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The Tragic Beauty of Vintage Shoes

N.B. Our friend the Legatrix, who last time wrote about the ill-omened hairdos, is back with the post that the Manolo thinks is brilliant.

I love vintage clothing. The cut, elegance, and craftsmanship of clothing from the 1930s to the 1960s have always captivated me. Perhaps it’s because I can’t separate the fashions of those decades from the films. I’ve got my Bette Davis suits, my Barbara Stanwyck blouses, and my Jayne Mansfield sweaters. I wear my vintage pieces for work and play, mixing them up with current clothes to keep anything from looking costumey. I love the art of vintage clothing construction so much that I’ve even bought scraps of vintage dresses only to admire the exquisite handsewn beadwork left on pieces of shattered silk. But there’s one place I draw the line: vintage shoes. (Cue outrage and indignation from all the vintage fashionistas out there.)

Here’s the deal. Unless you’re a collector who hangs fancy shoes from your Christmas tree, don’t buy vintage shoes. No matter how curvaceous the vamp, well-turned the heel, or smooth the skin (yes, we’re still talking about shoes,) try to resist their siren song. I speak from experience. Over the decades, leather weakens, glue dries out, and stitching breaks. However accomplished your cobbler, he cannot restore such shoes to wearable condition. So when you consider buying a pair of vintage shoes, ask yourself, “Do I feel lucky?”

Right now I have two pairs of vintage shoes. I wear neither of them. Because for every pair of vintage shoes presently in my closet, three died painful, public, embarrassing deaths. There isn’t a place in New York City where I haven’t wiped out in a pair of gorgeous vintage heels. I went down in a blaze of pantyhose when my 1940s snakeskin ankle-straps disintegrated underfoot at Columbia University. I landed skirt-over-face on a midtown sidewalk when the heels of my 1950s cherry-red babydolls snapped clear off beneath me. And, apart from the concussion, I can’t remember what happened after a pair of 1930s golden sandals gave out in the East Village.

So rather than risk your hard-earned money on a pair of shoes that may leave you and your virtue(s) splayed out on the pavement for all to see, save your pennies for new shoes with a vintage vibe.

These crisp white lace-ups from Chloe remind me of the Katharine Hepburn’s sporty chic look.

Katherine Hepburn Wearing Shoes That Look Like They're From Chloe

Kate says, 'If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.'

They’re reminiscent of the ghillies that were popular in the 1940s, but are miles away from the orthopedic ones your nana still wears.

And these deceptively simple Kate Spade pumps, with their almond-shaped toe and low, curved vamp, are reminiscent of Jean Harlow’s infamous “where’s my shoe?” scene in Red-Headed Woman.

Jean Harlow wearing Kate Spade?

Jean Harlow says, 'Do it again! I like it!'

The heel is narrower than you’d see on a shoe from the 1930s, but the sleek and subtle curves are emphatically art deco. They’d be as fitting at the office as they would out on date night.

And finally, there are these shoes from Salvatore Ferragamo. Every time I see them, they bring Sophia Loren to mind. Like her, they’re classic and restrained, yet unabashedly sexy.

Sofia Loren wearing vintage Ferragamo?

Sofia tells Salvatore, 'Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.'

Getting the ‘Drille

N.B. Today, our dear friend, the always amusing Miss Cavendish, talks the espadrilles.

I became intrigued by espadrilles when I visited Cuba, a number of years ago.

There to experience the island’s university system, I spent an evening at the Hotel Armadores de Santander, a grand hotel in old Havana.  In the morning, I opened the French doors that led to a pink-tiled deck overlooking the Malecón. 

A previous guest had forgotten—or left behind—her sky-blue espadrilles; they sat contentedly under a table, all sun-and-salt-water bleached beauty.

What was so appealing about this humble mix of cotton canvas and jute?  Exactly that: the simplicity of design, the thoughtful color, and the fact that the espadrilles had been much loved (or much worn, at the least; they were abandoned).

This spring, designers have been in a flurry as they reimagine the classic espadrille, with looks that range from pretty to the truly eccentric. 

Here’s the “Tahiti espadrille pump” from Dior, which seems to be a fancy drink umbrella and shoe all in one;

 

The “cage” espadrille by Yves Saint Laurent;

 

Lanvin’s ballet-inspired “French” espadrille, in satin;

 

Kate Spade’s “Lido,” which conjures happy visions of bathing huts at the beach, or perhaps the stripes on Tadzio’s sweater in Death in Venice;

 

Tory Burch’s version, with her ubiquitous logo.  If I could coin a portmanteau, I might call it toobiquitous;

 

Ralph Lauren’s winning platform ankle wrap in a neutral tobacco;

 

a classic picnic-blanket version from Castaner, the Spanish company that has been making espadrilles since 1927;

 

the Tamariu tie espadrilles, worn to spectacular effect by Penelope Cruz in Volver (remember the from-the-beneath-the-bed shot?);

 

and this curious inclusion from Bergdorf Goodman’s website.  Made by Prada, this “espadrille” reflects neither the traditional espadrille materials nor design.  I call it the “ugly ’drille-ing.” (It’s more macaw than swan, though.)

