Sock Dreams: They're really passionate about socks.

Having acquired a couple pairs of boots, I realized.... well, one cannot live on skinny jeans alone.  I'm getting fed up with the leggings/boots look that is so pervasive, so uniform, on the streets of SF.  The worst is that this look so doesn't work for the curvy-hipped among us, though you'll certainly see heavy-bottomed girls try to pull it off, with disastrous results. 

I'm thinking if you have a butt/hips to speak of, and you want to wear boots, your best bet is a weather-appropriate skirt.  But one doesn't always want to bother with tights, so enter the most sensible option: SOCKS

Up until now I've dismissed socks as an essential but kind of...ahem...pedestrian part of any wardrobe.  It wasn't an area that lit up my imagination. I have my white athletic socks and some ankle socks that go with slacks, and that's about it.
But then in my quest for socks, I came across Sock Dreams, apparently the premier place to shop for socks online. Let me tell you, these people know socks.  And they will hand-hold you through the process of choosing exactly the right look, fit, fiber content, and even sock accessories!  They review all their offerings and tell you the range of foot and calf sizes each sock will fit, as well as stay-up power.  

It was the first time I seriously considered getting socks that went past my calves at all.  In fact, some of their socks go all the way up your thighs. And they all look so very cozy.  Brilliant!  One might call it my sock awakening.  Beyond wearing them with boots, I'm also intrigued by the idea of wearing knee-high and thigh-high socks with regular shoes, especially mary-janes, something I've never had the balls to do before.

I compiled some of the colors, textures, patterns, and lengths that I'm considering for your perusal.  Chevrons, solids, and stripes galore!

Legwear from Forever 21: Finally, something I can use my $30 credit on.

I've been a fan of Forever 21 and its founders for, like, ever.  Despite the unrelenting lawsuits they face from all sides, my stance is this: their business model, infrastructure and execution gives them the kind of competitive edge that most clothing companies just can't touch. 

Now, in the way it has revolutionized so many other aspects of the fashion industry, Forever 21 is changing the way we buy legwear.  Yes, legwear: tights, stockings, leggings, socks, what-have-you. Some dear readers may remember an incident where I found and fell in love with an extravagant pair of stockings by MaxMara.  At $75, they practically gave me a heart attack.  But in reality, super basic American Apparel tights cost at least $10 and any pair of tights that are remotely interesting will set you back anywhere from $20 - $50.

The legwear collection at Forever 21, in contrast, ranges from about $5.80 to about $9.80, unless you are going for the fancy leggings in their Twelve by Twelve line.  It's perfect pricing for an item that will inevitably get runs and tears and basically fall apart.

And, get this - they are beautiful!  Different!  Eye-catching!  I first saw them on a couple of my favorite bloggers (Jane Aldridge and Rumi) and knew they must be on to something.  I can't wait to buy up a whole bunch and put them into rotation.

Amelie Rio stockings: A Follow-Up

Posted simultaneously to

Some of you may remember this story I told more than half a year ago, about a pair of stockings I fell in love with.  In fact, it was the first pair of stockings, or leggings, or any legwear accessory to which I ever gave a second thought.  They were made by MaxMara, but the brand was beside the point.  They were the most beautiful things I'd seen in a long time, and they haunted me.  You can read the original post here.

After that first encounter, and at least a week or two of miserable pining, I decided to try to find them again.  This was not an easy task, as MaxMara doesn't even have a website.  (Though their less expensive brand, MaxStudio, does.)  Apparently MaxMara makes hosiery, but the lines are not widely distributed, and even among MaxMara stores, only a select few carry hosiery at all.  And among those, the chances of me finding this particular style in my specific size were slim.

By the time I decided to cough up the $70 to buy them, of course, the South Coast Plaza location was sold out.  I went on a cyber quest, searching for them in many different permutations until, finally, I ran into this Boston Globe article about eye-catching legwear. I jumped - there was a boutique that sold them, Moxie on Charles St. in Beacon Hill!  I wrote them immediately to see if a) they still had the stockings in stock and b) they would ship to California.  A day later, I got the magic response:
I have one pair left.  It is a M/L but it is Italian sizing and runs pretty small.  I can ship but we charge $10 for shipping.  The stocking is $65.  Let me know if you'd like it.

Karen F. Fabbri, owner 

After a flurry of e-mails where we figured out logistics, shipping/credit card information, the stockings were on their way.  I gotta hand it to the Moxie folks -- they were so patient, responsive, and accommodating.  Totally painless experience, and I was so grateful that they held the stockings for over a week while I continued to hem and haw over the purchase.  When I finally took the plunge, I was glad I did!
I know all the considerations about impracticality, exorbitant price, etc.  But in the end, I was so very glad I did it.  This is how I figured it--I don't buy jewelry or expensive handbags.  This was one of the first luxury items I ever purchased, and just because they are non-conventional, and I can't wear them all the time, doesn't make me any less satisfied with them.  They really are fine quality and I'm sure if I am careful with them, they'll last for years to come.

Calvin Klein ribbed shawl cardigan
Le Suit pencil skirt
MaxMara stockings
Vintage buckle loafers
Ebony & Ivory bead lariat

Arm and leg apparel

I'm glad the 80s are back. Very select parts of the 80s. Namely fashion for the arms and legs like arm warmers/fingerless gloves and leggings/tights. Items that warm the ligaments but often reveal the extremities, leaving room for finger dexterity and toe wiggling. 

