Shoe Sanity: Rationales & Recommendations for Comfortable Footwear Spring 2014

It is remarkable that the fashion press almost universally ignores the damage to feet caused by all too many of the fashionable shoes created and promoted by designers and featured in magazine editorial content. Here are recent articles that spotlight the potential issues:

0314 shoes Shape hard on heels jogging REV

The March 2014 issue of Shape includes an article entitled “Hard on heels” that concludes that rushing around in high heels “can wreak havoc on your joints.” The article elaborates:

“It’s no secret that they can cause foot, back, and even hip pain. But if you’re still sporting heels, here’s another potential peril to consider: Women who frequently run in pumps–to catch the bus or chase after their kids, for example–could be setting themselves up for serious knee problems later in life, according to research published in the International Journal of Biomedical Engineering and Technology.

The article references a test in which women jogged in 2 2/3-inch heels, compared with 1 1/4-inch heels and flat footwear. The women wearing the higher heels “had an increased range of knee and hip motion as they moved” which “puts unsafe pressure on joints . . . and can, over time, contribute to osteoarthritis.” The potential for ankle sprains is also noted. The article concludes:  “The bottom line:  Skip the stilettos if you know you’ll be on the go, and always pack a pair of flats in case you’re caught off guard.”

Notice that the “high heels” tested were only 2 2/3 inches in height, hardly stilettos of the heights common  in many designer collections.

0314 shoes April Womans Day REV

The April 2014 issue of Woman’s Day contains an article entitled “Fight Foot Pain:  Why your feet ache–and how to make them feel better fast” by Alyssa Shaffer. She reports that “the podiatrist says . . . Be smart about shoes.”  Shaffer files this report form Carly Robbins, DPM, of Foot & Ankle Specialists of Marysville, OH:

“You already know wearing heels isn’t great for your feet, but flats may be just as bad. The lack of support can cause painful conditions such as plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the tissue that runs from heel to toes)–and it’s not only your feet that suffer. Flimsy shoes can lead to knee, hip and back pain. To avoid injury, limit these styles to events that don’t involve much standing or walking, and consider using orthotic inserts. Over-the-counter options are available for most shoes–even heels and flats. But for more serious conditions, such as fallen arches, see a podiatrist for custom inserts.”

Still not convinced that low-heeled (but not flat) comfortable shoes are the way to go?  Consider these stories pulled from the pages of the fashion press:

0314 shoes Dec Jan HB block heels REV

The December 2013/January 2014 issue of Harper’s Bazaar reports (with a startling admission):  ”The news is out–heels are getting low, much to the relief of our aching feet. But for the vertically inclined, never fear:  You can still get your kicks in with a block-heeled sandal–it’s the chic compromise between the vertiginous stiletto and the workaday flat.” Pictured are styles from Marvin K. and Marni. Block heels were first reported by Harper’s Bazaar back in fall 2012, over a year ago, as I discussed in my October 4, 2012 blog post. The block heel is proving to have staying power.

0314 shoes April Elle Nicole Richie REV

In the April 2014 issue of Elle, actress, House of Harlow 1960 designer and style icon Nicole Richie explains her flat shoes in the photo above to creative director Joe Zee: “I wear flat shoes all the time. There’s not anything cute about waddling in some heels that you’re not comfortable in. My one rule is that I always wear flats to weddings.” Joe asked why. She responded:  “Because I want to dance!  I want to be there all night. And I know people get cray.”  Richie wears an Alexander Wang dress over a House of Harlow 1960 sweater with Reed Krakoff shoes. Note that the oxford-style shoes are not completely flat, but rather have a heel of at least an inch – a perfect blend of comfort and chic.

0314 shoes Glamour Taylor Swift flats REV

Singer Taylor Swift, the cover girl of the March 2014 issue of Glamour, “says: Ditch your heels. ‘I’m obsessed with flats,’ Ms. Swift tells us. ‘Obsessed.’ (And when the 5’10″ superstar gets obsessed, step back.) Swift favors loafers, oxfords, ballet flats, and quirky-cute cat slip-ons from Charlotte Olympia, worn with anything and everything.”

