Sensible shoes for touring time

We get in a snit about walking shoes: Why are they so ugly? Why aren't more good-looking, sensible shoes offered?

Choosing such shoes requires a specific mind-set. We should approach walking shoes like a long-loved mate: you know the compromise you've made, but you wouldn't have it any other way. If you want steaming passion, slide into Loubies and stay put. Below, some choices. (Price and availability might change on linked sites.)

The Prada, Madrid, in misty rain 
The Raboutin Dream slip-on is the Lamborghini of sensible shoes. I tried it: light, sleek microfiber, better-looking than in the photo. The wedge is low and the entire shoe is supremely comfortable. 

Here's a shoe that can carry into evening if you don't need to be formal; price $375 from Amazon. Also available in grey leopard.

St. Petersburg: Up and down the steps of churches 
Arche's Ceyrz jazz oxfords lace right up the instep. Calfskin with Arche's famous hevea sole and, as the name implies, an honest arch support. The slight metallic sheen rescues them from being gym-like. Price, $345.

Jaipur: Touring temples
Ecco's Jump shoe has a "moisture-absorbent circulation system" to keep feet cool all day, and leather lining. They're called "hard-wearing", a boon if you've ever tried to get shoes repaired on the road. Good for touring where it's hot, but where you don't want to expose your feet. Price, $115 at ComfortFeetShop.

Portobello Market, London: Shopping for vintage silver on a nice bright (grey) day
Saddle shoes are cheeky with jeans or a simple skirt, which is probably what you're wearing, yet they're eminently sensible. The Bass cream-and-red-patent wipes off easily, but you can also get them in pink/cream or black/cream. Price, $108 on sale at 

Biking across Antwerp, mixed sun and cloud
My friend Kari introduced me to Trippen, the hip and high-quality German brand. These Future maryjane style metallic shoes ($375) show how they've lifted the often juvenile maryjane into fully-feathered cool, in the edgy neutral, bronze. For more Trippen styles, see GravityPope's collection here.

Monhegan Island, Maine: Rambling round, stopping to picnic
 Sometimes you need an open shoe, but bare sandals are risky when negotiating uneven terrain. Mephisto's Aida fisherman sandal is the ideal blend of open/closed support. (I love fisherman sandals.) Price, $280 at ComfortFootShop.

Montréal, dinner with friends at Sardine
Maybe that second La Paloma was not strictly necessary– but we're on vacation! Everyone will be wearing summer shades, and why not join in?

Let's walk there and back; it's easy in the ventilated Arche Drillo sandal, about $225, shown in Camellia.

Buy well before departure to break your shoe in. (I rarely buy new clothes for a trip, but think hard about the shoes—happy feet, happy traveler.) Whether exploring your home town or far afield, have fun!

Spring greens, from tart to tender

It's the sputtering start of spring, bouncing between grey and bright, wet and dry. I need a lift, something that signals the season.

First, something off the runway just to get us in the mood. We all have the bread and butter basics, but an aquamarine Mongolian lamb chubby? You get my drift: I want some kind of green to play off the neutral core of the closet.

TSE Fall 2012

The pieces below show the green range, but some may be s/o already. Green things, as my Parisienne friend Huguette says, should be scooped the moment they come out and worn as soon as possible, so that everyone is cheered by a flash of fresh.

Turquoise (in fact almost Tiffany blue), is a sublime mating of blue and green, with shifting ratios. An unexpectedly useful shade, if you can wear it. A turquoise hacking jacket in double-serge wool (J. Crew; price, $250) would pick up your jeans and is chic with bitter chocolate.

J. Crew turquoise blazer

Leaf or grass? J. Crew call it Caribbean; my family calls it golf-course green. I nominate this sweater to spring up my jeans. (And this time I'll be good and dryclean like they say, or at least handwash. The machine ate my last one.) Linen v-neck cable sweater, price, $69.50 from J. Crew.

