Friday, October 30, 2009

What's That About? Snoods

Fashion's tastemakers, with blithe certitude,
Declared '09 to be the year of the Snood,
So you won't be caught napping
About this snuggly head wrapping
They mean a scarf you can wear like a hood.

Something about the word "snood" brings out the Dr. Suess in me. It's such a fun word to say. Go on. Snoooooooood.

Anyway, the tastemakers are inaccurate in calling a hoody scarf--or any sort of neckwrap--a snood, because this it ain't. The covering made trendy by Missoni (top) and others right on down to Gap is, properly speaking, a cowl.

Meanwhile, a snood, properly speaking, is some sort of ribbonlike or crocheted or cloth catchment for the hair, worn at the back of the head. Wiki tells us that the word comes from the Old English. In olde tymes in the northern regions of the British Isles, snoods were worn in ribbon form by women to indicate that they were unmarried.

Throughout their span of popularity, traditional snoods kept long hair tidily contained--either for social propriety or for professional safety. Here, a how-to posted by 16 Sparrows at the ever-informative Fedora Lounge. You have got to read this, it's hilarious.

Crocheting snoods became a popular pasttime in WWII, and patterns are easily found on eBay. I think they look especially great under hats, as a more formal alternative to a ponytail. And if anyone can tell me from which film this wonderful shot of Bette Davis originates, I'll write a bad poem in your honor.

(photo top of Missoni '09 show by AP, in the daily Telegraph; photo Bette Davis posted by Mean Jean on J-Walk Blog, thank you!)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tales from the Crypt: A Tie for Your Guy

Grown men tend to come in two varieties when it comes to dressing up for Halloween. No fun at all--i.e. unwilling to don even the simplest of masks to lend a little verve to the proceedings, or Way Too Fun Altogether--samba-ing around the house in a Borat-inspired glitter thong that would make more conservative parents--hell, even libertarian parents--regret ever ringing your doorbell.

Here, I think, is an item of clothing that strikes a fantastic middle ground between stick-in-the-mud and sartorial flamethrower:

A tie. But not just any tie. Look a little closer, and it turns into a catacomb's worth of death heads, gorgeously jacquarded into a black ground.

It comes from Favourbrook, a London mens'- and womenswear designer that is not widely known outside of England, but does wonderful things with brocaded fabrics and hand tailoring, especially its vests (in the UK known as waistcoats, but nonobligingly pronounced "weskits"). These peek out from underneath the grey tailed suits that are standard issue at your posher sort of English wedding.

Favourbrook has been in business for just few decades but its clothes have a decided retro flair. Founder Oliver Spencer's stated aim was to commingle the brilliance of Comme des Garçons and the '20s English chic depicted in the novels of Somerset Maugham (Yanks might substitute Gatsby style and get the general idea).

There's a nice article on Spencer here. In the meantime, keep your eye out for the stealth brand Favourbrook in secondhand situations. These are fine, fine pieces of clothing, and certainly deserve more outings than a night out on Halloween.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pennies in Heaven: Yves Saint Laurent Still Rules

Just read in New York Magazine's The Cut that Yves Saint Laurent is officially the top earning dead celeb, beating even Michael Jackson in earnings this year. And is it any wonder, with the house's phenomenal output under his helm, and its ongoing fruitfulness under Stefano Pilati.

As a quick reminder of the YSL bounty, above is a quilted white leather bomber jacket that I'd do dark deeds to own, even though it's probably too small (British 8 = American 4). Making matters worse is that it's currently sitting a mere stone's throw from my office.

But I already have a white leather jacket, which I don't wear nearly enough, so that's me out. How about you, in?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Have a Nice Day

Today, class, a history lesson, on one of the most iconic faces of the past half century. One that has had more revivals than Madonna. A face frozen in time--and unlike Madonna's, permanently set to a pleasant expression.

I speak of course, of the Smiley. First incarnated in the early seventies, when the "burn baby burn" sentiments of the previous decade were slowly ceding ground to "peace, man" and thence irrevocably to "have a nice day."

Smileys originally appeared in button form only, and then moved on to tee shirts. And then faded from public view, briefly . . .

Until fashion started ransacking the past in search of imagery to lend personality, instant recognizability, an ultimately, ironic knowingness to its lines.

The first to tee up, quite literally, was Moschino (vintage Moschino Jeans tee below, from ClaireInc). This Italian designer has never shied from humor, even in its boutique lines, and here he one-upped the original with a "turn that smile upside down" spin.

