An aspirational shoe post

Two months ago (time flies), Elizabeth Anne Mitchell got me to look at Crockett and Jones shoes, which are beautiful and expensive. Now I’ve found the site of Daphne Board, a US shoe artist and pedorthist. Also, it appears from her Instagram feed, a cat servant. Anyway, if C&J aren’t beautiful and expensive enough for you, check out Daphne. Or maybe, if you need to justify a pair of C&J shoes, look at how much more you could spend. Wouldn’t it be better to save the extra $400 you might lay out for Daphne’s welted Oxfords? And back on the first hand, consider what you spend on not-quite-right shoes. Could you clear out the ones you’re not wearing in favor of shoes you’ll wear all the time . . . for twenty years?

I’m thinking. The Chacos are good for now. I got a pair of their sandals, as well. If those will keep me out of shoe stores for three years or so, then maybe I’ll splurge on the Oxfords of my dreams.

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Mirabile dictu

I ordered a pair of Chaco’s chukka boots (say “Chaco’s chukkas” five times, fast).

(Sir John said, “Is that box shoes? Of course it’s shoes. You’re not like the women in Sex and the City in other ways . . .”)

Astonishingly, they have enough arch support that I don’t need inserts in them. I cannot remember the last time I tried on shoes of which I could say that. And yet I think I am going to send them back. They are noticeably too wide, so that the top of the shoe puckers when I lace them tightly. While they are marginally less sporty than the Kanarra trail walkers, they are still definitely a casual shoe. They look okay with a short, sporty skirt, but then, the Kanarras aren’t too bad with the same skirt. I think I’d be better off putting the money into a pair of Chaco’s sandals for summer, wearing the trail walkers with trousers, and relying on my usual shoes and boots, with inserts, for dressier outfits and occasions.

But they are so comfortable that I almost don’t care what they look like. Almost. (Still vain.) Anyway, if Pym Fan or anyone else with feet like mine is interested, the Pineland chukkas are on sale right now. Order a half size down, and enjoy the support.

Foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone

My new shoes are helping both ankles and knees. The hip is still a work in progress, so aches there may have some other cause. Nonetheless, it’s nice to have solved a couple of body problems just by buying new shoes. They are Chaco’s Kanarra, a little wide for me but acceptable with inserts and socks (and a Scarlett O’Hara style pull on the laces). I also bought some high-arch inserts to try in some of my other shoes, but after a try-on, I shrugged and went back to the Chacos. They feel good. Elegant they are not, but they are at least a discreet and sober grey, unlike my gym shoes, which nearly glow in the dark. I just wish I could find a pair of shoes that feels this good and looks acceptable with dresses. I could get a pair of Chaco’s sandals for summer . . .

 

Where did the rest of spring break go?

And how is it Thursday again?

The rest of the break was not very interesting. I shredded all the moldy (but not illegible) papers in the basement that might conduce to fraud if not shredded (though I know purely online fraud is the method of choice these days, better safe than sorry), set up assignments for the rest of the semester for one of my classes, cooked, paid bills, made plans with a friend for dinner at K’zoo, went to the gym daily, put in an hour digging out roots of bishop’s weed and bellflower in the garden (one thing I’ll say for winter, if you’re shoveling snow, you’re not weeding), ordered a pair of shoes (Merrells). The shoes’ reviews said they had moderate to excellent arch support but I found not only that their arch support was inadequate but that they forced my feet to pronate, which is very bad for my knees. So they went back the day after they arrived. I am trying to resign myself to going to an actual store with people who ought to know something about feet (but in fact will not, unless I go to a store that only sells running shoes) and driving them and me crazy trying on multiple pairs in multiple sizes from multiple brands before either giving up in disgust or buying something I don’t really like for far more than I wanted to spend.

It was a relief to return to work, where I can wear nice clothes, talk to people about literature or sit at a desk in a clean comfortable chair, and where however shabby the building and however old the texts I’m discussing, nothing is actually, literally moldy. (Not all profs have such luxurious surroundings.) I’m behind with grading (isn’t everyone, at this point?), but got very helpful feedback from my writing group about a problem I’m trying to solve in an R&R, and though I have some students with attendance problems, those that were present this week were attentive and interested in what I was teaching, so I’ll take that as a win.