J. Crew Caribbean linen v-neck

Basil: Crisp, clean and confident, very feminine in this retro-inspired Eric Bompard V-neck knit dress of 70% cotton, 30% cashmere. A graceful piece that goes from day through evening. (Eric Bompard, €195.)
Bompard basil dress

Apple: the green of sunshine and soft breezes, a gentle but not insipid hue. I have owned this very LL Bean washable linen shirt, and probably will again. Both the sleeve length and price ($45) are right.

LL Bean apple linen shirt

Lime is sometimes neon, so off my list, but a true lime, especially in a light jacket, is a wardrobe-refresher. Lafayette 148 stretch Emmeline jacket in cotton comes in neutrals, too, but you probably have one of those. (From Lafayette New York in misses' and plus sizes; price, $498.)

Lafayette 148 lime jacket

I can't wear mint but, in homage to my beautiful blonde sisters, will not omit its charms here. Lily Pulitzer's mint pima cotton Cassie cotton top is a well-cut basic, julep-fresh with white jeans. (From Saks Fifth Avenue; price, $55.)

Lilly Pulitzer mint top

The colour Eric Bompard call bud green is soft and delicate, but uncommon, too. These refined colours are why I continually order from them. Shown, the extrafine 100% cashmere v-neck pullover, price, €198.

Bompard bud pullover

Not in the lineup is the olive/khaki axis of green, which is versatile and pleasing, but not a herald-of-spring hue.

What has caught your eye for spring? Is it a colour, a mood or a specific piece?


PIP silicone implant
I can't summon words to express my anger and frustration over the latest silicone breast implant news, but Naomi Wolf can, in her February 15, 2012 Guardian article,  "The Silicone Breast Implant Scandal".

Wolf writes (links provided by her): "Dr Edward Melmed, a plastic surgeon from Dallas, told an FDA panel in 2011 that the implants were an "industrial toxin".

"The symptoms, they are real," he said. "I answer five to seven emails a night from women all over the world, asking, 'What do I do about these symptoms?'" Melmed told the FDA that by 10 years after patients get them, 50% of silicone implants have ruptured; 72% by 15 years; and 94% rupture by 20 years:

"Why is the FDA continuing to allow a device to be placed in young women that is guaranteed to fail [in] 80% [of cases] in 10 years? Would they allow that in hip replacements? Would they allow it in men?"

What is our part in this?

Women who get implants seek larger, symmetrical, firm breasts. We want them because we hope to look ideal, especially concerning a visible, prized, fetishized body part. 

"A" close call

At twenty, an A-cup on a good day, my self-consciousness could not be lifted by any amount of Twiggy comparison. I accompanied my roommate Bonnie, whose med-school boyfriend was a relative of a cosmetic surgeon who would give us a discount. Dr. L. handed translucent Dow Corning domes, squishy and warm, to  each of us to hold. The material, he said, would last for life, top-ups unnecessary. He assured us there would be no problems if we "did our part", massaging our breasts every night at bedtime for ten minutes.

We could pay in two installments, like buying a stereo: 50% in advance and 50% at arrival for surgery. We should book then and there. "One day", he said, "you'll have husbands and you won't want to do it then." 

My blood ran cold as he described the incisions. Besides, I couldn't raise the cash, and I knew my parents would never approve. Bonnie, flush from a summer waitress job and staked to one breast from her aunt (an odd 20th birthday gift if I ever saw one), got lushly pneumatic before the start of our senior year. 

I envied her in the babydoll mini-dresses she bought to display her bounty. Within three years, though, no amount of massaging dispersed the hard lumps in both breasts, and she had them removed (by another doctor). Bonnie also removed the boyfriend who had enthusiastically championed them.

By the mid-1970s women knew that implants, especially silicone, were a significant risk. In the US in 2008, new silicone implant technology was approved by the FDA ending a nearly 15-year ban "thanks to industry lobbying", as Wolf's article says.

Forty years later

Why are we still doing this?

Spring Sunday

The same warm system that made sunbathers out of Chicagoans hit Montréal last weekend, with sunny 20C (68F) weather and pent-up demand creating a delirious atmosphere. 

