Wednesday, January 24, 2007


A reader writes:

"I have a cute black dress that I bought for NY Eve that will suit pretty much any dressy occasion I'll need it for. It's sleeveless, so I'll be wearing it in the summer. It hits me around the shins and has a sort of handkerchief hemline. The fabric is kind of a double-layer with the outer layer being sort-of jersey/gauzey. The lining is a very pretty royal purple satin. I wore it with my stripper platform wedges (patent) and black hose, and it looked cute. But I want to get some black flats so I can actually walk around in it if I need to. Also, would black hose be ok with something like that? Or is that a no-no? And if so, what *should* I wear, if I wear hose?"

(Style Spy breathes deeply and takes a moment to recover from "stripper platform wedges (patent)." The mind reels. But that's a whole other post.)

She very thoughtfully included some photos:

(She's pretty attractive for someone with no head, huh?)

Here's a detail shot of the dress, which gives a better idea of the fabric. You can just see a bit of the purple lining peeking out at the vee. I love the idea of the colored lining, flashing when you walk or dance. Lovely.

So. I have good news & other news. The good news: fab dress!! It's sexy but not trashy, that gathered bit under the bust is so flattering, the bodice is bare but still allows for a Support Mechanism. (I am very big on the Support Mechanisms, you may have noticed.) It's a classic style, it's accessorizable (Yes, it's a word. Well, it is now.) in lots of different ways, you'll be able to wear it for many years, provided you don't get drunk at the festive event you're attending and knock over a candle and spill wax on it. (Oh, wait, sorry, that was someone else...)

The other news: with that hemline, you really must have a bit of a heel. Because of the length and the handkerchiefiness (Another coinage! I'm on a roll!) flats are going to make it look dumpy. No one likes dumpy -- it is my mission in life to prevent dumpiness. But fear not, I can offer some reasonable alternatives. (Click on photos for links.)

What you need is a nice little wedge, like this

or this

Low wedges are nice & stable. Note that they are wedges but not platforms. Platforms, I don't care what anyone tells you, are not as stable as stiletto-phobes trumpet them to be. I have never twisted my ankle in a pair or 4-inch stilettos, but I have gone off the side of my 1-inch platforms just walking down the sidewalk to my car more times than I can count. I'm going to break an ankle one of these days. I think it's something about the sole of the shoe not flexing. I'm not saying platforms are bad (heaven forfend!),I'm just saying if you think you really need stability (say, for dancing, or chasing the cute waiters) at least the front half of your foot needs to be in touch with the ground and the shoe has got to flex when your foot does or you'll roll right off 'em.

There are also nice low heels available:

These have excellent strappage -- if you're one of those people who tends to step out of her shoes, these go around the ankle and across the instep, keeping you nice & secure.

Here's another option: If you'd like to make the dress wearable with flats, alter the hem so that it's all one length, and just at the knee. If you don't sew yourself, any good dry cleaner ought to be able to do this for not a lot of money, or you can look up a tailor in the Yellow Pages. This would increase your shoe options, actually, because at that length you could wear the dress with heels or dressy flats.

The flats the reader wondered about were these:

Your instinct to go sparkly is the right one. The dress is a bit... dressy (for lack of a better word), so if you do go with a flat shoe, it has to be correspondingly festive. Here are some other options, but again, I really think you could only do flats with this dress if you alter the hemline.

I love the idea of something patterned or printed with a black dress.

I love patent leather. Patent leather is good. These are sassy and adorable.

Mmmmmmm, sparkly. Sparkly is also good.

Hot-cha. I firmly believe every woman needs a little animal print in her life.

Finally, the pantyhose question. It being a cocktail-type dress, if you wear black hose they need to be very, very sheer. Another option I love -- fishnets! I love colored fishnets -- they give the illusion of a very sheer wash of color, they're fun, and they don't get runs! Needless to say, if the shoe is very open or strappy, hose are a no-no. Although a lot of designers are showing fishnets with open shoes this season,

(Yves Saint Laurent, S/S 2007)

and I happen to love this look,

it's not for everyone. I wore the above to a party last weekend and while I was perfectly happy, I think I may have raised a few eyebrows. But hey, if it's good enough for Stefano Pilati, it's good enough for me.

But I digress. You may have noticed, she said airily, that none of the shoes I recommended above are actually black. This is because I am endlessly advocating for something other than black shoes. Yes, black shoes are necessary, and sometimes even wonderful. But I so love a colored shoe with black clothing. I think it just kicks everything up a notch or two, makes it more special and more fun. I cannot urge you all enough to Give Not Black a Chance. Metallics and patent are HUGE right now, there are squillions of wonderful pairs of shiny shoes out there. Give it a try. I guarantee it will give your spirits a lift.

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Sian said...

Totally with you on the platforms. I have one pair, and they're the only shoes I own that I trip in. 4 inch stiletto - no issue.

(Thought those little wedges were a great idea for walkable shoes to go with the pretty dress. I think your reader should purchase some, forthwith.)

Trina said...

Sparkly is *very* good!

Melanie said...

good call on the wedges over flats for that dress. the second i saw the picture of her wearing the dress, i though, "oooh, she needs some height with that." those handkerchief seams will just drag that look down to the floor with the wrong shoes.

and i, too, have nearly broken my ankle wearing platforms. i recently had to retire my beloved steve maddens because they were trying to kill me.