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Manolo the Columnist: Salsa from Badgley Mischka

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

Dear Manolo,

I am getting married in four weeks and I would love to have my “something blue” be my shoes but have been unable to find anything. Do you have any suggestions? I should mention that I’m already way over budget, so something not overly expensive would be best.

Diana

Manolo says, frankly, the Manolo finds his friend Diana’s insouciance about her wedding shoes the refreshing change from the usual bridal missives the Manolo receives, many which begin, “Manolo, there are only thirteen months until the big day, and I am frantic…”

Too often the preparation for the wedding day has become like the military campaign, as the ravening hordes of planners, designers, decorators and their camp followers fan out across the countryside, stripping it bare of its resources and plundering the parental bank accounts. This is why, at their approach, the sensible peoples take refuge behind the stout walls and stiff drinks, fighting the defensive battle to keep control of one’s sanity and purse. But too often, the battlements are stormed, and the forces of moderation are overwhelmed by the silk taffeta dresses from the big name designers and the surf and turf at $95 the plate.

This is why the Manolo is always glad to hear from the people who are not caught in the grip of wedding war fever, baying for expensive blood from the turnip. And which is why the Manolo is happy to recommend the Salsa from the Badgley Mischka in the light blue satin color called “glacier”.

Salsa from Badgley Mischka

Manolo the Columnist: Diema from Calvin Klein

Manolo says, here is the recent column of the Manolo for the Express of the Washington Post.

Dear Manolo,

I’m a junior in college, and for the past few weeks I’ve been interning at a high school counseling office. The problem is that my supervisor just told me that I have to look like a “professional adult, and not like a high school senior.” I’m on a really tight budget, can you help?

Olivia

Manolo says, oh, that the worst of the Manolo’s problems were that he looked too much like the high school senior. Indeed, the Manolo has always had the opposite problem, that even when he was in the junior high school, at the Our Lady of the Flaming Spleen Country Day School, he looked like the little old man.

Perhaps it was not the wisest decision to always wear the three-piece suit and the fedora while others were wearing the blue jeans, puffer vests and puka shells, but tossed about on the stormy sea of pubescence, the formality of the old man clothing was the sort the life preserver for the young Manolo.

While all the other kids were trading hastily scribbled notes about the crushes and the grudges, the Manolo would hook his walking stick onto his arm, gallantly doff his hat and present his calling card. Often the response would be less than generous, and more than once the Manolo found himself on the receiving end of the noogie, or the wet willie, or the dreaded atomic swirly

Still, despite the rudeness of others, the Manolo believes, then as now, that the old-fashioned etiquettes and social graces are still the best.

Here is the Diema from the Calvin Klein, the sophisticated kitten heel that will see you through the transition to adulthood.

Diema from Calvin Klein

Manolo the Columnist: Vino from Elizabeth and James

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

Dear Manolo,

A recent promotion has convinced me that I need to upgrade my professional wardrobe. The problem, however, is that I have no sense of style. My parents were hippies (sort of) and I find most of the stuff I see in fashion magazines ridiculous. Please help.

Stephanie

Manolo says, much more difficult than developing the distinctively personal fashion style is developing the distinctively personal fashion style that is suitable for the place of employment.

For the example, the jet black, asymmetrical, knee-length, leather jacket from Gareth Pugh you wore to your friend’s art opening (her primary medium is pudding… pudding and Etch-a-Sketch), might not work for your day job as the paralegal in the Law Offices of Stuffy, White and Bois.

Unaccountably, unless you are yourself the artist, or work from home as the independent blogger, as the Manolo does, clients, bosses and co-workers take the dim view of those who dress too far out of the ordinary. It is the sad truth that, in the world of working, the square nail that sticks out gets hammered down into the round hole.

Still, if one has the time and energy, and is devoted to the project, one can develop the personal style that is both exquisite and appropriate to the situation. It is the matter of training one’s eye, by looking closely at the peoples on the street, the clothes in the shops, and the pictures
in the magazines. Like anything that is worthwhile, learning how to dress with style is not easy. Go slowly at first and invest in the quality pieces.

The Manolo says, start with the shoes! Here is the Vino lizard-print leather pumps from Elizabeth and James, sharply distinctive, yet suitable for wearing to the office.

Vino from Elizabeth and James

Manolo’s Late Night Bargain: K&S Slingback Pumps

Manolo says, from the Manolo’s friends at the Sister Online comes the news that they are selling the K&S Shoes pumps at the good prices.

KS Shoes Slingback Pump2

For the Manolo’s American friends who do not know about the K&S Shoes, they are the old-timey, mid-market European shoe manufacturer, founded in the 1918 as Kennel und Schmenger, who have long been known for producing the well-made, if somewhat stodgy shoes. Lately, however, they have been updating their designs to make themselves more trendy and appealing. And it is working!

