Archive for the ‘Shoe Fetish’ Category

Kelly Gray circa 1999

During random dissassociative moments I find myself googling for vintage St. John ads.  I do it in part  because pop culture has destroyed my mental image of the midlife female with “Cougar Town” and reality TV, and I may be trying to scrub Hollywood’s Disgraceful Older-Woman imagery out of my brain with more appealing images.  The old St. John ads were purposeful design parodies, and they were fabulous, and the sophisticated look was in vogue in the late 90’s when I got divorced and started buying my own clothes.

The other reason is, I just bought my first St. John dress:

Isn’t it ordinary looking?  It’s really not: The department just store picks the wrong models for their established designer lines. On a middle aged woman with some shape St. John knits are perfect:  Professional, forgiving, just right, worth the price, but only on clearance.    I was lucky enough to be in a store that had my size: One of their stylists picked it out for me and I fell in love with the quality and the fit.  There is a reason the St. John Tribe is so devoted:  It’s one of the few design houses that cater the midlife body. Customers scream bloody murder when new designers try to “update” the style or fit.

As a woman at midlife, I find that if I want notice, I must command it. Waiters can be slow to respond to my black Banana Republic pantsuits. But they “ma’am” my St. John.

My first St. John was a $1000+ splurge, but I’d just gone through a period of extreme wardrobe aggravation. My super-abundant closet space had been overstuffed with clothes I loved but couldn’t wear, not because I’d gotten “fat” but because my body had changed shape without my permission.  My ribcage expanded, which made button-up shirts out of the question. All of a sudden I had hips . . . which was good in a way, since I’d never really had them before, but DAMN, I couldn’t button my tailored pants anymore.

Much in the way one’s eyesight fails in one’s forties, there is nothing that can be done about middle aged spread except buy new clothes.  This is why women in their forties wear yoga pants all the time:  We don’t want to admit we’ve reached the elastic-waistband-pants stage of our older female relatives, who we swore we’d never look like.  Unfortunately Time doesn’t care what we think.

I finally boxed my old size (4) and put them in the attic for some future when I magically reverted to my old weight, as if that would ever happen. I decided to give them to my niece. A year later, I boxed my size 6 clothes, and will probably give them to my younger sister.  Today, some of my 8’s don’t even fit, unless they’re knits, which means my wardrobe is now 95% knits. I’ve come to terms with it, and found a way to make it all look professional.  The smartest tactic was to go high-end retail on important items, and fill in the rest with stealth.  I went crazy during Coldwater Creek’s going out of business sale, and returned to my old online standby, Boston Proper’s slowly-morphing travel collection. Some recent acquisitions:

One would think I’d find solace in my shoes, because at least feet don’t get fat, right?  WRONG.  Feet expand and contract when hormones go whackadoodle.  For a year or so my feet shrank a whole size.  Then they grew back.  Now even they are tight.  Consequently my closet is full of shoes I can’t wear on any given day so . . . My advice?  Unless they are adjustable, shoes are NOT an “investment.”  DO NOT DO THIS:

So am I finally reconciled with my new body and my new closet? More or less, since Spooky doesn’t give a flip either way.  I can get through a work week without headaches now, and my old clothes no longer taunt me from their hangers. Out of sight, out of mind!  The shoes though . . . both my feet and my pocketbook say “Ouch.”


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My summer neutrals. The winter shoes, sportswear, brightly colored sandals and flip flops are in another part of the room

Bloggers Barbara and Shannon Kelley state that they frequently muse about the conflict between fashion and feminism. On the one hand, we’re feminists; on the other hand we want to look good and enjoy the whims fashion. How to reconcile?

Let me answer that question first because it’s so easy: Feminism and fashion probably won’t ever be reconciled. Why?  Because once fashion is feminist it will no longer be “fashion.” Since this will not happen during our lifetimes have fun with it on your own time, but never at the expense of your career. That fabulous yellow croc belt you found at TJMaxx really could cost you that promotion. It’s not worth the risk.

Like it or not, we have no control over how other people perceive us.  In many cases the people perceiving us are in a position to determine what we’re economically entitled to. This influence can be direct and indirect.  Most of these people will pounce on any excuse to explain why women are entitled to less, so why make it easy for them?

Thanks, Louis . . . But not the kind of scary I was looking for.

Friviolity is the kiss of death for women in the business world, where the only appropriate fashion statement is BADASS.  By “badass” I mean that if you’re a  woman trying to make it in business, you actually want your colleagues and supervisory chain to be just a little bit little bit afraid of you. Not terrified, but uneasy, or slightly off-guard.

