Women From the Ankle Down

The Story of Shoes And How They Define Us

by Rachelle Bergstein

The title and premise of this book are a little misleading. Or maybe my expectations were a little off. This was really a mini-history of shoes from the 20th century, beginning with the arrival of Salvatore Ferragamo on the scene and in America.   Bergstein chooses to tell this story mainly through the tales of some iconic shoes: Dorothy’s “ruby” slippers, stilettos (of course), Birkenstocks, Chuck Taylor’s, etc. 

While I did learn a few things (Ferragamo’s history was really interesting), this felt more like a collection of anecdotes, insider tales and Hollywood stories about shoes. And the chapter on 70’s shoes and platforms was mainly about men. Certainly not the book I was expecting, but a decent read nonetheless.

Handmade Chic

Fashionable Projects That Look High End, Not Homespun
by Laura Bennett

There has been an explosion of books and blogs lately as a part of a DIY (do-it-yourself) movement. Now, with just a little money and time, you can recreate designer looks at home without mortgaging it in the process. Sometimes, though, even at the hands of highly skilled artisans, the resulting items look a little too “homespun” and not like the things you see on current runways. And that’s fine for people who want that look, but there is a void in the market for chic diy books.

Laura Bennett’s latest book fills that void. Best known for her sleek, elegant designs on season 3 of Project Runway, Bennett has compiled a collection of accessories that are easy to make and incredibly stylish. What I loved most about it is the inclusion of materials that many shy away from: leather, fur (faux or real), feathers, and beads. Her instructions for buying and using them definitely take the intimidation factor away. The 40 projects include covers for electronics (e-readers, iPads, etc.), wallets, purses, and much more, including embellishing ready-to-wear garments.

This book is a valuable addition to any sewing and craft book library, especially my extensive one!

Gay Men Don’t Get Fat

by Simon Doonan

Simon Doonan is the most fabulous person I know. No, I don’t know him personally but he is one of my bestest friends in my head. And do you know what best friends do? They give you advice. Advice on how to live as fabulously and stylishly as they do. As the long time creative director at Barney’s (his window displays are legendary), Doonan is highly qualified to give us a tour through gay life and show us what we are doing wrong. 

Yes, there is a book called French Women Don’t Get Fat that eschewed the unhealthy American diet and was very popular, but people felt that the author looked down on us. Doonan doesn’t do that, but he does hilariously chronicle his realization that gay men and French women are basically the same species: they love fashion, home decor, and limiting their calories. What follows is a sort of field guide to gay men and which of their habits we could adopt to live healthier and happier lives. He tells us the difference between straight and gay foods (lesbian food has its own category), what style persona that heterosexual men can adopt to always look put together, and even takes us on a “Bear” hunt.  

One of the funniest books I’ve read in awhile!

Nina Garcia’s Look Book

What to Wear for Every Occasion
by Nina Garcia

The bookstore where I worked for the past 11 years recently closed. So I am embarking on a new job search. The other day while fretting over having to update my resume, it occurred to me that not only do I not have an outfit to interview in, my current wardrobe is only appropriate for a Starbucks employee. Because of the dress code at my former job, my closet is full of black polo style shirts and khakis. Right now the only social invitation I can accept from you is one where I’ll be making lattes at your dinner party. (And I can, because I am Starbucks/Seattle’s Best trained).

It’s hard to know where to start when your wardrobe has so many holes in it, so I’m turning to my library of fashion books to help me out. I chose this one for no other reason than it was the first that I laid my eyes on. While it really does cover what’s appropriate for certain occasions (job interview, a Netflix night, volunteering, etc.), it also gives some pointers on the appropriate etiquette in those situations. 

It wasn’t very helpful in setting up a core wardrobe, but once I have that in place, I will refer back to this on how to put it together. And as always, the illustrations by Ruben Toledo are divine!

73. Oh No She Didn’t

The Top 100 Style Mistakes Women Make and How to Avoid Them
by Clinton Kelly

I’m a huge fan of the television show What Not to Wear and watch it since the very first season with Stacy London and Wayne Scot Lukas.  For some reason (probably because of his unkempt appearance – purely my opinion) Lukas was replaced in Season Two with Clinton Kelly.  Good decision, I think. Clinton is way more put together, fashion-wise, and his rapport with Stacy is engaging.

Clinton has written two other books: Freakin’ Fabulous (I reviewed it here), and Dress Your Best, co-authored with Stacy. This new book, like the others, focuses on style, but it is more in keeping with the show and what not do do.  It hilariously countdowns 100 things that women do wrong in fashion with accompanying photos (please don’t miss the camel toe picture).  

While it’s not a book that I will go back and refer to for fashion advice, it made me laugh out loud often and I’m glad I read it.

Bright Spot in My Week

A couple months ago, this young woman comes up to customer service and says she lost her yellow sweater. Nobody had turned one in, but a few hours later it turned up at the registers but she was long gone. I grabbed the sweater and went to put it in lost and found. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a button and went “that looks familiar”. The tag inside said Tory Burch. I was so excited, but couldn’t really share it with my co-workers because none of them have a clue who Tory Burch is.

A couple of years ago I went to lunch in the mall across the street from work. This mall is pretty high end – Gucci, Armani, Saks Fifth Avenue. As I was walking through I notice a very stylish trio. They were too well put together to be Atlanta natives, because this is not a very fashionable city. Sorry, Atlantans, it isn’t. I think the upcoming Real Housewives of Atlanta will prove it. I can usually spot New Yorkers and Los Angelenos a mile away. Anyway, as I passed by them I recognized one of them as Tory Burch. She was opening a store in the mall. I went back to work all excited, but that was short lived because I was met with blank stares.

