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.
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.
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.
N.B. Psychologists have proven what we already know, shoes tell us much about the wearer…
The Daltord from Robert Clergerie, $595.
Manolo says, it is not easy being the assistant general counsel for the major, Fortune 500, consumer goods corporation, but after several years of clawing your way upward, working 80-hour weeks, and cutting the throats of your competitors and yes, occasionally, your friends, you have achieved just that.
All you have to do now is wait for the general counsel–the genial dunderhead with the 4 handicap and the 28-year-old trophy wife–to mess up, and his job is yours. And you deserve it, too, having sacrificed your first marriage on the altar of your ambition, opening its chest as if you were the Aztec priestess armed with the ragged obsidian knife.
But, whatever, right? It was worth it. You have no regrets. None… Not one.
Yes, occasionally, at night, while you are waiting for the Ambien to kick in, you think about what it was like when you were eleven. About your mother, mostly.
There is this recurring image of her standing at the kitchen sink, slicing tomatoes for the dinner salad. She is humming. You do not even know what the song is, but you know it sounds happy, because your mother, for all of her many faults, always seemed happy, bustling around the house, or playing tennis, helping at the church, going to the garden club.
She should have been miserable, five children in seven years, with your father only making the civil engineer’s salary. But she wasn’t. Not even when the breast cancer was eating away at her. Instead, she was still writing you these chipper letters talking about how poorly her azaleas were doing, and how she was going to give this yellow Hermés scarf that never suited her to the church’s spring jumble sale. She was only three years older than you are now.
Jan is just like her, with her four boys, her petty hobbies– crocheting!–and her rented summer cottage at Cape May. She and Mac have been together 29 years now, married for 26 of them.
You keep trying to get them to come spend the week or two at your place in Paris. It’s not much, just the two-bedroom flat on the third floor of the nondescript building, but the location is spectacular, in the 7e arrondissement just the short distance to the Rue Cler. (You bought these shoes at the Clergerie shop on the Champs-Élysées, which isn’t too far away.)
You should just send them the plane tickets. Get Pat, their oldest, to help you arrange it. Make it the surprise for them, something romantic. You can be there for the couple of days, and then let them have the place to themselves for the rest of the week.
And thinking of this, of your sister Jan and her stolid husband in Paris, actually makes you happy, which reminds you of something else your mother used to say, something you have always regarded as ridiculous, to wit: “The best way to cure insomnia is to help other people.”
Maybe there is something to that.
It’s beauties like these that cause me to weep a little at the fact that I don’t have a Marry Poppin’s magically endless bag of cash. Robert Clergerie proves again just how elegant and sassy French designers can be in his Spring shoe collection for Opening Ceremony. My favorite style of the collection is the Saxo Leather Bootie. This sleek shoe with its elegant wooden heel, corset lacing and leather body is the stuff dreams are made of (at least mine, anyway). If only I could slip my brittle ankles into these striking booties and prance around the city, running up and down subway platforms while legions of shoe fans alike drool over my killer set of kicks…
Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she? Somebody snag these and make me jealous.
You can check out the rest of the collection at Opening Ceremony.
N.B. The Manolo has asked his friend Trisha Marie to help him from time to time.
Manolo says, one of the Manolo’s internet friends has asked the Manolo the question.
I work in Los Angeles in the part of TV no one sees, post-production. It’s where editing, sound, captions and graphics are put together to make the actual programs on the magic box. To say it’s a VERY casual environment would be an understatement. Jeans and sneakers are the order of the day and one can even see flip-flops at the office. I have recently fallen deeply in love with Dansko closed-back clogs and they are now the only shoe I want to wear ever. I am of a petite stature and they add a little height while still being easy to run around in and come in many cool patterns.
I am a woman of a certain age (54, if you must know) and am afraid that this cloginization means I am becoming frumpy, but I do have to say that I get LOTS of compliments on my shoes. Such as these: Dansko Professional Tooled Clogs which I am wearing with dark jeans and a white tuxedo shirt today. Am I fooling myself?
Your blog is brilliant, witty and charming, by the way, and I say this not to try to get you to answer, but to thank you for all the reading pleasure you give.
Ayyyy! Perhaps the effusive praise is befogging the Manolo’s powers of judgment, but these Dansko clogs are not entirely repulsive, although the pattern is not exactly to the Manolo’s taste.
On the one of the hands, the clog has the long and honorable tradition of service as the durable European peasant feetwear.
On the other of the hands, the clog is the peasant shoe for the peasants who work in the muck and the mud of the rural barnyard, where the ability to scrape the noxious effluvia from the shoes is of the highest priority…. Which, now that the Manolo considers it, may perhaps make it the perfect shoe for those who work in Hollywood.
On the third of the hands, for the briefest of moments, late last year, the clogs were considered especially stylish.
On the fourth of the hands, unless you are the 15-year-old Belorussian super model, you will not look stylish in the clogs, no matter what your slovenly co-workers and the Teen Vogue are saying.