In other not-exciting news, the accountant we used last year has gone out of business, but the firm we used before that (and who recommended last year’s people) will take us back, so now I have an appointment, which is to say, a deadline for assembling all the necessary and relevant pieces of paper that I’ve been trying to make myself track down and gather up for the last six weeks. I have got a haircut, visited the dry cleaner, and sent in my application for a new passport. It makes me oddly nervous to be without a passport: what if I suddenly needed to flee the country? But not nervous enough to expedite the process, since I don’t anticipate fleeing. In fact, given the news from London, I rather wonder if students will back out of the summer program I’m hoping to teach in, which would leave me at home despite the new document.

Shoe bleg

I’m vain, but not stupid.

I like cute shoes. This doesn’t mean high heels. I like a bit of heel, but I can live without it, and I may have to, going forward. I’ve had a bum ankle for years (sprained multiple times since the age of 20), and it seems like for the last most-of-a-decade I’ve been repeatedly rehabbing it from minor strains. I’ve noticed that the ankle feels better in my gym shoes, which start with some built-in arch support and then have added the arch-support inserts I’ve used in all my shoes for the last 30 years. So I can see that I need to spend more time in properly supportive shoes (not stupid). But the gym shoes are hideously neon and I refuse to be seen in them anywhere but the gym. For the moment, I’m wearing them around the house and changing when I go out (vain).

I have very high arches, as you might guess from needing to add arch supports to shoes that already have some support. All I want is a pair of black oxfords, ideally something menswear-like (wingtips?); at least not hopelessly old-lady-ish; preferably not gym shoes; with good arch support and a fairly well-cushioned sole. In other words, something that feels like gym shoes, but looks dressier. It is astonishingly difficult to find such a shoe.

So, gentle readers, any recommendations? Brands, at least?

Leeds fashion report

I’ve been to sessions, but I’m too jet-lagged to report on them. My periods of focused observation have been brief and random.

I do realize that most of us are operating under similar constraints of trying to pack for assorted activities and weather conditions in carry-on luggage, and that luggage mishaps may influence some ensembles.

Still . . . Keens and Tevas look best with sporty clothing. Think of outfits suitable for a high-end yoga class, or a cute running skirt. Not long skirts and dressy cardigans.

The dress with a print of songbirds in flowering trees, worn with dark periwinkle heels and a black shrug, that was cute.

Watercolor-print dress in aqua, yellow, and light green . . . pretty, but not with red-white-and-blue spectator pumps. Spectators are sporty-dressy, to be worn with tailored clothes, so wrong style and wrong colors.

Black top, cardigan, skirt and tights, with purple ballerina flats: very nice.

Tailored, vaguely safari-ish skirted suit on older woman with mobility problems: very appropriate, well-chosen colors, goes with the sensible shoes, looks like you’re making an effort without risking injury to feet, ankles, or knees.

It’s amazing how a plain woman can turn into a jolie laide by dressing carefully and neatly in a figure-flattering outfit with classic accessories and tidy hair.

Dresses really do look a lot more pulled-together, in general, than outfits with more pieces.

This all sounds embarrassingly shallow, and even hypocritical, considering that I am wearing my Ugly Shoes (without the ankle brace this year [woot!], though I brought it just in case), many-pocketed quick-drying travel trousers, and an unexceptionable grey pullover that is almost as good as an Invisibility Cloak. But I like to look at people who are nicely dressed, perhaps the more so because I’m dressing for the Ugly Shoes. Maybe it’s time for a safari suit.

Bracing up

We will draw a veil over the months of intermittent pain, and the recent visit to a very annoying orthopedist who needs training in how to listen and how to answer questions. The bottom line is that for the next two weeks I will be laced into what I am trying to think of as an ankle corset.

A corset, after all, can be sexy, an object of fantasy and fetish. Much more attractive than a brace.

But when you think about the basic purpose of corsets, it gets hard to keep up the fantasy. They constrict; they make it hard to move at a brisk or even normal pace. If worn, now, as outer wear, they are clearly costume. If worn for their original purpose, modern clothing does not fit well over them; once more, you wind up in costume.

