Dilemmas: Can't decide if saving $ on these knockoffs is worth the knowledge that they are (such blatant) knockoffs. (Or, why Ann Demeulemeester's triple lace-up boots are still immortal in my eyes).

In the first few moments of seeing these triple-lace-up boots from Chocolat Blu on Ruelala.com last night, I was super excited. Of course I was going to get them, I thought, because they were a much cheaper version of the awesome, awe-inspiring boots by Ann Demeulemeester from her Fall 2008 line:

I first saw the Ann D's on SeaOfShoes.com, and was utterly swept away by their vicious beauty. I loved them so much I seriously considered forking over the $800 when they went on sale on gilt.com a couple months ago. But of course I missed the chance--they sold out faster than you can say "demeulemeester" and that was that.

It never occurred to me that other brands would have the audacity to copy Ann D's immortal creations.  What nerve!  But copy they did, even L.A.M.B. (whose proprietor has been known to sue Forever 21 for copying its own designs, what a joke!), and though most of the copies were quite impressive, none of them quite reaches the ethereal splendor of the original boots, and here are a few missing elements:

  • Angled tops with extended tongue: One thing that makes the original Demeulemeester boots stand out is the way the tops of the boots slope gently upwards towards the front, with that extra-long front panel that shoots aggressively up past the laces. Many of the copies merely truncate the boot shaft right where the laces end.  The Chocolat Blu ones do a decent job of imitating this boot shaft but are missing a few other elements as noted below.
  • Off-set heel: At least in the high-heeled version featured on SeaOfShoes.com, one thing that really sets the Ann D's apart is the heel that isn't quite flush with the rest of the shoe.  Awkwardly placed and yet very unique.
  • That perfectly distressed quality of the leather: All the copycats use leather that is just too new-looking, which instantly does away with the 18th-century, steampunk, Tim-Burton-esque charm of the originals.  The originals look like they've been worn for 100 years. The Chocolat Blu ones, by contrast, use patent leather.  For shame!
  • Extra long laces: In all the pictures I've seen of the Ann D's, there is a generosity of laces that allows you to wrap them a few times around the boot shaft, and still have enough left over for some floppy ties at the sides.  Most of the fakes have just enough lace to tie a lame little bow at the top.
  • Length of the rows of laces: By this, I mean the laces start much closer to the toe box on the original Ann D's as compared to the copycats.  The Chocolat Blu ones start practically at the ankle, leaving a whole lot of blank space on the actual shoe part of the boot.
  • That bit of extra stitching towards the toe: It's a relatively tiny detail, but it makes a difference.  That little extra stitching before the laces start on the originals makes them somehow look more authentic.

So yeah, all the reasons above keeps the original Ann D's sacred, no matter who tries to copy them, but that said, I did end up ordering the Chocolat Blu boots because the Ann D's are sold out everywhere, and anyway they were as close as I was going to get to the originals at a mere $120.

This point in time: The real reason losing Alexander McQueen is tragic for us all.

By now I imagine you have to be very far removed from not only the fashion world, but also mainstream news outlets and culture in general, to have not heard the tragic news of Lee Alexander McQueen's passing last Thursday.  I have been examining my own feelings and actively absorbing what people have been saying about it--on blogs, in magazines, and most spectacularly, on Twitter.  The outpouring of grief and shock has been great indeed, but I couldn't bring myself to join in because, to be honest, I found some of these sentiments around it being "so sad," "such a waste," "he was so creative and talented," and simply "r.i.p. alexander," to be neither satisfying nor convincing. And so it has taken me some time to process and share what I think is really behind this terrible sense of loss that we feel.

Because I never knew the man, and only knew his work, I cannot write with any conviction or meaning about the unspeakable tragedy of losing Lee McQueen as a human being, especially the untimely way in which he departed.  I can only write about what losing him as an artist means for us, and how his creations continue to inspire and impact the world we live in.

