate Spade loafers lately, currently $118 (down from $295) at Neiman Marcus:
Which brings me to this morning's dream: we were guests over at Kate Spade's house, which turned out to be a modest apartment somewhere in Manhattan. I didn't understand why the apartment was so small when such a famous designer lived there (to say nothing of the husband). She wore a red striped cardigan and I wanted to tell her that I have the exact matching shoes, but somehow didn't get around to it.

I was wondering where all the fabrics and art work and beautiful things designers surround themselves with and draw inspiration from are-when I noticed that the kitchen cabinets were stamped with a gallery of animals, in a way that seemed to keep a tally. And then, lo and behold from a huge bowl in the middle of the room which seemed empty until then, Kate summoned a gallery of LIVE animals, all miniaturized and brightly colored: a pink hippo that couldn't have been larger than a fattened rabbit, a miniature zebra and the like. It dawned on me that there's where she grows all those materials she makes her shoes and purses out of!

But there was more: as I approached the bowl I noticed one last creature, which looked like a cross between a cockroach and a hippopotamus, with translucent skin and gold organs and a gold shell. I was immediately horrified and demanded that the creature don't touch me. Too late: the gold mini-hippo-roach (the size of a large squirrel) was fast as lightning and I ran away from it. The more I ran (around the dinner table, mind you), the faster it became, and when I finally stopped, it jumped right up at me and perched on my head, and I stood there, heart racing, full of horror, waiting for somebody to peel the gold creature off of me. The end.

Crickets chirping. Yep, I know, nothing is more tedious to some people than reading/hearing other people's dreams.

But this is just a perfect illustration that I have the gold beast shoes on my mind and they're lodged there until somebody rescues me.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Weekend preview: Dog blogging

Combining two of my great passions: my wonderful dog and my shoe collection. In this case, my somewhat-sleepy mini bull-terrier confronts my ever-perky Etro velvet skimmer.

Why? Why not???

(And no, the dog NEVER showed an interest in my shoes. Which is one of the many reasons he's The Best Dog Ever.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Carnivale of Couture: Festive Fashion Finally!

This week's Carnivale was supposed to be last week's carnivale--but the holiday spirit has infused some fashionable dose of laissez-faire in the fashion blogging community and the whole thing got postponed. Also, my apologies for getting this posted rather late in the game--but here it is!

My question was about festive fashion:
What is the proper attire for 4th of July? In other words, can you be festive without being tacky? What does a fashionable woman or man wear while overloading on hot dogs and fireworks?
I wanted to keep my question away from the politics as I wanted to explore more the realm of the festive and the ceremonious as manifested in one's choice of outfit, with the obvious ensuing question, are festive concerns a part of our wardrobe planning? I vaguely remember a brief time in my childhood when Sunday outfits were somewhat "special" (and no, we were not going to the church--it was, I guess, just a trailing tradition). These days I try to dress nicely just about every single day--as a sign of respect for myself and for the others, and just plain because I enjoy it.

I never used to signal the national day in my old country through my dress. Fourth of July however seems a celebration of an entire different order of maginitude, eliciting emotions and gestures that are emphatically anchored in the visual (and partially, gustative) realms. Visual symbols are what one immediately associates with this holiday: the flag, the red white and blue, the fireworks.

And compared with such ostentatious display of patriotic colors, what kind of statement can one make that would matter? Still, the fact that we choose to make a statement at all, whether to embrace or to reject these colors emphatically is, I guess, says that we're still investing this holiday with meaning (positive or negative), and that dress is a way of doing it. So let's see what we got, shall we?

The fabulous Manolo chose to embrace the birthday of his adopted country by donning the festive and decidedly non-tacky attire: "the casual blue suit with the white shirt and the red tie with small white stars." Mmmmm, sounds good, Manolo! Won't you regale us with a picture of that?

Maria Palma from the Runway Scoop spends some time dodging the question, and has the wise advice, which I try to follow for just about any occasion: wear whatever makes you feel comfortable. But the fashionista in her caves in and she fantasizes about a festive mood that would make her wear "a white wrap dress with denim peep-toe heels and red and blue barrettes in [her] hair...." Not bad, not bad at all!