More on the latest in chic and comfortable footwear will follow.

How Not to Conceal a Tummy: The Necklace Effect (Repost from My Blog)

A note to my blog followers:  I hope you have discovered my new jewelry blog that launched in late 2013 at – it focuses on “the what, why and how of wearing jewelry well.” (TM)  Here’s today’s post, which provides useful tips on how to (and how not to) conceal a tummy.

The haphazard addition of jewelry to an ensemble can completely change its visual effect when it redirects the focus of the viewer. An excellent example of this result appears in the February 2014 issue of InStyle, in an article sharing “editors’ best shape secrets.”

pendant necklace spilling how not to conceal tummy REV

The above photograph purportedly demonstrates how to “conceal a tummy,” the editors stating: “To cover a muffin top without venturing into muumuu territory, skip fitted Ts in favor of loose, untucked designs, like this one. Styles with ruching, draping, or center-resting colorblocking all do your midsection favors.”

Skimming over what is perceived as a problematic portion of one’ s anatomy is more flattering than accentuating the area with a snug, fitted garment. The style of the T by Alexander Wang shirt is excellent, the three-quarter length sleeves also contributing to the visual effect of a more slender waist. Shiny silk satin, however, is an odd choice – its highly reflective surface makes the garment, and the wearer, appear larger.

But it is the necklace pictured that counters the flattering shape of the shirt. The necklace itself is lovely, a pendant design in fluorite and gold vermeil by Margaret Elizabeth. Slung over the model’s neck and spilling over the collar of the shirt, however, it distorts the neckline of the garment, making the collar and button placket wrinkle. (I addressed this issue in a blog post for JCK Magazine back in October 2009.)  Wearing the necklace over the shirt, under its collar, would be a less distracting option for combining the pendant necklace with the shirt. (Watch for more examples of this styling approach in an upcoming blog post.)

Consider what the pendant necklace visually accomplishes — it draws attention downward and points to the models’ stomach, exactly the part of her anatomy this ensemble is supposedly trying to conceal.

A better choice would be a short necklace that peeks out from under the collar of the shirt. A single-strand necklace would be ideal, keeping the neckline open and allowing the shirt to do its flattering work. A short necklace would also draw attention up to the face — and draw attention away from and help conceal the tummy.


My Famous “Expedited Engagement Shrimp” Recipe

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Style is more than fashion – it touches every aspect of our lives. Today I offer you  a very stylish addition to your cooking repertoire. For those of you anticipating your special someone will soon pop the question, I offer a recipe with a very special back story.

Many of you no doubt are familiar with “Engagement Chicken” – a recipe that Glamour magazine made famous and which is credited with prompting a number of marriage proposals. The first reported proposal came a full month after the dinner at which the lemon-accented chicken was served, the boyfriend  noting “It’s a meal your wife would make. It got me thinking.”

I’m pleased to share my recipe for “Expedited Engagement Shrimp.”  This is the entrée I cooked for my then-boyfriend’s family on Mother’s Day 2012 — a recipe that resulted in Paul making an impromptu marriage proposal that very evening, months before he had planned to do so. Tomorrow, Paul and I will be married one very happy year.

Do let me know if this recipe proves to be a charm for you.

Expedited Engagement Shrimp on plate with carrots REV 6w

Photo:  “Expedited Engagement Shrimp” plated with sautéed carrots and brown rice

Expedited Engagement Shrimp

Expedited Engagement Shrimp with mise en place REV 6w

In a large flat baking dish combine approximately 1 1/2 pounds jumbo or extra large raw shrimp (whatever fits in one layer), 4 cloves sliced garlic, and 2 tablespoons white wine. Season lightly with course-ground salt.

Expedited Engagement Shrimp pre-baking REV 6w

Sprinkle with a mixture of 1/4 cup softened butter, 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley.

Expedited Engagement Shrimp ready to serve REV 6w

Bake at 425 degrees until the shrimp are opaque, 15 to 18 minutes.