Next, French designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac had a go in Spring 2008 (top). This designer has never found a huge following outside France, arguably due to his extraordinary fondness for cartoons and other childlike motifs in his work. Smiley played straight into that sensibility, hence this dress. The fashion press was far from kind to Livia Giuggioli, Colin Firth's wife, for daring to show a sense of humor in wearing one to the premiere of Mama Mia.

Smiley's latest incarnation is from Aussie designers Ksubi, who cleverly transformed the ultimate 70s dude into a headphone-wearing noughties hipster.

For my money, though, you can't beat the original. Available online from the marvelous UK haberdasher Kleins.

No. YOU have a nice day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Up for Auction: A World Trade Center paper dress

I've seen a number of extraordinary paper dresses: showing Warhol's Campbell's Soup print, for example, and another touting Nixon for President.

But this one tops them all. Isn't it ironic that dresses like these, meant to be the ultimate in disposable fashion, wind up becoming objects to preserve at all cost . . .

(WTC paper dress, Lot No. 1372, to be auctioned tomorrow, October 26th by Kerry Taylor Auctions, London. If you're interested, get in touch with them here, right now).

Ascots and Cravats: Dandies Rule, OK?

What a fine specimen.

No! Not of an Austen hero (in case you don't recognize him, Captain Frederick Wentworth of Persuasion, played by Rupert Penry-Jones). Thank you Rupert.

No, I'm talking about his neckwear, specifically a cravat. Tied in "Mail Coach" fashion and held in place with a stickpin, probably pearl.

A cravat was originally an element of the uniforms worn by Croation soldiers stationed in Paris in the 17th century. The French adopted it as a fashion item, finding it more comfortable and laundry-friendly than the ruff which preceded it. A narrow strip of starched linen, muslin, silk, or later, cotton, it was looped once around the neck to form a band and then tied in any one of a number of different manners through the 17th and 18th centuries.

Ascots, which became popular in the early part of the 20th century, were the flamboyant grand-nephews of the cravat. Typically made of heavier silk, they had wider ends and were often brightly patterned with stripes, dots or paisleys. Alternately known as "day cravats," they would be affected--notably by the stylesetting Prince of Wales--in outdoor leisure pursuits that weren't likely to leave the partipants ruffled, like rounds of golf or sturdy walks around the estate with the dogs.

Like cravats, ascots could be handsomely set off with a fine stickpin. These are gorgeous little pieces of kit, shamefully neglected in the actual and virtual vitrines of the vintage-jewelery world. I think they are long overdue for a revival.

The problem with them is, they will put an unsightly big hole in your lapel or expensive Hermès scarf. So why not pick up a narrow silk strip from a charity shop for pennies, tie it cravat style, and then find a lovely stick pin to set it off? (Tieing tip, from the flipping awesome Jane Austen Centre gift shop, where you can purchase an actual cravat, if you are so inclined: "hold the centre of the cloth up against the neck, cross the ends behind before bring them back to the front and tying in a bow or knot.")

A cool look for setting off round the estate, and one that's just right as necks begin to feel the autumn chill.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wet-Look Leggings, Now and Then

Wet-look leggings, from Sass & Bide's high-end Rats to cheapie knockoffs bought at the mall, are inescapable on young, fashionable girls this autumn. Cover-up and show-off at once, they have rock chic attitude that makes them a staple that doesn't feel like a basic.

One thing they are not, is new. Because fashion-forward girls were rocking much same look at the seaside early in the last century. Granted, their hosiery was of wool rather than a polyamide fibre, but they served much the same purpose of lending a few degrees of modesty while leaving very little to the imagination.

The biggest difference? With the old ones, the wet look required getting into the water first.

(photo of Isabeli Fontana above by altamiranyc, at Altamira: Models Off Duty.

1920s bathing suits from Making a Splash: Beach Fashions, 1850-1920, 2008, at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Conn.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

ALL CAPS: Vintage Bathing Caps and the Ladies Who Love Them

I have Elegance Maison to thank for today's entry: vintage bathing caps and how to find, style, and wear them.

Let's dive straight in to the finding part. Authentic old ones are available on the usual online suspects like eBay and Etsy, but be sure not to miss Glamoursurf, which specializes in this sort of thing. If you want test your luck with Google, keywords to use include Jantzen and Sea Siren.

Beware: the old ones (and even some new ones, like this fetching aviatrix-style waffle cap from Amazon, of all places) may not offer a strictly watertight seal.

