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Friday Follies: Toujours Gai

Being an old lady isn’t what it used to be. And we can all be thankful for that. Mind, it hasn’t been what it used to be since Auntie Mame hit the screens. (I have a very battered copy of the book – luckily it’s been reissued.)

Aw yeah

Someday I will be HER. Yes. This is how you do it.

Karen Walker joins forces with Advanced Style to have the worlds most stylin’ silver foxes model her eyewear. Inspired!!!

A contributor at Man Repeller shops for an It-Bag in high school and…and…I haven’t laughed so hard a a fashion blog post, ever. The comments thread is sympathetic gold.

Trenery. It’s a spin-off of Country Road for “mature” shoppers – usually a kiss of death. I was in there the other day; I tried on this and that; I found their dresses boxy, but I liked their handbags and tops, especially a modestly priced Pantone-emerald tee. Good for taller women & women who want their busts covered. Check out the outlet site and sale items.

I get planar fascitis. Which sucks. It’s aggravated by lots of walking, and by wearing high heels – which also sucks, because I love both of those! I’m having a flare-up right now so I am wearing my least exciting shoes. Auntie Mame would handle this by…calling a yogi, of course! This is a great post about planar fascitis and what we can do at home to improve it. She’s very right about the foot massage and exercises.  For exercising with planar fascitis, New Balance trainers are very good. If you want to be retro-stylish with planar fascitis, Dankso shoes look great. Unfortunately their smallest size is not small enough for me (I take between a U.S. 5 and 5.5, and Danskos run big right from the start of their range) so I am going to invest in some Naot shoes, which run small, before my traveling walkathon.

Lastly, a delicious Eartha Kitt number, “Tojours Gai.”

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World of Wearable Arts I: The Circus Has Come To Town, Bringing Shoes

This week and next week, The World of Wearable Arts show is happening in Wellington. Imagine the changeling child of Cirque du Soleil and the costume collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, presented as an absorbing son et lumiere spectacle. That’s WOW for you.

What happens when a multiweek styelstravaganza comes to a medium-sized city? Bringing hordes of style-conscious visitors who have the money to attend the not-inexpensive event, and who, with the holidays several months away, are spending their remaining money on themselves? It’s like a second retailer Christmas, and it’s entertaining for those of us who live here.

Deliciously retro department store Kirkcaldie and Stains’ has its staff on a high-alert, low-leave schedule, and its windows are adorned with past WOW entry costumes. Boutiques and stores are expanding their evening and weekend hours, to be rewarded by sales from the crowds going to the event. Capital Books, open late, said that the WOW crowds were already good to them, snapping up sewing and fashion tomes.

Shoe designer Kathryn Wilson even saw fit to inaugurate her spring pop-up store, the SHOEBOX, during WOW week. A gleaming crystalline boutique has suddenly appeared twenty meters from the arena where World of Wearable Arts takes place, brilliantly lit as a spaceship:

Inside the glittering SHOEBOXInside, along with the bon-bons and soignee vendors, are shoes that define New Zealand luxury; buttery leathers, subtle colors, heels that you can walk in as you transfer your weekend bag to the seaside bach.

I'll take that one, that one, and that one

METALLIC BROGUES. I don't even like flats and I'm excited

The shoes’ construction is, well, those who like Fluevogs and Chie Mihara won’t be disappointed. They also pass the “but are they COMFORTABLE??” test. Kathryn Wilson has two lines – the Miss Wilson line is less expensive – and you can also check out the sale section of their web site. I enjoyed the novelty of cruising shoes after dark by the waterfront, myself.

Pretty much all of these look wearable in real life


Let’s Talk About Shoes

When did shoes become the enemy? My friends and I are always bitching about shoes. They are expensive (particularly in NZ), uncomfortable, and hard to find in our sizes. I whirled into my shoe-repair place this morning, thrifted spangled heels in hand, saying “I brought you more crazy shoes!” to see that somebody else had brought the crazy before me. A set of hot orange-and-pink suede platforms with six-inch heels were in the shoe stretching machine. A friend of mine, getting rid of boots from the ’90s, observed that normal heel heights have reached for the sky.

The result is women getting defensive about wearable shoes, with the increasingly-discussed concept of eight-hour shoes versus limo heels, and writers saying things like I love fashion, as long as I don’t actually have to wear it. Because beautiful shoes hurt. Many women my age still default to Dr. Marten’s.

