Day 83 of the Shoe Challenge – Shy Leopards, Springolators & the Most Beautiful Coat in the World

There are some outfits that you can only really get away with wearing when you are two and half years old.

The Minx wears Leopard Print Vest by Britt Designs; Kmart Grey Marle Star Skivvy and Floral Pantaloons by Right Bank Babies. Dog & sippy cup - Model's Own

Based on my daughter’s wardrobe choices, a little bit of leopard print can be a good thing.

I am partial to animal prints and using them to lighten the general blackness of black clothing. I wear a lot of black. This is due to the fact that I am (a) lazy  (b) a lawyer and (c) more concerned about shoes than clothes.

Animals prints work well on shoes. Leopard print shoes can be matched equally successfully with cream, brown, grey, and black provided that the colours used are actual leopard colours like this:

rather than Paris Hilton leopard make over colours like this:

Unless you are Lily Savage:

Animal prints are kitsch and I am an unrepentant kitsch enthusiast.

Kitsch things I love include:

  • Diane Arbus photographs
  • John Waters’ films
  • The Green Faced Chinese Lady
  • Gold Charm Bracelets
  • Leopard Print

If you like and buy vintage shoes and clothes, the chances are good that you are going to rear end kitsch and end up wearing in leopard print sooner or later. It’s cheaper and more readily available than the classy stuff.

I will accept that leopard print is kitsch. But is it also ironically chic or simply tacky, tawdry and to be avoided at all costs? I decided to ask:

I got immediate and unequivocal answers.

First up were the Aargh It’s Tacky people @jameslocke230 @Deconstructo @NomiePT @bronska01 who to a man and woman denounced leopard print as tasteless, nasty and nauseating or all three. No exceptions.

Then there were those in the It’s Tricky But Try It Camp. KristenObaid, for example,  considers that leopard print only works on Shania Twain or real leopards. Pam Rosengren mentioned that if a leopard print was “very finely done with lots of well-observed shades it was non-tacky; otherwise it was very tacky“.

@Paininthenet didn’t so much say that leopard print was tacky as “tasteless and likely to be worn by women over the age of 65“. Until I showed him this pair of Christian Louboutin peep toe Lady Claude pumps:

He quickly agreed that the Louboutins were not tasteless and said, “they actually look good. Like you kicked a leopard to death cool and used your toes”. Be warned though that, in his opinion, these  shoes demand “very pert well manicured toes“.

Finally there were my fellow Embrace Your Inner Tacky ladies – the ever quirky and whimsical Victoria aka @firebirdasusual @gannet_guts@lgcollard and @helenperris. Sonya/gannet_guts (one of my favourite fashion bloggers) told me about her faux leopard print coat that  she wears with red fishnets. Helen takes the view that “Leopard print heels with classy dress = good. Leopard print boob tube or mini skirt = bad.‘ Victoria is “inexplicably drawn to leopard print and ‘snake skin‘” even though she never wears either. Last but not least @lgcollard (bless) said “Ain’t nuthin’ tacky about my leopard heels. Rowr.”

Here are my leopard heels.

I have absolutely no idea who made them.

Here is the insole insert which is virtually unreadable…

If you recognise the maker’s mark, please do let me know. I  got them from Broadway Betty in Sydney.

If you Google Broadway Betty you’ll find this TwoThousand review:

Hidden on Broadway near Glebe Point Road between a dodgy-looking op shop and an even dodgier looking brothel, lies a dark dingy and dirty little second-hand clothing store called Broadway Betty.”

Don’t let the location or the shopfront put you off – this place is a treasure trove. It is always a drama bringing a toddler into any store but the owner was very kind and attentive to the Minx. This meant that I stayed longer than I would have done and bought a lot more footwear than I expected too including the Geek Ladies Lunch Boots and  Well Mannered boots and two pairs of stilettos.

Maybe again appearances are deceptive.

Leopards are shy nocturnal animals and hence not easy to observe. That might be a reason why the leopard is the most prevalent wild cat.

(Source: Gilbert Guerin.com)

Helen told me:

I used to own a Leopard print faux fur mini dress. Not classy. Used to get chatted up a lot when wearing it though.”