Lovely Long Necks

There’s something glamorous and lovely about a long, graceful neck – a neck long enough to accommodate a choker-style necklace that encircles the throat.

long neck Charlize Theron Dior ad REV

CharlizeTheron has been wowing us with the extraordinary ensemble she wears in the Dior media ads.

Sometimes, however, a long neck can visually appear to be too long, out of proportion to a woman’s body. Recent magazine visuals show how an extra-long neck can be made to look more proportionate to an overall silhouette.

long neck Dillards vee neck REV

A two-page ad from Dillard’s that appeared in the November 2013 issue of Real Simple demonstrates the point. In the above image, the model wears a sumptuous vee-neck sweater from Alex Marie Cashmere. She is long and lean, and her neck is almost startlingly long while her head is relatively small for her length.

long neck Dillards turtleneck REV

The vee-neck sweater emphasizes her extra-long neck, and visually she looks out of proportion. But put the same model in a turtleneck sweater, and the sense of skewed proportions is eliminated. The turtleneck sweater is far more flattering on the model.

long neck June July 2013 HB Chloe shirt stacked necklaces REV

From the June/July 2013 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, here’s a great example of an ensemble created to work with a model’s extra-long neck. The model wears a turtleneck top under a collared shirt. Beneath the collar, she wears stacked pendant necklaces. The long neck can accommodate the layered garments and jewelry.

Most women do not have extra-long necks. If you have a short neck, you will find the vee-neck top much more flattering, and possibly also more comfortable to wear, than a turtleneck. Opening up space under the chin with the vee shape gives the appearance of a longer neck.

If you have an average-length neck, you may be lucky enough to be flattered by either the vee-neck or the turtleneck style. Lucky the woman with perfect proportions!

The What, Why and How of Jewelry at

The holiday season is upon us, and for many, this is a season of more than the usual number of occasions that call for festive dress. Is there anyone who isn’t aware that even a much enjoyed, seemingly overused little black dress can be revived with the addition of some party-appropriate jewelry?  Or how even the most fabulous red carpet gown is enhanced with the addition of some stunning well-chosen jewels?

More than that, consider how a workday ensemble, whether that be a conservative tailored skirt suit or almost any style required for a casual wear work environment, receives a visual upgrade with the addition of some tastefully chosen jewelry.

Jewelry can add gravitas; it can add playfulness. It makes an ensemble immediately look more polished, as if it took more thought to put together. It draws attention to the  areas in which it is worn and emphasizes the wearer’s features or the details of her ensemble through the repetition of design elements such as color, texture and scale. Jewelry reflects the wearer’s personality. Beautifully made jewelry is essentially personal little works of art.

In short, jewelry is mighty powerful stuff. I hope that you, my readers, have discovered my new blog devoted entirely to the subject of jewelry, and the “what, why and how of wearing jewelry well.” You’ll find my new blog at  

Here’s a sampling of some of my recent posts:

TrulyJewelry stories Capture REV 

I invite you to take a look and to follow my posts there. Add comments. Ask questions. I think you’ll find an exciting complement to the fashion advice and style discussions here at

Understanding Why an A-Line Skirt Does Not Work for All Body Types

 I understand that fit models can be expensive, but the disservice paid to a Marina Rinaldi A-line skirt by Saks Fifth Avenue in its online shopping site is perplexing.

A-Line skirt pulling Marina Rinaldi at Salon Z Saks 83 sale from 415 112913

The $415 skirt, pictured above, is currently reduced to $83, and it’s easy to see why — the skirt does not fit the model. Let’s look at a lightened version of the photo to better understand the fit issues:

A-Line skirt pulling Marina Rinaldi at Salon Z Saks lightened to show detail

What is happening here is that the skirt is not cut to accommodate a high hip. A high hip is that marvelous physical attribute that provides a place to balance a stack of books, a bag of groceries, or a baby – sort of a convenient natural  shelf.  A figure with a high hip is called a figure eight silhouette. The high hip can be found on women of all sizes – it is not a feature unique to full-figured women, by any means. The high hip requires a garment cut to accommodate the shape of the body.