KS Shoes Slingback Pump2

These handsome, slingback pumps with the bow will become the Friday night, wardrobe staple, especially since they are selling at 30% off of the usual price.

Satin Stiletto Peep-Toe Pump for the Monday

Manolo says, it is Monday and you are back at your desk, greatly ungruntled about the impending nuptials of your semi-best friend for never, the soon-to-be-thricely-married Marjorie.

“Well, at least I still believe in love,” she is given to saying whenever anyone so much as hints that maybe it is time for her to give it the rest, “I’m still out there trying.”

Yes, Marjorie, she is still trying, this time to the balding, 64-year-old domestic beer distributor who drives the red Corvette, has recently taken up the salsa dancing, and frequently refers to himself in the third person.

“So, when it came to this little lady right here,” the groom-to-be said at the engagement party, pulling Marjorie close in to his Hackenlooper Budweiser polo shirt, “Ole Bob Hackenlooper vows to spare no expense,” by which he meant spending the honeymoon on the seven-day Royal Caribbean cruise to the Cancun.

Three weddings and you will have been the bridesmaid in all of them, the first time in 1988 to the infamous Todd, the second eighteen years later to James who looked like the aardvark and worked in something to do with insurance, and now this one, which is why your are unhappy, and why you are looking through DressFirst website for the reasonably priced, mostly attractive bridesmaid dresses in red.

“To match Bob’s Corvette.”

It is not the good sign, when the bride is worried about whether or not she will be able to upstage the groom’s car.

Well, at least the day is not the total loss, for you have decided that you will wear these red, satin, stiletto heel, peep-toe platform pumps no matter what happens.

dressfirst

Yes, they are not the most expensive shoes, but you appreciate the modest price, because you still have the last pair of Marjorie bridesmaid shoes sitting your closet. They are lime green.

Manolo the Columnist: Austen Jacquard Pump from the Fendi

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

****


Dear Manolo,

I see that low-heeled pumps are in fashion this season, which is perfect for me. I really can’t walk in anything over two inches. It’s too painful. Can you recommend something sharp to wear to the office?

Marjorie

Manolo says, ayyyy! It is true, the New York Times fashion section has declared that the frump is fashionable! According to the Susan Joy, this season “dowager classics like frame handbags, cardies, and costume jewelry are the height of chic”

To which the Manolo says, when have such practical and handsome items ever truly been out of the fashion? Yes, beautiful young peoples with lithe bodies and smooth skin can wear anything and make it seem fashionable. Indeed, who aside from the Manolo remembers that strange moment, circa Summer of 1983, when all the young Madonnas were wearing the faded bib overalls with one shoulder undone? (Please to review the summer of ‘83 music videos for “Come on Eileen” from the Dexys Midnight Runners and “Cruel Summer” from the Bananarama.)

But, for the sophisticated ladies who luncheon the uniform of choice has been remarkably stable over the past generation or two, and it is because such things as commodious purses, toasty cardigans, and reasonable shoes are practical and attractive.

Here from the Fendi is the Austen jacquard canvas and suede loafer pump with the yellow color block heel that takes the frump to the height of stylishness.

Austen Pump from Fendi

Manolo the Columnist: Chantel from Pour la Victoire

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

Dear Manolo,

Because of past experiences, which I shall not describe, I’ve come to hate Valentine’s Day. This year, however, I’ve got a new boyfriend who’s romantic enough to do right by the holiday. Can you please suggest some red shoes appropriate for the day?

Nicole

Manolo says, yes, it is true, Dia de San Valentine is one of the most dangerous days of the entire calendar, when the wild passions that bubble beneath the surface erupt in the geyser of candy hearts, red roses, and dime store lingerie.

Woe be to the man, says the Manolo, who ventures forth on that day, forward into the fray of love, armed with nothing but the box of the Russell Stover’s caramels and the risqué greeting card he has picked up at the Wal-Mart while buying the oil filter wrench, and signed, in block print, “Love ya.”

Such paltry tokens of ardor are insufficient to the task of soothing the savage breast of the ordinary American woman, who demands the more earnest evidence of ardor, such as the romantic dinner at the Red Lobster, or the gift certificate, denominated in the high two figures, to the Victoria’s Secret.

And woe to the woman, says the Manolo, who fails to understand that what the ordinary American man most desires on that auspicious day is that the festivities culminate in the most passionate embraces, after which he be allowed to peacefully roll over and subside into blissful slumber.

Look! Here is the Chantel the hot, sexy, hot passion red shoe from the Pour la Victoire/

Chantel from Pour la Victoire

Manolo the Columnist: Moscow from Ecco

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

Dear Manolo

Can you recommend a shoe that’s comfortable enough for my half-hour metro ride and fifteen minute walk to work, but still classy enough to wear in the office?

