The Great Shoe Wake

I died for beauty, but was scarce

Adjusted in the tomb,

When one who died for truth was lain

In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?

"For beauty," I replied.

"And I for truth, -the two are one;

We brethren are," he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,

We talked between the rooms,

Until the moss had reached our lips,

And covered up our names.

- Emily Dickinson, 1862

I've been planning this funeral for months, years actually. Everything short of wreaths of roses and readings from the Psalms. If I had hardwood floors instead of carpeting I'd be pouring my shot of whiskey right out in honor of my fallen heroes - all six of them, in fact. To be fair, not all of these heroes are entirely fallen. Some are merely in ICU or in desperate need of hospice care just to manage the pain a bit. Is it their pain, or mine? I wonder.

I suppose I should tell you what I'm talking about here: shoes. Very beautiful, expensive, adored, and in another time frequently worn, shoes. Back when I worked in the luxury fashion industry I gathered together quite a collection. I'm not one of those people that builds a collection and then hordes it for myself alone; no, I share it with the world and display my affection (and appreciation) openly. Thus, these shoes have served me well and are now very close to death, if not entirely dead.

In all honesty, some of these do have some life left in them but I am concerned that if they emerge from the cryogenic stasis of my closet that they will disintegrate once they hit pavement. So what to do? How do you honor the life of a much-loved, once-luxurious set of footwear? Do you bury them in the shoe cemetary, burn them and scatter the ashes above Union Square, or perhaps commit sati upon their blazing pyre? I have no idea. But before I do anything, I think I should give them a mention here...

The Lou-Boos above are my very first pair from that illustrious house, and unfortunately I never wear them. This despite the fact that the style was on an episode of Sex and the City back in the day. (One of the few when Carrie was in Paris with Baryshnikov - can you imagine those stilettos on cobblestones? Me neither.) They're about a half-size too big for me and even with the anti-skid sole they are always precarious on the foot - like any second they could potentially go flying and impale the handsome head of a gentleman caller. This looseness makes them more than a little uncomfortable, and while I lament giving them up, I'm afraid they are just using up precious closet space.

These gold Celine sandals are likewise mere space-suckers in the armoire. Glittering, Grecian, shapely, sexy, and strapping, these shoes always garner compliments galore. This is a good thing that my toes appreciate because they hurt like the dickens when worn. Dickens? More like having a pair of rubber bands around your foot just below the arches, cutting off the blood-flow. Despite only having worn these all of three times, the insoles are completely unglued, rippled, and serve as a useles layer on an ultra-thin lower sole. I've been dying to throw these away, but my heart collapses at the thought of putting anything named Celine in the garbage.

Back around 2004-2005 chunky heels were in style and I definitely participated in this trend. Enter the next two pairs: a Mini-Damier Mary Jane and Mini-Monogram Cerise Pump, both by Louis Vuitton. I cannot tell you how much I adored these two in their time. The Mary Janes' straps are connected by small pieces of elastic which are now so overstretched that they could snap at any moment. Meanwhile, the pumps are scuffed, scratched, and stained with the residual damage of many many adventures, at play and at work. Both pairs are as loose as bedroom slippers (even with the heels) but are now beyond wearable. They're just embarassing. As far as disposal goes, these two are my Velveteen Rabbits.

Another oddity is this ultra-fabulous pair from Marc by Marc Jacobs. Entranced by their colorful polka-dots I had to have them so badly that I paid full-price for them, around $250, which was a LOT of money for me back then. (Hey, who am I kidding, it still is!) It wasn't until after I'd purchased them that I found that they were also in an episode of Sex and the City, but I can't remember which one. Retro, fun, and sexy, I still love the compliments I get on these shoes. They're still in really good shape, outwardly, but inwardly there's a few little issues. Okay, so I snapped one of the heels at one time; you wouldn't know it but for the six-odd angry-looking nailheads that the shoe repair drove right through the instep. I would have forgotten this myself if that shoe still had its insole, but it doesn't. They're also barely comfortable after about an hour, so they too go unworn.

