Black Pump Hunt

RIP Nine West pointy toe pumps. They died a few months ago, unable to be revived by the cobbler one more time. I’ve been leaning heavily on my Madewell booties to get me by. But I finally decided enough was enough — my wardrobe couldn’t support the void any longer.

So my quest became finding a low, delicate heel with an extremely pointy toe in black. I favored d’Orsay styles — closed heel and toe, cut down to the sole on the sides — this time around because I find the shape interesting. D’Orsay pumps were popular in the 1940s, and I’m happy they are having a revival.

A big concern was finding a heel that didn’t provide too much coverage. I know that sounds odd when you are talking about shoes, but low-heeled, pointy-toe shoes can go matronly fast. A little less leather, a little more foot revealed is sexier.

These Calvin Klein Dolly heels are classic and would get the job done. I like the slight contour dip on the outer edge. They were a solid contender.

I considered these French Connection d’Orsay pumps. The striped toe is textured, which is a cool detail to break up a monotony of black. The kitten heel is cute and practical too.

I dreamed about buying the Jess pumps by Kate Spade New York. The shoes have smooth contouring, which adds a hint more femininity. These are as timeless as you can get my friends.

These Christian Louboutin Malachic pumps went on my Pinterest wishlist board immediately. The wingtip vamp is equal parts lady and evil. Just like Malificent, right?

I ended up trying these Mairi heels from Nine West. My last pumps were from Nine West, and they lasted years (with some cobbler touchups). But alas, the vamp pinched my feet too much and sizing up only caused them to slip off my heel as I walked.

I finally settled on Anne Klein’s Christa heels. They fit great, are made of buttery leather, and have an alluring d’Orsay shape. The heel is slightly higher than my general preference (three inches), but they were comfortable for a full day of work last Friday. They seem to have solid construction, so let’s hope they last.

Clovers in Fashion

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! In honor of the holiday, I rounded up some cool examples of clovers in fashion design. Enjoy and Erin go Bragh!








Friday File

I’ve got good news to report — my strep throat is gone! And it’s the weekend, and I’m looking forward to celebrating my birthday (belatedly) with friends. Hope everyone has a great weekend too.

And now some links:


I feel strongly about overhead lights (ask my husband how much I dislike them). It delights me that David Sedaris feels the same. Seriously, this short story is lovely. I love how he describes his mother in candle light. Also, if you’ve heard Sedaris’ voice, is it possible to read a Sedaris piece in any other voice than Sedaris’? I think not.

In The Business of Fashion, Mark C. Oflaherty wonders if camera phones are killing fashion. I have to say, I agree with him mostly. I hate the crappy shots of fashion shows that appeared in my Instagram feed throughout the past month. Sure, every once in a while there’s a good image. But for the most part, the editors who attend them need a HUGE lesson in editing. Don’t post everything! And stop posting so many pictures of yourself. Seriously. It’s not just the fashion hanger-ons. Editors at major publications are just as guilty of terrible camera phone images and narcissistic selfies.

Robin Givhan examines how McQueen and Valentino have evolved since their founders left both fashion houses.

Oscar red-carpet fashion has a big economic impact on the brands who appear (or don’t appear) on celebrities. Vanessa Friedman and Elizabeth Paton break down who “won” Sunday evening. P.S. You need a subscription to read the article, but it’s free and totally worth it. Friedman is a really great critic, and I always love her analysis.

I never knew that arm knitting was a thing, but I totally want one of these “arm cowls.” They look so cozy, and who knows if winter will ever end in Chicago.

Oscar’s Red Carpet

The cold I was fighting off at the end of last week hit me hard this weekend, and it was confirmed that I have strep throat. So my lovely weekend plans with my parents were scrapped, and we spent most of it at home.

But I did stay up and watch the Oscars last night, because that kind of thing is up my alley. Unfortunately, I thought the red carpet was a bit dull this year. Nothing stood out as particularly stunning, but there were a few I enjoyed.


Lupita Nyong’o in Prada, photo by Jordan Stauss/Invision/AP

Lupita Nyong’o looked light and youthful in her pretty Prada gown. I thought Sandra Bullock was alluring in a very figure-flattering McQueen. I liked the way Cate Blanchett’s Giorgio Armani gown glittered as she moved. And Emma Watson looked smashing in her understated Vera Wang.


Sandra Bullock in Alexander McQueen, photo by Jordan Stauss/Invision/AP


Cate Blanchett in Giorgio Armani, photo by Jordan Stauss/Invision/AP


Emma Watson in Vera Wang, photo by Jordan Stauss/Invision/AP

Who were your favorites last night? I’m curious if you also thought things were pretty tame, and if there was anything good I missed. There sure are a lot of celebrities, so I’m sure I didn’t see everything.


Kevin Spacey in Burberry, photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage

Update: Also, I would be remiss not to point out the great Burberry suit Kevin Spacey wore last night. I love the black peaked lapel contrasting the navy blue of his suit. This was a great look for him.

Friday File

My parents are coming into town this weekend, and I’m looking forward to their visit. I’m taking them to Publican, a meat-centric restaurant with communal tables. All week I’ve been excited to get oysters!

I’m trying to fend off getting sick too. This has been a bad winter for my health. Stay warm, healthy, and have a great weekend!

And now here are this week’s links:


Solon and Emma Borglum in the Artist's Paris Studio, c. 1899, from Metropolitan Museum of Art, courtesy of Peter H. Hassrick

I had no idea cowboy artists in Paris were a thing during the late Victorian era.

Great blog post by the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection on the shirt-waist, a blouse women wore at the turn of the century.

I think libraries are awesome, and so is this piece proclaiming their hipness.