The death of Alexander McQueen is tragic not because he was, and is, my "favorite designer."  That doesn't mean much if you don't appreciate fashion's place in society.  But I contend that even for the philistines among us, there's room to mourn creative genius in any form.  Many of us are overwhelmed with sadness as we stare at this gaping black maw of a McQ-shaped hole before us, and I posit that the reason we feel robbed is really that we have lost one of the greatest storytellers of our time.
A storyteller, you say?  Why yes indeed - I believe Alexander McQueen was a masterful storyteller, right up there with the most skillful film directors, novelists, and painters of the era, before he was ever a designer, or even a tailor (of which he was one of the best).  The tales he spun were dark fables and romantic, gothic fairy stories that reached deep into the very underbelly of our cultural consciousness and always left a subtle aftertaste of terror.  His stories were the stuff of Bluebeard's castle, of Jane Eyre's splintered chestnut tree, of Snow White and Rose Red's beloved bear, and of Beauty's faithful Beast.  They comprised a very real part of who we are as a society.

The Contemporary Fashion Archive was one of the few sources I found to accurately describe the full effect of McQueen's work on the fabric of our cultural consciousness: "His 1990s fashion shows became famous for evoking complex narratives and powerful imagery that often seamlessly combined beauty with emotional disturbance, glamour with violence and fragility with aggression."

For his Fall 2008 show, possibly one of his most memorable and magical collections, which Style.com called "a self-imagined fantasy of crinolined princesses and British-colonial romance," McQueen stated, "I've got a 600-year-old elm tree in my garden," he told us, "and I made up this story of a girl who lives in it and comes out of the darkness to meet a prince and become a queen."
And yet, McQueen was always lauded for being forward-thinking, groundbreaking, and evolutionary in his designs.  He was doing exciting things in his collections, things most designers would never have the balls to conceive, let alone execute and display.  One need only behold the bizarre yet undeniable beauty of the now-infamous 10-inch stiletto "armadillo shoes," from his most recent Spring 2010 collection, so unlike anything we've ever seen anyone put on their feet, to understand that McQueen's ability to explore uncharted territory was unparalleled.  And still, the strange new things possess a heartbreaking, breathtaking, extraordinary beauty.

It was his mastery of so many contradictions, including this ability to look ahead at the same time that he reached fervently and reverently into the past, that made McQueen's work so unforgettable, why these silhouettes seeped deeply into the crevices of our imaginations, and why they were always managed to unnerve and disturb us at the same time they lit us ablaze with desire.  For in his stories we found not only where we've been and who we were, but new hope for where we might be going next and how those new places might alter us.  And in McQueen's hands, we willingly relinquished the fears his designs inspired in us, and trusted his guidance completely on this journey into our own aesthetic future.

And so, while I grieve for Lee McQueen, the man, and the many sadnesses and loneliness he endured as he moved within the shallow and concocted world of fashion, the bigger part of me mourns the passing of a true poet and scholar who had so much left to give the world. And yes, that part of me feels robbed of the unwritten stories Alexander McQueen might have had to tell me, the loss of which makes me look forward into the empty space with a real and creeping dread.

Explore images and videos of the last 8 years of Alexander McQueen's collections on the official site.

It took me a while to uncover these photos, but I finally found them on the Contemporary Fashion Archive website.  This gallery includes designs from Alexander McQueen's earliest collections, starting with his innovative graduate collection (bought in its entirety by the late Isabella Blow in 1994), to the the infamous "Highland Rape" show in 1995, into the latter part of the decade.  It's fascinating to compare these early works with his later, more mature styles.


The only two celebrity reactions I found remotely interesting, though they may not be the most appropriate responses to the news:

George Forsyth (Lee's former partner): "The truth is, the fashion world is the loneliest place on the face of the planet. It's a shallow world full of party people and party 'friends.'...It's been fashion, fashion, fashion ... but what about him as a person? That's the real loss and the real waste."

Karl Lagerfeld“I found his work very interesting and never banal. There was always some attraction to death, his designs were sometimes dehumanised. Who knows, perhaps after flirting with death too often, death attracts you.”

The Best of the Rest: Some favorite picks from McQueen's other shows, like the divine shredded chiffon "oyster dress" from his Spring 2003 collection...
and the exquisite dress he custom-designed for fashion editor/chick-lit "novelist" Plum Sykes:
The Edwardian/Scottish punk aesthetic of his Fall 2006 show:
The abundance of houndstooth during Fall 2009:
And finally, selections from all the other shows:
In memory of Lee Alexander McQueen (1969 - 2010)

Personal spring trend, "Shooties" or "shoe boots": Somewhere between an oxford and an ankle boot...