In the comments, Jitterbugbaby amps things up with a blue camisole, white translucent short-sleeved shirt, red leather tie used as a scarf paired with olive green shorts and black sandals. A good mix that's not overly festive but it's tastefully accessorized. Also in the comments, Nancy raises the temperature with festive underwear (red panties, white bra) but mixes it up with her passion for Brazil (green cami and yellow sweater). Well, soccer-wise, this hasn't turned out to be a winning combo (neither the US nor Brazil performed according to expectations in the World Cup) but I've got to admire the team spirit there.

This has also got to be the first time in my life I've decided (much like The Manolo) to don festive colors and go watch the fireworks:
That's me, Photoshopped for privacy, in a Michael Kors navy cotton skirt with geometric white prints (wonderfully light and breezy), and a Banana Republic red tank top paired with an onion-skin white cotton cardigan (also from BR). And the shoes? Why, the Hegos, of course--comfortable, cute, and theme-appropriate.

The holiday elicited some equally dramatic statements. Some just chose to ignore it, quoting the current political climate--Kathleen from the wonderful Fashion Incubator blog, for one. Who can blame her? Certainly not a certain anonymous in the comments who "wore black to protest the war(s)...and the irony of Dr. Strangelove in Korea."

This is a position -- and a choice color-- also embraced by Ella over at Kiss me Stace. Her outfit ("a black camisole over a heather grey tank with snazzy lace and dark blue denim knee-length shorts") is meant to show her sophisticated fashion sense rather than her patriotic vein. I would argue that it also is a political statement--one way or another, black or red-white-blue, or just ignoring it altogether, the way we behave sartorially on this holiday is inherently significant, whether we realize it or not.

No matter the colors we choose to wear however, it seems that we've all made some wise fashion choices, unlike this man on the right, which I found buried as a link in Manolo's comments to his post. To me, that is the perfect illustration of how NOT to do festive fashion. Somebody tell this guy that being tacky does not good to his country.

Until the next festive or not-so-festive occasion, so long, festive fashionistas!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sales @ Saks

Saks Fifth Ave. (the online store) rarely has sales that satisfy my miser gene, but these days they seem to be running a sale at which even I must raise an interested eyebrow.

In terms of shoes, you can get these cute and wholesome Hollywould espadrilles for $83:
Or these adorable Moschino Cheap'n'Chic thongs:
(Between you and me, I never quite understood the "cheap and chic" thing. Chic--perhaps, but cheap? No, no, no, no, no, no, no! Even at 50% off they're still quite pricey--though if you want to own a genuine designer item, $144 is not so bad).

I'm even strangely attracted to these Pucci flats:
Only $109, not bad for a Pucci that you can wear on a daily basis, really.

I also think these Pliner wedges are quite pretty for the summer, and at $102, they won't exactly break the bank:
As for me? No, thanks. I'm going to stay away from this one. I think. No, no, I will, or I risk becoming the poster child for a new psychiatric disorder, "online shopping addiction." But otherwise--happy bargain hunting, to all shoelovers out there!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Choosing the shoe

I've recently received a question related to how one can select high-quality dress shoes. How does one avoid the price trap? What are the brands that consistently deliver quality? How is one able to say, with a measure of objectivity, what sorts of things one should look when buying shoes?

This is a difficult question and I'm still learning about that, but I'll gladly share my experience to date. The problem is, how can one select the best shoe for the money, since, obviously, not all of us can afford to walk in Manolo Blahniks and Prada all the time.

Although I'm loath to say that high-end brands ALWAYS equal quality, I will have to say that most of the time that is true: a higher price ($3-400 and above) usually signals a few things: 1) quality raw materials; 2) good design; 3) good craftsmanship; 4) high quality finish. I'll have to second what The Manolo always says--avoid the cheap shoes and save your money for the expensive ones, where "expensive" indicates quality on all fronts.

