Archive | April, 2011

Let’s Talk Shoes

26 Apr

Is it possible to have too many shoes? Not according to most of the women that I meet these days. (Though their husbands whose closet space is being invaded by the Nth pair of black strappy sandals would beg to disagree.) There is no question that shoes are the most fun thing to shop for; you don’t have to fuss with getting undressed, there is no “moment of truth” to see if the zipper will close over your belly, and if you look long enough, you will find a pair that expresses exactly what you want to say about yourself – the ultimate form of self-expression.

Seychelles Chant High Heel w Studs

What do you want to say with your shoes?

The problem now, After Kids, is that motherhood so often entails:

– wet grass, mud, and sand

– sprinting after your toddler who has decided to make a mad dash out your front door and down the sidewalk

– carrying three bags of groceries, your toddler, your oversized purse, and maintaining a cell phone conversation

– doing that all day long

Reason would dictate that any pair of shoes that will survive a day of stay at home motherhood will be practical first and stylish second. Unfortunately, shoes that put comfort first tend to look something like this:

Naturalizer Yadira Flats

Practical shoes are so boring...

We all know that shopping at its best is an experience of passion, and when it’s really good, I give in to sheer abandon. I set out looking for sandals to wear to the playground with your toddler, and somehow I come home with something like these:

Farylrobin Dani Strappy Sandals

When fabulous shoes trump practical considerations

So I parade them around in front of the mirror at home, then tuck them away, and there they wait, hoping to be taken out for date night or a party worthy of killer shoes. As I head out the door to take your kids to the park, I slip on the same sneakers or flip-flops I have been wearing since before they were born. Is there really no such thing as cute shoes that I’m excited to put on, and that still feel good at the end of the day?

A trip to the mall is not terribly enlightening. The “comfort shoes” category is rife with fashion duds. An online search on Zappos.com (my favorite online shoe store), however, reveals several brands that appear to be happily marrying comfort and style.  Unfortunately, they are pricey – they start around $100 and go up steeply from there. However, you can’t expect good leather and meticulous construction to come as cheaply as the $60-$80 mall brands, right? Here is a roundup of a few pairs that I am coveting:

Arche Laius aqua suede flat

Cushy, pretty, and $275 by Arche. I'll have to wait for the sale.

Born Lark gladiator sandal

An eye-pleasing Gladiator sandal by Born

Paul green Hilary thong sandal

Beautiful detail in this $189 Paul Green thong sandal makes ordinary flip flops pale in comparison

No matter how cushy you make the materials or how good the fit, I just can’t see any way that I can wear a shoe like the ones below all day with my kids – aren’t they inviting, though?

Gentle Souls Gold Member High heeled shoes

Wouldn't it be great if these held up to a day out with your toddler? The Gentle Souls "Gold Member" sandal, $195

After an evening of browsing, I put a bunch of shoes in my cart, and racked with indecision, I go to bed. Shopping at Zappos is like drinking from a firehose – the multitude of options can be overwhelming.

The following day back in the real world, a catalog crashes through my mail slot. It’s Sundance, which I usally flip through and then toss into the recycle bin, but a headline about footwear catches my eye. I land upon two pears of shoes that I decide to order: The Tina Sandal by Kork-Ease

Kork-Ease Tina sandal in Grey

Cute, described as comfy, and under $100. A winner!

and the Melissa sandal by Sundance’s private label.

Sundance Melissa Sandal in Putty

A less practical choice, but wouldn't they look great with capris in the summer?

Sadly, the Melissa is out of stock in the “putty” color that I love, but I pledge to return in a month when it’s scheduled to be available again.  I love the wedge shape, which has the drama of a high heel with more comfort stability.  They may not make it through a visit to the playground, but just walking my son to school in awesome shoes will make owning them worthwhile, even if I come right back home, take them off and put on practical sneakers for the rest of the day. The point is not to be seen by others, but to enjoy wearing awesome shoes on a regular basis, even if it’s only 30 minutes per day.

Ironically, if I ever go back to work, I’ll have more occasion to wear great shoes all day – but knowing me, then I will miss getting to kick around in sneakers all day.

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The T-Shirt Upgrade

6 Apr

Moms know there’s nothing more easy and comfortable than pulling on a t-shirt in the morning. Yet t-shirt dressing can sometimes make me feel like I am dressing for college finals and not for an adult existence. After all, how many fashionable possibilities can the t-shirt possibly offer? Add to that the fact that most of my t-shirts are either black or white, and I suddenly feel like I am in a fashion rut.

