Archive for July, 2008

High heels for your infant

Parenting is a complicated affair. There is no manual for it; you simply wing it and hope that things work out for the best. One thing that you can be pretty sure of is that no one will ever entirely agree with the way in which you raise your children. People (particularly grandparents) will always have something to say about you parenting skills and may even take great joy in pointing out your (obvious) shortcomings. Areas that come under special attention usually include discipline, values and education.

I try hard not to criticise parents because I’m not one, and so I can’t really know (although I can imagine) how hard it is to raise children in a manner that won’t leave them too badly scarred and reliant on medication in adulthood. I do, however, take umbrage when parents try to make their children grow up too quickly and force them to adopt mini-adult roles too early in their young lives.

You see it quite often among young girls, who are dressed in increasingly grown-up women’s clothes, rather than t-shirts and shorts that they can run around in without fear of mud and dirt. Children should be children, not miniature versions of their parents, or what their parents would like them to be. So it was with some consternation that I read about Heelarious®, which is a company that makes high heel shoes for infants aged 0-6 months.

Now, before I immediately alienate all people who think this kind of thing is oh-so-cute, I must stress that I understand the spirit in which they were made. I just don’t happen to agree with it.

On the official Heelarious® website, the creators of the shoes provide a dictionary-like definition for their use of the word:

Heelarious – noun: extremely funny, completely soft, fully functional high heel crib shoes for babies. Not intended for walking (heel will collapse with weight). Not intended to harm children in any way. Warning: May cause extreme smiling and hysterical laughter when in use (this is completely normal).

high heels for infants - Kayla

Heelarious: high heels for infants - Kayla

I’m curious: is it considered “completely normal” to make your child an object of mockery and ridicule? Because that’s what these shoes do. They may be cute and the intention may not be to harm, but again, that’s exactly what these shoes do, just perhaps not on a physical level.

Babies, like all people, do not enjoy being laughed at when they don’t understand the joke. They may be small but I’m pretty sure that they know when the joke is on them. It’s enormously embarrassing to be the unwitting object of laughter, especially the hysterical kind. Yes, the intention is to derive joy from the shoes, but what joy is there in them for the poor little innocent baby girl? Her little feet are at their best when they’re unencumbered. Putting them in mock high heels, no matter how soft, is just plain cruel. The joy seems to be solely for the parents and other grown-ups who think that the idea of a “Little Miss” is just too precious for words.

The precious-factor is increased when you see just how “cute” these little shoes are. Two of the designs (and there are 6) are named after the creators’ daughters, Kayla and Brooke, as a sort of bizarre homage. Kayla Shoes are finished in zebra satin with hot pink lining, while Brooke Shoes are leopard satin with black satin lining. All shoes come in purse-shaped gift box with a rhinestone claps. It’s all very twee, and at $35 (£17), rather dear too.

In my opinion (and that’s all it is), these crib shoes constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Far from being Heelarious®, they’re horrendous, and any parents caught placing them on their daughter’s feet should be hauled before the court for poor judgement and bad taste.

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When is it ever acceptable to wear white shoes?

If ever there was an issue to divide experts in the fashion industry, it would be white shoes. Some people love them, some hate them and some only love them when it’s the right season. Americans, for reasons shrouded in the mysteries of time, tend not to wear any white clothing, but particularly shoes, after the 1st of May, which is Labour Day. The tradition has lost some of its force over the last few years, as more and more people decide to exercise their much vaunted freedom of choice and wear white all year round.

What is it about white shoes that so many people, and I include myself among them, find offensive? For many people the reasons are practical. White is not a colour that wears dirt well, but it is a colour that attracts dirt in much the same way that bees are drawn to honey. And as shoes are in natural proximity to a great deal of dirt, it’s natural that white shoes should get extra dirty, or at least so it seems. Black or brown shoes can get away with a certain amount of smearing and scuffing, but white shoes offer absolutely no leeway.

Other people dislike them for aesthetic reasons. Everybody knows that while black is slimming, white gives the illusion of largeness. What it does for your hips, it does for your feet. No matter how delicate and dainty your feet are, when you fully enclose them in a white shoe, it looks like you’ve got boats attached to your ankles. And not pretty little gondolas either, but great big hulking oil tankers.

Some fashionistas allow that strappy little white sandals can be sexy, and are perfect for some daytime summer functions, but white pumps and flats are a serious fashion crime. Not even nurses are exempt from fashion victim status unless they choose to replace their pumps or flats with white sneakers, which are deemed acceptable footwear.

One thing that the experts seem to agree on is that the less hosiery you wear with white shoes the better. In fact, no hosiery is really best. The one thing guaranteed to get you voted off the island, with no chance of return, is to pair white shoes with white stockings. White stockings are apparently the ultimate fashion crime. They may have been acceptable when you went to church or parties as a little girl aged 5, but it’s a line you don’t want to cross as a grown woman. White stockings shorten your leg line and make you look short and stubby, which, funnily enough, is not a look many women are keen to adopt.

Brides are, of course, exempt from this rule, as they are from all concerns regarding white shoes and clothing. It’s a bride’s prerogative to dress herself from head to toe in white, except for the something blue, and look nothing but radiant.

So what do you do if you have an outfit that you feel would be perfectly finished off with a pair of white shoes, but you’re too nervous to take the fashion leap of faith? Experts recommend that you try neutral or flesh-coloured shoes, like sand, tan or light brown, as they usually blend in with clothes. If you absolutely must step into something white, the key is to do so with confidence. Realise that you will appear as something of a fashion rebel, even though many celebrities, fashion icon Paris Hilton among them, have been seen wearing white shoes of late. Be prepared to have some people stare (white shoes are attention grabbing), some people may tsk, and others may ask if you have a mirror at home, but so long as you feel confident that you look good, chances are that you’ll be able to pull it off.