Scarves on everyone, always: the flag of the city, and now in seasonal colours.



A typical look, casual but not without thought, very Montréalaise. The socks look hand-knit; she's still wearing tights, but only a block away....

...a young woman sat sunning her pretty legs in flip-flops and a fresh coral pedicure. Her chihuahua modeled a new pink coat and, chiquita, every girl simply must have a matching bed. 

Speaking of coats, this woman at the market permitted me to photograph hers, and told me it was by the Spanish brand Desigual. Stunning! She even reminded me to shoot the back, too.

We could easily get another dump of snow, but for now, we'll embrace the new season, shopping for tonight's dinner.

"How about asparagus with the lamb?" 

And we must make an important decision: who has the best batch of maple syrup. "C'est moi" says this fellow.

Bucket List: Owls

On last New Year's Eve, the conversation turned to Bucket Lists.

I find such lists ill-timed. If you have to be the waiting room to fulfill certain dreams, it is likely too late. Don't you want to do them far enough ahead of time that you can revel in the satisfaction for a good long while? 

I've only a few things on a list of "somedays", and one is, to pet an owl. Harry Potter notwithstanding, these magnificent creatures are predators that must be handled by experienced falconers, and that's not a weekend course. Owlets, however, are pushovers for a nuzzle.

Just watch this:

There really is not much else.

Maybe Capri in quiet September. More bright rainbows, some cracking ocean storms (experienced from a dry cabin with a snifter of armagnac), a grandchild. A concert I had no idea was going to be transcendent when I bought the ticket, like life itself. The very best experiences are not for sale, or even determined by us.

The most important item on my Bucket List? A bucket that kicks smoothly and peacefully.

Do you have one? Will you tell us what's on it?

I am offline for a short time, and will respond to comments on Friday.

Keshi pearls: A gift from nature

Tiffany Tahitian keshi bracelet
I hardly have to proclaim my love for pearls, but lately I'm crushing on keshis. I can't get enough of their intense lustre and gorgeous colours. 

The keshi–"poppy seed" in Japanese– is (usually) a byproduct of the culturing process, or as my jeweler prefers to say, "a gift from nature".

The oyster is busy making a cultured pearl, but rejects the nucleus (a bead or piece of tissue) before the process is complete. Because keshis have no nucleus, they are never round, and are also all-nacre. You will hurt an oyster's feelings by calling a keshi "pearl hurl".

There is some leeway about the term keshi in the industry– a bunfight about whether the term can be used for freshwater pearls too, but in North America, most jewelers and designers have adopted the term keshi for any non-nucleated pearl, regardless of oyster variety.

I'm linking to Kojima Company's owner, Sarah Canizzaro, who succinctly discusses the matter here.  

Some jewelers are ignorant about pearls even though they work with them; I've had them present keshi pearls to me as "baroque". Baroque refers to the shape of a cultured pearl. Keshi is a pearl variety; its shape can be flattish (resembling  cornflakes or petals), long and pointy (like pearl barbed-wire) or bumpily oval. Nor are keshis natural pearls, because they are created during the culturing process. The colour is usually natural (and if not, should be disclosed).

A knowledgeable jeweler or vendor will also state the type of pearl, such as Akoya keshi or Tahitian keshi. The "Main Most Important Point" as my beloved dance teacher Louis used to say, is that good keshis are beautiful. And oh, do I have some keshis to show you!

Tiny Akoya keshis and big (10.5-12.5mm) pink Chinese freshwaters paired in an elegant 45-inch rope. Expect someone to tell you they didn't know pearls could look like that. From Kojima Company; price, $900.

You're not supposed to mix pearls and chain, but here's the beauty of Kate Hines' cool Chelsea Necklace: all-nacre keshis are not going to wear away to the nucleus when nestled next to chain. So, rocker chick, you can have it both ways. Keshis and sliver-finish (on brass) chain; length 20 inches; price, $160.

