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Fact or Fiction: “Shoes Always Fit”

Ali has written about this topic a bit, but it is about time I wrote about shoes. I could hardly claim to have an interest in fashion if I didn’t have some sort of relationship with shoes. I love shoes, and while I may limit my wardrobe to shades of gray, with shoes I have no qualms about red or yellow or neon. There is no bone to pick regarding unflattering colors when it comes to shoes. While I may find a blouse printed with birds and flowers too girly, one of my most prized pair of shoes are a pair of J.Crew ballerina flats printed with birds and flowers.

There is a scene from In Her Shoes, in which Cameron Diaz’s character has just discovered her sister’s closet full of unworn shoes. She looks at her sister and asks, “Why?” The response: “Because shoes always fit.” The statement implies a widely Read More »

Benoît Méléard Pays Tribute to the First Lady of Shoes, Beth Levine

The “First Lady of Shoes” was not Imelda Marcos, but a little known mid-century designer named Beth Levine. From the 1940s through the ‘70s, Levine created some of fashion’s most innovative and chic shoe designs, all while working under her husband’s name, Herbert Levine (the couple believed that no one at the time would buy shoes made by a woman). Many of her shoe designs are not only fun to look at—wearing them must be transformative—but famous: Nancy Sinatra’s “boots made for walking?” Created by Beth Levine. Cher’s stocking boots? Those were Levine’s, too. Heel-less pumps, “glass” slippers, moon boots and shoes shaped like racecars? All made by Levine. Given the breadth of her innovation, it is remarkable how many years she managed to stay under the radar.

That has been changing. An exhibition of Levine shoes toured a couple of American museums in 2010, and growing interest in the Bata Shoe Museum, where her work is prominently displayed, has helped introduce her work to a wider audience. And now French shoe designer Benoît Méléard has paid the ultimate tribute: A collection Read More »

Fashion Revival: The Heel that Made a Kittenish Comeback

The essence of demure, a kitten heel tells gentlemen that your dance card is open but you are most certainly not that kind of a girl. You’ll let them kiss your gloved hand at the end of the evening, but there’ll be no heavy petting at the door. Audrey Hepburn’s hallmark heel is a perfect union of sexy and sweet (not unlike the woman herself), and the “just right” compromise between girlish flats and womanly stilettos.

The modern-day stiletto was created in the early 1950s by French shoe designer Roger Vivier, who worked for Christian Dior at the time, and was the bane of dancehall owners everywhere. Despite being banned from airlines and some buildings Read More »

Roger Vivier, Milliner? Yep, For a Short Time During World War II, the Shoemaker Set Up a Hat Shop in New York City

Most everyone—OK, let’s just make that everyone—knows Roger Vivier for shoes. The Paris-born designer got his start crafting shoes for performers Josephine Baker and Mistinguett, opened Maison Vivier in the center of Paris on the Place Vendome in 1937, and was quickly associated with the leading couturiers: Christian Dior, Elsa Schiaparelli and Madame Grès, as well as the Bally Shoe Company. He developed Dior’s shoes for the New Look, and is often credited, somewhat generously, with the invention of the stiletto.

But here’s a little known fact: When World War II broke out and the Nazis invaded Paris, the designer emigrated to the United States, let an apartment at 25 W 55th Street and on this day in 1943, opened a millinery with partner Suzanne Remy (a colleague from his Schiaparelli days), at 24 East 64th Street, the same spot where the Pucci boutique stands today. It’s not that Vivier couldn’t find a job making shoes once stateside; upon arrival he was promptly snapped up by Delman shoes, a thriving New York shoemaker, and remained in its employ for some time. But the designer was harboring a dam of untapped creativity, and Suzanne et Roger filled the void. The business was a quiet Read More »

Men in Heels: A Very Brief History

I’m sure you’ve heard it said before: Only a man could’ve invented high heels. There’s the old argument that high heels put women, literally, at a teetering disadvantage, and are destabilizing, making it difficult for a woman to walk, much less run. We’ve already covered the history of the high heel here, but I wanted to share with you what I think is one of the best starring roles high heels have ever played in the history of imagery, without getting into a lengthy social commentary about the possible multiple symbolisms behind high heels in today’s society. And guess what? These high heels aren’t adorning the feet of a woman, they are worn by a man.

So which man would dare to wear high heels, let alone have the heels play a starring role in his portrait? The man was none other than Louis XIV, one of the most powerful monarchs in the history of the Western world. When Louis commissioned Hyacinthe Rigaud to paint his portrait (left) in 1701, the king dressed himself in his opulent coronation robes, embroidered in gold and trimmed in ermine fur. Louis is almost casual in his self-confidence. His crown sits on a stool beside him, barely discernible amongst the swath of his robes; his sword only partially Read More »

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