On the fifth of the hands, “Rock on, Comfort Shoe Lady”.
On the sixth of the hands, “What do you mean, ‘Comfort Shoe Lady?”
On the seventh of the hands, “Nothing, nothing, just that you look so comfortable.”
On the eighth of the hands, “Is there something wrong with that?”
On the ninth of the hands, “No, no. Nothing wrong, nothing at all, Comfort Shoe Lady.” *snicker*
On the tenth of the hands, “I don’t care what you think. They make my feet feel good.”
On the eleventh of the hands, “Rock on, Comfort Shoe Lady.”
On the twelfth of the hands, perhaps you may consider upgrading to the Clergerie clogs, because then, when you are called the Comfort Shoe Lady, you may reply, “But they’re French, from Paris!!!”
However, never let it be said that the Manolo does not respond to the latest fashion trends with useful advice, and so here are three pairs of French clogs from Robert Clergerie which are suitable for wearing out in public.
This is the Cuza from Robert Clergerie, the crisscross strapped open-toed clog that sacrifices nothing in terms of trend-gobbling hotness. Is it possible for the clog to be “hot”? If so, this is perhaps the closest you may come to such the state.
Here is the Pavane from Robert Clergerie another open-toed clog that is worth your time.
Finally, here is the Zhia from Robert Clergerie in the glossy plum color that makes wearing clogs almost bearable.
Manolo says, it is only Monday afternoon and, ayyyyy, already you have experienced the major wardrobe malfunction, one that occurred at the moment of maximum inconvenience: while you were presenting your latest expense projections to Mz. Gargglemole, Regional Overlord of Personnel Branding and Scarification, and her phalanx of toadies.
You had just bent over to adjust the Powerpoint projector (which was at that moment displaying your FY 2008-09 estimations for brazier, branding iron, and pincer repairs) when your Spanx unexpectedly, audibly, and explosively, decompressed.
Like the cork out of the champagne bottle.
Your face turned red, your drawers sagged, your bulges bulged, and, worst of all, Trent Garfunkel, your hated office nemesis, snickered.
Lucky for you, Mz. Gargglemole, herself the woman of size, glared the pipsqueaky Trent into gnat-like insignificance, and announced the ten minute recess, which you spent in the washroom working feverishly with electricians tape and the Ace bandage.
The rest of your presentation went magnificently, and afterward, Ms. Gargglemole pulled you aside, complimented you on your composure, and recommended, “just between us big girls”, the boutique where one may purchase the brand of heavy-duty foundation garments manufactured in Soviet Russia.
So, it all worked out for the best in the end, even if you are still somewhat traumatized, and now you have retreated to your desk to look at the shoes so as to calm your jangly nerves.
Last week, the Manolo recommended the Clergerie shoes, and The Thoughtful Dresser blog is always speaking of them.
Manolo says, here is the Manolo’s latest column for the Express of the Washington Post.
I will be going to Paris in October for a beauty event, which is sure to be full of the amazing and stylish glamazons. I don’t want to look like an American tourist, so I am in need of black heels that are comfortable enough to walk around in all day, will work with both pants and skirts and finally are stylish enough to fit in with the fashionistas.
Manolo says, Ayyyy! Paris and glamazons in the fall! Such joy!
Of the course, the Manolo, being himself possessed of the less than elegant bodily shape, understands his friend’s natural anxiety about being around the beautiful peoples. To be the turkey in the room full of peacocks, this is not the situation which encourages the boundless self-esteem so prized by modern educators.
The usual advice given to reduce social unease is to imagine others in their underwear, but this does not work when the others in question are already the famous underwear models.
The only real solution to this discomfort is to recognize that you are unique and special, and that you can wear amazing shoes than will make others envy your good taste and style.
Shoes such as these marvelous and unusual split-wedge heel, patent leather pumps, the Tain from Robert Clergerie. They are comfortable, super stylish, and French!
Manolo says, here is the latest column written by the Manolo for the Express of the Washington Post.
I am looking for a sleek black boot with a medium heel and round toe for everyday city winter wear, something that comes to the knee and looks very narrow in the calf
Manolo says, now that the summer is coming to its inevitable end (barring the early arrival of the global warming) it is time for every super fantastic girl to consider her personal boot situation.
And although everyone wishes to have the warm feets, no super fantastic girl wishes to appear to have the largish calves.
Yes, this desire to appear to be the willowy sylph-like creature of the small calves, who lives solely upon the moonbeams and Diet Fanta, it is the culturally determined and unattainable beauty standard set by the oppressive consumerist medias.
But still, who really wants to have the keg-like calves?
The Manolo knows that such shallowness is to be decried, and that the real beauty comes in the great and marvelous variety of shapes and sizes…but what can one do?
Fashion, it is the cruelest of mistresses.
Thus the Manolo would recommend to his friend this beautiful and somewhat costly boot, the Dostic from the Robert Clergerie.