Finally, remarks for the best pair of kitten heels that ever came out of the House of Dior. A saucy mini heel and a long pointy shape are paired with lush black leather, making these versatile and easy to wear. At least that used to be the case. The little "Dior" metal embellishment on the right shoe has come unhinged on one side so it starts to swing around as I walk. The overall condition is good though, but these too feel more like slippers than shoes and tend to flop on my feet. They've been re-soled and re-heeled umpteen times, but they're so lovely and adorable! It breaks my soul to conceive of stuffing these kittens into their dust bag and drowning them.

Has anyone else faced a similar predicament? How does one dispose of no-longer-wearable designer fashion? It cannot be restored or recycled or given away at this point, and belive me, no museum would want them. Apart from a sacrifice on the altar of fashion, I'm not sure what to do. Plus, I'm not sure the Gods would care - they aren't virgins after all!

Here's a drink to all my shoes, past, present, and future...

I Sing the Blogger Electric, Part Deux

I may be an old codger of the blogosphere, but I do think there’s a proper way of doing things. Blogs and now Twitter offer a great way to network and build a creative community, but lately I find that while I love both these platforms, they’re getting more and more frustrating. The whole point is to share and share alike, not pick on people, “overlook” them, or be mean. For the most part, this isn’t what happens, but in the past few weeks I’ve been annoyed by some less than classy behavior 'round these parts. So, I’ve created a list of guidelines which are opinionated, yes, but to the point.

Do your research. This is for everyone. Bloggers, PR people, anyone who wants to say something. When I write about a topic, I do a quick Google search to see who else has written about it, see what they wrote, and if applicable, I link back to them in my post. THAT’S how blogs began and that’s how you build a community. Posting something without giving props to those that have voiced their take on the matter is a little bit déclassé, especially if you’re new at this. Chances are the post has been done somewhere, some place, by someone…find it and mention it.

Don’t over-do it. I love visual blogs and think they’re a fantastic source of inspiration for all manner of projects. That being said, there’s no need to find every single picture of one topic/style/person/idea and include ALL of them in a single post. This is like being faced with a plate of cookies and licking every single one so no one else can eat them. The whole point about blogging is to share. Okay, you’re cool, you have unlimited picture resources, but are twenty pictures of one person really necessary? Tell us Grasshoppers how to learn more and send us on our own journey.

No one likes a name-dropper (especially when they don’t know the names.) Kind of like the first two, this one rule refers to some of the general ass-hattery that’s been going on. If you’re in fashion PR in New York and part of your job is to tweet about your glamorous fabulosity of celebrities and events, keep this in mind: less is more. If you have your job, chances are you’re all of the following things: pretty, well-dressed, in-the-know, and up for a party. How do we know? Because people that aren’t those things don’t get your job. There’s no need to talk about who’s at the Standard Grill at this very moment, and that Patrick McMullan is snapping photos of you all, and that someone you're sitting next to will be on Page 6 tomorrow. We already expect that you’re there interacting with the glitterati because that’s your job. Get it?

To be fair, companies should be vetting their Twitter voices, making sure they don’t cross certain lines of TMI, but you’d also think the people would know that they’re responsible for a very visible aspect of the brand. (To be sure, it's sort of shocking that the brands don't have this more under control.) It should be understood that each tweet is a branded communication and treated as such. I don’t need to hear about your dematologist appointment (because you have a huge zit developing because of all you have to do at work), what you ate for lunch, and especially all the things you don’t know. If you don’t know them, pretend that you do. You’re working in fashion PR in New York – please don’t shatter my illusion that you’re actually a human being who’s totally overwhelmed (not to mention underqualified) by her job.