Last week, I rescued that sweater from lost and found (just like I did with the digital camera last year) and brought it home. A few days later on this Monday’s Oprah Winfrey show, she had on the same sweater!

16. Eccentric Glamour

Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You
by Simon Doonan
started 4/5 finished 4/15

I was so excited when I heard this book was coming out. I love Simon Doonan!! As the Creative Director for Barneys New York, he is an expert on personal style. For years people would go to Barneys just to see the innovative, smart, and sometimes controversial window displays he created. Especially at Christmas.

It seems that after seeing the crotch of one too many starlets as they get in and out of vehicles, he has had enough of the style direction this country is headed in. He is tired of the “ho chic” looks and wants to help all of us stand out from the crowd while still maintaining a sense of decorum.

The best part of any Simon Doonan book is his intelligent wit. Sometimes while reading him you feel like you are sitting right next to him during New York Fashion Week, ragging on all the people around you.

Two stand-outs from the book:

  • Interviews with people who Doonan feels best exemplify Eccentric Glamour, including Iman, Tilda Swinton, and, surprisingly, author Malcolm Gladwell.
  • Doonan addresses the distinct style of African-American women and what we bring to the table fashion wise.

Sewing Resolution 2008

This one is the easiest. My sewing resolution is to…..sew!

Some of you may think that I am lying and I can’t really sew. That I just collect fabric and lurk on sewing blogs to look cool. Well here is proof.

Yes it was 20 years and 50 lbs ago, but I made that off-the-shoulder knit top and tissue lame’ (not the nicest fabric to work with) bubble skirt!! While looking through the photo album for this picture I noticed that almost everything I had on was made by me. I was a fearless seamstress back then. I even made a black knit catsuit (you have to come to my apartment to see that picture). And I didn’t have a sewing room either. I found a picture of one of my roommates and in the background there is a dress form (that has since disappeared) and a sewing machine sitting on a packing trunk. That was my sewing table! And I just got rid of that machine last year.
So, while I won’t be making any bubble skirts any time soon, I will be ramping up the sewing around here. Nothing exciting at first. I will making lots of basics because I don’t have any of the staples in my wardrobe. I have created a spreadsheet called the Wardrobe Builder using the Lucky Magazine Shopping Manual. Each chapter is based on a different clothing type (skirts, tops, dresses, etc.), and it tells you what items you need for a well rounded wardrobe.

I want to do some fun sewing as well and maybe make some things from my inspiration wall (which has grown since this picture was taken).

In Her Shoes

Yes, I know that is a book and movie title but this post is about neither. It is about my shoes. This may be hard to believe but I have not had on a pair of heels for over 10 years. My life has morphed since then into the “comfort zone” and all clothing & shoe purchases for the last 10 years have fallen in that zone.

So one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to step up my style game (more on that later) and today that meant going through my old heels and deciding what to keep and what to donate. But first let me preface this by saying that since I pretty much live in athletic footwear, my idea of a heel is not the same as most modern women. There are no Jimmy Choo’s here. Off we go.
When I first put these on I thought that they were cut a little to high on the foot and wouldn’t work any more. But after looking at them all day and walking around in them a little, I decided that the patent leather croc print was just too classic and they deserved a reprieve.
These used to be my interview shoes and I maybe wore them to work when I managed a Black bookstore and we would have an important booksigning. Again, cut a little high for my current taste, but they are hardly worn and despite the kinda thick heel, they can stand in as a basic black heel.

These are my most favorite shoes in the world. Aren’t they rich and luscious? Don’t you just want to get a spoon and eat them up? I bought these at an outlet store (can’t remember which one) earlier than 1996 (I gauge time by the Atlanta Olympics). Probably 1994 0r 5. I love them. I have dreams of them. Every year when the fall collections come out I picture which items I can wear them with. Yet….I have never worn them. The soles are as beautiful and spotless as the day I bought them. Please someone invite me to an event I can wear these to because they just don’t fit into my current lifestyle. Oh, and send me a driver because I don’t want to scuff up the bottoms!

I used to wear these a lot. When I put them on again today I didn’t remember them being cut as high as they are (I guess toe cleavage wasn’t popular in the 80’s & 90’s). Now they have a vintage vibe that I am falling in love with. Sort of reminiscent of the 20’s and 30’s.
They look a little dowdy in this picture but I am going to work that out.

These didn’t make the cut. I was just holding onto them for sentimental purposes. My first celebrity crush was a well-respected music journalist and author. I had been reading his work and following his career from afar. While I was managing the Truth Bookstore, a now closed Black bookstore in Atlanta, he came by for a booksigning. Before the signing he did a newspaper interview in the back of the store. While he was waiting for the reporter to get organized, he looked to the front of the store where I was sitting at the counter working and said, “Nice shoes.”
Men very seldom notice women’s shoes without being prompted so this was a big deal. We wound up going to an NBA game that night and while nothing came of it, I got to meet and hang out with my crush. He even let me read part of a book he was working on. Despite all that these shoes are kinda tore up and must go.

I am on the fence about these. The heel is a little chunky for my current taste and the toe is wide and boxy. On the other hand, when worn with really long, wide pants the boxy toe looks like a squared off cowboy boot. I will keep these around a little longer while I decide.

So there you have it. My limited heels wardrobe. Noticeably missing: anything for evening. I don’t have my evening opportunities currently and will just get them when I need them.