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Change your look without changing your shoes

Shoes are fairly inflexible pieces of equipment. That’s one of the reasons why people make such a big deal out of buying shoes, taking hours, sometimes days, to find the perfect pair. As far as shoes are concerned, what you see is what you get. They don’t come with interchangeable bits and pieces for you to chop and change and alter as the mood strikes. But perhaps those rigid days are behind us. Maria Puente from USA Today has revealed that several kinds of adjustable shoes are making waves in the fashion industry.

First up we have Camileon Heels, and their height adjustable shoes. In the late 80s David Handel became aware that many snappily dressed women walked about New York in sneakers instead of the fashionable shoes that he expected. As his children were playing with “Transformers” action figures, he began to wonder if there was someway that he could transform uncomfortable fashion shoes, into shoes women could happily wear throughout the day. And so he went about designing a high-heeled shoe that could be shortened to add immediate comfort without sacrificing style. Camileon Heels can be shortened by two inches, from 3.25 to 1.25 inches. Comfort doesn’t comes cheap though, with prices ranging from $225 – $325 (£115 – £167); these shoes weren’t made to fit any pocket.

The interchangeable aspects of Switchflops® are infinitely cooler and guaranteed to appeal to summer lovers the world over. The great thing about Switchflops®, besides the brilliant practical applications, is the story behind them. They were created by a high school student as an art class project. Lindsay Phillips, Lulu, to her friends, took her project idea and ran with it, turning it into a lucrative business on the way. Switchflops® come in 3 basic styles with Velcro-covered thongs so that you can switch straps as and when you please. She even has a catchy slogan, “Change your look, not your sole”. Perhaps the best thing about these shoes is their affordability. The basic styles cost between $32 and $47 (£16 – £24), while the straps cost only $10 (£5) each.

Lastly, there is every mother’s dream: children’s shoes that can be adjusted to keep up with quickly growing feet. Inchworm shoes cater to those tricky childhood years, between the ages of three and nine, when children barely stay the same size for two days on end. Their shoes can grow in half-sizes until they’re a full size bigger than the shoes you started out with. All you need to do is push a button and pull, and hey presto, you’ve saved yourself the ordeal of dragging your bored child from shop to shop in search of a decent pair of shoes. They cost $79 (£40) a pair and come in 10 styles and a variety of gaudy colours that children love. As an added incentive, Inchworm promises to donate 5% of all their sales towards finding a cure for juvenile diabetes.

Currently these adjustable shoes are only available online or from specialist shoe shops, but as more people recognise the practicality in versatile footwear, regular retailers will have no choice but to meet the demand. Expect to see even more ranges of innovative and adjustable shoes on a shelf near you.

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Rules for wearing shoes and stockings

Fashion trends that come and go make getting dressed in the morning far more complicated than it needs to be. Nowhere is the fashion minefield more treacherous than footwear. The simple act of putting on a pair of shoes is governed by implicit rules that you are assumed to know. You break these rules at your peril. A particularly thorny issue concerns stockings, and whether it’s acceptable to wear them with open-toed shoes.

Like many questions in fashion, the answer is both yes and no.

Open-toed shoes are designed to show off sexy toes, as they’re principally summer shoes and aren’t really designed for cold weather. There are occasions, however, when your outfit demands to be completed by open-toed shoes, regardless of the season. On these occasions fashion experts agree that you need to “bare” three things in mind: the design and colour of the stockings, and the size of the opening in the shoes.

When pairing stockings with open-toed shoes, it’s generally better to choose stockings that are sheer, without any pronounced variations in texture or colour. It’s also important to choose stockings that don’t have reinforced toes or heels, as these are likely to stick out and make you look a fashion victim. This is especially true for shoes with very open toes. Neutral colours are also best, unless you’re looking to make a bright, bold statement. It’s often a good idea to try and match the colour of your stockings to your shoes, as having toes that are a contrasting colour to the rest of the shoe tends to look a bit odd.

These days, toeless pantyhose or leggings are a viable option for those who want to wear open-toed shoes but keep their legs covered. Leggings, especially, hide a multitude of sins and provide an extra measure of warmth. They are available in a variety of colours, designs and textures so you can mix ‘n match and make and break fashion rules as you please.

It seems that there are a lot of rules that govern stockings in general, and not only when it comes to stockings and open-toed shoes. Some women wouldn’t be seen dead in stockings that didn’t perfectly compliment their shoes, while others go out of their way to wear as many contrasting colours as possible. We’re lucky to live in a time when just about anything goes.

Cashpaste.com offers some sound advice for uncertain stocking wearers.

· When in doubt, go neutral. Neutral tones work best with translucent finishes, and not opalescent ones.

· Monochromatic combinations give the illusion of longer legs, as one solid block of colour that extends to your toes extends your leg line. Care should be given when choosing bright colours, however, as they can create a clownish appearance.

· You can spice up a monochromatic look by wearing patterned or textured stockings.

· Playing with textures and patterns can be fun, and add new elements to your wardrobe, but you need to be careful that your combinations don’t make your eyes water when you look at them, or necessitate the application of sunglasses.

· Colour is a great way to lift an outfit and give it life, but again you need to use discretion so that you don’t look like a child playing dress-up. Stick to colours that compliment each other, that way, even bold colours will enhance your outfit and add to your overall appearance.

Ideally, the only opinion that really counts is yours. If you are happy and comfortable with what you wear, stockings, open-toed shoes and all, then you can step out in pride. Fashion is a fickle thing, and there’s no telling from day-to-day what will be “in” or “out”. The chunky stockings and sandals that you wear today could set the standard in couture tomorrow.

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