Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in shoes (122)

Tuesday
Jan012019

Picnic-Perfect

The first day of January is a perfect day for a picnic, and what is a more perfect picnic outfit than one featuring gingham? There is something just so cheerful about this fabric, and my favourite combination is red and white, although I do have other colours.

Gingham is usually made from cotton or cotton-blends, but the origin of it is open to speculation, possibly originating from the Malay, or from a town in France, or even perhaps from the Dutch. Many women would associate gingham with school uniforms, which may put them off, or imbue it with an affectionate nostalgia. My high school uniform was a green and grey plaid, so I have no such reminders. (I don’t think I’d want to wear a dress made from my high school plaid though – the notion makes me laugh aloud.)

There is something just so cheerful about this fabric …

Perhaps the picnicking connotations has to do with red and white checked cloths traditionally used in picnic baskets? While a picnic did not after all transpire on my first day of the year, I did have a friend visit for afternoon cake and coffee on my balcony, and we went for a walk in the local Botanic Gardens. I was pleased to wear a red and white gingham dress rather than this exact outfit, as it was far too warm for denim.

This blouse was actually gifted to me by the friend I saw today, which is apt, and the vintage 60s hat I purchased on eBay. The adorable heels were purchased from Anthropologie on sale. They were a bit expensive to start with, and I dithered so long over buying them, by the time I finally did they were drastically reduced – hurrah!

It was a lovely sunny day in the gardens (I carried a red parasol), and while my friend and I ambled around, we came across plenty of picnicking parties – a pleasant beginning to the year indeed.

I hope that 2019 brings you joy and fulfillment, and the strength to see any challenges through. Here’s to a fresh new year!

Photos: September 2018

Friday
Dec282018

The White Walkers

It was maybe last summer that I bought a pair of as new off-white kid leather sneakers by Camper in a thrift store. Technically they were a size too big, but they were so soft and comfortable and just my kinda sneaks, that I bought them anyway. They became my favourite walking shoes. I wore them everywhere, and I wore them to death.

First they developed the sundry scuffs and scrapes of normal wear-and-tear, but then holes appeared in the outer sides where the leather was thinnest – I was aghast! I kept on wearing them anyway. Then the shoelaces snapped, and I tied them in knots and I kept on wearing them. Then the treads, in patches, wore down to non-existence.

Then, my friend bought a pair of white brogues by Australian brand Country Road – also from the thrift store – but finding them too small for her, passed them on to me. These were also in excellent condition when they were donated. Admittedly they are a little too tight for me, but once they are worn in and their stiffness softens, they will be fine (toes crossed).

… normally I would be embarrassed to be seen on the streets in such shabby shoes …

The only problem was that I was stubbornly clinging to my disgraceful Campers instead of wearing in the Country Roads. Even though normally I would be embarrassed to be seen on the streets in such shabby shoes, I was brazenly continuing to wear them.

Finally on Boxing Day when I gave the apartment a good post-Christmas-rush clean-up, I forced myself to pick up the disreputable shoes and march off to the giant garbage bins – where, wincing, I threw them in. A few, sad tears followed them like the handful of pebbles one casts over a coffin.

I wish I could say I took to the brogues with gusto, but my feet are in mourning still.

Photo: December 2012

Wednesday
Dec052018

Snowing for Christmas

Since we were speaking yesterday of gussying up shoes with clips, I thought I’d pull a pair from the archives where I did just that one Christmas. In 2009 I wore these red satin peeptoes festooned with vintage pearl clips to the family Christmas celebrations. Like silver stilettos, there are moments when even red satin heels need a little extra pizzazz. They look delightfully like snowballs, don’t you think?

Tuesday
Dec042018

When Silver Louboutins Are Not Enough

It is seldom indeed that one might declare, “Silver Louboutins are not enough on their own!” But it might be at the height of the silly season, n’est pas?

When this occasion arises once a year, may I propose a pair of vintage 60s silver crystal shoe clips to remedy this untoward situation? Shaped like snowballs, pom-poms or what-you-will, these articulated beaded clips will shake merrily all the way to the party.

I found mine in a thrift store, but there are plenty to be found on Etsy new and old to delight the festive spirit. Start decking out those party feet now!

Friday
Nov022018

Ballet Slippers

Ballet slippers were made for dancing, for water nymphs and fairies and swan maidens, for delicate creatures who float through life on tippy-toe. On the other hand foot, ballet flats are made for rather more down-to-earth women, those who need to run and jump puddles and get things done pronto! But these seemingly antithetical women have one thing in common: they need footwear that won’t hamper them or weigh them down.

