The Uniform: Work heels

I was pretty clear about what I wanted for my work heels:

(1) They have to be all-leather and well-made
(2) They have to be comfortable
(3) They have to be pointy
(4) And they should be reasonably priced (i.e. within 4 figures so the Jimmy Choo Agnes or the Manolo Blahnik BB are sadly out of the question).

Most shoes I found only met one or two of the criteria. Some shoes would be comfortable and well-priced and butt-ugly (seriously, what is it with the abundance of fugly shoes?). Others would be comfortable but made of synthetic leather, while the construction of a lot of shoes would be just downright shabby. I’ve gotten so desperate that I broke my own rule: not to buy shoes from a store that doesn’t primarily sell shoes.

I have that rule because I think that shoe-making, especially high-heeled shoe-making, is not something that a clothing brand might particularly do well on or focus on. Luxury brands are probably the exception, of course, but I wouldn’t know. But I don’t really trust, say Zara, to be able to consistently make well-made, comfortable, high-quality shoes when that’s not their forte to begin with.

So it was with some reluctance that I tried looking for shoes at Massimo Dutti. Not only did it break my aforementioned rule, but MD was also on the expensive side, with items routinely costing twice as much a similar item would cost at Zara. But I was desperate and I wasn’t too optimistic that I’d find anything anyway, so I went in.

Imagine my pleasant surprise (my wallet felt otherwise of course) when I found these: The Massimo Dutti Antik Leather Court Shoe.

Massimo Dutti shoes
 And these:

Both were all-leather, interior included, perfectly pointed and juuuuuust within my budget. They were reasonably comfortable (at least from the few times I circled the store in them), too. I bought the black ones on the spot and had my parents buy me the nude ones in Spain, where Massimo Dutti is roughly 30% cheaper than in Manila (yey!).

And I have no regrets. Massimo Dutti makes great shoes. Even the patent ones, with the 90mm heel, are comfortable. Both pairs  pretty much go with everything and their classic shape means they probably will never go out of style. The only thing I would say is that I wish the black ones were just a smidgen higher. At 70mm, I do sometimes think that the height is slightly awkward (my sister calls them “starter heels”). Other than that, I think they’re pretty much perfect.

I alternate these shoes with each other and with my Anthology flats (because alternating shoes is essential to foot health!) and they are now essential parts of my self-imposed work uniform.

Not that I will be needing any new ones soon, but Massimo Dutti will now be the first place I look in case I want need shoes in the future.

Rule? What rule?

Jimmy Choo? Manolo? Who?

Okay that last one’s obviously a joke. Let’s not get too crazy over here.

Click on the pictures for their sources, if you must. But the photos are obviously stock photos from MD anyway.

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The Uniform: Work

I wore a uniform to work for two years. I worked at a plant and had to wear company-issued, ill-fitting and high-waisted khaki pants, collared shirts that were only slightly less unflattering than the pants and closed shoes. Needless to say, I didn’t like my uniform and tried to minimize the times I was seen in public in it.

A few months back I moved out of the plant to our Makati offices. And yes, as shallow as it sounds, one of the things I looked forward to the most was not having to wear my uniform anymore. A few weeks in, though, I wanted my uniform back.

For the first few weeks, I found myself sitting on my bed, with closet and cabinet doors flung open, staring. I was now back to having to think about what I had to wear to work. I took for granted how easy I had it when I could dress myself while half asleep (which was the case sometimes, since I woke up at 4:30 am to go to the plant). I just had to grab a pair of pants from their pile, any of the shirts from theirs and I was good to go. Of course, that was no longer the case now.

To save myself the unnecessary stress and, also, to get myself to work just that teeny tiny bit earlier, I figured I should come up with my own uniform for work: a wardrobe that would require minimal effort in putting outfits together in the morning before work. I wouldn’t have to worry about putting together outfits half an hour before leaving the house. I’ve done the careful thinking and stressing before I’ve even bought the pieces, making sure it will fit with the look I want to achieve, and will go with multiple things that I already have. In other words, I could still be half-asleep and dress myself appropriately for work, albeit this time with more variety, and better-fitting pants.

