Sunday, February 24, 2008

Red Shoes (They're not just for bad girls anymore!) CLICK PODCAST

My mother is one of the best-dressed women I know. Not only did she teach me the fundamentals of style (style is what you make it), she taught me to dress for my body type. Mom taught me how to shop smartly, not only looking for price, but also for quality in fabrics, details and tailoring. Mom always looked great (and still does), so what reasons did I have not to follow her advice to the letter?

When I was very young, five or six maybe, (fashion training began early for me), I remember mom telling me that she’d heard a fashion expert say that "a lady never needs a pair of red shoes." According to this expert, red shoes were unnecessary. A few years later I remembered this, but not the reason, so I asked. "Mom, why don't we need red shoes?" Mom gave me one of those looks. "Because red shoes are unladylike. They are worn only by small children, clowns and prostitutes." At age seven or eight I didn't want to be thought of as a small child, I was afraid of clowns, and while I didn't know what a prostitute was or why they were so scandalous, I was sure that I wasn't one of them either. Mom knew everything about fashion, so she had to be right. I never gave red shoes another thought, except when I saw a woman wearing them. When I was really young I just assumed that these women were prostitutes. As I got older I just thought that these red heeled women had no fashion sense.

Some things are just ingrained in us: traditions, values, morals, and in my case, the strong belief that a lady never wears red shoes. This shouldn't be surprising, as red shoes have gotten a bad rap for years.

We can go back to 1845 and the publication of the Hans Christan Andersen story, The Red Shoes. In this story a young girl, Karen, becomes obsessed with a pair of red shoes only to have them have a horrific effect on her life. Early in the story Andersen describes a princess as our heroine sees her. "She wore neither train nor a golden crown, but beautiful red morocco shoes. There is really nothing in the world that can be compared to red shoes!" (I guess Hans realized this fact.) Later young Karen acquires a pair of red shoes for herself. "Amongst the shoes stood a pair of red ones, like the princess had worn. How beautiful they were!" (Hmmm. Perhaps Mr. Andersen once longed for a pair of red shoes himself.) Karen makes the mistake of wearing her new red shoes to church the following Sunday and is reprimanded severely. The next Sunday however, "Karen looked first at the black shoes, then at the red ones; looked at the red ones again, and put them on." This act of defiance turns the entire village against her. When Karen danced in her red shoes it was as if they were possessed by the devil himself as the shoes had a mind of their own forcing poor Karen to dance uncontrollably. As she forcibly dances past the church she sees an angel with a sword guarding the entrance to the sanctuary. He condemns her "Dance you shall," said he, "dance in your red shoes till you are pale and cold, till your skin shrivels up and you are a skeleton! Dance you shall from door to door, and where proud and wicked children live. You shall knock, so that they may hear you and fear you! Dance you shall, dance!" (Scary and a bit heavy handed in my opinion. All of this gloom and doom over one little pair of red flats!) Exhausted she pleads to the village executioner to cut off her feet with the red shoes, since by now they have grown to her feet. As she confesses her sin (?), he obliges cutting off her feet. The shoes dance away with the little feet deep into the woods. I think the ballet has a happier ending as Karen keeps her feet but dances herself to death. All of this because poor Karen dared to make a strong fashion statement. And to think my mother missed reading me this charming uplifting story! Instead of trying to rationalize why a lady never wears red shoes, she just could have scared the hell out of me by reading me this piece of classic literature.

Dorothy in the 1939 MGM production of The Wizard of Oz had her own problems with a pair of red shoes. First off, these shoes were taken off the feet of a dead woman, a "Wicked Witch " no less. A second witch desperately wants them and is willing to kill Dorothy (and her little dog too) for them. A third supposedly good witch tells Dorothy not to take off the shoes, as they must be very powerful. Dorothy must have been too naive to comprehend their power, as she never learns what powers they truly possess. It's obvious, Dorothy Gale, an innocent farm girl from Kansas with little to no fashion sense falls in with a bad crowd and is corrupted, all over a pair of red pumps. No wonder this movie gave me nightmares as a child.

You don't have to go back as far as the 1800's or the 1930's. Remember the fairly recent Showtime series Red Shoe Diaries. The title alone suggest something steamy...something scandalous...something naughty, all because of a reference to red shoes.