Be there, be present, and don’t forget your manners. This is really part B of the rule above. Once again, if you’re in fashion PR and part of your job is to tweet about the things you do, don’t be a complete idiot about it. If you’re at Glamour’s Women of the Year Awards at Carnegie Hall, please don’t “live tweet” them. It’s insulting to your fellow guests as well as those being honored. When I saw tweets about this, I felt dirty all over; the idea of people typing on mobile devices from inside of Carnegie Hall is just gross. Please be in the moment, not in your mobile device. I would so much rather you put your phone away, took everything in yourself, and then wrote a reflective, well-crafted post about it afterwards. It’s all very exciting, yes, but show some respect and I’ll respect you more.

Most importantly, read the damn post. One of the most frustrating things about blog commentary is the way people use the box as a mouthpiece for their unrelated opinions. One of my most visited posts is one I wrote long ago about Giada de Laurentiis. I love Giada, and made this very clear in the post. What I don’t like is the way that her producers have sexualized her so much that her on-screen presence detracts from her abilities as a cook, and I said as much in the post. Someone found this opinion many many months after it had been published and used it as an opportunity to call me “jealous”. I’m sorry, what? There’s nothing I hate more than unnecessary preaching to the choir. Unless it’s someone using the already over-used word “jealousy” because they can’t form a logical opposition. If I only had a nickel for every time that happened.

Good bloggers work hard on their posts, forming well-crafted opinions and ideas. After tracking down the post via searches and links, the least you can do is read what they have to say before mouthing-off. I’m sure they’d agree with me.

Don't punk-out. Also, part of the rule above. If you DO actually write a comment on a post, don't be a punk and write it anonymously. If you have something to say, at least leave an email address out of courtesy. Peoples' blogs are like their homes: they open them up and ask you to come in for a cocktail. Don't swig a glass of beer, pee in the potted plant and then leave. There's a civilized way to visit, offer a dissenting opinion, and then bow out gracefully. Bloggers are brave enough to be open with their perspectives, you should do them the same courtesy when you leave comments.

Of course, my impatience with all of these things may mean it’s time for me to hang it up as I approach the four-year mark on Poetic & Chic. I’m not sure about this as I think I have a lot to do still, but it is getting more difficult for me to be a naïve neophyte of starry eyes and blogging magic any more. I do love how the creative cycle constantly renews itself with fresh opinions and ideas, I just wish the people doing it were as classy as they were a few years ago.

Image from William Klein, Barbara Plus Coffee Filter.

Film: Don't You Forget About Hughes

123046__breakfast_club_l.jpg

What makes a classic? Everyone has a different answer to this question; for myself, I think of something being "classic" when you can come back to it again and again over many years and still find something exciting, enjoyable and provocative about it. Like a great romance, they never really leave your heart - the proverbial "long and winding road"... Classic literature is easy to spot. The books that were a chore to complete in high school are, as an adult, page-turners full of nuance and beauty. I grudgingly completed Madame Bovary in my AP English class, but now it is one of my favorite books that I re-read every few years. Film is the same - we all know which films are given the "classic" label and can usually see why.

But what about classics of one's own generation? Is it presumptuous to call something you grew up with a "classic"?

The case in point is John Hughes' The Breakfast Club. I watched this movie again recently after many years of avoiding it's many censored editings on cable television, and found the original to be even more compelling than when I was young.

Young? I was a child when I first saw this film. It hit the theatres in 1985, and I think I actually saw it in 1986 or 1987 during one of the first summers when I went to "overnight" camp. I was about 11 years old - 5th grade, I think. About 100 kids packed into a large rec room watching the breakfast club on a rather small TV. No one complained. For the first time I felt like I was seeing an adult movie, and it was the funniest thing I had ever seen.