Why hide your beautiful blouse with a sweater when you could slip on a pair of arm warmers that can easily come off when the sun comes out! This modular arm apparel is popular with musicians and bikers who are in cold places and need their fingers to grip, pluck, and play. I am both a musician and a biker, but I think arm warmers have a place beyond these activities. One catch - I've noticed some fingerless gloves can look like a bit hobo-esque...I guess something to watch for :P

Leg apparel isn't quite as easily removable, but it does let you wear outfits you wouldn't normally wear in 60 degree weather and can add some nice pattern or color to a simple outfit. But leg-wear comes with its own set of warnings. Bright opaque colors and patterns wrapped tightly around your legs can make otherwise slim legs look quite stocky :P I found an amusing but informative video that goes over some basic rules.
Rule #1: wear black or neutral leggings 
Rule #2: never wear leggings as trousers 
Rule #3: ballet pumps or wedges (or boots in winter), avoid stilettos  
Rule #4: accessorise with a belt

I think the exception to rule #1 is if the rest of your outfit is fairly monotone. Here are two excellent example wearings I spotted in the last week:

The first: a woman who had a long dark skirt to her knees and dark boots that went up to just below her knees and in between was a splash of hot pink tights. It was an awesome way to add some color to her outfit. 

The second: a woman wearing white tights with black cursive loops going across in rows. She paired that with a pair of black flats that tied low around her ankle.  

Here is some inspiration, along with some items I'm considering buying:
I'd love to hear your opinions. I'm guessing there will be quite a few dissenters on these various leg and arm apparel.

Amelie Rio stockings: A Love Story

I'm not really sure if it's infatuation or not, but I cannot stop thinking about a pair of stockings I saw in the window display at MaxMara today.  I know it sounds absurd, but please hear me out.

My family went to South Coast Plaza to check out the sales.  It was really just a chance to explore and walk into ridiculous stores like Valentino (the sales clerk there was super rude, like, "well the sale rack is over there"), or go into Burberry and try on this brown, gray, black, and blue monstrosity of a fur coat that originally cost $10,000 but I would not take if you gave it to me for free because it was so ugly.

I passed by the window of the MaxMara store and caught a brief glimpse of these beauties and thought, those look interesting.  I did not know anything about MaxMara or where it stood on the totem pole of Italian fashion houses.  I did not even know it was Italian.

I went straight to the clerk and asked for the stockings.  She got very excited and ushered me to the back room and plucked out a little package and placed it in my hands.  "That's the very last pair I've got!" she said, and I felt a little thrill run down my spine.  I flipped it over and my face fell.  They cost $70.  I mean, I was bracing myself for a high price, but this was crazy!  The most expensive tights I've ever seen up till now were $30.  I opened the package and pulled them over my hands--they were even more beautiful up close, made of some top-quality stuff, and I could see the full effect of the gorgeous diamond weave pattern.

I'd never seen tights like this in my life.  I didn't know stockings could be so lovely--they even had this sweet gray velvet ribbon trim at the top, a detail that was not lost on me.

I stood there in a store surrounded by 50% off items and had fallen for the one thing that was not on sale.  $70 is an absurd price to pay for a pair of glorified socks, I understand.

But when you think about it, $70 is a relatively modest price for a piece of pure, unadulterated luxury.  People spend much more than that on jewelry, coats, handbags, shoes, and on and on.  This is the one time I was not driven by practicality or necessity of any kind, but only by an appreciation for something that was beautiful and well-made, unique, distinctive, and difficult to find.  I figure, I do not buy expensive jewelry, or handbags over $50, and the one pair of boots I have cost $40 at freaking Shoe Pavilion!

I asked about the return policy--you may know of my bad habit of buying things up and then returning them weeks later when I decide not to keep them--the lady said, no returns on hosiery or perfume.  It was a moment of truth, a black-and-white choice, and I was at a complete impasse.  My mom was with me and looked almost as if she was going to let me buy them (with my own money of course), but then she started to talk me out of them.  What if they run, she said.  What kind of skirt are you going to wear with them.  Your calves are too fat.  You're going to abuse them, etc.  

But what really let me walk away today was thinking, I will try to find them online for a lower price.  Fat chance!  MaxMara doesn't even have a website.  And the only place to buy their hosiery online seems to be a bunch of UK retailers.  And it is certainly impossible to find this particular style/model.

Of course.  Meanwhile I have not been able to stop thinking about them since I walked out of the store.  So now I am seriously considering calling the MaxMara store tomorrow and asking them to hold the stockings until I can drive all the way down again and claim them as my own.

Annie: For 70 bucks they'd better be sprinkled with diamond dust! 
<after I sent her the picture>  
Annie: OK from what I can see they are the ribbon too...but if they are glorified socks...I cant say I'd have been able to fathom spending 70 for 'em.
Me:  I know
Annie:  But yes-- i can see why they'd haunt your thoughts...I once found these adorable amazing plaid ankle booties that buckled up by Betsey Johnson at Nordstrom Rack and R____ swore up and down that he could not let me get them, especially since they were $200.  But I dream about them all the time...cause they were so unique! and can't find them anywhere online
Annie: so--if your sock/tights are anything like those should totally just get them cause it'll KILL your subconscious
me:  i know!  i've let things like this go before.  You know what happens, is it'll eat me up and i'll lose a lot of sleep searching online for them.  And then i'll find like a deficient version of them (like the wrong color or a differenct size), and I'll get it and sometimes pay even more for it.
me: and then i'll regret it 
Annie:  oh yeah....especially if you know an HM knockoff will not suffice
me: even started looking at other luxury hosiery brands online, and nothing comes close
Annie: I even went back the next day and the booties were gone...Steph--these were the most ugly sounding kickass gorgeous shoes.  hehhee
me:  tragic love story.  
me: i wonder if it is morally wrong to lust after inanimate objects like this?
me:  there is no lack of gorgeous things in the world.  if I give in to this, when does it end?