Elyse

Manolo says, ayyy! It is the eternal working girl question: the shoes in which you will strut around the place of employment in your semi-offical role as the Office Fashion Plate are not comfortable enough for the commuting back and forth from your home on the public transportation.

It is ture, that for as long as the women have gone to the place of work outside the home, this problem has been with us.

Indeed, the Melanie Griffith’s hit movie Working Girl, which appeared more than 25 years ago, prominently featured scenes of our heroine commuting back and forth from the Staten Island in tennis shoes, with socks wore over her pantyhose.

But, the Manolo actually suspects that if one looked into the ancient fashion records one would find that the 1920s secretaries complained about not finding shoes that were suitable for both riding on the omnibus and taking stenography from that young Victrola salesman who looked like Rudy Valleé.

Happily, the Manolo can report that shoe technology seems to have advanced moderately from the days of the Thoroughly Modern Millie. Here is the Moscow, the attractive stacked heel pump from Ecco, the company that specializes in making comfortable shoes that do not look as if they were meant for Thoroughly Ancient Millie.

Moscow fro Ecco

The Continental

People say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. False. The road to Hell is paved in cobblestones, which means you can’t wear heels. That’s what makes it Hell.

When I first expatriated, I lived in a little village paved with the Devil’s bunions and it was a two mile walk to the restaurant that provided most of my sustenance. I walked eight miles a day that car-less summer. Heels were out of the question. I used bronze Roman sandals instead. After all, a girl must have some glamor.

Even when I had wheels, I still refused to risk a broken ankle –or worse, a scuffed heel– by wearing stilettos unless someone agreed to carry me bodily to my vehicle; a daunting task, especially if you’re not set up with the appropriate winches, pulleys and hydraulic jacks.

As luck would have it, I was the only woman in the village young enough not to know a time when mammoth was a nutritious part of your complete breakfast and I struck up a friendship with an enormous (and enormously smitten) former Golden Gloves boxer who bore a striking resemblance to Zeus, assuming Zeus was Latino and spent most of his life getting punched in the head for money.

Now I know I’m in a committed relationship and all, but seriously, if you’ve never tried Greek God as a mode of transportation, I highly commend it.

However, if you can’t find your own punch-drunk Olympian to haul you around your town like a sack of well-shod potatoes, never fear. The Continental heel is making a slow but steady return to fashion.

So wait, what is a Continental heel?

The Continental heel –pictured above lending its graceful curve to a pair of Robert Clergerie booties– is closely related and thus often confused with the Louis heel. Of course it doesn’t help that half the shoes labeled as a Louis heel are actually Continentals.

They’re both flared heels, that much is true.

However, a Louis heel has a height limit –a true Louis can’t be more than 3″ high.

See, good ol’ King Louis XIV of France was one of those pocket monarchs, so he took to wearing heels to give himself a 3″ boost. Then he forbade anyone to wear heels higher than his, because apparently that’s what you do when you’re king.

King Louis XIV of France, fresh off his fabulous Las Vegas revue, sporting a pair of Louis heels

A Louis heel also traditionally has a curved breast, meaning the front part of the heel –the part that faces the toe– tapers and flares the echo the back part. Continental heels have the same curved or tapered back, but the breast is flat or nearly so.

I think we’re due for a comeback of a thicker heel.

We had a few seasons where Prada was showing banana heels everywhere but it didn’t last. I’d really like to see a serious return to one of the original sculptural heels. They’re pretty, fresh-looking and –for my purposes anyway– infinitely easier to deploy on cobblestones. Not that I’ll be telling Zeus Golden Gloves that.


Fit Note:
Robert Clergerie runs pretty true to size for length, but designs for women with banana feet. If you’ve got narrow feet, you’re in luck. Everyone else, size up and pray.

Manolo the Columnist: Manda from Kate Spade NY

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

Dear Manolo,

My fabulous cousin, whose birthday is the day after mine, and has been an anchor through many crises, turned 40 a couple of weeks ago. I’m sorry to say I had to miss her surprise party because I was away on a business trip. But, it is not too late for giving wonderful surprise birthday presents. Might you have a suggestion?

Monica

Manolo says, perhaps it is the gypsy in the Manolo, but the Manolo cannot help but love the giant, big families, with the thirteen children, and the twenty-dozen cousins of the varying degrees.

Especially the first cousins, who because they are not always around like the siblings, can be great sources of support and amusement, without the attendant rivalry, jealousy, and periodic fist-fighting. And this is the secret to the relationship, you have the same grandmamma and the same grandpapa, but you also have the different parents! The truth is hiding in plain sight, so obvious, and yet so powerful.