The Marina Rinaldi A-line skirt pictured would work beautifully on a model with a low hip, which is more of a classic hourglass shape, with a gentler curve between the waist and the widest part of the hip.

Hip Low hip Eliza J fit & flare dress _8580523 72dpi REV

The model above, wearing an Eliza J fit and flare dress from Nordstrom, has a true hourglass figure with a low hip. Although she has her hand posed just under her waist, she has very little in the way of a high hip shelf. The Marina Rinaldi skirt would work beautifully for this model. The shape of  the skirt would skim over her hourglass curves.

Hip high Eliza J twist neck fit & flare dress_Capture 72dpi REV

Contrast the model wearing the pink dress with the above model, wearing a teal fit and flare dress, also from Eliza J at Nordstrom. The belt beautifully defines her figure eight shaped silhouette. The Marina Rinaldi A-line skirt would not suit her.

Consider how a high hip necessarily clashes with the shape of an A-line skirt or dress. In order to accommodate the high hip, the A would need to get very wide very fast, and, to be a true A-line, would need to keep expanding on that trajectory.  If an A-line garment can accommodate a hip shelf, often it is flaring out so severely as to look extremely wide toward its hem – perhaps the kind of dress that is worn with layers of ruffled petticoats. Great for square dancing, perhaps, or costume parties, but not for everyday style.

The solution for women with figure eight silhouette and a high hip:  Choose a style that has ease in the garment immediately below the waist and then curves back in toward the body after it skims over your hips and thighs. A pencil skirt may be a terrific option for you.

In contrast, if you have an hourglass shape with a low hip, there’s a marvelous Marina Rinaldi A-line skirt available at Saks on sale now.

Ankle Boots: When to Ignore the Booties’ Call

More than a few fashion designers and editors are strongly promoting the style of short boots referred to in the fashion vernacular as “booties” this season.  If your point of reference is models with legs that seemingly go on forever, it’ s easy to understand why you might think this style is fresh and chic.

Ankle boots Elle 1013 montage REV

With a dizzying array of styles, what booties have in common is a relatively high heel, whether blocky, stiletto, or something in between, sometimes accentuated with wedges or platforms, and a top that ends high on the top of the foot or at the ankle. Here’s a selection from the October 2013 issue of Elle magazine.

The issue with ankle boots is their effect on proportions:  They have the visual effect of shortening the wearer’s legs. The longer your legs, the more likely you will find the style flattering.

To accommodate the visual shortening of the legs at the bottom, fashion editors suggest raising the hemline on the skirt so that more leg is showing.  That works great in theory, but, as a practical matter, most situations – and most mature bodies –  require more leg cover. Wearing booties with matching dark tights helps to minimize the shortening effect, but unless the tops of the booties fit close against the ankles or legs, they can’t quite make up for the visual effect of a horizontal line at the ankle.

Ankle boots Glamour 1013 black & white REV

This montage from the October 2013 issue of Glamour includes a couple of photos of ankle boots on models’ legs. Their long legs look short, lace-ups notwithstanding.

Ankle boots Lucky 1013 socks question REV

Even Lucky magazine, which targets a younger demographic than this blog, reports that its accessories editor Melissa Lum “smiled kindly–almost pityingly–at this question”: “Socks with ankle boots. How to make this work?”  Lum replies:  “The short answer is you need to have really cute legs if you want to wear ankle boots–ankle boots with socks are even harder.” The magazine expands this view:  “The problem is, they cut your leg off at its slimmest portion–so any leg, no matter how lithe, looks a little chunkier and stubbier.”

As for ankle boots worn with pants, the issues are similar. For the sleekest line, tuck slim pants into the boots, but the visual line created at the top of the boots still shortens the legs. Alternatively, wear boot-cut pants over the ankle boots. While that avoids the cutoff effect, it also makes the style entirely superfluous because no one can see that the footwear consists of ankle boots.

Some of the ankle boot designs are stunning, no doubt — worthy of inclusion in a footwear collection. But in real life, they simply may not be flattering.

