Archive for May, 2008


Here Comes the Bride (and the Blisters)!

For brides, bridesmaids, and guests the perfect wedding shoes can be as mythical as a bridesmaid dress you can wear again.

“Bridal” shoes have always been a mystery to me for the sheer fact that I can’t imagine buying a pair of shoes to only wear once! Over the past several months I’ve been a guest, maid of honor, and consultant to several very dear brides-to-be; I still don’t understand “bridal” shoes, but I have made some very interesting observations.

The ideal wedding shoes must be fabulous, comfortable, and ready to party, right? When it comes to choosing shoes, the wedding guest probably has the widest range of options, since she will be wearing an ensemble of her choosing. Next are bridesmaids depending on whether the bride dictates shoes choice, and then there’s the bride. On one hand the bride has every option: bargain ballet flats, Blahink’s with bling, why not go barefoot?! Then again, it is your wedding and as much as you might love to walk down the aisle in Chuck Taylors, it’s just doesn’t seem quite appropriate.

It seems that when it comes to weddings, choice is a luxury not afforded to many. Sometimes you have to make the most of what you have and insert some foot petals or get creative. Whether you’re a bride stretching out your wedding shoes by wearing three pairs of socks or a guest trying to keep a pair of slingbacks slung with some scotch tape, you may find that any shoes can be the perfect shoes when you’re spending quality time with friends, family, and a strong cocktail.


Taking off the training wheels: bike-worthy shoes

I once read a comment by Sartorialist blogger Scott Schuman who noted that Americans need to invent a sporty fashion for the bicycle commuter. I completely agree. Gone are the days of elegantly appointed men and women leisurely peddling back from the patisserie, hats firmly in place, oxfords well polished. These days, bike commuting either involves an embarrassing amount of spandex or a rumpled, sweaty slog wearing office clothing mismatched with running shoes.

Each day that I unlock my trusty bike from my backyard and glide into city traffic, I find myself cursing whatever inappropriate footwear I’ve chosen. Ballet flats don’t protect my delicate insoles from the hard metal peddles, sandals leave my toes dangling too close to the open road, and canvas sneakers would be perfect — were I on my way to eighth grade.

Schuman, in his fashion-savvy photos of urban bicyclists, waxed poetic on the beauty of a woman peddling in heels, but that’s easier said than done. The ankle-wrenching fear of a sudden stop (yes, I admit to using my shoes as backup brakes) is enough to scare me straight to practical flats. But still, even girls with bikes want the kinds of shoes that inspire envy in other women.

Enter John Fluevog’s wingtip Kathy slingbacks. The black and white detailing and perforated leather give a cool, 1940s vibe, the open heel says “summer” and the Mary Jane strap across the top of the foot reinforces the shoe’s sporty feel without anything as gauche as Velcro or elastic. The company boasts “high abrasion-resistant rubber for long wear” (good for those of us who brake with our feet) and the one-and-a-quarter inch heel is enough lift to feel girly without worrying about a stillo caught in a peddle. After all, falling off the bike mid-commute: never stylish.


An L.A. Native’s Guide to Summer ‘No-Nos’: No Heels at the Beach!

The first hot weekend in L.A.–And I’m talking about when it’s 85 degrees by 9 a.m., the air is stagnant and those who continue to excercise outside are just showoffs–usually sends the local masses migrating to the beach.
There are two distinct categories of “Summer Girls”: Those that wear flip flops,and those that wear high heels to the beach. Having grown up at the beach myself, I firmly believe that heels have no place near sand or slippery surfaces.
I hate to say it, because it sounds a bit snobby, but you can tell the flip-flop girls from the high heel girls from a mile away. The flip flop girls wear string bikinis and Reefs and let their hair air dry in the sun. The high-heel wearing girls wear the designer stuff that look amazing on the pages of Vogue but, sadly, odd and potentially deadly on the sand.

When I lived in Manhattan Beach, my new roomie startled me one afternoon by emerging from her room wearing a white one-piece suit with diamond shaped pieces cut from both her sides, and two giant pieces cut out from each side of her rear. She paired this with a smattering of gold bangles, some giant Bono-sized sunglasses and sky-high Christian Louboutin wedge heels. Wow. I normally bow down to the girl who owns anything by Christian Louboutin, but that day, as we walked side by side down to watch the professional volleyball players sweat and flex their muscles, she in her ass-chapping white get-up and I in my faded cotton triangle top and cut off shorts, I have to say I felt a little bit like the odd couple. Where were we? Vegas?