Now, a bit about John Hughes before I go too far. Of course, the entireHughes oeuvre of mid-eighties teen angst films are now over twenty years old and still just as fantastic as always. They are part of our lexicon, our zeitgeist even. Everyone of a certain age can quote entire scenes from these films and everyone has an opinion of their favorite. (While most would say Pretty in Pink or Ferris Bueller's Day Off, I'm still a big fan of Weird Science. Does that surprise you?) We watched them through high school when we had nothing else to do. In college they kept us entertained late-night when we had a belly-full of crappy beer and had to laugh it off. As adults, we still come back to them and they make us smile. Let's face it, the 1980s and 1990s would not have been the decades they were if it weren't for the films of suburban-Chicago-teenage life as explored by John Hughes.

I grant you, at that first viewing of The Breakfast Club, a lot of it was way over my head.

High school was some unimaginable continent that I never thought I'd reach at the time. I was fairly content in my world of shadow-plaid uniforms, soccer practice and piano lessons. The idea of wandering through massive hallways, answering to a bell and having a locker were beyond me. So, it is understandable that a lot of the nuance in The Breakfast Club is only just coming to me now.

Don't get me wrong, I have the film memorized - seriously, word for word. I know every detail of the thin, art-deco-1980s font in the opening credits, to the rosy-pink shade of Molly Ringwald's nailpolish when she folds her diamond earring in Judd Nelson's gloved hand at the end. And don't even get me started on Don't You(Forget About Me) by Simple Minds - let's just say it was the soundtrack to an entire decade of my life. But during my recent viewing there was something I noticed that I hadn't bothered with before: the quote from David Bowie's Changes that starts the film.

"And these children that you spit on/As they try to change their worlds/Are immune to your consultations/They're quite aware of what they're going through..."

When I first saw the film I didn't know who David Bowie was, much less know the song being quoted. (We were a Henri Mancini/Burt Bachrach kind of family.) Seeing it now made my heart pound. All the times I've listened to Changes and never realized how perfectly it applies to the high school experience.

It's true that at my first viewing of The Breakfast Club I didn't understand a lot of the dialogue, but found the retorts and zingers incredibly funny and entertaining. Just what is a "neo-maxie-zoom-dweebie" anyways? I was forced to catch up on a lot of the new vocabulary though. I'd never heard of calling someone "a defective", and I was completely lost on the meaning of "tease". I didn't know what a "lobotomy" was, nor "anarchy", nor a "varsity letterman"...and as far as I knew, a "cherry" was a fruit I didn't really like. I thought Molly Ringwald's still incomprehensible line: "like this whole big monster deal - it's enless as a total drag," was the epitome of clever-coolness, and I loved it.

It wasn't until I got a little older that I began to understand what these quips and verbal slams actually were, just as I began to understand all of those incredibly racy things Judd Nelson says to Molly Ringwald. My hormones had been lying dormant until: "...Calvins in a ball on the front seat, past eleven on a school night..." Comprehension was beyond me, but I knew I wanted him to keep talking. It's an intense scene; all of their scenes together are intense - dressing each other down constantly while trying to ignore the electric chemistry between them. Her pale, rosy prettiness and his dangerously intelligent attractiveness made for a great combination that everyone wanted to come together. (While Michael Schoeffling as Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles was "the IT" when it came to fantasy boyfriends through my high school years, it is now that I see just how hot John Bender really was with all his edgy appeal. Here is a boy who knows what to do with a girl!) When she finally kisses his neck later on in the storage room it's a relief to everyone.

This dialogue was more raw and more real than anything any of us had heard before. It thoroughly exploited our teenage fears and hinted that they might never leave us. Ally Sheedy's tearful "When you grow up, your heart dies," was exactly what we all thought at the time. That, and the idea that we would eventually turn into our parents. John Hughes was intrepid in this exploration, going into areas of teen angst we'd never seen. When Anthony Michael Hall's character talked about a gun in his locker, we were all shocked into silence. Today...alas, this is always a little shocking, but no longer surprising.

The Breakfast Club is a film that I, and most of my generation, will come back to again and again over our lifetimes. When it first debuted it was simply cool and clever, but it's grown up just like we have. It's writing and nuance is just as electric today as it was upon first viewing, and like an old friend it still offers some surprises every time we hang out. Who would disagree if I dared to call it...a classic?