Imagine my surprise recently when I started noticing women in red shoes and thinking that they were chic, stylish, and even powerful. Then women that I admired started turning up in red shoes. I saw style guru Stacy London (of TLC's What Not to Wear) on Oprah one day. She was wearing a pair of skinny jeans, then, a new silhouette that many American women were slow to accept, and a pair of killer red heels. She looked amazing. For the first time in my life I found myself wanting a pair of red shoes. I'd keep this desire hidden from my mother, as my desire for red shoes would have killed her. After that I began to see women from all walks of life wearing red shoes. I'd heard Stacy London say that a pair of red shoes could really "pop" an outfit.

But old habits die-hard as it took me a year to finally purchase a pair. I started off small with a pair of inexpensive suede sling backs...and I still considered buying them in black instead. I wore them that very night thinking "now is as good a time as any." Nobody talked behind my back, gave me dirty looks or propositioned me. I was at a casual event and liked the way that my little red heels gave an extra little punch to my jeans and long black cardigan. This touch of color made my outfit "current." I was surprised that I felt no guilt, shame, or tartness. Old perceptions die-hard.

This past summer I bought a pair of casual red flats that I ended up living in. They seemed to go with everything. I purchased the same pair in black, which while worn got less use. Feeling brave at the beginning of the fall season, I took the plunge and bought a pair of red patent leather peep toe pumps. A friend had purchased the same pair and she'd worn them to work with grays and black. This little pop of color made her outfits smart and modern. I figured I could do the same. The very next week I got a pair of deep red patent leather flats that I'm wearing several times a week. Not only are they fun, but they are some of the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn... and that was a bonus! I guess I'm over my phobia of red shoes, or should I say the negative perception of a woman in red shoes. Red shoes can be very ladylike. The look is what you make it. Own it.

I'm heading home for the holidays in December. Dare I bring a pair of red shoes with me? I've changed my thinking. Is it possible that mom can now see this one little fashion choice in a new light, or will she still be seeing red?

Check out the Shop Doc Podcast.

In this show we'll explore one of my favorite ways to up your style quotient, Vintage clothing and accessories! By reaching back to past eras you'll instantly add unique touches to your current style and further express your personality. My special guest is actress and vintage aficionado, Beverly Mikins.

Friday, February 1, 2008

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: Accessory Basics (Click here for Shop Doc Podcast)

I think I was about twelve years old and starting to develop my own fashion/style personality.I'd been reading Seventeen and Teen magazines for well over a year and was convinced that my preteen wardrobe needed some necessary upgrades. My own closet seemed bare and immature. I wore a uniform to school so my mother didn't feel that I needed too many clothes. I had a few dresses for church and special occasions and some casual knock about things for the weekends. (No jeans as my mother thought they were inappropriate for "nice" girls.) I had saved a little of my own money from Christmas, birthdays and allowance and was headed downtown to Shillito's, at the time Cincinnati's leading department store. I knew that I couldn't buy a whole new wardrobe, but I could certainly afford to buy myself a great pair of dress shoes to finally replace my little girl patent leathers. With my mother right behind me I ran into the shoe department looking for the perfect shoe befitting an almost teenager. I saw it immediately; a patent ivory colored heel with a small bow. In my eyes it was chic, simple and exactly what I was looking for. My mother had already started to talk to a sales person when I asked to please see my perfect shoe in my size. To my surprise they both said no. My mother said, "That heel? Absolutely not. It's far too mature for you."

"Oh no that shoe is too much for you." This saleswoman was about to lose a sale. By this time my mother had another shoe in her hand.

"Look at this one. It's some sort of snakeskin. It's cute...and very stylish." To my horror she was holding a snakeskin version of the same patent leather Mary Jane that I'd worn since I was two.

Despite my pleas to at least try on the shoe that I really wanted, I was told no ("Just look at that heel!" It was probably an inch and a half at the most.) I begrudgingly left with the shoe that had been selected for me, and worse yet paid with my own money. This was a disastrous shopping trip.

Years later when I was in charge of my own style destiny, I had no idea where to start as far as accessories were concerned. At age twelve I only wanted one pair of semi grown up shoes. Now there were just too many choices. I knew that I needed items that would work with my minuscule wardrobe for everyday life plus all other the other occasions that I'd encounter. A stylist on one of my very first jobs helped me to assemble a basic accessory collection that I still swear by. Sure I've added more pieces since then, but these seven basics are the foundation of my accessory wardrobe, which incidentally work with the 5 basic pieces of my wardrobe. Again my advice is to purchase the best quality items that you can comfortably afford now knowing that you can always upgrade later. There's absolutely no reason to ever go into debt over fashion. Today your options in terms of pricing and styling are endless!

