Currently thinking about: Kork-ease

Kork-Ease Style #K37306

Every now and then I carve out some “me time”. I go to my favorite place for discounted shoes and proceed to try on everything in my size, plus or minus half a size.

I love that at these places, no one appears to be working on commission, and so therefore, no one approaches every five minutes to ask if you are “finding everything all right?” You don’t have to bother someone with retrieving your size from a back room for every style you are mildly intrigued by but that you don’t think has any real purchase potential. You can just hang out in there, with one foot in a clog and another in a Stuart Weitzman wedding sandal, strutting down the aisle like it’s a catwalk at New York Fashion Week, and no one will care. Well, one time I caught an old high school classmate spying on me from around the corner. Who does that?

Anyway. I, like Carrie Bradshaw, love shoes, so this place is like footwear heaven. Sometimes there is nothing interesting, and other times I discover new brands that I didn’t know could work for me. This is how I found out Calvin Klein and Kenneth Cole Reaction and Franco Sarto make decent quality, affordably priced, on-trend shoes (in small sizes, too) that are surprisingly comfortable; how I discovered the quality and comfort of Vaneli, Aquatalia, and Via Spiga; why I know that 14th and Union is surprisingly not the bargain bin quality I had assumed it was for years solely based on the graphic design of its logo.

My latest discovery is Kork-Ease. I’ve seen this brand before, and thought it was “too comfort-driven”. I saw a pair today and thought I’d give it a whirl, and was stunned by just how comfortable it was. None of the other shoes there, including my Birkenstocks, were comfortable enough after trying the Kork-Ease sandals on.

No one else seems to be talking about these amazing shoes, but the best styles and colors are sold out everywhere, so maybe they’re the best known secret.

Do you have a pair? What’s your current go-to shoe?

 

Etsy faves: true vintage 70s edition

Vintage dress on Etsy

Here’s a round-up of some of my favorite true 1970s vintage finds available now on Etsy in small sizes.

Belted puff sleeve v-neck LBD dress

Black and white avante garde maxi dress

Red silk midi dress

 

Feathered off-the-shoulder maxi evening dress

Orange backless halter maxi dress with ruffled neckline

High-waisted black gunne sax skirt

 

Vintage 70s Daisy Picnic Boho Ruffle Wrap Skirt // Long Maxi Checkered Plaid Skirt

Geometric print wrap maxi skirt

 

Levi’s high-waisted plaid wide leg pants

Emerald green velvet shirt dress (that could double as a duster coat)

Shiny black wide leg halter jumpsuit

 

Tie-waist mini shirt dress in mod tree print

 

Tiered black floral spaghetti strap dress

Luis Esteves silver mermaid wrap evening gown

High waisted Wrangler jeans

Sears Polynesian print midi dress

Wrap style LBD wiggle dress

 

Navy blue belted Albert Nipon dress

Wanted: the perfect petite jumpsuit

product photo

I think I am the only person on earth that doesn’t own a jumpsuit at this point, and I like that they have finally expanded from ultra casual adult onesies with elasticized hems and drawstring waists to more tailored outfits.

I was reading the reviews for Gap’s Sleeveless TENCEL Culotte Jumpsuit, which is offered in petite and tall and black, white, and a vibrant red-orange, and reserved it in-store in the regular sizing immediately (because they do not carry petite or tall sizing). The reviews describe this as short in the torso, narrow in the bust, and running a little small and short. Normally I would pass just at the sight of the word “tencel”, but reviewers weren’t strongly opposed to the fabric, and some were quite enthusiastic about the overall style and silhouette. Sounded like it had real potential since it seemed to run small.

I tried the regular version of my petite size (the latter which is sometime too large for me). I didn’t mind the tencel-linen blend fabric, and love that it can supposedly be machine washed. I didn’t mind the v-neck. It took me forever to figure out how to get into this thing through the side zip, which was a recurring gripe for a lot of reviewers. You have to unzip it and then step into it from the top, and if you do that, the side zip is actually better than a back zip in that you don’t have to stretch and contort your arms to zip up the zipper all the way.

My main issues with this piece are that the waist sits lower than true waist (more like where a mid-rise jean might hit), there is a lot of fabric in the leg area, and even though I am petite in stature the inseam is quite cropped (like mid to low thigh) in regular sizing and I think that might be a little too trendy to qualify this piece as timeless.

I don’t know if I want to size down to petite sizing because I like the longer inseam of the regular (do I really want a just below-the-knee jumpsuit as pictured in the product photos?), and the looser fit. If this could be taken up at the shoulders, the waist would be in the right place for me, but doing so makes the armhole openings uncomfortably small. Therein lies the main problem. If I saw that I could take this up at the shoulders, I probably would have purchased it.