A Capsule History

Once upon a time, the ballet slipper was only a shoe worn by professional ballerinas. It was first invented in the mid-eighteenth century, with increasing modifications occurring over the following decades, until the modern dance shoe as we know it was developed by famous dancer Anna Pavlova – with some assistance from the renowned Italian purveyor of ballet shoes, Capezio. (Pavlova also, incidentally, inspired the eponymous Great Australian Dessert.)

Anna Pavlova, 1920A Claire McCardell outfit from the 1940s with matching ballet flatsIn the 1940s, American designer Claire McCardell had an epiphany when she chose to use Capezio’s ballet slippers in her 1941 collection, asking him to add a hard sole. And thus the ballet flat was born! First Brigitte Bardot began sporting them, and the beatniks soon followed suit, until a year later, Audrey Hepburn in her role as a beatnik turned model in Funny Face (1957) made them world famous and popularised them for that new breed of human: teens. Offscreen, she wore flats by Capezio and Ferragamo.

A Personal Journey

Decades later, I myself as a teen tried ballet flats numerous times, but was never able to find a comfortable pair. I came to the firm belief that ballet flats were the most uncomfortable shoes ever invented. And though I loved the idea of them, I gave up on them for another couple of decades until I came upon a pair in a thrift store by chance.

This is not my photo, but these were the beloved Sambag shoes I owned. According to the designer’s Instagram account, the label will be relaunching soon to be sold online only. The ballet flats I spotted were in ballet pink, a colour I had recently come to highly favour, and were by the Australian brand Sambag. I had once tried some on in a retail store, but as they were quite expensive, with my past history of painful ballet flats, I was unwilling to trust they were a good investment. The secondhand shoes I found were still in their original box, the soles so pristine they had surely been worn only once or twice. I gladly handed $30 to the store saleslady.

Brigitte Bardot in ballet flatsThese shoes turned out to be one of the most comfortable flat shoes I have ever owned. It was a miracle! I still wore heels at work, but I wore these ballet flats constantly on the weekends, with the sad but inevitable result that they wore out too quickly. I ought to have taken them to be resoled before it was too late, but couldn’t bear to be parted from them for the requisite few days. … Ever since I have kept my eyes peeled for another pair in thrift stores, and actually spotted some once, but lamentably in a size too big for me.

Audrey Hepburn made ballet flats world famous through her 1957 film ‘Funny Face’A few years later, I discovered the brand Yosi Samra on a sale website selling ‘foldable flats’. These are specifically designed to be stored in tiny little drawstring bags to keep on hand (ahem) when the need to relieve one’s feet from high heels becomes urgent. I bought several pairs, including ballet pink ones that are very reminiscent of my beloved Sambags. The leather is extremely soft and flexible, and they are very comfortable, although they don’t offer a lot of support to the foot – they are not meant to be worn for extended periods of walking.

Full Circle

Finally, not that long ago I came across an actual pair of ballet slippers by Blochs (manufacturing dancewear since 1932) once again in a thrift store! I have the most amazing luck. They were a little bit small, to be honest, but for $6 I decided they would be great indoor shoes. The leather was so soft I was sure they would stretch enough. When I took this comparison photo (top) I was quite amused to see that the Yosi Samra flats on my right foot were extremely similar to the dance slippers on the left. The colour is a perfect match. 

Audrey Hepburn’s ballet flats worn at home (1960–70), auctioned off by Christie’s earlier this year. “[Audrey Hepburn’s] training as a ballerina probably contributed to the elegance and poise that we associate with her. She had quite a number of these flats in her possession [because] they were her slippers when she was casual at home, [but] these were the only pink ones. She liked to be casual; she was very much a human being.”Ironically, in 2009 another celebrity – this time from the music world, Amy Winehouse – began wearing actual ballet slippers by Gandolfi in place of regular flats. So ballet slippers danced a full circle, and have gone in and out of fashion several times. But as the second decade of this century draws to a close, they have become firmly established in their status as iconic shoes, and I don’t believe they will ever go away.

One day I’ll go back to that Sambag retail store and invest in a new pair, or three. The pink is my favourite, for the same reason ballerinas first wore them: they seem to disappear on the foot, creating the illusion that one is floating just above the earth, lightly and quickly – for I have always daydreamed of having wings. 

Photos: September 2018