Leopard print is somehow seen as being provocative. Witness the fuss caused by Liz Hurley’s animal print swimwear collection for 2 – 10 year old girls.

I think that the bad reputation that leopard print has is linked to the fact that  femmes fatales like Ava Gardner and Marilyn Monroe once favoured big cat animal prints. In the Fifties, to emulate these stars, showgirls commonly wore leopard print mules like these Spring-O-lators:

Spring-o-lators by Beth Levine

Beth Levine created the Spring-O-Lator in the 1950s using an elastic strip to keep the wearer from walking out of his or her shoes.  The elastic insole creates a tension between the shoe and the bottom of the foot which allows the shoe to stay on a your foot.

It is still possible to pick up Spring-O-Lator pumps reasonably affordably on Etsy and eBay particularly if you have vintage sized feet (under a US 6). I have my eye on one or two pairs at the moment.  Meantime, however, I am making do with these which are admittedly hard to walk in.

Occasionally, I like to kid myself that these have an Edie Sedgwick in Poor Little Rich Girl edge to them. But basically they add a burst of pure, plain kitsch to inject a bit of Las Vegas glamour to cheer me up on otherwise dull days.

So next time you see someone somewhere wearing animal print, remember that while he or she may be projecting a jungle cat on the outside there is a very good chance that there is a shy, retiring tabby on the inside.

Quid fit?

I am taking a bijou break from writing about shoes this week and am instead writing court documents.  This will involve a lot of swearing and growling. Therefore, and depending on the time of day, if you see me chuck some raw meat, dark chocolate or a wee goldie at me.

Meantime, here is the latest shoe on my Holy Grail list.

Oh and here are a couple of other shoe blogs that I really, really love reading:

Shoe Love by Erin who has inspired me towards new depths of pump purchasing profligacy. This girl is a veritable font of footwear knowledge.

Shoeperwoman proponent of Ruby Shoesday and owner of the most perfect titian locks who is running a shoe challenge of her own.

Posted in Uncategorized

Guest Shoe Post by Archigram aka the Father of the Blogger

there was once an old lady who lived in a shoe

she had so many children she did not know what to do

then whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed

she gave them some broth without any bread

‘The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe’ Traditional, circa 1794.

I believe that in the 1794 “Gammer Gurton’s Garland of Nursery Songs” the last line was:

she whipped all their bums and sent them to bed

With red-bummed wailing children now safely abed she could get on with the things that mattered in life, she went out to downtown to Wherever’s Ville to buy some more shoes or, at least, to have a wee peek at them in big shiny shop windows. It always put a spring in her heels to think about whipping bums red and then going out to buy new shoes for, lets say, a little dessert. What is it about shoes and who needs bread anyway?

Yesterday, I dropped into a shoe shop in Glasgow to look at some fine shoes, not quite bespoke, like Prince Charlie’s shoes are, but expensive, nonetheless, and Italian. They cost three hundred pounds. A more reasonably priced, but nice looking pair of shoes, cost one hundred and fifty pounds. I pondered on the reason that I might not part with either of these sums for a pair of shoes and on the obverse side of that coin wondered why women would not hesitate for a minute to part with such a sum if a pair of shoes consumed them with delight. If I was pushed to a decision making point, I would not hesitate to part with a big cash outlay for a pair of shoes which were made just for my differently sized feet alone and, of course, were stylish to ‘boot’. Excuse the last word please. Anyway,

What is an architect doing talking about shoes? A revisit to my opening gambit will explain all.

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe”.

Is it possible to design a shoe in which one old lady, let alone one with “so many children”, could live? A cursory examination of the work of the architect Bruce Goff, an Okie, might indicate that such a thing is entirely possible. (check out the Bavinger house or the Japanese pavilion in Los Angeles).

What is it about architects that they feel the necessity to hallmark their careers with an “odd” building or two? Sometimes, the odd looking buildings are their careers. The fashionable term is ICONIC buildings. Like any expensively made and exquisite to look at shoe, such structures leak, fall apart, have a life of their own but people flock to see them or shakily shoogle about on them as in the specific case of shoes.

Think Bilbao, think Guggenheim.