If I can fit into regular sizing this well, this piece runs surprisingly small relative to typical Gap sizing. You may want to consider sizing up, maybe even more than one size.

I really like the deep v-neck, which wasn’t too deep this time. It is very reminiscent of those 1920s day dresses with straight, shapeless silhouettes. Love. I’m also really loving wider tie-waist belts right now and tailored wide leg trousers. Very 1970s. It’s interesting to me to see these details combined into one outfit. I think it could be very versatile, just not for me. And I agree with another reviewer that it should have a full length pant, or maybe ankle cropped inseam.

It’s wonderful to see a piece with more tailoring. I’m so sick of stretchy, knit, cheaply made everything in twenty versions of the same silhouette each with small differences in details each season.

Speaking of stretchy knits sans tailoring, I tried this Wrap-belt Midi Dress while in store in regular sizing and it hit at the ankle for me in length in regular sizing. I just wasn’t that much of a fan of the skirt hem, and the top half didn’t really fit that well (cut for taller person, large gaping armholes, broad wide shoulders). I won’t be pursuing it in petite sizing.

I also tried the Softspun Midi Skirt in regular sizing. It ran slightly wide in the waist, but hit at a flattering, on-trend length just below the knee. If you need a black pencil skirt at an affordable price or like the idea of a tailored, more formal piece in a casual fabric (so J.Crew), this is a good candidate. I did not care for the gray colorway at all – a very casual color on a casual knit fabric limits the versatility of the pencil skirt silhouette and in my opinion completely defeats the purpose of having a pencil skirt in a knit jersey (that, in black, could be dressed up or down).

Where did you get your most versatile jumpsuit, or are you still on the hunt like me, or are you skipping this trend entirely? How about midi dresses and skirts?

Currently thinking about: grandma shoes

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For as long as I can remember until now, Birkenstocks were uncool and to wear them meant to cast yourself off from the rest of society into the lonesome role of “that weirdo.” Suddenly, I’m still not sure how, they became fashionable, and then extremely trendy. Now, they seem to be the final punctuation of every hipster’s tight pants-shrunken shirt outfit, the period at the bottom of a super-skinny exclamation point appended to the word “cool.”

So I bought a used pair of the Arizona sandals to see what all the fuss was about, and had to Shoe Goo the sole back to the upper because they were so worn. It seemed even more effortless to rock a pair of worn in shoes that looked like they had character and stories to tell than a pair of shiny new ones that may or may not be made of real leather any more.

They are my go-to shoe that fits into my current environment where “Grandma shoes” rule the roost. Everyone around me right now seems to be wearing something straight out of The Walking Company. Function is first and foremost, at the total expense of form if necessary.

But Birkenstock doesn’t quite make my exact size. Then I read this article about the Dansko clog that made it sound like that shoe was the only shoe one would ever need for everything that would last forever, and I had to know what wearing a pair was like. “Beloved by…every soft-skilled woman in New York I know,” wrote the article’s author, and “an example of an extremely rare category of item that projects nearly nothing.”

It used to be that the only thing more tragic than sporting a pair of Birkenstocks was opting for a pair of clogs. At a friend’s wedding, someone stood up and derided the clog in order to express her loyalty to the bride: “We will never let you leave the house in a pair of clogs,” she proclaimed, “because that’s what friends are for.”

But now clogs are chic and cool in an understated and effortless way that puts style above fashion, and utility on par with aesthetic. Clogs are for creative people that birth revolutionary ideas into the world in spite of the resistance of the stiletto-wearing status quo. Clogs are for people that dress for themselves. Clogs are for people that spend a lot of time on their feet – doing things, not just talking about things that could be done.

I bought a used pair from an owner that claimed they were in “excellent condition” just to try it out. The rubbery plastic sole developed deep cracks and mostly eroded away after just one wear. They were comfortable enough and I felt like a trendsetter as the only soul brave enough to wear a pair of clogs in public here, but the leather toe box didn’t breathe well, the staples that attach the upper to the sole were lifting out, and the sole wasn’t a durable piece of wood that would lend itself to resoling. I threw them out, and haven’t replaced them for these reasons as well as the fact that Dansko just doesn’t carry my exact size.

Now The Strategist has made a very convincing argument that the Charleston Monterey (formerly Vivanz, formerly San Miguel Milagros Para Ti?, pictured above) is the greatest thing since the Birkenstock. After owning a pair of wedges with a stretchy, strappy fabric upper that is like wearing foot bandages for sprained ankles on a platform shoe, I’m not totally convinced. And you can’t easily find an affordable used pair for a fraction of the retail price.