My colleague and former boss, Karen Herbaugh of the American Textile History Museum, was interviewed about wearing pajamas in public alongside Clinton Kelly. Karen shared her historical point of view, while Clinton brought his What Not To Wear-trademark assessment.

I was fascinated by this piece in The Atlantic called “The Death of the Cool Feminist Smoker.”

I’m not sure I understand normcore. Do you get it?

I’m trying to figure out how I can see the traveling exhibition of Dr. Seuss’ hats.

A Century of Party Dresses

A few months ago, I was interviewed by Collectors Weekly about party dresses throughout the 20th century. We covered almost every decade, defining what looks were predominant. The interview was posted on Monday, and I wanted to share it with you. I had a lot of fun talking about party dresses!

It’s kind of funny to read a transcription of the way you talk, but this is my voice through and through. I only went on a handful of tangents, which as my interviewer Hunter said, “that’s often when you get to the most fascinating tidbits.”

I hope you enjoy!

The 1870s Lobster Bustle


evening dress, about 1873, from McCord Museum

In the 1870s, dresses shifted in shape dramatically. Instead of a full circle encompassing the wearer as was worn throughout most of the 19th century to this point, the skirt took the shape of an ellipse. The skirt was narrow over the hips; instead the fullness moved to the back. By 1873, this new shape was pronounced, and by 1875, it was often referred to as a mermaid’s tail.

Have you ever wondered how this shape was accomplished? How did they support all the volume at the back of the skirt?

To fill out this shape, a new bustle combined the crinolines of earlier decades with structural support in the rear. Sometimes called a lobster bustle, the structure is accomplished with exaggerated horizontal wire ribs or horsehair padding in a crinoline skirt that is slim at the front and sides.

Take a look at these great examples!

bustle, 1870s, from American Textile History Museum

bustle, 1873, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

bustle, 1870s, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

bustle, 1870s, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

I really love the lobster bustles from 1870s. Such a cool shape. Like architecture underneath a dress. And they do remind me of lobster tails!

Customizable Eyeshadow Palettes

Last week, I was on a CVS run and wandered down the beauty aisle. A new eyeshadow product caught my eye — Revlon’s new Colorstay Shadowlinks. It’s a cool idea. Each color is sold individually and the cases interlock with other eye shadow cases from the collection. You can create your own color palette and only pick the shades you will actually wear. I don’t know about you, but most palettes always seem to contain one color that just doesn’t work for me even if the other colors are perfect.

I made a palette with Oyster, Copper, and Java. I’d also like to add a light pink shade as well. The eyeshadows themselves are pretty good quality. They aren’t quite as rich as my ideal eyeshadow would be, but they aren’t grainy or sheer either. They blend quite well.

Good work Revlon. I love the customizable concept, and I recommend it.

Friday File

Happy Friday! What are you doing this weekend? I’m excited to stay home and watch the Olympics! The Opening Ceremony is tonight, which I always look forward to. And I really enjoy figure skating, which is on both Saturday and Sunday. I loved the Canadian pairs’ performance yesterday.

Do you have a favorite winter Olympic sport?

Since the 2014 winter Olympics are here, Unmaking Things has a wonderful history of skiing apparel.

I’m getting even more excited about the Charles James show this summer at the Met after reading Christina Binkley’s recent piece in the Wall Street Journal. I really hope the exhibition talks about some of the innovations and understructures he’s so famed for, instead of just being about pretty gowns.

One of the top fashion critics, Cathy Horyn of the New York Times, resigned last Friday. Many are disappointed and worried about the future of fashion criticism, and rightly so.

This story about a realistic statue of an undressed sleepwalking man on Wellesley College’s campus is one of the funniest things I’ve read all week. No matter if you think of the statue, the students’ reactions are priceless.

The Met’s New Charles James Acquisitions

ball gown by Charles James, 1947, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

This coming summer’s big Costume Institute exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is Charles James: Beyond Fashion. It runs from May 8 to August 10, and I can’t wait to see it. James was a brilliant designer, and one of the greatest American couturiers ever.

In 2009, the Brooklyn Museum of Art transferred its entire costume collection to the Met. Along with that transfer came a major archive of James’ work, setting up the Met to mount this major retrospective.

Well recently my research took me into the Met’s online collection database, and I found a ton of James pieces newly acquired by the museum. During 2013, the Met acquired more than 150 pieces, including some early works from the 1930s. Most of these are purchases credited as Costume Institute Benefit Fund, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, and Acquisitions Fund, 2013. There are also a few purchased with funds from individual donors.

Some of these new James acquisitions are stunning. Take a look for yourself.

dress by Charles James, early 1930s, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

label in dress by Charles James, early 1930s, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

evening jacket by Charles James, 1930s, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

evening dress by Charles James, c. 1935, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

cocktail dress by Charles James, early 1950s, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

suit by Charles James, 1950s, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

dress by Charles James, 1952-53, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

label in dress by Charles James, 1952-53, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

'Butterfly' gown by Charles James, c. 1955, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

I wonder how many of these new pieces will show up in the exhibition this summer.

I’m torn whether or not the Met’s acquisition of so many pieces by James is a good or damaging thing for the field of fashion history. On one hand it creates a really strong collection, and will be amazing for Met fashion historians who want to examine the evolution in James’ design. Hopefully they will publish their findings so that we can all learn from their research.

On the other hand it could make it harder for an outside researcher to examine James garments in person. Conducting research at the Met isn’t possible for just anyone, especially an independent historian or someone at an institution with limited funds. The acquisition of so many pieces by a single institution means that it’s harder for smaller institutions to acquire any James garments for themselves. Plus, there’s no way the Met will be able to show all of these garments in a single exhibition, so many will live in storage unseen by the public.

What do you think about a single institution acquiring so many pieces of a designer’s work? And are you excited to see the exhibition this summer?