 

My favorite espadrille remains the classic model, made in either Spain or France, without embellishment—the kind that can be kicked off at the beach or worn in town. 

Which model would gentle readers choose as the winner of their “Espy” award?

Manolo the Columnist: Flash from Kate Spade New York

Manolo says, here is the Manolo’s latest column for the Express of the Washington Post.

Dear Manolo

Do you have any super fantastic holiday shoe suggestions for those of us who are very pregnant and are therefore having to stick with flats this year or risk falling into a snow bank?

Anne

Manolo dances,
All the pregnant ladies
All the pregnant ladies,

All the pregnant ladies,
All the pregnant ladies,

All the pregnant ladies,
Put your bellies up
Up in the air, you just threw up
Got the queasy stomach
Wear them flop flips, but now you bout to trip
Cuz another shoe failed you
You up on heels, but then you off
Throw them in the compactor
Cuz you cried your tears, it’s the end of the year
Can’t wear the barefeets

Cuz its Christmas and you gotta put some shoes on it
Feet are swollen and you gotta put some shoes on em.
Office party, so gotta put some shoes on it.
Feet are swollen and you gotta put some shoes on em.

Wo oh ooh oh oh ooh oh oh ooh oh oh oh

Look! Here are the super fantastic spangly flats, the Flash from the Kate Spade New York, the sort of shoes that will make you want to strut your swollen stuff.

Flash Flats from Kate Spade New York

Holiday Shoes 2010: Giada from Kate Spade

Giada from Kate Spade New York

Manolo says, the Holidays of the 2010, they have arrived!

And you will need, as everyone does, the red-colored, velveteen, platform shoes with the sparkly dots… and you have looked everywhere for them, the low and the high, but you could not find them… but then, just as you had given up… ¡mira!… there they are, the Giada from Kate Spade!

And, now, all you need is the dress to go with them.

Manolo the Columnist: Marli Too from Kate Spade

Manolo say, here is the Manolo latest column for the Express of the Washington Post.

Dear Manolo,

My in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving, and my problem is that my mother-in-law is always making these remarks about how I don’t dress up enough. My husband is an only child, so I don’t think she really understands what it’s like to raise three young boys. However, I’m going to make the effort. Can you suggest something that will make me look super fantastic while I’m basting a turkey?

Melissa

Manolo says, while the Manolo deplores the in-laws who get all up in one’s business with the catty comments, the Manolo also deplores how the most important of our family ceremonies are now merely one more opportunity to loosen the drawstrings on the pants of sweat.

And so, the Manolo must applaud his friend’s decision to dress up, even if she is doing so only to please the sharp-tongued person who should be locked out on to the back patio like the misbehaving family dog.

But, we are civilized peoples of good breeding and common sense, and so we cannot force this woman to stand in the snow, her nose pressed against the sliding glass door, watching her family eat turkey. In the stead, we must turn the other cheek, and tolerate the barbs as best we can, because it is better when we show the generous spirit to those we love, even when they are not generous with us. For remember, one day, in the not too distant future, your own daughters-in-law will wish to banish you to the patio.

Here is the Marli Too from Kate Spade New York the remarkably comfortable wedge heeled shoe favored, according to the New York Times, by the lady politicians, and who knows better how to smile politely while being insulted than the lady politicians?
Marli Too Wedge from Kate Spade

Manolo the Columnist: Bet from Kate Spade New York

Manolo says, here is the Manolo’s latest column for the Express of the Washington Post.

Dear Manolo,

I have been invited to attend my boyfriend’s company holiday party this year and am very excited because I’ve been told it is usually an extravagant and rollicking good time. Unfortunately, it takes place at the baseball stadium for our local professional team and while the invitation sets out a dress code of anywhere from cocktail to evening, it does also warn that in previous years, women wearing stilettos have had some problems walking around in the infield where apparently many of the activities take place. The invitation actually goes so far as to suggest ladies wear flats with their cocktail and evening dresses. I’m a reasonably tall girl who believes in maximizing my height wherever possible, so something inside me recoils at the suggestion of wearing flat shoes with whatever stunning party dress I come up with. My brilliant solution to this dilemma is to wear wedge heels to the party but I am a little concerned by the fact that wedges tend to have a more casual vibe and I am definitely looking for something sexy and glamorous in my shoe solution. Can you recommend some fabulous wedges worthy of building a holiday part outfit around?