And this is what is happening to me, and my plans for an English travel wardrobe. Most of my shoes, particularly those I was going to take with me, do not fit once I’m laced into the ankle corset. It hides under trousers, but looks fairly awful with a skirt. Part of me says, “Who cares? Dress as you like down to the ankles, and then if you’re in brace and special shoes, it’s clear you’re making an effort despite your impairment.” And part of me says, “I’d rather hide it. I cannot bring myself to wear athletic shoes with a skirt, in London, where most people are well dressed.”

So I went shopping. Instead of a skirt, I’m taking another pair of trousers, and I bought two pair of shoes that are flat, hideous, comfortable, and not white with colored trim. One pair of black lace-ups, work shoes, the next thing to hiking shoes; one pair of brown Mary Janes, with bold stitching and wide toes, cute if you like sporty German-style casual shoes, which I’m not usually a fan of. I’m more the penny-loafer type. But I need flat shoes that can both accommodate the brace and fit the unbraced foot, hence lace-ups and adjustable straps. And multiple pairs of socks.

I thought about substituting a pair of lace-up boots for the brace; then I could have gone neo-Victorian in style: a little costume-y, but within academic tolerances, and perhaps not inappropriate for my itinerary. But the ones I have don’t lace high enough, and it is not a good time of year to buy boots in local stores. There wasn’t time to order online and take delivery before I leave. So I’m bracing myself.

It’s not as if anyone is going to notice or care. It’s just that I tend to deal with my travel anxiety by obsessing over the clothes I pack, and I dislike having the plan disrupted at the last minute.

It’s all about the shoes

I went to graduation this morning. I scored a seat in the front row, perfect for getting up to congratulate students I recognized as they came off the stage, and also giving an unobstructed view of the footgear. My students this term told me they knew it was important to wear interesting shoes to graduation, to keep the faculty entertained. So let’s see what shoes stuck in my mind. (I did not take notes; this is purely what was memorable.)

There were many tasteful pairs of black high heels, some shiny, some open-toed, some serious spikes, some platforms. I also saw a lot of red patent leather, a few flats, some spikes, one dark red lizard print. High-heeled gladiator sandals were also popular, and there were several pairs of metallic gold pumps, as well as a glitzy silver-sequinned set.

Of my current students, the only one whose shoes I recall was a young man who always came to class in loafers and a leather blazer, but today was wearing olive drab canvas sneakers and a headwrap under his mortarboard (he does not have the kind of hair that needs to be wrapped to make it smooth). I don’t know what that was about. Oh, and the double major (Art and English) wore her usual red ballet flats with jeans; it’s her signature look, sort of Audrey Hepburn-esque.

A student from last fall had a lovely pair of sapphire blue suede heels, with a chunky heel. I added to my congratulations, “Nice shoes!” and she said, “Thank you! I wanted something special, and you know, there are so many people wearing shoes that just don’t say ‘Graduation.'” I had to agree. I don’t care how many crystals and gewgaws you add, or how good your pedicure is; flip-flops just don’t seem right for an occasion like graduation, in the opinion of this old fogey. In fact, I prefer closed-toe shoes rather than sandals for such an event, though I would accept a nice pair of peep-toe slingbacks. Someone wore such a pair, in a black-and-white spectator style.

Another black-and-white pair I liked were flats, a floral print. I noted a pair of sporty yet fashionable athletic-style shoes, in tan, on the feet of a woman probably in her fifties getting her bachelor’s degree, and I thought, “There is someone who knows the value of comfortable feet, but she did get new shoes for this, all the same.”

There were two pairs of high-heeled, pointy-toed shoes that stood out for color: one bright pink, one neon orange. I admired a pair of wedges where the top was brown and the wedge was a sort of houndstooth print in brown and cream. One young lady matched her golden yellow honors stole to golden yellow high-heeled sandals, with toenail polish a few shades lighter: that was impressive. And a doctoral student had very high-heeled leopard-print shoes, which stood out because usually the Ph.D.s wear much tamer (and often more comfortable) shoes: these students are older, busier, concerned more with substance than style.

Men usually don’t have memorable shoes. One wore very pointy-toed shoes with a black-and-white chessboard effect; that got our attention. And I find I do not care either for tassels on men’s shoes, or for patent-leather tipping on a plain leather men’s shoe. If you must have patent leather, let it be the entire shoe.

My prize-winning most memorable: pink wedges, where the top was hot pink and the wedge was pink with white polka-dots.

Congratulations, graduates!