As a rule, empirical research is priceless. A savvy shopper should be able to browse and look at the high-end shoes before she moves on to the more reasonably priced ones for three reasons:
- she will see what that kind of money buys in terms of all 4 categories listed above
- she may be lucky to get some of those brands at a fraction of the price if they're on sale
- she will be able to compare these expensive shoes with the lower priced-ones in terms of quality, and decide whether the lower-end shoes are acceptable or not acceptable.

I cannot stress the importance of looking for a good fit--(more tips here). After all, this blog is all about comfort--as long as you do it in style, of course. You all know better than let your shoes chew at your toes or heels, flap unflatteringly in the back, or squeeze your foot into unattractive and painful bundles. The most important thing you need to know is that the shoe should fit right from the start--don't kid yourself that you're going to break them in later. If they feel wrong when you try them on, there are 90% chances that they won't be entirely comfortable later. Of course, the reverse might be true (a shoe that fits right in the store might prove unbearable later), which is why you should allow yourself some time to wear them around the house before taking them outside, so you could return them.

Fit is kind of personal and one should be well acquainted with one's level of comfort and make no compromises on that. But what about quality? How does one distinguish a good shoe from a bad one? If you don't have the big bucks to spend on shoes ("Carrie Bradshaw genes"), and go for the sensibly priced ones, here are some of the things you may want to look for:

- the sole is firmly glued together to the upper part of the shoe (there are no visible gaps or irregularities, no glue marks etc.).
- the shoe is fully lined, preferrably in leather
- the seams are even and perfect (no stitches are falling apart or are irregular, etc.)
- the ornaments are of good quality (e.g., no rhinestones are falling off the buckle, the bows do not show signs of early disintegration and feel sturdy, etc.)
- the leather is of high quality--well finished and smooth (same goes for suede)
- the colors are vivid and even (no bleeding, fading, etc.)
- the other accessories (velcro closures, shoelaces, zippers, elastic bands, etc.) are sturdy and well aligned
- if you can choose between "made in China" and "made in Italy" choose the latter. Portugal and Brazil would also be good choices. German and France-produced brands are less common, but preferrable.

Because of the large number of high-end brands I've seen, some of which I own, I also prefer a leather sole and a stacked heel. However, in certain pricier brands like Arche, this is irrelevant, since they often use a rubber sole.

There is no good way of telling whether a certain shoe will fall apart with use (unless the craftsmanship is so poor it's immediately visible), so one has to rely on word of mouth and market reports whenever one can. Online retailers like Zappos offer user comments rating shoes; such comments kept me away from certain brands since they indicated that a certain model fell apart after two weeks, for example, or that they were cut so narrow they would certainly not fit a regular size.

"Inferior" is a relative term, but I'm making a constant attempt at educating myself as a consumer when it comes to inferior shoes. I usually find that such shoes employ one or more of the following:
- inferior materials (poor quality leathers or synthetic leather)
- inferior plastic instead of leather or rubber
- poor quality glue and/or craftsmanship
- copied design
- poor-quality accessories (you know, the metallic finish basically rubs off your hands, the colors bleed, etc.)
- partial or no lining, and fabric or synthetic material instead of leather lining
- fabric or synthetic insoles

This is not to say that all synthetic leathers are bad--in fact, they are one of the few choices for people who have adopted a vegan lifestyle, for example. But the difference between good and bad materials is often visible with the naked eye. Use your judgment.

Salespeople will praise certain shoes for certain qualities and conveniently forget shortcomings. For example, I got a pair of Born shoes that I found quite well-made and comfortable at the time, for what I considered a higher rather than lower price ($95). The salesperson praised their comfort (which she was right to do), and I needed them at the time so I bought them for the full price. I wore them this past winter, and by the end of the season the nubuck had stained to the point that my nubuck and suede care kit (a special rough eraser and a brush) could not deal with it anymore. I expect I'll wear them much less from now on, and I believe they won't last for more than another season or two, which is disappointing for the price. Furthermore I saw the same shoes on somebody else, and they looked really bad--the nubuck had lost its color and any of its beauty (after only a season or so of more extended wear, I learned). While they were certainly very comfortable, I suspect they require more maintenance than I'm willing to give for a casual shoe.