Who else but the first cousin would readily agree to accompany you your on your schemes of mayhem and glory, without trying to steal the parental affection that will be required when you return home in ignominy?

For the example, the teeny Manolo and his own favorite first cousin, Teofilo, often sought out adventure in the countryside around the caravans. Ayyy! How many times did they have to scamper back home covered in purloined watermelon, the authorities in full cry behind them, only to split apart at the final moment, Teofilo to his mother’s lap and the Manolo to his own beloved mama’s.

Here is the Manda from Kate Spade New York in the poetical anthracite starlight finish, perfect for the beloved accomplice on the occasion of her belated fortieth birthday.

Manda from Kate Spade NY

Fab Four: Green Suede Shoes (and how to clean them)

In the spirit of full disclosure, the Venn Diagram of “People Who Think Spangled and Be-Caped Polyester Jumpsuits Are a Good Idea” and “People from Whom Miss Plumcake Takes Sartorial Advice” does not see a great deal of overlapping.

Still, as both Elvis and Carl Perkins –the artist responsible for writing the seminal rockabilly classic– know, there’s just something about a good pair of suede shoes.

Blue is fine if a little expected, but greens from dusky olive to deep viridian are having a major moment this fall. Plus, green suede ages better blue does, where a bit of dirt and scuffing add to the character.

A little Annie Hall, a little Jules et Jim, these immaculate oxfords from Gravati (seriously, look at the soles, they are works of art) are the exact sort of shoe you didn’t know you needed until you find yourself wearing them for thirty years. Style it with rolled up jeans and a bateau-neck top for the kooky naif look, or go elegant with wide tailored trousers and a mercilessly chic cashmere sweater to channel Marlene Dietrich at her deadliest.

The iconic Alexander McQueen skull pump rarely goes on sale and this iteration is among the more elegant (the shark, I’m afraid, was jumped a good while ago with some of the late designer’s other iconic designs. See also, Marc Jacobs’ mouse shoe). Sizing is extremely limited, but if it fits your foot, you can get a signature shoe for over 50% off.

For something just as sexy but a little more sly, Robert Clergerie’s curvaceous Quatro in Basil is a lovely sample of a desk-to-dinner heel. The t-strap makes it perfect for dancing. In my experience, Clergerie cuts on a narrow last –it’s truth universally acknowledged that French women have skinny little banana feet– so size accordingly.

What do you wear to transition summer’s favorite maxi dresses into fall? A summer cut in an autumnal fabrication. The wallet-friendly Primrose from Seychelles fits the bill perfectly with a strong design element at the vamp that ascends higher up the throatline for a slightly less summery look. Even better, they’re on sale for 25% off.

Finally, I know people avoid suede because of the staining. I wouldn’t.

With use, suede develops a patina every bit as elegant as the crumpled lines of a linen pant. Buy them in neutrals and do your best to keep them away from oils –basically don’t fry chicken or perform automotive maintenance in them– and you’ll be good to go.

Oh, and as for maintenance: Ignore pretty much everything you’ve read on the internet on how to clean suede and listen to the advice from London custom shoemakers James Taylor and Son. They’ve been making bespoke footwear since 1857 and wouldn’t steer you wrong.

Manolo the Columnist: Nolan from Franco Sarto

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

Dear Manolo,

Next week, I’m going back to college to finish my degree. Sixteen years ago, before I quit school and started working, I never had any doubt about what to wear, or how to comport myself. Now, I’m in my mid-thirties and lost. What should I wear during my first week to make a good impression? Please keep in mind that I’m just a poor (returning) college student.

Stacy

Manolo says, from what the Manolo can see, the modern college students generally dress like the mental patients, in stain-resistant, loose-fitting clothing with drawstrings. Au currant for the young ladies are colorful sweatshirts and pajama bottoms, while the young gentlemen favor the sweatpants and novelty t-shirts.

And on their feets are the cheap flip-flops, shoes that induce in their wearer the sort of shuffling, shambling gait that goes well with the shabby clothing.

But then, when you are 18 years of age, it does not matter what you wear. Youthful beauty and vigor trump even in the most ridiculous of costumes, which is why the fashion designers hire willowy teenagers to model their clothing. However, for those of us whom eighteen is the distant memory, artifice, guile, and the keen eye for fashion must substitute for the natural advantages of youth.

This is why the Manolo suggests that the older students adopt the “business casual” standards for the on-campus wear. Treat your time back in the school as the job. Be more serious in comportment and attire than the average student and you will succeed admirably.

Here is the Nolan from Franco Sarto, the reasonably priced, mid-heel loafer that will distinguish you as the person who is there to learn, not par-tay.

Nolan from Franco Sarto

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