Footnotes

688982-756964-thumbnail.jpg

Yes...these are the ones...Sheesh! I've been looking at my posts, and so many of them have been so self-indulgently...well, non-style-oriented, that I felt I needed to get back to some fashion. And while nothing current is really racing my motor, I thought I'd dig out one of my favorite old stories...

This post was originally written about a year ago, about a real evening I was having with my friend Lee... This is a true story, every word, and it's so good that I've dug it out of the archives to share with the current P&C crowd. Okay...so P&C wasn't even around a year ago, but I was doing some writing, and it was good! This one is actually about some really great shoes - the kind I can't wear lately, so it's indulgent just to think about...

******************

On Friday night I was sitting in Gold Alley, just outside of Bix, having a cocktail with a close friend. People were gathered for the after-work drink, and since it was a nice night for February, people stood, drinks in hand, on either side of the narrow alley. On the opposite side, a group of friends enjoyed each others company, and soon a fabulously chic couple approached and were welcomed by all.

“Look at those shoes she has on…” my friend said to me. The woman in question was wearing incredibly steep stiletto heels, very bare – just a toe strap, and for that extra bit of sex, a strap of leather circling the ankle. Either the shoes were steeper than her usual, or this woman was a bad heel-walker – she could barely make the five steps from the cab to her friends without showing her shaky, uncertain footing to the entire street.

“Well, she can hardly walk in them.”

“Yeah – but look at them!”

“Yeah, they’re hot, but someone should have told her they’re the kind of shoes one only wears at home.”

“YEAH! With NOTHING ELSE on!”

“Exactly!” We both laughed. “I have a pair of shoes like that – my first *real* high fashion shoes I bought at a sample sale when I first started with the company. A pair of John Galliano corset-pumps. Remember those? They lace up the toe? So hot.” Ah yes. My John Galliano corset-pumps in sultry soft black leather with a delicate, skinny, little sharp heel. Sex on a stick. I went on to tell my friend the story of the shoes. The John Galliano pumps were in size 9 ½ and had been worn by a model during a fashion shoot, and due to the scuffs, could not be sold. But they could be sold to me at an employee sample sale for only $40.00. I admitted that I was afraid of them at first – they were so high, such skinny little heels, so vampish, I didn’t know quite what to do with them. I was new at my company and this had been my first sample sale, and my first pair of uber-expensive shoes (albeit purchased at considerable discount.) I think I may even have blushed at the thought of not only having them in my closet, but actually putting them on and wearing them. Our in-house fashionista-shop-aholic giggled at my uncertainty about the Galliano corset-pumps.

“You know,” she whispered to me with a conspiratorial smile, “they never even need to leave the house!” At the time the idea made me blush even harder, but I was younger then, and didn’t know so much.

Somehow or other, this shoe-y anecdote led to another and another, and I fondly remember some shoes I had purchased when I was studying in France, almost ten years ago. The first was a pair of Sketchers sneakers. Yes, I will admit to owning and wearing Sketchers in my student days – I’m not above it. (I also had Airwalks when I fancied myself a “skater girl”, but let’s leave that out, shall we?) Well, these Sketchers I bought in London, somewhere on Carnaby Street but I don’t really remember. They were lavender, but opalescent lavender, and very shiny. Sneakers were huge in the late 90s, and I saw these and had to have them, my “Euro-Club Barbie” sneakers.

Obviously, being the girl that I am now, and was then, I shopped a great deal when I was a student in Paris. I knew where to find stuff, like the best selection of vintage leather jackets on Rue du Temple. The Temple area is the part of town where one shops for either vintage clothes, club clothes, or drag queen clothes. It was at this time when the trashy club girls at the Sorbonne were wearing these crazy sneaker-pumps one could purchase in the Temple area. Huge sneakers with big wedge heels. All the girls were wearing them. I thought they were the ugliest things I'd ever seen.