Unfortunately, most fashion negates our attempts to be taken seriously. “Fashion” is usually impractical, inappropriate and even slightly absurd, and by absurd  I actually mean “rodeo clown ridiculous.” Believe me: I just got my September issues of Elle Magazine and I know of what I speak.

This “feeling empowered” by “wearing what we want” and “expressing ourselves” is anti-feminist marketing BS. Feminism is not about “feeling empowered,” it’s about HAVING power. Most of us don’t have enough power to indulge in the whims of fashion at our jobs, so when we do indulge we sometimes make costly mistakes without even knowing it.

Yummy. I used to have a pair of raspberry pink stilettos. Unfortunately I almost never wore them, so I gave them away.

The New York Times story that recently caught the Kelley’s eyes was about the Ladies Who Startup.  Not the Ladies Who Lunch, but the tech mavens of Silicon Valley who are not only women in a male-dominated industry, but also embracing fashion:

“One interviewee was the 29-year-old founder of a travel start-up who, the reporter noted, was wearing a pair of hot pink Christian Louboutins. At which point I wondered: If you can actually afford to buy Louboutins, why wouldn’t you?”

On second thought . . .

To which I, the expert on all things shoe-addled-and-addicted, can easily answer:  Of course any artistically-leaning fashionista with a big new pile of money would buy them, almost on principle.  She might even wear them, once.  But once some no-talent fameball is photographed by the paparazzi wearing the same pair, she’d probably groan and seriously consider selling them on EBay. Perhaps after a few years of moving the shoebox around her closet she’d realize she should have spent that $800 on a nice piece of jewelry instead.

But for the most part the pinks would stay in their shoebox with nowhere to go, because hot pink stilettos are inappropriate for just about every occasion, unless one strips for a living, which IMHO probably not the best thing to do if one seeks feminist “empowerment.”

I love brightly colored shoes and even have a few pair: Red ones, rarely worn. Bright candy colored shoes are the sartorial equivalent of Go To Hell Pants  in that there is a time, and a place, and a certain way to wear them; i.e., when one is broadcasting to the world that one is SO! awesome and/or rich and/or beholden to NO ONE that one can get away with wearing just about anything. Go to Hell Pants say “I’m pretty close to wearing feety pajamas in public, but you’ll kiss my ass anyway because HAH.”  Consequently, if you’re wearing bright stilettos to work, you’d better be the one running the company.

Sometimes a woman can successfully wear bright candy colored stilettos when one works in fashion or show business, where dignity takes second place to the amount of attention one can garner by being outrageous or “fashion forward.” In any case the wearer probably doesn’t have a job that actually requires that one be taken seriously. Have you noticed how the serious players in the fashion world wear a lot of black turtlenecks, plain white shirts and dark colored shoes?

Tennis historian Bud Collins doesn’t have to answer to anybody

The bottom line is that most of us will never be untouchably wealthy or make a living off fashion. In fact one of the interviewed executives laid it out pretty neatly:

“Earlier in my career, if I had to choose between a skirt and being taken seriously, I would have chosen being taken seriously,” said Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, 42, a former (emphasais mine) Google executive who now runs a video shopping site called Joyus and said she never leaves the house without four-inch heels and at least one vintage item. “But now I’m at a point in my career in the valley where I’m judged by what I’ve done.”

Good for her!  In her mind she’s Made It and can be a Go-to-Hell Expressionista just like the men on the golf course wearing polyester pants with monkeys and balloons on them.  For the rest of us however . . . perhaps we should consider a pair of classic Manolo pumps?

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Thanks to the aerospace, defense and medical industries, Huntsville Alabama was #1 with Kiplinger in 2009.  Unemployment? What’s that?  It appears as though if you have a science degree here, you have a job here, which is good because during a time of nearly 10% unemployment nationwide we need every boomtown we can get.

It’s my second time in Huntsville on business and it’s lovely, very civilized, and if you like to shop the Bridge Street Town Centre is heaven.  Actually, according to one of the locals in my class Huntsville is the only city like this in Alabama. People will drive for hours just to go shopping.

Still, I have yet to find a grocery store nearby my hotel.  I searched for “groceries” and “food shopping” on their visitors and information website and I got nothing.  Seems everyone eats out here? The place looks like a town for yuppies: Not quite a partytown (few nightclubs), but there are a more upscale watering holes than necessary for one small city. Do rocket scientists not cook?