Back in the day, the best scientific minds in the bathing-cap industry had a go at the problem, according to this latter-day bulletin from Modern Mechanix, but even a super-suction-seal didn't always do the trick.

For ladies who favour a hair-in-the-air breaststroke at a majestic pace down the slow lane, actual submersion has never been a consideration. For these dipsy divas, the only possible option is the bathing turban. This marvelous site offers vintage-look headgear including bedazzled and leopardskin models, which, if they never actually manage to notch a Channel crossing, will look suitably commanding to the poolboys.

For more ideas on styles and how to wear them, have a good look at the Glamoursplash blog. Whether your style is sea nymph or battleship, there's a vintage or vintage-look bathing cap out there for you.

(British Vogue cover of Jerry Hall by Norman Parkinson, May 1975)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How to Wear Sandals With Socks (and not look like my Dad on vacation)

The trusty old sandal/sock combo has an unfashionable reputation, due to countless hordes of northern European menfolk taking to the streets in Birks and black ankle socks come holiday time.

This is not, and never will be, a good look. But does the entire sock/sandal category need to suffer by association?

I think not. If your ankles are lovely, your sandals are sky-high, and the socks of a pattern that won't fight too hard with the rest of the outfit, this look can look amazing. Like this. I think the hose do an excellent job of de-promifying what might be an overly sweet dress:

Give it a try! At the very least, your sandals can get a few more outings in the autumn air before the sleet really sets in.

(photo by Patrick Demarchelier for British Vogue, published in November 2009)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How to Style a Denim Jacket|How to Style a Leather Jacket

Wear them together. Like stylist Hanna Kelifa does here, in AnOther Magazine's Autumn 2009 issue.

It looks amazing, and it's so very simple. The only embellishment is at the wrist--those fantastic silver cuffs that echo the bleached hue of the denim and the gleam of the leather. Hanna's deep scarlet nail polish doesn't hurt either.

If you've already got these components, give it a try. If you're missing any of the garments, your local charity/thrift shop is sure to have them in stock.

(photo in AnOther Magazine, Autumn 2009)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fun with Photoshop, Part 2: Rolex

Unlike the DKNY ad below, this one, for Rolex, is gorgeous, I think. Cleverly referencing Amelia Earhart (who will be big news with the forthcoming biopic later this year), delicately lighted, and beautifully styled. I especially love the skinny little scarf knotted over the portrait-collared leather jacket.

The product, too, is exactly in place, neither dominating the shot nor lost within it.

So all good, right? Until I saw the same ad running in British Vogue.

Take a good look at the watch here.

A simple question: with a luxury brand like Rolex, do you really want the mechanism showing this clearly?

Fun with Photoshop, Part 1: DKNY

I'm not a fan of the current DKNY campaign. Despite the garish hue of the greens and pinks, these photographs seem oddly barren in texture, affect, life.

With a closer look, though, it gets even creepier. The models are fully accessorized with bags, hats, belts and shoes. The gloss on the bags indicates sun, the New York sidewalk behind attests street.

But where are the models' shadows?

Memo to DKNY: you can't fake the NY part.

Stealth Brands: Colonial Hong Kong Tailors

HOW I wish the the Victoria & Albert (or one of the world's other great costume collections) would do a show on the extraordinary tailoring that took place mid-century in Hong Kong, or as it was more fully elaborated back in those days, the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong. Chinese ladies of ample means, diplomat's wives, consorts of trading-house wealth--all called upon a retinue of craftspeople who worked to the highest standard of quiet luxe and exquisite workmanship.

Insane brocades. Galaxies of beadwork. And tailoring so precise the garments fit like a second skin.

Here's one example, from Magnificent Vintage. Countless others abound in vintage shops, online and bricks-and-mortar, ignored in favor of lesser garments because the name on the label rings no bell. Even Malcolm Starr, the best-known label of the lot, is frequently underpriced given the quality of the clothes.

DINGDINGDING. Hong Kong. Keyword that in, and you will be astounded at the treasures you find.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's an Insular World After All

If you've got an eye on fashionland (and even if you have your head in a hole in the ground), you're likely to have heard of the controversy sparked by the photoshoot commissioned by Vogue Paris by Steven Klein for the October issue, in which model Lara Stone posed in makeup that ranged from titanium white to umber.

Vogue's editor, Carine Roitfeld, has been blasted for insensitivity. The photos in which Stone's skin was darkened have been likened to blackface, the notorious black-and-white makeup worn by white entertainers to caricature and ridicule blacks.