Visitors to the “goog” will accommodate its idiosyncracies, gasp with spurious delight and take endless wee photos with their cell-phones to send the ‘folks back home’. Trendy gals will squeeze their feet into shoes designed for people with no feet and walk as if their buttocks were glued together to help alleviate the wincing painful torture.

Think John Wayne, who always walked as if he had left the toilet lid inside his pants.

I have about ten pairs of shoes some of which have never walked beyond the box they came in. I have a deeply uncluttered detestation of brown shoes with the exception of ox-blood coloured penny loafers. So, my shoes are all black but, elegant.  Brown shoes are the death-knell of fashion in the same way that green shirts, relentlessly awful diagonal striped matching ties and brown suits are for the egregiously aesthetically deprived.

I watch with amazed bewilderment, women wandering around men’s shops with a suit and a shirt in their arms  checking out hideous ties against the gruesome twosome and think to myself, Good God!  It gets even worse when they check out underwear as well. The ultimate in male castration. Sometimes there are wee guys, with a shadowing wife, trying out a suit jacket with sleeves hanging down three inches below their wrist and she, the matron of high fashion, telling them that they look great. Finally, getting them to button all three buttons on a three button jacket with the dreadful tie/shirt concoction. The brown decades, indeed. I think Coco, no! not Chanel, the other variety.

Shoes are great and stylish additions to any man’s wardrobe. the more you have the better. Perhaps one day an architectural story will follow.

archigram

Day 82 of the Shoe Challenge – Runny make-up & missing a shoe

Vintage Barbie Red Stiletto - 1 only via eBay Italy

There are a lot of tangible things missing from my life:  a watch; my favourite over the knee black kid patchwork boots by the Wild Pair; most of my make up.

The second things disappeared en route in or from a container ship between Glasgow and Sydney. I lament their loss constantly despite the fact that everyone else thought I looked like a principal boy in those boots. The first and third things are lost due to Minx intervention – tomorrow no doubt I will find my eye liner in the fruit bowl or my lipstick in the cutlery drawer next to my tampons.  Small children are like magpies, they lift and drop things at their arses with a kind of insouciant precision. The child will be able to retrieve the dropped article from a pile of detritus, but I have Buckley’s chance. I hereby vow therefore that my daughter is never EVER getting Barbie dolls. Who needs to be on eBay looking for replacement little shoes?

Losing things is not fun. Losing shoes is an absolute nightmare. My friend “A” used to lose her shoes regularly. She hated dancing in them & would kick her stilettos off into random corners of the room at nightclubs.  Then at 3.30 am she and I would be on our hands and knees looking for her footwear before we tried to find a taxi home. It used to drive me bonkers but eventually we’d find her footwear and by that time we’d sobered up. Sobriety is always a good thing when trying to sneak quietly into ones parents’ house at 5 am.

Image from artist/illustrator Jackie Morris' blog http://www.jackiemorris.co.uk/march2008.htm

A lost shoe is a truly dejected thing.  There are even websites and Facebook fan pages dedicated to Lost Shoes. I have seen many, many lost shoes out there but generally they are trainers or flip flops.

Image by The Lost Shoe Project: http://www.thelostshoeproject.com/home2.html

Before today I had never lost a shoe. Have you ever wondered why or how someone could end up missing one shoe? There is an abundance of theories out there including:

1. The Container Overboard Theory

On May 27, 1990, a storm struck the container ship Hansa Carrier in the north Pacific (48 degrees N, 161 W), resulting in two containers being lost overboard  with 80,000 Nike brand shoes inside. These shoes were washed up and subsequently strewn throughout North America, Canada and Alaska.

In 1992, a flotilla of 29,000 bath toys escaped from 11 containers that fell off a cargo vessel in the North Pacific near the International Dateline. It took 15 years for the rubber ducks to reach British shores. Eric Carle abridged the story in his 2005 picture book 10 Little Rubber Ducks

Image searched for high and low and discovered by There I Fixed It! http://thereifixedit.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/129206654048079544.jpg?w=500&h=333

In 2010 my wee niece is taking a bath with what could theoretically be two of the missing ducks.

2.   The Shoes on Top of the Car Theory

Apparently people leave things on top of their cars frequently. Like cups of coffee, house keys, small dogs in pink handbags and spare pairs of shoes. These things are then sucked off and deposited at random by the road side.