I did find a SuperTarget, which has a small grocery, so at least I won’t starve.  I see there’s a speacialty foods store, not sure what’s in it, but I’m not in the mood for gluten free bread: I brought so many gluten free pretzels with me on the plane I’m set for a week.

The local Barnes and Noble is taking all my money, and with a DSW less than a mile from my class I can buy more shoes . . . as if I had  room for them in my bag, or as if needed another pair. I’ve savored several days of quietude out of the office, but I miss Spooky, who’s also traveling, and I miss my cats. I can feel all four of them upset and bewildered that neither of us have come downstairs since Monday. Fortunately Spooky will be back tonight, and I fly home tomorrow.

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I’m constantly reminded of the Law of Attraction, and other little pieces of Hermetic wisdom, when I go about my daily business.  Some reminders are profound, but most are just silly, as they are with Google Magic, Goodwill Store Magic, and, generally, shoes.

Remember when I said I wanted a pair of . . . ? Yes! Well, it didn’t take long! I was at TJMaxx on a snowy day, looking for pants, and I found one shoe in the clearance section, and the other in a different part the store.  The only pair, Dolce & Gabbanna (usually $700 a pair) exactly my size, and 80% off.  TJMaxx almost NEVER carries high end designers, keeping primarily to affordable name brands, but . . . well, who says there’s not a God?

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Addictions can’t be controlled, but some of them can be managed.

I haven’t gone wild with my fashion purchases in a long time. However, a received a windfall recently. After paying the remainder of my hospital bills I did spend it on a few fashiony things . . . OMG they were so . . . normal.

Black and brown pants. Black and brown shoe-boots. Black, brown, grey and blue socks. Beige and black bras and underwear. A few shirts and sweaters for work.

Shocker: Everything a classic, clothes I hope to still fit in all of it well after I retire. Aaaaand: They’ll all go with one pair of kittyprint shoes or another. 😉

I like these and hope they’re on the clearance rack at DSW next time I visit:

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(continued from here)

I knew my first husband was self-centered before I married him, but it didn’t really bother me. I took it all in stride, and his best friend and I even used to joke about it. One moment in particular stands out:  We were in college, and the three of us were in his car, driving around  – and around and around and around – the lakes in Minneapolis, drinking soda and telling jokes. It’s what we did for fun back then.  I was extremely hungry as we’d not eaten since morning.

“Let’s stop and get something to eat,” I suggested from the back seat. I was always in the back.

My husband-to-be wrinkled his nose as if he’d smelled something. “But I’m not hungry,” he replied.

His best friend, riding shotgun, leaned to stick his head on our driver’s shoulder.  “Oh my god it’s the SUN!” he explained. “I can’t move my head!!! GAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!”  Only then did “The Sun” realize that his was not the only stomach that mattered.

Our marriage was kind of like that, only without the presence of his cheeky friend, which is a shame because he could have lightened the mood.  I was only too accommodating, which is why the relationship worked well at first.  Thanks to a generally bereft childhood I never felt entitled to anything so HIS priorities became my priorities, HIS schedule my schedule. We both worked at the same place. He drove our one car. He controlled the checkbook and our purchases while I recieved $15 per week for lunch money (ten years later it was up to $25).  The Sun even provided my clothing (I was allowed three pair of shoes), and once bought a car without consulting me. For that I could only express a little bit of displeasure: The next car we’ll pick together, right? 

By the end of my marriage I felt like a housekeeper-nanny-paycheck sleepwalking through a domestic graveyard. Apparently I had boxed myself into a corner out of habit, laziness and submissiveness, doing no more than just hoping for consideration and fairness from the world but not really expecting it.  So I pretty much got what I expected. Yeah my husband was selfish and controlling, but I knew that when I married him, so why didn’t I try harder to even things out?  

To think I only figured things out during our separation while I suffered postpartum depression and celiac disease, undiagnosed and unmedicated:  Sometimes you have to fight for what you want.   I might be intelligent, book-wise, but when it comes to relationships I can be pretty slow.  That it’s actually OK sometimesto be angry and make demands was a revelation to me.  One day it finally clicked:   He had finally crossed the line to the point of pathology.  It’s really not me; this cheap, control-freak of a man has got some serious problems. That was the first and only time I screamed at him. I was 30 years old, holding the first checkbook I’d owned since college, taking my first chance of putting my foot down over money.  I had my own townhome by then, so I summoned my best Amityville Horror voice and kicked him out of it. GET. OUT.