I met a good friend while I was there, Lora, who introduced me to all of the sophisticated Bohemian things I truly needed to learn about while living in Paris. Things like hashish, great sex, clubbing, and Miles Davis. For hours we would sit in each other’s rooms and talk about culture, politics, our friends at home, books, music, and men. All while smoking endless Marlboro Lights, drinking wine, and listening to “Ascenseur pour l’echafaud” – even to this day, I cannot listen to that album without being completely transported. Lora and I had a friendship of the kind that develops in these kind of study-abroad situations. Deep, rich, fulfilling, and intense. She knew me so well, while hardly knowing me at all. The shopping was therapy for me, she could see it, and she disapproved. Lora had also seen the sneaker-pumps in the Rue du Temple and warned me that if I ever came home with a pair, she would be slapping me on the first flight out of CDG so fast my head would spin. "If those ever start to look good to you, it's time to go home!"

It was a difficult time for me then, I was sad to be away from my friends, and I was going through a heavy-duty 20-year-old dose of “what does it all mean?” while lodging in a large, empty, old dorm room of the Cite Universitaire. (Lora dared me to pull myself out of my funks *without* going shopping…sometimes it worked.) I grant you, this dorm room was larger than my first apartment, but never so warm. It did look out on the Parc Montsouris, but it was full of drafts and street noise. I do think of it fondly though, just as I think of our fellow dorm residents from around the world. There was Mehdi – an Algerian living across the hall from me with a collection of hookas that were put to good use on the weekends, and also Lora’s neighbor Kuaku – an utterly stunning African man who nearly puts Taye Diggs to shame. Kuaku was from Central Africa, although I don’t remember his country, but he had also lived in London, and practically everywhere else. Lora also had an in-dorm boyfriend at the time who lived the coolest of cool lives: photographer by day, DJ by night. At one time on a rainy day he asked me if he could take a nude photo of me. He said he got inspired, me, the rain, he couldn’t resist. Of course, Lora would come with me for moral support. I thanked him, but demurred. It was a strong will I had to resist a charming French photographer, asking to take sexy photos of me. One of the biggest regrets of my life. Why wouldn’t I want pictures of myself, naked, in the middle of a parc in Paris at age 20? Like I said, I was much younger then, and didn’t know so much.

Anyways, back to the shoes. I visited London and of course went to Carnaby Street and got my Euro-Club Barbie Sketchers. I also went to Underground Shoes and purchased an absolutely TO DIE FOR pair of funkadelic London swinger shoes. Picture it: stacked four-inch heel with a slight flare at the bottom, a half-inch platform, and a lace-up Oxford style…and, wait for it, they’re pony leather, in a zebra print. So fabulous. (This was a good few years before Austin Powers too, so it wasn’t like everyone was buying them then.)

I still have these shoes, by the way. They’ve made it though the past years tucked safely in their original Underground Shoes box. They’re so outrageous and utterly precious (and not to mention slightly small) that I never wear them above once a year.

I returned to Paris just before flying back to the States, and quickly went to Lora’s room to show her my new shoes from London. Instead I found Kuaku. I was so excited about my new shoes I had to show him…

“Look Kuaku, I bought them on Carnaby Street!”

“Well, I could tell you bought them on Carnaby Street…”

“What do you think – aren’t they great?” I asked him, whole-heartedly and eagerly waiting for some kind of validation on the outrageous shoes from the beautiful African.

“Well, Ann Marie?” He began in his sweet accent, “Well, they’re zebra…” I waited a beat and considered what he was saying. He held one of the shoes in his hand, staring at it in semi-horror. I didn’t put two and two together to realize that he probably thought I’d killed his childhood pet from the bush and made a pair of shoes out of them. Being the oblivious and insensitive budding fashionista that I was, I replied with:

“Yeah! Aren’t they fabulous!”