Also from Kojima, stacked keshis, a lavish span in a natural palette of silver, lavender, pink and cream. These flat keshis are drilled through the centre, so there are a lot of pearls in a strand. This necklace is 18 inches; the price, $490, also from Kojima Company.

I visited a carriage-trade jeweler who displayed a strand of 10mm Tahitian keshis, and though the matching and lustre were remarkable, the price was too: $25,000. So, while $1,875 for this Tahitian triple strand (from Kojima Company) may seem steep, it is not, given the quality. Three 16" layered strands finished with a 14k clasp; total length, 17".  A refined, unusual piece.

Here's a 19-inch strand of big metallic keshis (about 15mmx12mm) which Etsy seller thewater's edge says are platinum grey in direct sun, and show these flashing hues in indirect light, so, enchanting either way.  Finished with a sterling shepherd's hook; price, $180.

She has also made this pretty sterling silver, 9mm salmon pink freshwater pearl and keshi necklace; only $35, it would be a sweet gift to a new graduate.

A pair of keshi earrings is a good way to audition the type if they are new to your jewel box. Long a fan of Ten Thousand Things, I can see wearing the Arabesque Earrings everywhere. Price, $610 at Barney's.

A simple pair of 8mm-8.5mm Japanese keshi studs (on 14k yellow gold posts): the Zen earring, serene and lustrous. Price, $193 from Ikeda Pearls.

The nacre, the essence of refracted light that gives depth and the play of colour to a pearl, is remarkable on a keshi. I am always drawn to them, and can't we use all the glow we can get?

The plain one

Downton Abbey's Lady Edith and Lady Mary
"The pretty one, the plain one."

Have you ever heard this distinction made about sisters? Or perhaps you, like me, had a girlfriend so stunning that you might as well be invisible walking beside her. (Jeanne had Elizabeth Taylor's violet eyes and heart-shaped face, masses of black hair, and a perfect figure that she showed extensively.)

The less-alluring woman feels like Lady Edith in "Downton Abbey", a few teaspoons short of a full service.

This is physical beauty at its most superficial and competitive, but among many, the wish to achieve at least an average level is an obsession, especially in a woman's young adulthood. 

Britain, however, has long venerated actors who are not "10"s. Laura Carmichael, who plays Edith, or the marvelous Ruth Sheen, who often appears in Mike Leigh's films, are not conventional beauties, yet command a screen.

Laura Carmichael
Above, Carmichael escapes the Edwardian in a wee bit of Gucci: Go boil your bloomers, Lady Mary. One tactic: shift the eye to legs long as any showgirl's.

In "Another Year", Ruth Sheen plays a social worker. She's in easy, straightforward Marks & Sparks-type pieces, a woman comfortable with who she is, busy with her work and garden. (By contrast, Lesley Manville, as her desperate and damaged friend, is costumed in clothes too young for her.)

"Another Year": Manville (l) and Sheen

Those of us not born storied beauties (and older than Carmichael) will forgo slashed Gucci, but might borrow a few pointers from Sheen, especially as she appeared at the London Critics' Film Awards last February.

Sheen steps out

Her dress fits perfectly; the fabric creates movement. Black downplays a generous bust, gold satin lights her face. She has wisely left the neckline uncluttered. The wrap adds texture but does not overwhelm. The pale leg and shoe create an unbroken line that lengthens the leg.

Sheen's dramatically made-up eyes and lower-key lips lift the gaze from her receding chin to her cheekbones.

Sheen claims her beauty

Whether genuine or faux, diamond and pearl earrings are the pièce de résistance, the accessory of a glowing, confident woman celebrating a notable achievement. That's why I post on jewelry: the right pieces not only highlight loveliness, they amplify it.

Sheen wore that dress to the Toronto Film Festival screening of "Another Year", the London premiere, and the Critics' Award event. Brava! If you have a look that works, wear it often and vary the accessories.

I admire Sheen and women like her, luminous and lively. And that makes them beauties in my book.

Paloma Picasso
Another approach is that of the jolie laide, the woman who's not conventionally appealing but has presence, style, spirit; often-invoked examples include Diana Vreeland, Paloma Picasso, Chanel, Anna Magnani, the French chanteuse Barbara, Bette Davis.