Meanwhile, I ran into a man wearing a pair of Mexican leather huaraches in a rich, deep brown leather with thick rubber soles that could have come straight off an old tire. He had those shoes so long he had resoled them multiple times and couldn’t remember where he got them from, although one can still find a very similar product easily on EBay. Unfortunately, the women’s version of those is designed a bit differently. I’m not sure about quality or longevity of this modern version.

The idea of owning one well-made pair of shoes that can go anywhere (except maybe a fancy evening affair) is so appealing, but finding that perfect pair of footwear is fraught with difficulty.

Do you have a pair of shoes that you love and wear everywhere? What makes them so great? Is there such a thing as a pair of shoes that can go anywhere, or is that an unattainable dream, a fashion unicorn?

Totes, totes

product photo

Totes are everywhere. I can’t even remember what preceded them now. Maybe the hobo or satchel? Stylistically, I’ve moved on to coveting crossbody bags, but often you have a lot of junk to haul around that requires a larger bag. That’s where the tote comes in. (A large crossbody is essentially a messenger, and while it may be slightly more practical, I’ve never been a fan of them.)

I, like every other woman on earth, like the Longchamp Le Pliage a lot. It may not be the most beautiful bag ever made, but it balances style and function well. It’s lightweight and allows one to look put together and business-like in an understated way. It packs well, making it great for travel. It can hold a lot of stuff. It zips shut.

I can’t speak to the durability of the Le Pliage because I opted for a knock off straight from China because I’m cheap…I mean, because the 10 inch strap drop length of the Le Pliage felt slightly too long and the knock off has a shorter strap drop of about 7.9 inches (20 cm). It does show wear after a while and won’t last forever, but I’ve gotten a fair amount of use out of it. It is not exactly the same as the Le Pliage design wise, but still achieves the same ratio of form to function, actually has more proportional sizing to a petite frame in my opinion, and is similar enough that other people mistake it for the real deal. If I knew that the Le Pliage held up much better, I might opt for it instead, but I figure all nylon and thin leather will eventually show wear. The knock off sells for a fraction of the price and I believe it has that plastic edging on the leather instead of raw edges.

The only things I don’t like about the Le Pliage design are that it’s stingy with interior pockets and it lacks structure. It won’t stand up on its own if you set it on the ground. That’s obviously the trade-off for it being packable and lightweight.

I probably won’t invest in a bag with more structure any time soon, but can’t help looking around to see what’s out there. The reversible Street Level tote at Nordstrom is similarly easy on the eyes and has an 8 inch strap drop length. One of the bicolor options is black/brown, which I think is genius! It looks a little awkward in the product photos to have brown on the underside of the bag handles, but that seems like a small price to pay for having a black and brown bag in one. It’s faux leather, but has over 800 reviews, including one glowing testimony to the bag’s relentless durability. At under $50, it sure is enticing.

Old Navy’s Classic Tote (pictured above) is even more affordable, and I prefer its design over its sister brands’ offerings. It has a 10 inch strap drop and seems a little on the large size. There is also a zippered option of unstated dimensions. Both are faux leather.

At this point, I think I prefer faux leather for a tote. Faux leather can look so much like real leather aesthetically these days. And the handles of totes seem to be their Achilles’ heel. Why have a leather bag that will last for ages when its (often too skinny) handles will inevitably fail and render the bag useless? How hard is it to replace bag handles?

People seem to really get into their bag purchases. When I think about purchasing a handbag, I do feel a little societal pressure to make it a big investment purchase. Like it should be a beacon of status and achievement. Like your success in life is judged by the quality of the bag you carry and the shoes you don. Like you do not take your career or yourself seriously if you don’t meet some unwritten standard of nice-but-not-too-nice. But those kinds of bags weigh as much as the stuff they are designed to contain. Why would I want to carry around two bags?

Back to limping along my well worn Le Pliage knock-off. Good design trumps beauty when it comes to the carry-all, at least for me, for now. What’s your go-to, must-have bag?

Currently thinking about: versatile crossbody bags

Recently I picked up a fabulous vintage 1990s (yikes! 1990s is vintage now?!) crossbody purse in black leather from a thrift store and rejoiced in its not-seen-on-everyone-everywhere shape and lack of those plastic finished edges that are ubiquitous now. I love the style, but the strap is too long and not adjustable.

It can be a challenge to find bags that are proportioned for smaller frames and a shorter stature. I generally size down: large probably means jumbo to the point where the bag makes me look like a child playing dress up, medium is most likely large, small is medium, and something like a wristlet is still sizeable enough to qualify as a purse.

I like the idea of a crossbody, but gave up trying to find one with a short enough strap length and a small enough bag size years ago. Too long and large and the bag is not only aesthetically awkward, it takes on a life and personality of its own, bobbing around you and dragging you down into the sidewalk by the shoulder with each step.