In the two years I was at the plant, I didn’t shop for work clothes. I’ve had to overhaul my wardrobe a bit, clean out the stuff that no longer fits me either physically or style-wise (stylistically?). I’ve had to really think about what I wanted to look and dress like. I had to be careful about not buying things on a whim, like I did when I started earning money, only have to those purchases end up in the discard pile after my wardrobe clean-up. So after careful thought and consideration, this, in condensed form, is what my new work uniform looks like:

The Uniform

Pencil skirts – I bought two black ones from Zara and had our family tailor copy one of them for three more. Two of them where in basic fabrics, khaki and houndstooth-ish gray. But the third one was in a bright purple-blue tweed with green, yellow and pink threads running through.

Skinny cropped pants – I bought a pair of J. Crew Factory Winnie pants during my NYC trip, fell in love them and promptly bought two more. I’ve been looking for a similar fabric in other colors to have some made, but no luck so far.

Sweaters – Zara and Uniqlo for fitted v-neck ones, but I also have looser sweatshirt-ish ones similar to the gray one above.

Shirts – Slim fit cotton ones from The Gap and Uniqlo and flowier, looser silk ones from Massimo Dutti and Joe Fresh. Alas, Equipment is still beyond my reach.

Pointy flats and heels – The flats pictured above are J. Crew Vivs, but mine are my favorite Anthology Carnabys which pretty much look exactly the same. Massimo Dutti, surprisingly, has some well-made, comfortable and relatively affordable heels.

I will spring for something printed (dots) or with texture (like that tweed skirt) or with more color (a deep purple silk shirt from Joe Fresh) sometimes, but as you can see, almost everything is in a neutral: white, black, gray, navy, khaki (the influence of the plant?) or blush.

And because everything is in either a neutral or in a classic style or cut (or both), everything goes together. Like I used to with my plant uniform, I can pick any bottom and any top (there will be some exceptions, of course) and be good to go.

I have a uniform again.

A first: A shoe review

I am not a shoe girl. Yes, I will oooh and aaah over a particularly lovely pair of shoes once in a while, but as you may have already noticed, I am a bag girl at heart.

So if I go on here and write about shoes, then you can expect that I feel really strongly about the shoes. And, yes, I do feel very strongly about the Anthology Carnabys.

My first sighting of the Carnaby was a blurry picture on Twitter from Karrots, Anthology’s former designer. It was a photo of the prototypes for a pointy, patent leather flat. I was looking for a dressier alternative to ballet flats and these seemed like the perfect option. They would also be my first pair of Anthos. I’ve heard so much good stuff about the brand, but haven’t found a pair of their shoes that I loved enough to take the plunge. And these basic, classic flats were IT.

I had to wait about three to four months before Anthology actually got the shoes to market. I have to admit that I thought they were a bit pricey for flats, but I bought the beige ones anyway, remembering the feedback I’ve heard about Anthos.

I had a good feeling about the shoes already when I fit them at the store. The patent leather was soft, which was a concern for me, since more often than not, patent leather shoes tend to be rigid. Pliability of the leather is even more important with pointy shoes and with flats, to avoid any pain at the toes or at the back of the heel where the back of the shoe hits the skin.

I’ve worn the shoes to work, during 12 hour days and they were great. No pain or bloodied heels, no wrinkling of the leather, the shape was perfect, they looked good with practically everything. In short I loved the Carnabys. So much so that I bought a second pair in black.

I brought these shoes with me during my NY trip as a back up to my trusty ballet flats. But as luck would have it, my ballet flats were soaked through when I got caught in the rain at the US Open. I had no choice but to use my Anthos the next day, as my ballet flats were still drying out. And I never looked back.

I put the Carnabys through the ultimate comfort test, walking Lord knows how many NYC blocks in a day, and they passed. With flying colors. I’d be out in the city the whole day, on my feet probably 80% of the time, I’ve never once felt any pain or discomfort due to the shoes. No pinching of the toes, no scarring at the back of my foot. Nothing. For patent pointy shoes, that’s amazing.