This woman holds an inner conviction that symmetrical, standard-issue prettiness is simply one type, and she's  another, just as esteemed. The more narrowly a culture applies standards of beauty and the more pressure a woman feels to conform, the more hard-won the respect for the jolie laide. I find her splendid.

Kirn's appreciation in Elle
If you think this is rationalization, click here for Walter Kirn's essay (on Elle's site), on how "the hottest girl in the room is not necessarily who you think".

If you are mother or friend to a young woman who mourns her invisibility next to a Lady Mary, Kirn's piece could allay angst—though of course she would never behave as badly as the tattletale Lady Edith, although hasn't she improved in Season Two?

"Pretty is as pretty does", as my mother used to say.

More than a Friend: Sex and yoga

Friend in need?
 "Yoga and Sex Scandals, No Surprise Here" serves a double helping of censure from William J. Broad, also author of a current book on the physical risks of yoga.

Broad first thumps Friend, founder of Anusara Yoga, who allegedly "had a love of 'partying and fun'" and "cheated on his girlfriends regularly".

Broad omits the point that the divorced Friend is not a member of a spiritual community that requires its founders to be celibate or monogamous, unlike several disgraced yogis he mentions. (Anusara have published Ethical Guidelines, including those for sexual attraction between teacher and student.)

The guru-abuse-of-power dynamic is well-documented in yoga and other worlds; while that can happen, I have also seen teachers hit on aggressively by students, far more often than the opposite trajectory. We should know more before flogging Friend: What kind of agreements did he have with his girlfriends (note the plural)? Were his party companions consenting adults?

Broad then moves on to the "surprise" that yoga is concerned with sexuality, see-sawing between condemnation and praise. He sounds like a prude titillated by a racy movie: can't look, can't look away.

He writes, "Since the baby boomers discovered yoga, the arousal, sweating, heavy breathing and states of undress that characterize yoga classes have led to predictable results."

Moving it in Zumba
Arousal? If you want a hot workout, you'd do better with the Brazilian funk of Zumba or a pole class, pretty much built for sexy-time. 

Sweating and heavy breathing? At my studio, that comes from holding Side Plank Pose interminably; by minute three, I'll bet no one is eying the guru's groceries.  

States of undress? Aside from the chiseled guy who once practiced next to me in tiny shorts (May 14, 2008), there is far less on display than at a beach.  

Predictable results? Broad links this atmosphere to teachers' liaisons with students, and cites a proliferation of complaints in California. But if yoga assures boomers of better (consensual) sex, I'll take another 20-class card, please.

He then segues into research about improved sexual response among yogis, whether playing alone or with others. And, Bill, your problem is...?

Awakening the senses
All movement disciplines have a sensual element.

From T'ai Chi to yoga to dance, movement releases tension, improves fitness and enables presence in the body. I know several women who credit their yoga practice for healing trauma from sexual abuse. Yoga helps one quiet the mind as well as body, and a less anxious lover is a better lover.

So there you have it, a Friend who was too friendly, it seems, and a Broad who'd brake our mature mojo.

Funny old world, even on the mat.

In Memory: Eleanor Callahan

Eleanor Knapp Callahan, wife and muse of the great photographer Harry Callahan  died on Wednesday at 95. 

I am moved by her matter-of-fact cooperation with her brilliant husband's work, for her financial support of the family, for her happy, enduring marriage: "Sixty-four years, and not one bad one...".

Here, Harry Callahan photographed her with their only child, Barbara, in 1953. He said, "I wanted to photograph the person for whom I had feeling. It wasn’t enough just to photograph a nude."

Look at her: Lush, austere, graceful– nothing like the starved models of today. A woman, a mother, a presence but never a product.

We all know such women; let us pause to honour their forthright integrity, whether viewed by eye or camera. Callahan was an extraordinary photographer, but perhaps his greatest gift was the capture of the uncomplicated glory of a strong and splendid woman simply living her life.