Sam

Manolo says, as the Manolo’s friend has recognized, it is indeed difficult to find the wedge heel shoe that would be suitable for wearing to the formalish affair, even one at the baseball field, and which will most likely feature the peanuts, the crackerjacks and the feet-long sausages.

The problem with the wedge shoe is that it is inherently “funky”, having the lingering associations with the jitterbugging girls of the 1940s, and tie-dyed hippies of the 1960s, two groups whom one does not associate with the elegant soiree clothing.

And so, the Manolo would first recommend to his friend that she again consider wearing the flats shoe, for there are many, many sparkly-elegant ballet flats that could very easily meet her needs. However, if she persists in her desire to tower over others, perhaps she should try to stand on the pitcher’s mound, holding court from that elevated height. But, if this is not practical, here is the Bet from Kate Spade New York, the demi-wedge sandal in gold or silver that would be suitable in the pinch.

Bet from Kate Spade New York

The Lady Politicians’ Shoe of Choice

Manolo says, it is the Kate Spade Wedge!

Despite the three-inch wedge heels on her black patent leather shoes, after hours of walking, Ms. Saujani, a former hedge-fund general counsel and a successful political fund-raiser, seemed as calmly cheerful as she did at the outset of the day.

Finally, as we returned to her office, I asked: About those shoes?

“They’re the Kate Spade wedges,” she said, sagging slightly, as if she had only just then been reminded that she had feet. “They’re these politician-woman shoes.”
Marli Too from Kate Spade
She had gotten the tip from someone who worked for Hillary Rodham Clinton. They are apparently something of an “it” shoe right now for women in politics: Ms. Saujani said that Kathleen M. Rice, who is running for attorney general, also wore them (a photograph on Ms. Rice’s Facebook page bears that out). The chief of staff for a prominent woman in Congress told me that she, too, religiously relied on her Kate Spade wedge heels (though she spoke on the condition of anonymity because she preferred not to be known for her brand of footwear).

“They’re very comfy,” said Annie Mullaly, Ms. Saujani’s finance director. “They’re like Crocs. You’ll see them everywhere once you’ve identified them.”

[...]

But the Kate Spade wedge heels are not just one candidate’s shoes. They seem to be the shoes of a circle of younger women aspiring to power or already in it, women directly and indirectly passing on to one another ways of navigating the particular challenges of being a woman in the public eye. A woman must look put-together, but not as if she is a slave to fashion; she must look groomed, but never be spotted grooming.

That is all well and good if you want to look like the politician, however, if your tastes run to the slightly more aggressive, and you wish perhaps to make the statement on the campaign trail…

Belle by Sigerson Morrison Over-the-Knee Boots

Allow the Manolo to suggest these over-the-knee Boots from Belle by Sigerson Morrison as being worthy of consideration.

With these on your feets, you would not ask for the votes, you would command them!

P.S. The Manolo has long been the fan of the Kate Spade shoes, for exactly the reason cited above, they are well-made, reasonably comfortable, and perfectly suitable for the working girl.

Manolo the Columnist: Graham by Kate Spade

Manolo says, here is the Manolo’s latest column for the Express of the Washington Post.

Dear Manolo,

I’m attending a wedding this summer in upstate New York and have been told to expect a formal affair with tents, oriental carpets in the grass, and silver candlesticks on hay bales in the “old Adirondack style.” Although I’m not completely sure what that entails, I expect that a dress inspired by the age of the Great Gatsby (without being too obvious) would be appropriate and fun. Can you suggest shoes along the same lines?

Kelly

Manolo says, such is the power of association that when the Manolo hears the words “Old Adirondack” he thinks of the wooden lawn chair with the peeling paint, although, upon deeper reflection, he also thinks of the entire family of rustic woodsy furniture, imposing log mansions shingled in bark, and moose antlers, many, many moose antlers.

He also recalls the single time he visited the Adirondacks, many years ago, when his hosts — outdoorsy people of great stamina and robustness — convinced the Manolo to accompany them on the “little hike”.

It should go without the saying that the Manolo is the leisurely stroller, not the vigorous hiker, and thus by the end of this backcountry endurance test the sort of litter had been arranged from birch poles and coats, upon which the Manolo was conveyed back to civilization.

Here is the Graham from Kate Spade, the platinum shoe with the Daisy Buchanan-ish t-strap and the bow, perfect for all your Gatsby-based occasions.
Graham by Kate Spade

Manolo the Columnist: Karolina by Kate Spade

Manolo says, here is the Manolo’s latest column for the Express of the Washington Post.

Dear Manolo,

I am defending my dissertation next month. In other words, I’ll be on my feet for two hours undergoing the academic version of the Spanish Inquisition! I need a beautiful, professional shoe with a WHOLE lot of support. Can you recommend something that will help me feel confident, yet comfortable?