The Emperor's Old Clothes blog, among others, has commented thoughtfully on the issue. I won't, but did think it would be interesting to post some imagery along similar lines. Are they racist? Are they art? Or are they merely fashion being fashion, which takes endless pains to be edgy, but then acts shocked, shocked! when it actually succeeds in causing offense.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How to Wear an Autumn Shawl

So must of us are not as genetically gifted as Eniko Mihalik, caught between runway stints at the Paris shows in recent weeks. (A few seconds of blatant self-pity allowed here).

OK, snap out of it! Because no matter what our own shape, size, age, belief systems and disposable income, any one of us could rock a shawl like the girl does here. It doesn't have to be Burberry, either. It does have to be fairly large (50"/127 cm square is a good starting point). The fabric ought to be light enough to twist and drape softly: wool challis is a good bet, but silk would also look lovely.

Once you've got it, simply fold it accordian style until it's about a handspan wide, loop once around the neck, and let the ends drape comme ça over the shoulders. Eniko's shawl looks especially pretty against her bare arms but practically speaking, it would work equally well against a simple lightweight knit or quiet jacket.

How easy is that? Very easy indeed.

photo from Altamira: Models Off Duty, gorgeously photographed © Altamiranyc

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Party Suits: Vietnam Pilots Get Their Groove On

One of the joys of this blog is coming across fashion items of the most arcane imaginable sort--the kind that don't even have an entry on Wikipedia. Today, something for the guys . . . party suits.

An innocuous name for a fairly bodacious garment: cotton flight suits first worn by American Air Force personnel stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Worn to parties and other social get-togethers after missions, the suits would be dyed, ornately embroidered by local tailors, and covered with patches that were not always strictly regulation issue.

I think they're fascinating as exemplars of personal and military history . . . and while I'm not convinced they're wearable in any sort of contemporary circumstance, it's nice to know that they're being preserved, and resold, by specialist museums and collectors.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Absolutely Charming: Laika the Space Dog

I'm feeling Halloween on this crisp October morning and so started off on a web hunt of vintage momento mori-- skulls, whose use as a motif in jewelry and other decorative objects served as bracing eventual portraits of their owners.

But the skulls will have to wait until later this week (they're in no hurry anyway).

For the hunt got completely sidetracked by this vintage silver charm, which I think is everything a charm ought to be. Beautifully crafted, evocative, mechanically cunning, and ultimately touching. It is a momento mori as well, but of canine fidelity rather than of human transience.

The charm portrays Sputnik 2 and its payload Laika, who was the first animal in space. Her not-terribly-long survival in orbit was nonetheless sufficient to convince space scientists that an animal could withstand the forces of launch, and so she marked the way for all future human efforts beyond the atmosphere. Given her sacrifice, there is a monument in her honor in Russia.

But far better to be memorialized in a charm as beguiling as this. It deserves center stage, on its own on a bracelet or as a pendant. That way, in response to the inevitable inquiries, her story is retold, and her death, in the cause of mankind's greatest exploration, remembered.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What's That About? Dickie Collars

a.k.a. dickey or even dicky . . . a silly little name for a great vintage accessory that I think is well worth reviving.

Generally speaking, a dickie is the collar and front-placard element of a shirt, with the rest of it simply left off. At once frou-frou and utterly practical, it added a flourish of linen at the neck which was far more easily washed, dried and ironed than an entire garment.

According to Wiki's excellent entry on dickeys, the original versions were popular when sweat labor was carried out in formal costume--for example by waiters, conductors, and magicians. In the days before easy-care fabrics, they'd throw on a dickie made of cloth, celluloid plastic, or even cardboard between undershirt and tux, where it would do an excellent imitation of a starched shirt.

Young women began wearing dickies in subsequent decades, especially under knit jumpers/pullovers and cardigans, to add a flash of innocent, frilly white that framed the face in a fetching way. On occasion designers would fashion up a deluxe dickey, such as this beauty recently featured on Vintage Detail (thanks Jody!).

I think the right dickie could be a tremendously fun garment to own, especially if you need a buttoned-up look at work. Wear one under a plunging neckline, then, come quitting time, * poof * instant vamp, without even leaving the cubicle.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Stealth Brands: Mark Cross

I love accessories with a pedigree--scarves, bags, belts, or costume jewellery made by a company that did its business in exemplary fashion for decades, sticking to the principles of its founders.