3.   The Drunken Four Point Crawling Shoe Loss Theory

This is my husband’s personal favourite.

It is a hot sticky night and you are on holiday.  You are drinking strange cheap cocktails that in other circumstances you would sneer at.   At the end of the evening, you are so drunk and sunburned that you decide that walking on two legs is dangerous and are therefore shuffling on all fours. From here you either pass out and are carried home by friends or loved ones or wake up in Accident & Emergency.  Either way, the next morning you have ingrained dirt under your fingers, unexplained bruises, (surprisingly) no hangover and a missing shoe.  There is a blog dedicated to women who lose shoes on a Night Out in this manner.

Photo Credit - Droppedit's Shoe Loss Page http://with1shoe.com/party_loss

4.  The Children Drive You Beyond Distraction Theory

It is 7.30 am.  I have an 90 minutes to get:

  1. both children dressed in weather appropriate clothing;
  2. the Minx to daycare without causing a scene;
  3. the Noisy Boy to school in time for toast;
  4. some makeup on to cover my spots (The Lowest Common Denominator Beauty Regime); and
  5. myself on a swiftish train to Central Station and from there to work with a caffeine stop en route.

This usually works reasonably well provided that I started barking mantra like orders from 6.30 am on e.g. ‘get your knickers on’ ‘put your lunch in your bag’ ‘wipe the pee off the toilet seat!’ On a rainy day, however, getting my weans ready to leave home  is an even more mysterious and debilitating process than frying chips on a humid Sydney summer day.

A cloud could go past the house at a crucial stage and throw my calculations right off. On this pishy wet day it  my children are fighting energetically with each other. Instead of focussing solely on an efficient absquatulation strategy I instead commence a cause and effect audit. Did I:

  1. give the Noisy Boy his breakfast muffin before I gave the Minx her cup of hot milk;
  2. give the Minx her muffin before or after she got dressed; or
  3. get them out of bed the wrong side?

Idly  I wonder whether it would be possible to outsource getting my children ready and off to school to some Pay By the Hour au pair agency.

Meantime, the Minx has managed to get her gum boots on but nothing else.

After a bit of yelling, some swearing and a lot of wrestling, I get the Minx entirely dressed. She then decides that her boots no longer match her outfit. She flounces off to her room yelling ‘no like clothes mummy‘ over her shoulder. She returns with a different outfit in which I dress her. She soils her nappy. I undress and redress her. She insists that she wants her white sandals. We can only find one sandal.

Meantime the Noisy Boy is berating me about our umbrellas. “There is only one Mickey Mouse umbrella” he says “and I want it“. “NO I WANT IT” shrieks the Minx more out of habit than intent. I negotiate a mutually acceptabe settlement outcome – the Noisy Boy gets the Mickey Mouse umbrella, the Minx gets the girly pink golf umbrella.

By this time my comfortable 90 minute window has shrunk to 65 minutes.

When we leave the house (6o minutes to go) I am close to tears. The golf umbrella that the Minx is carrying is too big to allow her to walk down the stairs from the front door. She gets caught, stuck tight. Cue hysterical sobbing.  She sits down and takes her sandals off. I now have 50 minutes to get to work.

You get the picture.

Miraculously, I get to work on time. I open my bag to change into my dry shoes.

There is only one shoe in my bag.

Apparently, if you dream that you lose your shoes, you are searching for your identity and finding yourself.  If you do actually lose your shoes it is a horribly discombobulating experience.

The moment that I realised that I was missing a Fluevog I felt like someone had wrenched my intestines out through my throat. Losing a credit card would be inconvenient, losing jewellery or a mobile phone briefly annoying. Losing shoes IS losing part of me – I was gutted.

Carol Duncan was sympathetic:

SiouxsieLaw god bless her Wolford Bondage Tights was understanding.

I sent her a picture of the missing shoes. She told me more about her missing Fluevogs.

It helped.

A bit.

I then wandered back out in the rain towards Central Station. The rain was stoating off the pavements joyously by now. My eye make up was running as I went into the Lost Property Department. “They won’t show up in here for at least a week love, try the Station Master” they said, kindly.