Harmony

Manolo says, Huzzah! The triumphant culmination of your twenty-five years of education approaches!

And to think, all it took was seven years of living on ramen noodles, stomach acid, and library paste. That, and the massive student loans that will only be eradicated by the violent act of God, such as the meteor strike or the sun going super nova.

Of the course, there is one minor teeny detail that must be taken care of before you can join the rest of the underemployed adjuncts down at the hobo jungle: your dissertation defense!

Yes, these things are supposed to be the semi-formality, the friendly gathering of fond professors ushering their prize student into the academic afterlife. But then you remember that Professor X will be there. Professor X, the sworn enemy of your advisor, the person who has publicly vowed to see your beloved Dr. Sweetheart “burn in the fiery pits of Hades, tormented for all eternity by vengeful demons” (Who knew people could get so worked up about Emily Dickinson?)

Ah, well, at least you will have the handsome and comfortable shoes, because you will be wearing the Karolina from Kate Spade, in the beautiful camel tan patent finish.

Karolina from Kate Spade

Manolo the Columnist: Cage from Kate Spade

Manolo says, here is the Manolo’s latest column for the Express of the Washington Post.

Dear Manolo

Recent times have not been good to me in the love/life department and I’ve decided it’s time to brush myself off and start anew. I have a summer of many events coming up and would like to look superfabulous to turn the boys heads. I’ve never put the investment into a particularly fabulous shoe and I’m wondering if you have any suggestions.

Katie

Manolo says, many of the Manolo’s friends are under the misapprehension that young men pay attention to the shoes of the young ladies.

This is not the case.

Unless the young man is the shoe fetishist, or the differently persuaded fancy lad (who would in no case be interested in you romantically) it is unlikely that any young man would even notice your shoes. Indeed, asked to choose good shoes for their girlfriends, most young men would pick the red plastic stripper shoes, with the lucite platforms, and the six inch spike heels.

And, yet the beautiful, sexy, super fantastic shoes are vitally important, because when you wear the beautiful shoes you feel better about yourself, more confident and self-assured. You stand taller and walk straighter, which is exactly what the boys do respond to. In the other words, most men cannot distinguish between the t-strap and the ankle-strap and yet, if your beautiful shoes make you feel more beautiful, you will be more beautiful to others.

Here is the Cage from Kate Spade, the sexy, sophisticated sandals guaranteed to make you feel good about yourself.

Cage Sandals from Kate Spade

Manolo the Columnist: Evie from Kate Spade

Manolo says, here is the Manolo’s latest column for the Express of the Washington Post.

Dear Manolo,

I’m getting married in two months to the best guy in the world, pretty much my Prince Charming. Thus far, all of the wedding planning has gone as smoothly as possible except for one thing: I’m 6’1” tall, exactly one half inch taller than my husband-to-be. I have no problem wearing heels when we’re together, and he likes it that I’m tall, so normally I wouldn’t consider not wearing heels. But, for my wedding, I don’t want to tower over him by three inches. Please recommend a pair of fabulous low-heeled wedding shoes.

Mona

Manolo says, the Manolo wishes that tall girls would no longer worry about this sort of thing. However, the Manolo also knows that weddings are the dramatically artificial events in which, like the land of Disney, stressed out people labor mightily, in secret, to make every detail conform to the fairy tale.

Because of this desire for aesthetic perfection, slovenly couch potatoes, both male and female, are forcibly scrubbed, trimmed and coifed all over, dressed in the fancy clothes and then prodded to remain upright and standing for nearly one whole hour,

Likewise, tall women are required to wear low-heeled shoes so that the men appear sufficiently manly and the women sufficiently girly. (As the aside, why does the Manolo never receive frantic missives from short grooms looking for fashionable elevator shoes?)

Look, here is the kitten heeled Evie from Kate Spade, available in virginal white, or the slightly-fallen-angel ivory.

Evie from Kate Spade

Lady Bugs from Kate Spade For the First Monday in Spring

Manolo says, it is Monday and you are back at your desk, working in the coal mine, going down, down, down. Well, perhaps it is not exactly that bad, but you know, now that spring has sprung you wish you could be outside, sniffing the flowers and watching the bunnies frolic in the meadow.

But, what can you do? You must trade your time and honest efforts for someone else’s moneys

And, besides, it is not as if you know how to use your own time so well.

Indeed, you just had two whole days away from your place of employment, and so is it your boss’s fault that you spent it sitting on the couch watching NCAA basketball and doing the laundry?

Sigh.

Oh, to live in Candyland, where every day is bright with color and filled sweet treats!

Look! Here is the Izzie from Kate Spade.
Izzie Sandal from Kate Spade

If cutesy-wootsy lady bugs cannot lift your spirits, you are beyond the help of the Manolo

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