The Magnificent Seven consist of:

3 pairs of shoes (heels, flats and casual athletic type shoe)

2 handbags (everyday bag, and a clutch)

1 reliable watch

1 pair of gold hoops

Does this sound too simple? It is. Remember that you’re going to interpret these items to fit your own specific needs and lifestyle. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Shoes: (heels, flats & athletic)

Heels (classic pump)
There are so many heel heights to choose from; demure kitten heels to sky-high stilettos. What do you feel comfortable wearing? When shopping remember that your basic heel should work with your trousers, your Little Black Dress and possibly your jeans, especially if you're dressing your jeans up. Avoid going too high. Walking in heels should feel like the most natural thing in the world

Kailey Patent Pumps: Payless, $19.99

I know that so many women were thrilled to see flats return to the fashion scene a few years back. The good news is that they are here to stay. With so many styles who says you can't be both stylish and comfortable? When buying consider your foot. Can you wear something totally flat, or do you need something that's constructed a little better to give you more support and keep your foot from slipping out. These will be points to consider especially if you have flat feet (little to no arch).
Nine West Mae, Boutique 9


Casual Athletic Inspired
I have always had a good pair of athletic type shoes to comfortably get me through a full day of errands, casual activities, and through some of the country's biggest and busiest airports. (Try running for a flight in heels.) There's a style and color to suit everyone. Your casual athletic type shoe will probably not be suited for actual athletic activity, as you'll want to stay with a simpler style with sleek styling. Both Keds and Sketchers have great selections.
Keds Hampton Sport Classic Sneaker: $39.99


Your basic accessory wardrobe will include an everyday handbag and a smaller clutch.

An everyday handbag is such a personal item. Before you consider purchasing one, consider your needs. Do you carry a lot or are you one of those women who is perfectly comfortable carrying keys, a wallet and cell phone? You'll definitely want to consider your size, as your handbag should compliment your figure. I know larger bags are in style this season, but if you are petite, a larger style could overwhelm you. You'll look and probably feel awkward.

Here are a few other questions to ask yourself before buying:

Does it have all of the compartments you'll need?

Is the bag open at the top or does it have complete closure?

Is it leather or leather-like? Leather when cared for properly will last for a long time, while some man made materials won't last as long and will show wear easily.

Do you treat your bags gently or do you use and abuse?

As I gotten older I've looked at handbags as investment pieces that I'll use for a very long time. I'm willing to pay a little more for quality. I'm not talking about the hot designer "It" bag that can cost a house payment. I know women who have finally broken down and purchased the bag of the moment, only to be disappointed a short time later when they realized the bag was going out of style. Sure if you can afford the bag of the moment, more power to you, but if not stay with a well made style that will transcend the seasons at a price point you can afford. Online Store
Laurie Shoulder Bag: $52.00


Your clutch is a smaller handle less bag that will work for dressier functions, and in the evening in place of a traditional evening bag. Today many clutches come with a detachable shoulder strap or chain that gives you two bags in one. When selecting a clutch you can select a dressier material. My first clutch was made from the softest black suede that dressed up everything I owned.
Merona® Satin Clutch - Gray : Target


Gold Hoops
As several stylists have told me, a basic pair of gold (or gold tone) hoops work with just about everything. Put them on with your jeans, suit, or your LBD. Hoops can be both elegant and Bohemian.
Betsey Johnson Large Diamond-Cut Hoop Earrings
Dillard's $40.00

A Reliable (and stylish) Watch
A watch these days can be both practical and fashionable. The bottom line is whether or not you can read the time at a glance. Your watch is an extension of your fashion personality, so if you haven't found the perfect watch already, trust that's it's out there. You may consider traditional styles, or go for enlarged faces, bracelet styles, or cuffs. Don't forget to stay within your budget. For two years my basic watch was a simple silver toned Timex that I purchased from a drugstore for less than twenty dollars.
FOSSIL - watches, handbags, accessories, and apparel -

Brown Hologram, $65.00

Again these seven items form the foundation of your accessory wardrobe. You probably own several accessories already, or if you're starting from scratch start with these basics and plan on adding on as time, necessity and your budget permit. You may want to expand your basic accessory wardrobe to include:

A Strand of Pearls
Silk scarves
Patterned and or Textured Tights
A Leather Tote
Gold and Silver Chains
Leather Boots
Antique or Vintage Broaches and Earrings

Your accessories will expand your wardrobe and allow you to further express your personality. Adding a few well-chosen details will take your overall look to the next level, setting you apart from the crowd.

Check out the current Shop Doc Podcast.

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Accessorizing is what sets us apart from the animals. The Magnificent Seven are the essential accessories that every woman needs to make the most out of her wardrobe.

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