At any rate, the poor thing tripped and leaped forward several times trying to balance those Louboutin wedges in the hot sand. Oh, did I mention she also had one of those gigantic fold-up beach chairs strapped to her back? She looked like a stripper on a camping trip. I traipsed after her from a safe distance. She finally got the hint that she wasn’t going to be able to walk in her shoes and, untying them, slipped them off. This was also a bad decision, because no sooner had she done this then the pink skin of her feet met with the blistering heat of the sand. Still wearing the fold-up chair, she began gyrating back and forth, doing what athletes and trainers like to call “High Knees”, trying her best to stay calm but looking like she was having an epileptic fit. Of course I jumped to attention and gave her my towel to stand on and that was the pinnacle of our day at the beach. We decided to set up camp right there and avoid any more unwanted attention.
My point with all of this is that this summer when you go to the beach, or the pool or wherever you go to stay cool,of course you must preserve all that is your individual sense of style. But take it from me when I say, there really is something to that saying, “When in Rome..”


The African Road a la Ralph Lauren

I used to work in fashion. The book The Devil Wears Prada doesn’t even begin to describe the beautiful, yet brutal industry. Everyone knows that the clothes may be free, but the hours are long and the pay leaves a lot to be desired. So, it shouldn’t have been a shock when a girlfriend of mine announced that she was taking a sabbatical from Ralph Lauren.

“I need a change,” Sinead told me over lunch. “I am going to Africa to help children. I want to do something good.”

My reaction was of horror. Don’t get me wrong I love that Angelina Jolie is adopting babies from all over the world, but actually going to Africa? How does one go from $400 dresses to living in poverty?

Two months later I got my answer in the form of an email. The stories Sinead wrote about were amazing. One girl was so poor that her parents couldn’t afford diapers and knew she would soil herself if she was given anything to drink. The little girl was often so thirsty that she would drink dirty water.

Towards the end of Sinead’s stay in Africa, she and the little girl were playing a game, when Sinead realized that the girl had wet her pants. None of the other children laughed. Actually, Sinead was the only person who seemed to notice. As Sinead fumbled to clean the up the girl, she noticed the hand stitched pony woven into the little girl’s sweatpants—the only pair of pants this girl owned were Ralph Lauren.

Ultimately, Sinead decided to stay in Africa for another month. It seemed to serendipitous to ignore a sign like this. When I asked Sinead if she would mind if I wrote a blog about her experience, she commented, “My experience should get all the exposure it can get–because honestly, it was life-changing.”

I am still not sure how well I would fare in Africa, but I know I would look stunning in these shoes that Ralph Lauren named after Sinead when she returned from Africa. Whenever I look at them they remind me of the little girl. Now, if only I could get Ralph to send me over a pair of freebies (hint, hint).


Knockoffs vs. The Real Thing: Does it Matter?

My friend Jill can’t understand my shoe budget. When I debuted my new Lanvin ballerina flats one weekend at the movies, she launched a full scale offensive about my frivolous spending habits, making sure to point out that the shoes she was wearing (which had heels, mind you) had come from The Gap and had been purchased for a mere $29.95.
It got me thinking. Was I a fool for spending $480 on a beautiful pair of flats when I could have bought a similar pair for hundreds less at The Gap? I sat there in the theater, Jill crunching popcorn in the seat next to me, enduring those ridiculous commercials they play now before the movie starts, and stared down at my beautiful satin shoes, almost willing them to reassure me: “Don’t worry Katie! We’re worth the money! She doesn’t know what she’s talking about–we’re Lanvin!”

A week later I was at the Beverly Center in L.A., shopping with my best friend, Teo, when we found ourselves within credit-card charging distance of the shoe department at Bloomingdales. A little shoe birdie had alerted me that the new gold gladiator sandal by Giuseppe Zanotti was blinking away, just feet from where we stood. Teo saw my eyes fixate on the shoe display and said, “Come on, let’s go to DSW, they have all of those shoes and they look just as cute, they’re just not as expensive.”