I fared much better with a pair of Born sandals, but that's because 1) I wear them much less; 2) I got them 1/2 price, which kind of absorbs the potential shock of shoe-disintegration. To further avoid that shock: by all means, rotate, rotate, rotate! That is, try not to wear the same shoe two days in a row. That depends on the size of your shoe wardrobe, of course, but you should strive to have enough pairs for every season so that you don't overwear a certain pair (even if it's your favorite!). I would not wear the same shoes more than twice a week. Your shoes will last longer this way.

I still think you can't get away with shoes that initially cost less than $90-100--anything under that, to me, represents some company cutting corners in some way. I think the smart shopper can buy the most expensive shoes for less than $150, granted she does her research and knows where to look. After researching the market, the Philadelphia and New York stores, and all the online outlets I could find, I am FIRMLY convinced one should never have to pay full price for a pair of shoes (well, unless one MUST have them on the spot to satisfy an itch--a shopping strategy I don't recommend).

Of course, if you just want a seasonal espadrille you know won't be around next season, or gardening shoes, or trend-of-the-day shoes, or flip-flops and such, by all means, buy the cheap ones. But if you want to put your best foot forward, if you want shoes that will last and will make you feel more beautiful, more confident, more comfortable--then you have to do a little bit of work and a little bit of saving, and with the money you'd use to buy 3 cheap pairs that won't be around for long, get the high-quality one. You won't regret it.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I haven't posted in four days and it feels like four weeks. Let's see, what happened in the meantime? Between Monk and World Cup marathons ... ah, that's right, a little thing called FLOOD. Ruining our brand new engineered wood floor. And the walls in the den. And our nerves. I won't get into all the tedious details--this whole week has been a nightmare (which is far from being over, insurance-wise) and I'll leave it at that.

So no wonder that I resorted to some retail therapy to soothe my frazzled nerves, squeezed in between meetings with plumbers, contractors, and insurance agents. I needed something cheerful so I bought these cuties:
I'd been eyeing them for quite a while in the display of Head Start Shoes, my favorite shoe store in Philly (they have a lot of European brands, really cute unique models, and a pleasure to deal with). They were on sale, 40% off, so I caved in and decided to buy them. The brand is Hego's, they're Italian, all leather (upper, insole, lining, sole), and while I wouldn't have paid $156 for them, $93 sounded bearable. The brand has a website, which, like most Italian fashion websites, is useless (why do fashion sites insist on using annoying Flash animations with broken links? it's still puzzling to me). They are superbly comfortable, very well constructed, and very pretty, imho.

And yes, they made a great addition to my 4th of July wardrobe--but more on that later.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Call to Carnivale: Festive Fashion

It's time for me to host the Carnivale of Couture for next week, and although I had quite a few ideas about the theme, the obvious question just slapped me in the face while walking through Rittenhouse Square and getting stared down by the pervasive glare of Uncle Sam, conveniently perched on a makeshift stage:
What is the proper attire for 4th of July?
In other words, can you be festive without being tacky? What does a fashionable woman or man wear while overloading on hot dogs and fireworks?

Inspiration was everywhere on the streets of Philadelphia (4th of July is a big day here, as you can imagine). Observe for example this lady, whom I spotted walking outside my house and who graciously posed for me:
With the exception of star-spangled headgear, she pulls off an age- and holiday-appropriate outfit. The hat, however, is a bit much for my taste.

The boutiques also dressed up for the occasion. Behold the centerpiece of the window display of the fancy-shmancy Joan Shepp boutique, dead-smack in the center of the city, and Philly's only source of straight-off-the-runway designer duds:
Catchy, non? Ok, so maybe this was an ironic statement regarding the 4th of July sales going on at the moment (seriously! 20% off Chloe! Prada mules 1/2 off! et caetera, et caetera).

I'll tell you what I wore on Tuesday when the time comes. In the meantime, what's your 4th of July fashion choice? Send your answers by next Friday (July 7th) to shoesense at gmail dot com, or leave them in the comments.

UPDATE: This whole 4th of July business threw us all off our schedules, so, as The Manolo says, the Carnivale for this topic will be posted for the next week, July 10th. So, review your festive fashion, and send your stars and stripes messages over this way.