Plus Size Accessories: Jewelry That Fits & Flatters

The Plus-Size Style column by Ashley Falcon in the October 2013 issue of People Style Watch addresses a reader’s question: “How can I find jewelry and bags that fit and flatter a plus-size woman?”

It’s nearly impossible to condense all the advice one might give on the subject of jewelry that fits and flatters a full-figured woman on a single page (I’ve conducted entire workshops on the subject), but Falcon provides some valuable pointers. Here are my expanded comments and recommendations:


Falcon suggests hinged bangles, which open in the middle to allow them to be put on easily, and open cuff-style bracelets, which have some give. She notes that regular bangles “tend to be too small–try plus stores like Lane Bryant or Avenue.”

Plus Size Jewelry 1013 PSW Ashley Falcon column REV

This season bangle bracelets have lost their cache, as wearing stacks of bracelets has fallen out of favor. Hinged bangles and open cuff-style bracelets are both excellent choices, available in fine jewelry as well as costume jewelry versions. One beautiful hinged or open bracelet provides a beautiful finishing touch to an ensemble. For a range of well-priced options, peruse the vintage offerings on eBay. Above, People Style Watch pictures a goldtone hinged bracelet from pt. 9 at Kohl’s and a collection of double header spike bracelets from CC Skye.

Plus Size Jewelry Van Cleef flying butterflies bracelet MayJune 2013 Gotham Magazine REV

Don’t limit your search for jewelry to low-end options. Above, the Van Cleef  & Arpels “Flying Butterfly” bracelet in 18kt white gold and diamonds, pictured on entrepreneur Alexa Hirschfeld in her profile in the May/June 2013 issue of Gotham Magazine, would work beautifully on a larger wrist.


Falcon states that she likes “stretchy ones from Rachel Roy and Kenneth Cole, or HSN for cute styles up to size 12.” Pictured is an inexpensive ring from Lane Bryant, about which Falcon writes: “The elasticized back lets anyone get an almost-custom fit.”

If you want to incorporate the latest trend very inexpensively, an elasticized ring may provide an option. With a wide range of sizes provided on television shopping channels such as HSN (up to size 12) and QVC (up to size 11), and the myriad of offerings on eBay, however, it is easy to find a beautiful ring in a classic style that provides a more comfortable exact fit. Sterling silver options are extensive from all of these sources. If you prefer the warmth of yellow gold to white metals but gold rings aren’t in the budget, consider vermeil, which is gold layered over sterling silver, or bronze.

Don’t forget, however, that many if not most ring styles created in precious metals such as gold and silver can be sized up by your jeweler. While the jewelry will need to add metal to stretch the size of the ring, the amount of metal required for a ring will be relatively small and the cost may be less than you expect. Find the gemstone or precious metal ring of your dreams and have it resized.


Falcon writes, “Adjustable necklaces are ideal, but you also can buy a necklace extender at Nordstrom or Walmart.”  The necklace pictured, from Stella & Dot, adjusts from 17 to 20 inches.  Here the advice goes awry. About the pictured necklace, Falcon notes: “You can make it longer so it stops at that perfect spot 1 to 2 inches above your cleavage.”

Unless your bustline is just under your chin, this comment about the “perfect spot” is simply not correct relative to a necklace that adjusts no longer than 20 inches. More likely, you will require a necklace in the range of 24 to 28 inches in length. However, a necklace that stops higher than one to two inches above the cleavage can be a flattering length for a busty woman.

Don’t ever wear a necklace that is too tight around your neck — you will look and feel uncomfortable wearing it.

Necklace extenders are problematic. Be very careful about adding an inexpensive extender that isn’t an excellent match to a necklace that is too short. Unless the extender is covered by your hair, it can bring attention to the fact that you are wearing jewelry that doesn’t fit you well.

One additional important caveat:  If you don’t want to draw attention to your chin, short necklaces are probably not an optimal choice. You might well prefer to draw the eye elsewhere.

There are at least two important options that Falcon fails to address in the limited space she had: brooches and earrings.