Unwilling to give up the ease and comfort of t-shirt dressing, I recently undertook an ambitious search for great t-shirts. After some hits and many misses, shopping online and in retail stores, I have decided that the key for looking great in a t-shirt is:

* flattering shape and fit,

* comfy and easy to wear,

* a color or pattern that makes me happy.

I recently discovered my new favorite t-shirt in a store at Title Nine. I have to confess I bought it on impulse – I was running late to my exercise class and realized halfway there that I had forgotten a gym shirt. I decided that a quick trip to the store to buy a fun new shirt sounded more appealing than ducking home to my toddler and babysitter – coming home and going again is somehow never a quick proposition. Just when I think I’m out the door again, my daughter wants *mommy* to take her to the potty/put on her shoes/give her the “lellow” spoon and not the pink spoon that the babysitter is offering her.

So, I popped into Palo Alto’s Title Nine store, and in no time, this t-shirt practically jumped into my arms. A quick trial in the dressing room sealed the deal. It wasn’t cheap, but I already know this is one I am going to wear all summer long, and beyond.

Ojai Clothing t-shirt at Title Nine

Pretty, comfortable and flattering - this top upgrades t-shirt dressing!

After a few weeks of wearing (and loving) this t-shirt, I returned to the web site of the manufacturer, Ojai Clothing. Browsing the web site made me glad I discovered my t-shirt in a store, because I am pretty sure I would not have shelled out almost $50 for a t-shirt based on just a photo. It’s hard to convey the softness and delicate texture of the fabric in a picture.  I was pleased to find more options on their web site – though just as with many other online shopping experiences, sometimes too many options lead to indecision, and not buying anything at all.

Ojai Clothing T-Shirts, Spring 2011

I have also been pleased with the shirred scoop neck 3/4 sleeve tees from Garnet Hill, a catalog company. I appreciate the way they fit – enough length to graze the waist and hip, and a pretty neckline which takes t-shirt dressing up a notch. I own two colors, white and coral, and reach for them regularly. They are some kind of synthetic blend, and to avoid fading and pilling, I always put them on a hanger to dry them. After a year of regular wear, they are still looking great. Sadly, they appear to be “so last season” because  they no longer appear on their web site.

I did, however, find the top below, which has the potential to serve the same purpose – to take the comfort of a t-shirt but offer the visual appeal of a blouse.

Garnet Hill Pima Cotton T-Shirt Blouse

This t-shirt by Garnet Hill may offer the comfort of a t-shirt but the appeal of a blouse. At $36, the price isn't bad, either!

Having acquired some good new t-shirts, I forced myself to give away some of the old t-shirts that I never wore anymore. The least flattering t-shirts were boxy in fit and had a high crew neck. I think I wore them when I didn’t really pay any attention to fit, but in retrospect, few necklines are less flattering than a high crew neck, which makes my long torso look even more square and shortens my neck. And pretending like I don’t have a waistline does nothing to make me feel pretty or feminine. T-shirts don’t have to be skin-tight, but some definition of the upper body is the norm these days, and that’s a good thing.

T-shirts are also an inexpensive way to add a pop of trendy color to an outfit. And, it turns out, giving some thought to color is the starting to point to a real outfit! We’re not talking about being a slave to matching colors in everything I wear, but staring with a fun t-shirt color is a mood-enhancer. My current favorites are lavender and any shade of aqua blue.  When I go shopping, I pay attention to colors that make me happy, and avoid the urge to rule them out for being “not my color” before trying on. After all, sometimes colors can surprise you.

When I have an extra half a minute to consider what I am wearing in the morning, I can turn a well-fitting t-shirt into an outfit with just one strategic accessory – whether it’s a necklace that complements the neckline, pretty earrings, or even a light scarf for those cool spring mornings. I hang my scarves right next to my tops in my closet so that combining them is a breeze. I also keep my favorite earrings and necklaces in one drawer of my jewelry box, and reach for them even on days that just include a trip to the playground and grocery store.  It makes an ordinary day feel more special somehow.  (I still face the challenge of organizing my jewelry collection, and most of it sits languishing in a fishing tackle box on my bathroom counter, but that’s a topic for another post.)

To complete my t-shirt roundup, one dud I will report is a v-neck t-shirt from Eddie Bauer. The ribbing around the neckline lost its shape after just two washes, and I was not able to repair it. In my mind, there is no excuse for charging good money for a poorly made and simply knit t-shirt, so have decided to avoid Eddie Bauer, at least until a more positive experience with them turns me back around.

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