The Madewell Simple Crossbody (pictured above) appears to be perfect for petites. The body of the bag measures approximately 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.75 inches, with an approximately 21.5 inch adjustable strap drop. Although it’s never clear in product descriptions if that is the maximum or minimum strap drop (ideally brands would provide both), most of the reviews comment on the strap length either being too short (if they are average height or taller) or hitting perfectly at the hip (if they are petite). This is great news for petites!

I like that the Simple Crossbody has a zippered closure and that the strap is removable, allowing the bag to function as a large clutch. The downsides for me are the lone interior pocket; the zipper pull, unappealing in both form and function, seemingly a downgrade from the classic YKK pull; and the casual aesthetic that is oh-soo-perfect for every daytime activity I can think of, but that I can’t imagine transitioning well into the night for anything other than the most casual affairs.

The Dooney and Bourke Daphne Crossbody Wallet is like a wristlet with more depth and a crossbody length strap. The Daphne has a detachable strap, and unlike the Madewell bag, I can see it potentially transitioning from day to evening more seamlessly. It has way more interior pockets, as well as credit card slots and an exterior zip pocket, but the main compartment snaps shut instead of zippering (wish it had a sunken zipper) and the adjustable strap’s drop is listed as a whopping 25 inches. That makes it a great candidate for average to tall people, but probably too long and unwieldy for petites without leather alterations or purchasing a shorter 1 x 1 x 15 inch replacement strap (in Vachetta Natural, Butterscotch, or Tan, but note the reviews that say the width is actually 9/16 inch and the colors differ from their names).

 

Daphne Crossbody Wallet

 

For years, I have been quietly hoping that someone would make a high quality, highly versatile bag like the Daphne with interchangeable straps. A long crossbody strap is perfect for using a bag like the Daphne as a purse, but it would also be nice to have a shorter strap option to convert to wristlet, and to be able to go sans strap when a clutch or wallet is desired. Well, D&B has made the Daphne strap completely removable, and they sell replacement straps of varying lengths (including those with a 15 inch drop length mentioned above), but only in different shades of tan.

Other options:

Leatherology Katy Mini Crossbody

4.5 x 7.75 x 1 inches, fully removable strap with adjustable 15 to 22.5 drop length, extra points for stating that clearly on website, strap is secured through slots hidden on the underside of the flap (seems like that may cause the flap to unsnap if pulled too hard), monogrammable up to six characters.

J.Crew Factory Mini Crossbody Bag in Leather

5.25 x 7.25 x 2.25 inches, adjustable but not removable strap, probably lined with fabric, may not have any interior pockets, unstated strap drop (but appears to be on the shorter side), affordable. Also see: J.Crew Edit and Signet bags.

Kate Spade Tenley

8.5 x 7 x 1.5 inches, adjustable 21-23 inch strap drop, mail bag shape, zipper closure, one interior and exterior pocket, potential quality issues.

BP Minimal Faux Leather Crossbody

8 x 6.5 x 3.25 inches, adjustable 21-24 inch strap drop on fully removable strap, snap closure on flap, not really a clutch silhouette, very affordable.

What crossbody or other bag do you recommend or are you currently considering?

Review: BP Sky Wedge Sandal

Recommended by a fellow petite, what I love about this shoe is how lightweight it is. You would never be able to tell based on weight alone that this is a wedge just by picking it up. I’ve been wanting a nude, non-flat sandal for everyday wear for a while now but haven’t been able to find the right one.

I was hoping this one would be it! But when I tried it on in person I didn’t care for the “strappiness” of the upper. It just looked too busy, too much going on in the front. Leg-lengthening, they were pretty comfortable out of the box. The fit was dead-on, true-to-size for me and the curve of the insole matched the contours of my feet pretty well (way better than I expected).

There may be slight padding in the insole, but not much. Whereas you can’t tell weight-wise this is a wedge, you can definitely tell it is a platform wedge while walking in them. The thick platform at the front does help to separate your foot from the hardness of whatever ground you are walking on, but the platform is rigid and there is no flexibility at all in the sole.

It is a three inch equivalent heel height (4″ plus a 1″ platform), and it kind of does feel like you’re up in the sky on these but without the discomfort you’d expect of a typical non-wedge 4″ shoe. The platform was pretty stable considering the height, but I could definitely see some missteps happening that result in ankle rolling.

Thought the color might be too pink in person, but it was flattering and I think it would work for many different skin tones.

The comfort and quality is pretty good given the price point but it still felt like a trendy item not meant to last very long.

Ultimately I passed on these, primarily because of the inflexible sole, the busy upper, and the sky high platform that just felt too high for me.

The search for the perfect nude sandal continues…