Brooches are the wild cards of jewelry, completely indifferent to your size, and versatile in a way that a necklace or bracelet can never be. Choose one or more than one, and for ideas on how to style them, look at First Lady Michelle Obama’s stylings. Armani and Chanel often show brooches with their couture looks. Don’t overlook the style potential of these marvelous little pieces of art. Here again, eBay is an excellent source for vintage costume and fine jewelry selections in a dazzling range of styles.


Earrings should be the mainstay of every woman’s jewelry wardrobe, as they bring attention up to her face.  Earrings, like brooches, are completely indifferent to your size.  Long drop earrings can add a flattering vertical emphasis. Choose drop earrings with some width, such as chandeliers, rather than thin linear drops, which serve to emphasize the relative width of your face. If you have a shorter neck or prefer not to highlight your neck, choose cluster or button-style earrings that sit on your earlobes and draw the attention upward.

Every full-figured woman can find a wealth of jewelry choices readily available that both fit and flatter. Don’t forego the jewelry — it adds polish and personality to every ensemble.

Top-Handle Bags: Vintage Inspiration & Vintage Options

Mid-Century style is providing inspiration for designers this season in the return of ladylike accessories. The style influence of handbags dating to the 1950s and 1960s is particularly evident.

top handle bag trend 0913 HB REV

The September 2013 issue of Harper’s Bazaar identifies the top-handle bag as one of the 10  key pieces of the season.  Picturing an $1,895 bag from Balenciaga, a $2,455 bag from Giorgio Armani and a bag from Reed Krakoff (similar to other styles sold on the magazine’s retail web site for upwards of $800), the magazine reports: “The front-page news is that there’s no single defining model this season. All that matters is that your arm candy is discreet, elegant, and top-handled.”

Marc Jacobs patent leather vintage style bag REV

Designer Marc Jacobs was one of the early adapters of the vintage look, introducing in his spring 2013 collection the “Shiny Teds Camden” made of Spazzolato leather, with a high-shine look similar to that of patent leather, and a price tag of $1,295. An ad featuring the bag is pictured above.

Black patent Lucite handle bag 2

You can find similar 1950s-era handbags, such as the vintage black patent leather bag with a clear Lucite handle that sold on eBay in July 2013 for $39 – roughly three percent of the cost of the Marc Jacobs design.

Charlotte Olympia metal weave & plastic bag 0713 Elle REV

Designer Charlotte Olympia has created a handbag made of metal and Perspex (a type of plastic) that was featured as “one of the season’s freshest bags” in the July 2013 issue of Elle magazine, price on request. The handbag has a geometric shape; the metal is a pattern of woven strips; the top of the bag is flat plastic with a molded plastic handle. Charlotte Olympia bags tend to run over $1,000.

Metal woven basket purse 1

Here’s a similar woven metal 1950s-era handbag with a Lucite top that sold on eBay in June for $20.

At vintage clothing expos, you can expect to find Lucite and woven metal mid-Century bags for $100 – $300, and on eBay, a savvy shopper will do ever better.  Snag a fashion-forward top-handle bag in good to excellent condition at- a fraction of the cost of the new designer options, and ever so chic.

Great for Any Shape

Kudos to Good Housekeeping magazine for sharing in the June 2013 issue a wonderful visual that enables readers of different shapes to anticipate how they might look in a particular garment.. . and not just any garment, but a swimsuit, which can be notoriously difficult to shop for.

0713 June GH bathing suit 3 body types REV














Good Housekeeping chose the $59 Aquabelle swimsuit as the most flattering suit it reviewed this season, finding it “great for any shape”:  “This eye-fooling champ holds you in with a reinforced panel, the cross-body stripes visually nip in the waist. Even better: the wallet-friendly price!”  The reinforced panel “trimmed tummies by up to 1 3/4 [inches].”

Visually presenting a garment on different body shapes is a wonderful way to demonstrate how flattering and versatile that garment can be. Designers and manufacturers might consider the interest this type of comparative visual can generate and give thought to presenting looks on women of different shapes, rather than only on a single model of a particular size.