Given the demands of modern marketing and celeb-based brand development, these boutique businesses, often family-run, are currently at a huge disadvantage, and have two obvious options to survive. The first is to allow the name and design archives to be acquired by a money-rich conglomerate, which with luck will be enlightened enough to hold true to the brand's ethos. The second is to depend on the steady custom of the wealthy few who are not interested in broadcasting their advantages through easily recognized logos. As these few become fewer indeed, more and more of these businesses are simply shutting their doors.

But because their products were created to last, the brand lives on, fashion's fleet of Flying Dutchmen, in the secondhand realm, where they are known to and sought-after by connoisseurs but otherwise so under the radar that the prices are invariably well below the pieces' actual worth. Such is the case with the leather goods of the now defunct Mark Cross.

The name may mean little to most luxury goods buyers nowadays, but back in mid-century, it stood for beautiful luggage, handbags, and other leather goods. Grace Kelly carried a negligee in a Mark Cross bag in the film Rear Window. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor ordered suitcases by the containerload. The company sold the first wristwatch ever in the United States. According to its chairman in 1969, customer service was paramount.
"If someone calls up from a hotel to say his suitcase won't lock, we treat it as an emergency," he told Time magazine, "He gets immediate help, no matter how small a customer he is."

I was lucky enough to experience this service firsthand, as a young editor in the mid-1980s, when the Fifth Avenue branch of the store was still in operation. My mom had given me her old navy blue, boxy little Mark Cross camera bag (so called, I guess, because it was just large enough to hold an Instamatic, a wallet, and a lipstick). It was a cross-shoulder strap style, which was just as well in Manhattan in those years, and I wore the thing near to death. Inevitably, some of the stitches detached where the strap met bag. I braved it into the store, abashed to be carrying a twenty-year-old item, hoping someone could tell me the name of a good repair shop. The saleswoman practically snatched it out of my hands, telling me to come back in a week. "But, how much?" I asked, being on an extremely stringent budget. "Oh," she reassured me. "Of course there's no charge."

So when, a few weeks ago, in Selfridges, I saw a chic young woman carrying an over-the-shoulder boxy little bag and looking great with it, I reckoned the time had come for another Mark Cross. Here it is, off Etsy for $39/£24.

If you love beautiful things, but are not so keen to pay for their celeb-driven marketing, you might want to keep this stealth brand in mind.

(advertisement at top from Bag Lady University, the invaluable educational arm of Bag Lady Emporium, with many thanks)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

R.I.P. Irving Penn

"I myself have always stood in the awe of the camera. I recognize it for the instrument it is, part Stradivarius, part scalpel."

(Les Bouchers (Butchers) © Irving Penn, 1950)

DIY Thursday: How to Give an Off-Trend Jacket Fresh New Style

Yesterday, this little number caught my eye in my local Oxfam. For £12/$20 it wasn't exactly a steal, but this is a fair price for an unworn, decently-made little wool jacket that could act as an instant updater for the other old standbys in my closet (plus add a layer to my always-freezing frame).

The biggest problem was its trendiness--back in 2007. The smock cut paired with oversize buttons tacked with cross-hatch stitching: pure Marc Jacobs. In the early noughties he nicked these style markers from the late-1950s (think Lucy Ricardo pregnant with Little Rickie). From his runways the look trickled down through the fashion strata, until every shop in the land featured a variation on the theme.

I'm not enough of a seamstress to change the basic silhouette (plus the volume appealled as an offsetter to skinny jeans and leggings). On the other hand, I could easily do something about those buttons. Off they came, replaced by a Deco-style pair that caught my eye in Aladdin's Cave shop of my local button lady.

Fifteen minutes of sewing time later, the jacket is no longer Marc's by way of some factory in Guangzhou, but mine. I'm having fun introducing it to various fixtures in my closet, like the polka-dot flamenco blouse, which needs toning down, and a classic denim shirt, which could use classing up.

This is a great kind of project if you can sew a button and want to stretch your wardrobe on the cheap. Remember: if a button is making you fashion history, it's the easiest part of a garment to renovate.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Indelible Stamp of Lowly Origin: New Fashion from Alexander McQueen

Take a deep breath:

the Alexander McQueen Spring '10 slideshow, from The New York Times.

It's flat-out rapturous. The inventiveness of the fabrication, cut, and decorative effect pretty much defies description, but here goes anyway.