IMHO the point of shoes is not to be beautiful in and of themselves, but to enhance the wearer’s beauty. And if you can’t move, you aren’t attractive. I like to be able to move in shoes, and I like to wear my shoes forever (the shoes I have on today are 4 years old; the oldest pair in my wardrobe has been there for 24 years). I like a 2-to-2-and-a-half inch heel,  leather and wedges. In temperate to chilly Wellington I get more wear out of closed toe shoes.* Often my everyday shoes are black leather, which is nearly invisible, and they are polished and resoled. I’ve been getting good feedback on breaking out of black leather – leopard haircalf, taupe with studs, cognac, just plain red – so I’m diversifying, slowly, as the budget allows.

As a mental palate cleanser, I recommend the blog Barking Dogs, which reviews mostly-US shoes that have comfort as a priority. Also, have a look at Korkers in Nelson handmade sandals – affordable for custom-made, their leather range includes the primary and jewel colors that are having a Moment. Ask them about contrast leather trim, which they used to do.

For polished shoes and sandals, my eye keeps getting caught by Overland, and it turns out the more expensive shoe store Mi Piaci is their corporate sister. Mi Piaci’s sale is on now, and their website has a sale section. After exploring the Mi Piaci sale, I am pleased to bring you some recommendations for fashion-forward shoes. These aren’t just shoes that look pretty in Etherweb la-la land. I have TRIED THEM ON & am personally vouching for their comfort.

Shoes that don't hurt your feet!

Mi Piaci sale shoes that are comfortable & still available in a range of sizes : top row, Tiga; middle row, Tempest; lower row, Adam and Blackton. Tempest and Blackton are also available in a plain black.

I wound up trying the top and middle row shoes on twice, once with jeans and once with a dress. They turned out to be good all-rounders. Tempest in orange is on layaway for me – the orange is a bit more yellow in person, very wearable compared to the acid-orange tones we are seeing everywhere for spring. Tempest in the zebra stripe would go with all the vivid spring/summer colors out there, and transition beautifully into fall. But the little strap on the Tiga made it even more comfortable and easy to wear, and that toast shade would also offset the vivids of the season. A very difficult decision! The chunky heel on Tiga and Tempest is similar to the heel on the expensive designer Celine shoes for Winter 2012. So this shoe on sale in NZ is like a new release shoe overseas. Also: COMFORTABLE.

A word about Ziera, the-NZ-shoe-brand-formerly-known-as-Kumfs. Despite their attractive, comfortable, and often retro-flavored shoes this season, I am still recovering from a really bad customer service experience there. And if I’m going to pay their $200+ prices I could go to an independent boutique like I Love Paris, or go back and get more great service from Mi Piaci.

If you’ve found any good accessible shoes lately, let me know in the comments?

*I even prefer closed toe shoes for emceeing costumes – more protection against whatever’s on a bar floor, and easier to wear tights with them.

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Make Do and Mend In Action

1940s British rationing propaganda, pretty in pink!Have you noticed that overall silhouettes and color trends are the same as last year? That means it’s a good year to be a fashion cheapskate. So, as we transition into autumn and winter here in NZ,  I went through my closet and thrifting finds with “Make Do and Mend” in mind. This motto still floats around the collective consciousness after its use in Britain during WWII.

After the review, I had three piles; one for the next clothing swap, one for the dry cleaner, and one for repairs. The pile for repairs was dark and gloomy: blacks, brown, gray. New Zealand’s fashion “black out” has come and got me with my wardrobe basics. Seven garments needed repairs or alterations I could do at home: hem repairs, nipping in at the waist, or taking up sleeves/legs.  This wasn’t celebrity-level tailoring, but it does make a difference. Most of the garments were pants – what was with all the hem stitch failures? Maybe dance classes last year had something to do with it.  Knits didn’t stop me, I take knits up and in with the three-stitch knit/stretch stitch on my Janome sewing machine. And here’s how to take up jeans without losing a special hem.

Then, I confronted my raincoat. This coat is a warm, petite-sized, clean-lined raincoat – a valuable Wellington wardrobe component. Unfortunately, last year, I managed to scorch it against a space heater, bending over to scrutinize a drawer full of beaded trim at Three Buckets Full. I was left with an inch-size melted patch besmirching the behind of my coat. DERP. How to fix it?

Raincoat behind before: Sad, sad melted polyester.


Before: Burned rainproof polyester weave.

Raincoat behind after: melted spot is hidden, and what’s not hidden (a small paler area) is no longer the center of attention. A line from a song unites the two birds.

Yes, I do like that song.

After: Say it with me: put a bird on it! The burned spot is hidden under the left sparrow.

That is a lot of black. Maybe some more embroidery?

After: Full length back of coat with embroidery and patches.