I thought I loved the Carnabys then, I’m crazy about them now. They look great, they’re a dream to walk in, plus they are proudly 100% Filipino designed and made. So go get them. Now. Before I decide to hoard and buy out all the size 7s available.

Click on the photos to buy the Carnabys from the Anthology site or to get information on where else you can get them.

The only good thing that came out of Twilight

Apart from this, of course

would be these:

I don’t like Twilight. I didn’t read the books, I didn’t pay to see the movies (I got treated to the first one, saw the second one on a plane and haven’t seen the third one in full) and have no intention of changing that situation any time soon. I’ll resist the temptation to go on a full-on rant and just say that the material is just not for me.

Despite my aversion to all things related to franchise, I’d like to think I’m still objective enough to give credit where it is due (see lead photo), especially when the recipient of such praise is a pair of shoes this pretty.

You can’t really go wrong with a classic satin pump, much less a Manolo Blahnik one. And the crystal embellishment on these are just to my liking. They’re not too sweet or precious-looking, as some wedding shoes tend to be, and they lose all “bridal” connotations when paired with a different-colored shoe (although I do wonder if those crystals will be poking your feet. Bloodstains on white satin would NOT be pretty.) . My favorite version of the Swan Pump is the bright pink one as the black one strikes me as a little unimaginative. I think the contrast of the pink against the crystal is fantastic, plus you can wear them to other occasions where they don’t play the bridal march. Although I wish they also came in the same shade of blue as Carrie Bradshaw’s infamous pair in the movie.

Taylor Lautner photo via Google Images, Manolo Blahnik Swan Pumps photo from Neiman Marcus via TalkShoes

My (and Ashley’s) Birkenstocks

Despite their granola-eating-Berkley-student associations, I’ve loved Birkenstocks since I was in college (I still cringe when I realize that college is starting to be categorized as “a long time ago”). I guess Birkenstocks to me are what Havainas are to most people in Manila. My first pair were white Madrids, and I wore them almost everyday, until the soles were worn out. And when I did wear my first pair out, I promptly bought my second.

Much as I loved the Madrid style, I outgrew the white ones (thank God) and couldn’t find another pair in a color that I liked. So I’ve since moved on from my trusty Madrids to the Gizeh. I found the single-thong design of the Gizeh more interesting than my old pair, and the foot bed was a much, much better fit for the shape of my soles than the Madrid. And isn’t that the point of Birkenstocks in the first place, that they were comfortable? I also loved the way they looked jutting out from under a straight or a slim cut jean worn with a boyfriend shirt or a huge, bat-wing-y, tent-like top/sweater.

Not a lot of people in Manila seem to agree with me about the Gizeh, though, since I rarely see the it on anyone here. And in a few of the instances that I did, they were worn by guys (haha!). But no matter, because SHE agrees with me:

Now if only we had the multimillion-dollar net worth in common as well.

photo from Splash News

This is not just about the shoes

Bear with me. This is post not just about unabashed consumerism.

A couple of posts ago, I was lamenting the unavailability of Renegade Folk’s leopard print moccasins Bold as Love. I was considering their other driving shoe-type style called, well, Driving. But I couldn’t bring myself to buy them. They were cute, but buying them felt like settling and that’s never a nice a feeling.

So I’ve more or less given up the chase. Then this morning, in my Twitter feed, my Twitter friend Fran sent me a link to the Zara website and these shoes:

20110611-082149.jpg

I squealed at the sight of this

I actually squealed with delight at my phone. It was perfect because I had errands to run in Shangri-la anyway, so I could just drop by Zara. I scoured the shelves and didn’t find them. The only leopard print shoes they had were sandals and ballet flats. I got passed on to the sales assistant in charge of shoes and was informed that the mocs were from TWO seasons ago and it’s highly unlikely they still had them in stock. Just in case, I had the super nice and super accommodating SA, Jeffrey, call the other Zara branches anyway. Branch by branch, I got more and more disappointed as each one answered in the negative. As a last ditch effort, the darling Jeffrey made a final check of their stock room. And lo and behold, he came out carrying a box. And they were in my size. The box had someone’s name on them so there was a brief moment there when I thought I would have to fight for them, but in the end I went home with these babies:

*squeeeeeeeeeeal!*

It goes without saying that I am very, very happy with them. But apart from just the shoes themselves, I love how it all happened. Fran is my friend on Twitter, but I’ve never actually met her, and I suppose you could say that, apart from our cyberspace interactions, we are complete strangers to each other. She was sweet enough to make alternative suggestions to Bold as Love in her comments in the post about the shoes. But she actually sent me a tweet when she saw the Zara ones while she was online window shopping! Isn’t that absolutely thoughtful and so cool of her? I know that Twitter can sometimes is a waste of time, but I love that it also enables random acts of kindness between strangers like this one.

The other piece of this fortuitous puzzle is the lovely Jeffrey, from Zara in Shangri-La. Despite the fact that he believed that the shoes are long gone, he still called all the branches I wanted him to call and with a smile with his face, too. I think most SAs would stop by saying that the shoes were from a long time ago, and that they were all out of stock.  But Jeffrey humored me and called the other stores AND then tried the stock room again (even when the previous SA who first helped me already did). It’s sad to say that not a lot of SAs would make the effort that Jeffrey did. It goes without saying that Jeffrey is now my first ever favorite Zara sales assistant.

So more than being just about the shoes, this post is also a thank you to the thoughtful Fran and the dedicated Jeffrey. They didn’t have to do what they did, but they did it anyway. And it’s always nice when people go out of their way for a stranger, even if it’s just for a pair of leopard print shoes.

To rebound or not to rebound

Have you ever obsessed about a decision, thought about it really hard, weighed the pros and cons. You finally make your choice, and then you find, all that thinking was for naught, as the decision was made for you already.

The exact thing happened to me over these:

Renegade Folk's "Bold as Love"

The first time I saw them my reaction was, “Aaacck. Leopard again?” but I think I haven’t even finished saying those words when they changed to “Ooooooh, leopard.” Fashion forward (ehem!) people should know, leopard has been such a big trend the past two or three seasons, and has been interpreted into shoes numerous ways. Mostly, though, I have found leopard print shoes to be too much like something a Kardashian or Paris Hilton would wear. Even the surprisingly understated Elizabeth & James version, though beautiful, is still something I’m not sure I would wear (booties in this weather? And silk shoes in dusty Manila? Nightmare). Then I saw Renegade Folk’s Bold as Love on their Facebook page and I fell in love. For one thing, they were flats, so +100 on that alone. They were also in that classic driving-shoe shape that would make it easy to wear with anything. Plus, leopard print on the pony hair was well done, but not real-looking enough that I would get leopard-infested nightmares. What more could I ask for?

That they still had it in my size, of course. After agonizing over it (do I really need another pair of flats? Will this go with stuff I already own? Can I really pull off leopard?) for about five minutes, I sent an email to the lovely folks at RF and even filled out the order form in their Multiply page for good measure. I was so impatient, I sent a text message to them the next morning and got the devastating news. They no longer have Bold as Love in leopard in my size.

All that obsessing for nothing. Ugggggh.

I mulled over getting the zebra or the size 9 but snapped myself out it. I can’t rebound with a print I would never wear or on shoes two sizes bigger than my feet. That would be stupid. Not so stupid, though, would be to rebound with these:

Renegade Folk's "Driving"

Cute, no? But I’m still thinking about it as most rebound relationships are doomed for failure. And I already have a navy pair of flats. And partly because I’m still hoping against hope that the girls behind Renegade Fold will reissue Bold as Love. Sigh.

So what do you guys think? Will the Driving and I end up as most rebound relationships do (i.e. I will wish it never happened) or will we buck the trend and live happily ever after?

Photos from Renegade Folk’s Facebook page