Nature, with her mantles and protoplasmic frills and scale patterns, clearly provided the main inspiration. Armor, armoured sportsgear, and antique corseting may have kicked over some structural ideas. Despite all of the over-the-top-ness of the display, the brilliance of the collection, for me, is the sense that every piece is as fit to its role as a bird's feathers, or a moth's wing.

[except the shoes. nevermind.]

Please keep this man in business. Buy retail if you can afford it. If you can't, keep his clothes out of the landfills by having a look through vintage outlets and online sources. I came across this jacket, which is gorgeous, fairly priced, and again indebted to nature (though in this case DNA provided the pattern rather than a talented CAD designer).

That's it for me: I'm going to watch the livestream.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Trendcycling: Shorts and Black Tights Then and Now

Up top, a photo of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg happily in love, sometime in Paris in the 70s.

And, proving that the black tights with denim shorts is a trend with legs, below is model Frida Gustavsson, shot by Craig for the Altamira: Models Off Duty blogspot about two weeks ago (LOTS of great off-duty styling seen here).

Frida's over-the-knee socks are a nice twist on the look, and I think Jane's Mary Janes look superfine.

Monday, October 5, 2009

How to Wear It: Brogues without Socks

The subject of shoes is sticking like a piece of gum on this blog's foot. Almost instantly after I commit to words the hastily-formed thought that brogues aren't ideal as sensible footgear as they risk looking mannish, that pesky Sartorialist posts a gorgeous photograph of his wife proving me totally wrong in a traditional pair, worn without socks.

Mr. Schuman has been personally responsible, I believe, for a trend among fashionable men of wearing their oxfords without hose of any sort (click through his blog, especially shots from Italy, to see). Are ladies next? If they all look as good as Garance, you can bet on it.

More traditionally, here are Norma Shearer (above), and Katherine Hepburn (below) in brogues, practicing safe socks.

If you opt in--and given the Sartorlialist's current sway over fashion, you well might--good brogues, built to last, are fairly easy to find in vintage outlets--check out boys' versions if your feet run average to small.

(photo of Norma Shearer from the ravishing Seraphic Secret blog; photo of Katherine Hepburn from Disco Nap London, many thanks!)

Friday, October 2, 2009

And If You Thought The Last Entry Was Lame: How About a Mojito Sandal

Hard on the heels of Topic: Sensible Shoes comes this article from the Daily Mail, about an architect who's gone back to the drawing board with conceptual shoe design. Like many women I must be addled on the subject of footgear because I find these sandals by Julian Hakes gorgeous. Wonder if he has any prototypes kicking around the studio . . .

(photo © Hakes Associates Ltd, in

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sensible Shoes

You saw right. In the mainline fashion sector this subject is anathema (meaning unsexy, unhip, unspeakable) but let's get real for a moment.

You can't move freely in fashionable heels if you need to cover any sort of distance on a non-carpeted surface.

So this entry is devoted to that most retro of subjects, a shoe you can spend a day walking in, comfortably, without blisters, sore arches, strained back, or other grumpy-making side effects. The kind of shoe that is casual, but stylishly so, and doesn't default into the most obvious alternatives, which for me rules out ballet flats, trainers/sneaks, and Uggs (all of which also fall short to one degree or another in weather-resistance, elegance, and/or durability).

So what's left? Possibly brogues. Impeccable comfort, handsome, but let's be honest, kind of mannish. You could play against this by pairing them with matching-color knee-high socks and a skirt, but only if you're coltish (filly-ish?). Plus you have to tie them, which, insanely, can be a dealbreaker, at least for me, when rushing around choosing which pair of shoes to wear out the door.

Tods-style driving mocs are also very nice, but the leather is too soft, and the soles too nubby to support a day's walking, which is what we're talking about here.

So that's leaves loafers. Uncool (unless worn by Alexa Chung for about ten minutes last year) but the right ones might get you thinking otherwise.

Tasselled, penny-slotted or plain-top is a matter of preference. No matter what the sort, loafers in general seem more easily found, in excellent shape, secondhand than on the high street or at the mall. Certain old-school manufacturers did them brilliantly, and are worth seeking out by name: like Etienne Aigner (my new/old ones above, eBay $17), Joan & David (main line, not Circa), of course Gucci and Hermés, and Ralph Lauren. "Made in Italy" in the description is a good tip-off that the quality will be high.

Shop carefully, and you could find a brilliant lightly-worn or unworn pair for a fraction of their actual value. And the worth?

How about appreciating, unreservedly, Henry David Thoreau's observation that "Heaven is under our feet, as well as over our heads."