I flung myself at the Station Master who had much more important things to do, sobbing and telling him my shoes’ life history. How I’d waited patiently for them on eBay since Alison Young had blogged about her Fluevogs, how I’d found them via a French seller and lucked out in an auction because French people probably don’t like Canadian shoes and the English speaking world doesn’t like having to read French.

Those must be really expensive shoes‘ he said in a break between my verbal carrying on ‘how did you come to lose only one?

It’s a fair question which Fender4Eva had already answered:

Men don’t generally get the whole  bringing a good pair of shoes with you in a bag to avoid weather damage concept. But then men don’t usually get the need to have more than three pairs of shoes concept either. I realised as I considered my answer that I had become the shoe lovers equivalent of Paris Hilton – carrying my shoes instead of a pooch in a clutch.  “I just didn’t want them to get wet” I said more pathetically than I intended to.  There was a pause. “I’ll be sure to let you know if they come in” he said in that tone that policemen use for old ladies reporting UFO sightings.

With that I went back to the office and bided my time. I had images of my shoe sitting by the roadside, slowly being ruined by rain water and dog pee. I couldn’t think about anything else.

My boss showed me photos of her aged between 3 and 10 wearing 70s ruffles and in the bare scud to cheer me up. Someone bought me chocolate. Someone sent me a NSFW shoe-mail.

Eventually after 6 hours of making buttons and drafting nasty cathartic letters to other lawyers, my husband called.

I’ve found your shoe” he said “It’s in the hall“.

And there it remained until I returned home, a reminder to keep my shoes close to my person and not to sweat the small stuff. Until tomorrow that is. Any au pairs out there?

Fluevogs - Reunited.

Guest Blog: Male =sole, Female = soul (some thoughts on men and their shoes)

Unlike women who seem predominately to buy shoes for self gratification and assimilation with other predetermined items or events, men seem to have an almost diametrically opposite approach.

Men by and large buy shoes on need, rather than want; on performance rather than the most noble of reasons … that they simply like them.

In many ways buying shoes and boots (which are an even more acute example) illustrates one of the many delightful differences between the male/female gender stereotypes. That is, men will predominately buy shoes because they have to, women because they want to or  for the even more charming reason, just because they can!

Sadly this means that many men miss out on experiencing the more sensual, irrational delights that having a great pair of shoes could give them. Rather than even moving away from the 90% solid black shoes to dark brown or any other slight colour variation, most men will remain in their conservative comfort zone seeking reassurance and mate-ship by not breaking ranks and wearing ‘weird shoes’.

"Weird?" Angels| Supervog by John Fluevog (burgundy with grey rub off) http://www.fluevog.com

Quality for men is usually hard wired into their brains with cost. This of course creates a very fictitious impression that the more money spent equals a higher quality product bought. Thus men are being conned at both ends of the market in that some cheaper shoes (those retailing under $200) are actually very good quality and many pairs that cost well over that amount are not so much priced on qualitative issues but marketing and by restricting availability. Another comparison would be that the average man would rather spend $60,000 on a brand new car rather than spend half that amount on a pre-loved classic which could be far more function rich and feature poor.

A 1956 Jaguar XK140 Roadster 0893 would cost a bit more

So back to shoes, putting the cost issue to one side the question of quality for men seems to be based on visible evidence such as weight, materials used (particularily in new or chunky shoes) and manufacturing complexity.  Quid pro quo the heavier, more performance based shoes made from new materials with evident build complexity will appeal to men.  For example, retailers have witnessed the sales of Timberland boots and Prada or Church shoes for men surpass other more ‘interesting’ brands.

Timberland(R) Boots = Build Complexity for aspiring Rugged Outdoor Types

Prada(R) Crocodile Patent Leather Shoes for Men Who Love High End Designer BrandsCourtesy of http://mynextshoes.files.wordpress.com

Brogues by Church Footwear - Reliable, detailed, dependable and anonymous http://www.church-footwear.com/churchs.html

So what do I call interesting in shoes? Well, in many ways I look for the same the same emotional contentment from my shoes that other men get by either spending a lot of money or buying the latest look so not to feel out of step (no pun intended).

