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Happy Thanksgiving

Ah, Thanksgiving, the day on which people all over the great United States of America come together to gorge themselves on turkey and pretend they prefer foodie Aunt Clara’s pomegranate confit with pink shallot relish to the can-shaped cranberry deliciousness that won the Cold War.

Considering the American importance of the date –not only is it Thanksgiving, it’s the 49th anniversary of JFK assassination– I should do a retrospective of Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis’ fondness for Roger Vivier’s pilgrim pumps.

Unfortunately, I’m both lazy and jetlagged and so here’s a snap of the La Veuve Kennedy four years later in full New York swing sporting a pair of Vivier’s iconic buckled beauties.

Oh, and also a ridiculous platter of pumps.

White satin for autumn? I mean honestly.

Espadrille Hunting in Barcelona

I’m a bottle of wine, several razor-thin slices of Iberico ham and one digestif that tastes like burning tires into my afternoon recovery and I am still not emotionally prepared to discuss the heartache involved in finding La Manual Alpargatera, the century-old purveyor of espadrilles deep in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.

Handmade espadrilles taunting me

In the spirit of full disclosure, I really should’ve written down the address and not relied on the kooky idea that everyone would be as excited as I was about a sandal shop that’s been around since Wilbur Wright showed King Alfonso XIII the intricacies of his fabulous flying machine.

Alas, that was my first mistake.

My second mistake was a classic Southern one: relying on the kindness of strangers.

The anti-tourist sentiment in Barcelona is somewhat justifiably strong, and although I understand the feeling of having your city ruined by monied interlopers (does anyone remember how cool Austin used to be?) I am pretty much the ideal tourist, so I was surprised that the chill in the air came from the residents, not the weather system.

I mean seriously, I’m friendly, respectful, I speak the language (okay I speak Spanish not Catalan, but for an American that’s not half bad), I not only know, but actively care about how many weeks Carles Puyol, the questionably-coiffed captain of their beloved football team was out with an ugly elbow injury and I always, always differentiate between Catalunya and Spain. Plus I’ve got a big rack, and you know those things are accepted more places than Visa.

Xavi (left) and Carles Puyol could have had a V8

Xavi (left) and Carles Puyol could have had a V8.

Thankfully we ran into The Nicest Woman in Catalunya, proprietress of a little specialty food shop near the spectacular Palau de Music who not only laughed with us when she heard the completely awful directions one Barcelona denizen gave us, but drew us a map, and invited us to dinner if we were ever back in town.

We trekked the approximate six million city blocks back to the little shoe shop, located down an appealingly dark alley, spied the hundreds of colorful handmade espadrilles in the window and with a song in our hearts and euros in our pockets grabbed the door handle only to find it was closed.

Defeated, Hot Latin Boy and I slumped into a cab to go back to our hotel for a little siesta and liver damage a few minutes after 4:00. It was then, dear reader, I opened a minimized window on my laptop to discover the shoe shop wasn’t closed for the day. It reopened at 4:30.

I might try my luck again tomorrow if I’m still capable of self-ambulation, but I’ve got a little flamenco shop I want to visit to buy fans for the women in our dance troupe, and I figure I should start drawing a map right now. And also wear a minimizing bra. I tell you, these things are useless.

 

 

Ask Miss Plumcake: Horsey Shoes

First of all, I’m not going to brag or anything, but I am typing this while getting a foot rub.

This is unusual for two reasons: one, because I stopped letting people touch my feet after I caught my longtime pedicurist discussing my particular toe situation and bandying about the phrase “pterodactyl” with a bit more ease than I found comforting. Second because I can rarely be called upon to do two things at once, especially if one of those things involves lotion and a lithe Latin athlete. It’s a miracle I can even type coherently.

Still, it’s important to branch out, and in that vein, superfantastic reader Annie has queried yours truly for a bit of styling advice:

Annie writes:

An Irish tweed jacket, wide wale corduroy pants, scrunchy turtleneck. I’m trying to pull off a vaguely horsey look, a far cry from my usual style. But what to put on my feets? Please help.

Dearest Annie,

Thank you for providing an excellent opportunity to differentiate between fashion and costume. The obvious choice would be riding boots. They’re incredibly trendy and appropriate for a horsey look. However, that errs a little on the side of costumey or, as fashion people would say, “literal.”

Sure it’s cute, but it’s boring and not very good fashion.

Instead, let me suggest a slightly whimsical brogue like the Joyce English Brogue from Dr. Martens.

Stay with me now.

A literal interpretation of a look can be predictable at best, but a little lateral thinking can keep the focus without looking like you’re dressed up AS something.

When I think horsey and tweed, I think British, and then I think British eccentric, which a fantastic combination of ultra classic conservative with a little bit of restrained kookiness for good measure. The tiny floral print which would be twee on a more feminine shoe (and looks way cuter on the foot than the screen) adds a bit of quirky interest without Deschaneling it to death. You know what I mean by Deschaneling right? like “HELLO HAVE YOU NOTICED I AM QUIRKY, WHICH IS BASICALLY THE SAME AS ANNOYING BUT WITH STRIP LASHES.” man, I couldn’t be more over that nonsense if I had a pole vault and a jet pack. Blinking is not a skill set,  Zooey.