(Unfortunately, years lated I figured out I had no flipping idea how to manage my finances.  How could I have? I had zero experience beyond a few years eking out a college-subsistence level in the 1980’s. But I had this brand new credit card in my own name and an empty townhome that needed furniture.  And shoes.  I needed to buy shoes. And so the debt slavery began.  Bunny’s college tuition fund would have to wait.But that’s a different story; I’m getting off track.  Or am I?)

I look back at those years in despair.  Bunny’s father was a self-centered control freak, while I was a depressed, self- absorbed shopaholic-in-a-wheat-gluten-fog.  Bunny was an only child shuttling between our two  homes, three if you include his mother, who still lives in the townhome behind mine.  Thank god I never see her.  Sometimes I think Bunny didn’t even have a chance.  Other times I think we all survived okay.

So why am I muddling through these sad memories?  

The main reason is that The Sun has been wanting to meet to balance our taxes and Bunny-related expenses.  He’s strangely persistent, apparently excited over the possibility that for the first time since we started keeping track I owe him money instead of vice-versa.  This is a man who never paid a dime of child support in exchange for an agreement that we’d cover Bunny’s expenses in proportion to our incomes.  He makes a ton more money than I do.  So yes, he’s that controlling and cheap.  I console myself that in four years Bunny will be in college and I’ll never have to talk to my ex husband about money again, at least until the wedding I suppose.

There’s another reason for the melancholy, however: It’s the holiday season. Sorry but that’s how it works, not just with me but with anyone who has an imperfect family.   Which pretty much means everyone.  If it doesn’t apply to you then congratulations: You may report to the concierge for your prize. The rest of us will stay here in the back spiking the punch bowl, doing our best to remain cheery. Merry fucking Christmas.

Bunny spent Thanksgiving at her father’s.  I got a phone call.    Spooky’s family tiptoed around my sadness without knowing that it was typical;  actually the phone call was a bonus.  For the last twelve years or so Bunny has spent the big holiday dinners with her father’s family because really, and this was my thinking, what did I have to offer?  Nothing, so all those years I’d encouraged her to be surrounded by her father’s family at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.  Sometimes I went away for the holidays, enjoying the company of a boyfriend or my sister, but while single, which I pretty much was between 2005-2010, I got used to going to bed early during the holidays. Sometimes my stomach was full of nothing but tortilla chips, salsa and vodka. I told myself it didn’t matter.

But this year, for the first time in years,  I actually had family with whom to enjoy Thanksgiving without having to travel hundreds of miles for it.   I wanted Bunny to be a part of my new life, because finally it was happy and whole.  Even if it was only for a few hours, because in divorce situations parents are supposed to share holidays.  At least, that’s what I’ve heard, and so I was going to start playing by those rules. But no, Bunny was going to her father’s house to be with her family, and then she was going to spend the rest of her weekend with her friends.

Selfish and Confused, by Yxia Olivares

Thus dismissed, I ruminated on my state of affairs for several days.  The bitterness worked itself out and I took a long look in the mirror:  At least she comes by it honestly.   It occurred to me how my own mother must feel. Through the years I’ve neither called nor written anywhere near as much as she’d hoped. I only rarely visit my parents, and never during the holiday season. I blame the Minnesota weather, but the deeper reasons probably go back as far as my childhood despite the fact that things are so much better between us now.  But the die is cast, with old habits dying hard, apples not falling far from the tree . . .  and so on with all those allegories turned into cliches from overuse. 

So instead of ranting on my blog, which I might have done last year, I called my parents. Dad, true to reclusive form, spent Thanksgiving alone.  It was his preference, he said.  I don’t know that I believe him, but it was his habit so we just talked about other things.  I called my mom and stepfather repeatedly to no avail: Instead of spending Thanksgiving surrounded with their children and grandchildren, who all lived far away, they were out with their friends. 

I looked around Spooky’s beautiful dining room:  He and his mother had gotten up at 4am to cook a nine-course afternoon feast, and now we were all here:  Grandma, Mom, Dad, kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids. The only absences were due to divorce, or, sadly, death.  This is the way Thanksgivings are supposed to be, I thought.  Even if one’s whole family is nuts it’s important to get together anyway for the dysfunctional family theater, if for no other reason but to have something to laugh about someday.

Next year, I think. There is always next year.

(to be continued . . .)

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Puppy Pumps

I first saw these shoes at, believe it or not, the LOLCat site. Thanks to the ladies at Jezebel, now I can see the designer and his other creations. Weird, but strangely . . . brilliant? I would SO buy these shoes, if I were a gazillionaire collector.

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