The patches are from Calico Jack’s in Wellington, and the patch hot-fixing and embroidery was done by DKGM in Lower Hutt. They were bemused by this non-sportswear commission and worked with me happily. Nowadays, embroidery places can include up to 12 colors in one embroidered design and have about 200 colors to choose from. So go on and challenge them. One caveat: when a finished garment is embroidered, the embroidery goes through the lining, too. Embroidery through the lining bothered me less than a sad melted spot  on my raincoat.

Finally, there were shoes. Wellington’s rain really does a number on leather. Two pairs went for resoling, and a thrifted pair of ankle boots is lined up to have its heel height reduced. Yes, you can have the heel height on a pair of tall shoes or boots reduced – by about 1 cm. Which isn’t a lot, but it can make a difference. It’s not an expensive fix, either, compared to resoling.

As for the rest, I had shoe-polish-and-leather-dye day and it looked like this:

I do actually have shoes in colors but they don't get worn as much

I love that handbag to pieces – the perfect size and shape for me, it was a present from my mother. It’s two years old and after a leather dye touch-up and waterproofing, it’s still going strong.

Later I found two more tins of polish that didn't make it into the picture.

Clockwise from noon: neutral polish, waterproofing spray, beeswax formula, sponge for applying beeswax formula, shoe polishes, a pair of dead pantyhose for buffing, buffing brush, leather dye.

Here is a basic polish technique for plain leather shoes and boots. With tall boots, I generally polish them up to the ankle seam, and only touch up the leg area lightly, if required. You can also shine up patent leather and clean suede shoes.

Any fashion lover who lives in a humid climate has had the awful experience of taking a leather treasure out of the closet and finding it’s been attacked by mold or mildew. I got lucky this time around – only one pair of shoes needed mildew rescue (the dusty-looking pair with the laces in the photo). My preferred fix is cleaning the mildewed leather with a leather conditioner/cleaner (the same kind used for leather upholstery and sofas). Then I place it in a sunny area for a few days, followed by dye touchup or polishing. Light reconditioning is the last step. Don’t condition items too richly in humid climates – that helps mold grow. Don’t store items in humid areas, and check them every couple of months. If a leather coat has that mildew smell in the lining, you are stuck taking it to the specialist leather cleaner.

Now I feel the way we’re all supposed to feel after one of those closet clean-outs – satisfied and reminded of formerly buried favorites. Once those shoes sitting in the sun dry out, I am content.

When winter comes to the Northern Hemisphere, the shoes migrate here in colourful flocks

The Case Of The International Shoe Clones

I was looking at summer shoes to fill a wardrobe gap or two when I uncovered The Case Of The International Shoe Clones, or, Mysterious Isabella.

Mid-height heels and wedges, I like them. And I thought the shoes by a brand called Miz Mooz were eminently fanciable. Some web research showed that these shoes are much beloved by USA style bloggers. Here in NZ, I sighed wistfully.  A few particular favorites stuck in my mind. So when I saw the shoes in real life, I did a double-take. Except they weren’t branded as Miz Mooz, and I wasn’t in the USA. Mysterious shoe clones had invaded New Zealand!

Clone of the Miz Mooz Lyla wedge:

What great wedges...where have I seen them before?

And more clones of the Miz Mooz Salima shoe:

Have you seen this shoe? Because it is awesomeThere may have been other clones in the display.

When winter comes to the Northern Hemisphere, the shoes migrate here in colourful flocksBut these were the ones that struck me.

In New Zealand, these shoes are being sold under the brand name Isabella Anselmi. Which is a mystery brand with a range of different styles and no independent web site. There is, ostensibly, some manufacturing in Australia. Curiouser and curiouser! Especially because Miz Mooz says their shoes are based on their designs, and they do indeed have a strong distinctive look.

Having held them in my hands, poked and prodded them and felt their materials, I happily vouch that these are good quality, comfortable shoes. They are also being sold new at what I consider a reasonable NZ markup compared to their new USA pricing – the mystery 25% extra cost (discussed in an earlier post here) isn’t being applied.  The difference is that in the USA, they are lavished with clever marketing, sent out to bloggers, and discussed on forums. Here, they are stealth branded and have to speak for themselves.

Preparing this post, I mentioned the International Shoe Clones to a few people, and they brought out their own stories. The shirt they found at a modest midrange store in New Zealand that they later saw being sold for 300 pounds in London. The web site based in China that was selling the OTHER Nikes.  “The life of a shoe is an exciting one!” says Miz Mooz. And the paths that garments take from the factories of Asia to Western consumers are strange and convoluted.

I don’t think anybody’s going to send me any shoes to review after this post…