Thanks for writing in, Annie!

Gin and Tonics,

Miss Plumcake

If you have a styling question for Miss Plumcake, put it in the comments or email me at plumcake@shoeblogs.com.  You might get your query featured right here on the blog!

The One That Got Away

When I started curating my shoe collection nearly a decade ago –when Lacroix still had his atelier, Gaultier was CD for Hermès and Muccia Prada’s current models were still fetuses instead of just practically ones– I did so with the knowledge that someday the newspaper gravy train, where I was raking in tens of dollars a month, would end.

I bought carefully and within my means, bringing home a pair of new lovelies only if I could pay cash and was confident they’d be just as stylish thirty years from the moment I stood, insidey parts all a-tingle, at the Neiman Marcus jewelry counter where my wisecracking sales associate always secretly checked me out so I wouldn’t have to wait in line like an animal.

That means my collection errs on the conservative side.

Good shoes are too expensive if they’ll look foolish after two seasons, and capable bank robbers willing to share their bounty with law abiding fat girls in heels don’t grow on trees, at least they didn’t in Texas.

Several years ago, I fell in love with a shoe.

Not just any shoe, the green python Anniversary pump, the cornerstone shoe for Dior’s entire magnificent collection, a far cry from the demure Valentinos I was collecting at the time.

It rung bells in belfries I didn’t even know I had.

My favorite house, referencing my favorite fashion era, using my favorite material in my favorite color. The only way they could’ve been more suited to me is if they came with a free chiseled commitment-minded footballer who loved to give foot massages as a gift with purchase.

Sadly, it was not to be. I did manage to locate a pair in fuchsia kid leather and I do adore them, but my beloved green Anniversaries got away and even though the shoeniverse eventually tried to make it up to me by sending me that foot-rubbing footballer, it’s just not the same.

What about you? What’s your one wearable that truly got away?

Do The Right Thing

Whether Democrat,

Republican,

Or otherwise affiliated,

Get out there are vote! Oh, and click the images for links.

For All The Saints (okay, just one, but he’s fabulous)

A little Yves Saint Laurent for All Saints Day. Yes, I coordinate my designers with the liturgical calendar. Don’t judge me, I’m pretty sure I’m the only person to play Jesus while wearing a pair of oxblood Christian Lacroix sandals with a cream crocodile sculpted heel. In your face, Jim Caviezel!


Click the images for links. Sadly, the heels –could you die over those emerald soles?– don’t come in size elephant foot, but anyone who wears size 10 and below is in luck.

Shoes in Cinema: Kinky Boots

I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing cobblers glue.

I’m in Virginia now, and although the worst seems to be over, the whole DC Metro area got pounded like British currency. My fella, Hot Latin Boy, is holding down the fort at Plumcake Cottage in Baja, Mexico where a previously inactive volcano has started to be less inactive as one might hope. Frankly I’m just one Aimee Mann song away from that crazy scene in Magnolia and I’m pretty sure my wiper blades won’t be able to take it.

I’ve got this weird survivalist streak that means my hatches were battened down days ago, and friends, let me tell you: once I batten something, it stays battened, so my best friend and I had nothing to do but watch old movies and wait for the power to go out.

Miraculously, our grid has stayed up and we made it all the way through my All Time Favorite Movie About Shoes: Kinky Boots.

I have been told by people who would know that I was at the American premier of Kinky Boots, but I’m not entirely sure that’s true. I was working for a film festival  so it’s certainly possible, and that was the year I discovered the magical hallucinatory powers derived from a heady combination of extreme sleep deprivation and a diet consisting entirely of Chupa Chups lollipops and absolutely unforgivable cheap champagne. Still, I’d like to think I’d remember something.

It’s not every day you see a six-foot tall black British man with a voice for Othello in a wig for Diana Ross, at least not since my circuit party days.

For those who were also chasing the Chupa Chups dragon and managed to miss it, Kinky Boots revolves around Charlie Price whose family has been making high-quality men’s footwear for over a hundred years. When the company hits the skids thanks to an influx of cheap competition, he realizes his factory must change or die.

Enter Lola, a SoHo (the proper one, not the fake Yankee one) drag performer with a penchant for red patent leather, riding crops and Eartha Kitt.

Although it’s based on a true story, it is a bit formulaic, but so was Romeo and Juliet and they didn’t even have cute shoes (well, maybe they did, they WERE Italian) but it’s well worth a watch if only for the soundtrack and the Blue Angel Boys.


(ignore the cheesy American voiceover. Please.)

So what’s your favorite movie about shoes? The Wizard of Oz? The Red Shoes? Or maybe it’s just a scene. Put it in the comments!

Multiple Choice Time: Dolce & Gabbana

I’m going to Italy with two pairs of shoes. Talk about a tough decision. I mean, it’s Italy. That’s where the shoes were BORN. Selecting one pair of flats and one of heels was like Sophie’s Choice, except you can always have more kids, but Miu Miu only made those vernice slingbacks one season.