So yes, men and women both ultimately want to feel good about ourselves in what we wear. I just prefer to fulfill this desire by satisfying my sensual criteria through the shoe, look, feel, smell (soft new leather) and sound (on hard surfaces).

One should never, ever underestimate the powerful sound that the creak and crack of new brogues make upon timber floors.

Day 81 of the Shoe Challenge – Absolutely Fatuous Boots

Now and again I think that it might be worth reading newspapers and newspaper columnists again. Then I read something that annoys me.

The Sun Herald in Sydney published the above  column entitled “Absolutely Fatuous” in its S Entertainment & Fashion pull out section yesterday (Sunday 1 August 2010).  The author peppered the column with deliberately provocative opinions:

the more obsessed a woman is with clothes, shoes and handbags, the more utterly barren her interior life

is it possible to have one’s moral compass in working order and …own 100 pairs of shoes?

Fashion is about the self, the me and if your wardrobe occupies half your bedroom …it’s a fair bet that your head is planted firmly up your own tastefully garbed bum”.

I have no intention of naming the chap that wrote the column. Attribution would simply further encourage him in his ‘smug, shallow and egregious’ written opinions  (to quote A Cat In A Tree). In any case another blogger has already done a sterling job of beating him about the head with her feminine principles.

John Stuart Mill once argued that a citizenry could not, would not, flourish unless it was nourished by the full spectrum of voices that exist among the people.  This means, of course, that anyone with an opinion should be able to voice it.  I agree entirely with this precept provided that we are not charged the cover price of a newspaper to read that opinion.

There are those of you who will tell me that if I don’t like what this chap says I should just not read what he writes. Or buy the newspaper.   A bit like that scene in the Big Lebowski when the Dude asks the driver to change the channel because the Eagles are doing his head in and the driver says “Fuck you man! You don’t like my fucking music, get your own fucking cab!

If you don't like my music...

Columnists are meant to be opinionated. They are also meant to be challenging and controversial. I’m all for risk taking and if someone is offended in the process of publishing a groundbreaking, confronting column this is a positive thing.

The chap in question however produces copy which neither groundbreaking nor particularly novel. As one of the commenters (meganwegan) on the News with Nipples blog observes that notes his schtick is that:

materialism is only bad when women do it.

Shoes, bags, frocks, interiors = fatuous and shallow.

Cars, iPads, cellphones etc = serious and important.”

There may be people out there who buy things wantonly, fatuously and unquestioningly.

I have never actually met these people. Virtually everyone that I know has a very distinct idea, theorem or need in mind when they buy material things.

Nowhere is this more obvious to me than in the area of shoe purchasing. Using myself as an example, I cannot help but look at the contents of  just about every shoe shop that I walk past. I can tell within about 30 seconds whether there is anything in there that interests me. 99.9% of the time I see nothing that makes me want to go into the shop. I don’t think that I am unusual in this.

The other 0.01% of the time I see something that resonates with me For example, the boots that I wore today were purchased in an Op-Shop – the Smith Family Charity Store in Hurstville. Never worn suede high heeled knee boots from Gary Castles Sydney which cost $15.00.

Gary Castles Suede Knee Length Boot size 37 – tight

At first sight, my internal shoe calibration equipment buzzed an instantaneous recognition signal to me and I bought them without any hesitation.

It wasn’t until I got home that I realised that these boots reminded me of this pair of Sergio Rossi knee length suede boots from the late 90s.

Sergio Rossi Knee Length Suede Boots photographed by Miles Aldridge for Marco Ascoli

Not exactly a match, I’ll grant you but a close similarity.

A close enough similarity to spend 3 months stretching the leather with shoe trees. A close enough similarity to:

  • spend 45 minutes getting the zip up using metal skewers and other implements from my cutlery drawer before heading off to work
  • wear all day even when my (larger) right foot started to scream ‘can’t move, can’t breathe’ on me.
  • sacrifice very expensive tights which had been caught up in the zips when I put the boots on or about the same time as my right foot started screaming.
  • think about calling for help from the work toilet (right next to my boss’ office) when I realised that cutting myself out of my tights with office scissors hadn’t helped liberate me, the boots were still attached to my legs and I was bleeding everywhere.

    Fatuous – me? Absolutely not. Masochistic – possibly yes.