Rabbit Holes: Fashion History

Because I never claimed that all of my interests were practical.

  • Here is an illustrated history of women’s fashion (for wealthy Western women).  It’s a neat collection of fashion plates and sewing patterns from 1784 to 1970, and tells you a lot about the popularity of different silhouettes/colors over that time.
  • There are a few interesting related threads on Reddit, where the above illustrated history originated.  I particularly liked the ones about the colors of Victorian fashion and about historical working women’s fashion.
  • One thing I was surprised no one brought up: those beautiful green dresses of the 18th century were deadly poisonous.  The green dresses from the early 1860s were particularly startling, because in 1861 there was a widely publicized case of an artificial flower maker dying a horrible death from those poisonous green pigments.  (This also solves a long-standing mystery for me about why many fashion people really resist making green clothing.)
  • Speaking of dyes, but in a less terrible and morbid way, here is an interesting history of nail polish.
  • High heels!  Who thought they were a good idea?  Answer: Persians, for riding horses.  Before the riding heel, there were chopines, platform shoes women teetered on as a region-specific display of material wealth (leatherworking in Spain, textiles in Italy).  Also, men complained about the frivolity and costs of these fashion elements that were meant to display men’s wealth and status.
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High Heels Slightly Less Likely To Destroy Your Body

This one’s a reader request, and one I’ve felt a little impostor-syndrome about!  Everyone wants to find comfortable heels, and I hate heels.  However, I am a good researcher, I appreciate how heels look on other people, and I am all about harm mitigation, so I decided to find out:

  1. What shoe brands promise reasonably comfortable, yet attractive, heels?
  2. Do any of them actually have data, rather than anecdotes, to prove their points?

I know that a lot of recommendations I make are not cheap, but there’s no area of fashion I’ve explored that can command prices as absurd as “comfortable, pretty high heels”– especially shoes with any kind of data to back up their promises of comfort. That said, here’s what I’ve found on brands that make nice-looking high heels that are designed to hurt minimally.

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L’Amour Des Pieds Darron: Super Comfortable, Wears Out Fast

L’Amour Des Pieds is a fairly new comfort brand created by Wayne Finkelstein, who is also the dude who started Gentle Souls before Kenneth Cole took over.  That meant I was willing to give their shoes a try even though they don’t make wide widths: Gentle Souls (under Kenneth Cole) is one of the only brands that makes pretty-ish shoes with a toebox wide enough for me.  So I picked up a pair of L’Amour Des Pieds’s Darron sandals in mustard.

Man, am I profoundly torn:

  • They’re way more interestingly-designed than most comfort shoes.  They also come in fun colors, which may not mean a lot to most people, but I have been trying to find a pair of yellow or green shoes that I can actually wear for *literally years*.  Add ‘wide’ to your search and all your unusual color options disappear.
  • They were extremely comfortable right out of the box– they’re smooth on the inside, have a comfortable amount of arch support, and have enough padding that bumpy roads don’t hurt my feet.

The problem: I’ve been wearing these sandals about every other day for two months, and they’re already showing signs of falling apart.  Pictures below the fold, so you can see what I mean.

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Shoes That Fit: Narrower Heels, Wider Toes

It’s been a while since I’ve written about footwear (mostly because the posts I want to write are either historical research projects or would involve me going to the store to try on shoes I don’t usually wear).  So here’s a popular question I’ve gotten:

How do you find shoes that are wider in the toe but narrower in the heel that also don’t look like clown shoes?

The fact that this is requires a search is ridiculous.  According to the podiatrists I’ve spoken to, most women have wider forefeet and narrower heels.  But women’s shoes are usually built either to have toes that are the same width as their heels or toes that are narrower.  This is especially frustrating to me as someone with a significantly-wider-than-average forefoot but narrow heels, and it’s also frustrating because shoes that are too narrow in the forefoot cause bunions… which are extra-painful if you are wearing shoes that are narrow in the toebox.  But you can find them, and I hope this post makes that process easier for you!


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Oops: A Miniature MM LaFleur Giveaway

Last month, I bought the MM. LaFleur Didion in Cornflower Blue in size L.  It looks beautiful in all of the pictures online of people wearing it, but unfortunately, it does not look beautiful on me.  Busty women: do not buy this one.  However, it’s a sturdy, nice-looking blouse for people with not my figure, and I’d love for it to find a happy new home.

(Full disclosure: I also don’t love the fabric, but there’s nothing wrong with it.  I certainly wouldn’t say it “feels like your favorite t-shirt,” like they do, but I also think Ureshii might have spoiled me on comfy fabric.)

The Didion is unworn except to try it on, and we live in a non-smoking home.  To enter this impromptu giveaway, ask me something!  Either something you’d like advice on, or something about me, or, I don’t know, something about Chinese literature.  (My favorite Chinese author: Lu Xun.)   If there are people interested in a tiny new blog’s out-of-pocket giveaway, I’ll pick a winner at random on Tuesday, 4/19.

Also, if anyone’s interested in getting a pair of Ziera shoes, Mar-Lou Shoes is having a small ($25) discount on each pair through 4/24.  The clearanced shoes at ShoeMill are still cheaper if they have them in a size and style that works for you, but if they don’t, Mar-Lou Shoes might be a good option.

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Ballet Flats With Arch Support

I used to own one or two pairs of shoes at a time.  Big, clunky, super-comfy shoes, sandals when I could get away with it.  I wore them until they gave out entirely.  Then a previous job made me hyper-self-conscious about appearance and social signals, so I changed.

For about a year, I wore just plain old ballet flats that you could buy at any shoe store.  Then I noticed a large, soft bump developing at the top of my foot.  Turned out ordinary ballet flats are both too narrow and not supportive enough for my feet.

I want people like me to be able to easily find arch-supportive flats.  So here are my personal favorites, along with other options that might work for you.

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