As much as I’d like to traipse around the cobblestones of Italia in my most precarious heels, it’s not going to happen. You need to be either a billy goat or an Italian woman to carry that off and since I am neither (although I do share their mutual predisposition to facial hair), I had to leave my fanciest foot coverings at home.

My grandfather, whose mother was Scottish and father was Welsh, used to tell us we were Italian.

Familial legend has it two Italian brothers were shipwrecked on the coast of Wales sometime in the early 19th century and settled down with a pair of local girls. Although it would explain the slightly Italianate name before the fine folks at Ellis Island decided to change it, I suspect it’s mostly fanciful thinking, much like how he told me his got his kidney shot out by a specialized kidney sniper in Okinawa (he was born with only one).

Dolce & Gabbana have been playing the Italian card even harder than usual lately and I have loved every minute of it. I’m especially excited to see the low, ladylike heel from seasons past show up again in the SS2013 collection.

I mean, I love a 5″ ankle buster as much as the next girl, but I’m already 5’10″ and now that I’m in a dance company in a nation where I passed the average height for men in the fifth grade, I’ve got to be careful about heel height lest my partner for the evening inadvertently end up wearing my sweaterpuppies for earmuffs.

 

So which Dolce & Gabbana is your favorite? I like the colorful kitten heel, although the whimsical side of me is crazy for the references to Roman aqueducts and Ionic columns.

Found in Translation

…with varying degrees of success.

Heels from Malene Birger, Reed Krakoff and Giambattista Valli all available on considerable sale from The Outnet.

Holy Grail Ballet Flat

Once upon a time I wrote about a gorgeous pair of Alexander McQueen crocodile pumps that were available for something like 90% off. I’d tried them on at the Barneys mothership in Manhattan when they first came out and had been whispering sweet nothings to them in my mind for about a year and a half.

There was only one pair –my size– and instead of buying them –sensitive readers might want to look away now– I blogged them. Someone bought them, and instead of having my beloved McQueens, I had heartburn for a week.

I only mention that most unfortunate event because, in a rare example of learning from my mistakes, I waited to post about the Lux ballet flat from Bloch London until every color in my size had wended their way to my little cottage by the sea.

They might be, and I say this without hyperbole, the most comfortable ballet flats I’ve ever owned. Most folks, if they know about Bloch at all, know them as manufacturers of dance shoes, so the flats are engineered not just for maximum cuteness, but for flexibility and padding.

They’re also a true turnshoe, meaning they’re made entirely inside out on the last. There are a whole mess of reasons making turned shoes are both highly desirably and highly inconvenient (read about making pointe shoes in the turnshoe style here) but the only one I care about is the fact you can abuse them much more than a regular welted flat without them abusing you right back.

Fit Note: Bloch as a brand tends to run a little small, but the Lux runs true to size if not a half size large. I cracked a fresh pair right out of the box today and walked along uneven pavement for about an hour with just a little heel irritation.

 

Magic Foot-Ensmallening Shoes from Gucci

I am not going to pretend I spend a lot of time worrying whether my feet look big.

I didn’t especially worry about it before, and now that I live in Mexico where the directions to my remote beach cottage involve, “turn left on the dirt road by the big pile of rocks onto the trail that looks like you could probably drive across it and turn right just before you hit sand. If you drive into a dolphin or other surprised marine creature, you’ve gone too far” whether my big feet do, in fact, look big usually gets pushed into the the “Bigger fish to fry” cavity of my sunbleached brain.

That being said, I do notice when a shoe makes my size 41′s look especially petite.

Enter the Viola from Gucci.

A few years ago during one especially torridly hot summer, I found a pair of bottle green silk velvet sandals in just this shape on practically obscene markdown at The Happiest Place on Earth, a.k.a, Neiman Marcus Last Call.

I’m pretty sure they’re Sergio Rossi and not Gucci –I’d check but they’re languishing somewhere in a storage facility stateside– but the moment I strapped them on, they made my Bob Terwilligers look like Tinkerbell toes.

They’re a festive party shoe, giving a bit of visual weight to anchor a cocktail dress without being full-on editorial.

Oh, and if you’re ever looking for a way to perk up your velvet shoes, set them in the steamiest part of your bathroom as you take a hot shower. Then rough up the nap with a shoebrush (an old toothbrush works too), let them cool a bit and brush the nap back into place.

 

 

 

Fab Four: Wearable Midheels for Fall

Ah midheels, after a decade of skyscraper stilettos, the humble midheel is not only a sensible choice, but a surprisingly fresh one.


The mustard suede Salvatore Ferragamo Dalia has an elegantly balanced Louis heel and is on serious sale for an investment shoe.

The Maris from Paul Green is an easy schlepping around town heel, when one wants a bit of style to go with the schlep.

Although they’ve moved their manufacturing to China, Frye still offers great American classics like the  Regina Pump. Wouldn’t it be nice if they still made them in the USA?

King of the fabric shoes Badgley Mischka  offers the Monika. Remember, formal events, especially in the evening, require fabric, not leather shoes, and these fit the bill without being too bridal party.

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