The needle on my little mental record player screeched to a stop. I looked at Teo. Was she serious? “Come on, give it a try, we can always come back,” she said. Oh boy, she was on a roll. Maybe she saw the doubt in my eyes, maybe it was Jill’s lecture the week before… “Ok,” I said, and allowed myself to be led away from the light, towards the mean, nasty shoe discount store, that I’m sure had to be somewhere in the bowels of the Beverly Center.
When we got there, I perused the aisles of discount shoes. I could have been suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, but I did see some cute possibilities. Teo convinced me to buy a pair of gladiator sandals by a designer I’d never heard of. This is what I’ll say about them: They had the look of the Giuseppe Zanotti sandals, I wouldn’t say they were as cute, but they were a very affordable $39.95.
Skip to two weeks later. I’m totally depressed, the DSW sandals I bought broke the third day I wore them. So much for $39.95. If I multiplied that price by the money I’d have to spend replacing those shoes after 3 wears, would I get the price equivalent of my original Giuseppe Zanotti sandals? Who knows?
After a bit of a think on the subject, I came up with this: Perhaps $480.00 is a lot of dough to spend on a pair of flats, but if you work hard for your money and spending it on shoes makes you happy, why not go for it?
It’s like that Sex and the City episode where Samantha and Carrie drive to “The Valley” to get their hands on a cheap knockoff designer bag. It’s a good idea in theory, and it may fool your friends, but in the end, won’t you still be one that knows you bought a fake? I’d rather invest in something that is the real deal, because let’s face it, people around you may not know your shoes or your bag is a knockoff….but you will, and where’s the thrill in that?


Battling BSD (Bad Shoe Days)

Some women bemoan Bad Hair Days. I’m more fearful of Bad Shoe Days (BSDs), which are exponentially more detrimental to my mood….

I’m doing laps in a shoe store where the shelves showcase mouthwatering candy colors, glossy skins and sizeable heels for spring. I cradle eight or nine of my favorites in my arms and unload them, all at once, to the nearest sales associate. When he returns fifteen minutes later with boxes stacked so tall I can’t see his face, I’m still giddy, until he says the dreaded words: “Sorry Ma’am, I have nothing in your size.”

My retail buzz is killed: the reason first being obvious, and second being that I should not be referred to as Ma’am for another few years (Miss is a much more pleasant alternative for a woman under 30, no?). He exacerbates matters by telling me he has brought out shoes that “I’m certain to like just as much.” You know what happens next: He lifts the lid of each box to reveal wedges instead of stilettos, navy blues instead of cherry reds, and closed toe pumps when all I really want is a flirty pair of peep-toes. Am I too old to throw a temper tantrum?

No, says my mellow and sage girlfriend Kara, although she suggests that my energy is better spent shopping online. The problem is that I’ve always has this fear that online retailers advertise their goods with the exaggeration of a blind date. I imagine that when they arrive at my door, they won’t be as attractive or as colorful as claimed, or will be severely flawed beyond repair. Seven years ago, I tried purchasing a red swimsuit online to save myself the grief associated with bright lights and mirrors from all angles in department store fitting rooms. The darn thing turned out to be an atrocious shade of magenta, and it sagged on its hanger. After that debacle, I vowed never again to get my MasterCard entangled in the Web.

Until last night. It took me less than ten minutes to find the precise shoe I was craving at this sculpted Gypsy wedge. That’s less than the time it took the sales associate to locate my shoes in the back of the big shot department store. And what do you know? It was a wedge I wanted after all.


Architectural Shoes

There’s nothing sweeter than springtime in Paris, so I’ve come up with a list of reasons to convince myself that I’m okay with skipping the trip this year:

1. My unflattering passport pic can stay hidden in my sock drawer.

2. Triple cream from Cowgirl Creamery packs as many calories as French fromage.

3. I can look like a million euros wearing Ann Valerie Hash’s $715 Eiffel Tower heels, which take architectural heels to heightened levels.

The intricate design, with overlapping straps, is great for admiring, if not for walking your French Mastiff in the park (hey, whatever makes you feel très Parisienne). They’re so well made I can probably take on the flights of steps on my way up the famed monument in my backyard: Coit Tower. Not that I would, but it’s nice to know I can.

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May 2008