...lies a world of flat-ish, comfortable, and decidedly solid shoes that defy categorization. Some might call them flat ankle boots, though it's not quite accurate, because "ankle boot" should refer to something that actually covers your ankle. Maybe the Frye people got it right when they called it a "shootie" because that captures the neither-here-nor-there nature of such footwear. Or, as Garry quipped, sh'booties.

These shoes have been creeping into my consciousness through several other style blogs (jakandjil and thesartorialist), as well as girls selling vintage oxford/ankle boots on the laws of general economy.  And, of course, my recent acquisition of a pair of Cydwoq Vintage oxfords. Now, I have a full-blown shoe crush on my hands that needs consummation.  Some fine examples of the shoe boot/shootie phenomenon:
The only criteria that seems to tie this class of shoe-boots together are:
  • COMFORT.  You could walk in these shoes all day and still be happy as a clam.
  • Made out of high quality, structured leather
  • Low heel, less than 2 inches if possible
  • Super low  or non-existent shaft (exposed ankles preferable) with a no-fuss slip-on design
  • Cool details like buckles, ties, buttons and hand-tooling a plus
  • Decidedly mannish or androgynous in style.
These shooties tend to fall into one of two style categories - either the Western ankle boot or the embellished oxford.  Also, they seem to abound on vintage sites like Etsy (and sell for quite cheap, less than $50).  Which makes them both accessible and unique, as the unisex nature of these shoes means it takes a girl with some balls to pull them off!  

On that note, I am definitely l ooking forward to finding my perfect pair of oxford/western shoe boot/booties.  Here's the best of the rest:
P.S. If you have questions on where to find any of the boots shown above, please leave a comment or e-mail!

A Case of the Fluevogs

It happens every so often: I'm inexplicably drawn to the Fluevog store window or the website, and dream of strutting down the street somehow wearing several pairs at once. Fall tends to bring it on, as I look forward to showing my boots some love after a summer of skimmers and strappy things. I blame my old friend Christina from prep school for first infecting me; she'd pull me with her into the store in Boston whenever we were in town.

My top drool-inducing favorite of late is the Xie Xie (which means "thank you" in Mandarin Chinese; Fluevog likes to use variations of the word for some of his designs). Sleek and just enough under the radar to wear anyplace, but unmistakably Fluevog in design and quality. They're beautiful and even practical, but not so delicate as to shun wear and tear.

Xie xie in advance to the kind benefactor who would like to gift me these boots...*bow*

Introducing a new tag: Sexy-Ugly

So I've decided to add a new tag to our Wearability posts.  Normally this is not cause for a major announcement, but in this case I thought it was sort of funny/interesting and might need a bit of explanation.  "Sexy-ugly" is a term first coined by the movie Kissing Jessica Stein, about this insufferably neurotic bi-curious girl.  The term is used to describe people, as Urban Dictionary notes: "Someone who is not conventionally good-looking (or any kind of good-looking in some cases), but possesses an appealing personality, style, or talent, and is thus considered attractive."

Classically "sexy-ugly" celebrities: Mick Jagger.  Harvey Keitel.  Danny Trejo. Steve Tyler.  Amy Winehouse.  In fact, a LOT of musicians.

I'm going to argue that this term can absolutely apply to fashion, too.  I would define it as something off-beat, with oddball proportions, strange materials, and other elements that defy the usual laws of symmetry and beauty.  But, when worn by just the right person, in just the right way, can convey immense appeal, great style, and general sexiness.

I created the tag because I realize a LOT of the things we blog about here are sexy-ugly!  And I'm not about to stop now!  Here's to many moons of future sexy-ugly blog posts.  Check out the ones from our archive here.

From Kissing Jessica Stein:

Jessica: He just wasn't funny, you know? That's always been my problem, I think. Not smart or not funny. Or not smart AND not funny. Or funny, but in a totally unappealing way like funny stupid or funny dopey, rather than funny witty, or funny ironic or funny goofy. Or, you think they're smart- and then you realize that they're not- and that's funny. But funny tragic. And then, if you're lucky enough to find someone who's the right kind of smart and the right kind of funny, usually they're just... kinda... 
Helen: Ugly? 
Jessica: Ugly, exactly. Oh my god, is that awful? 
Helen: No, not at all. Ugly doesn't do it for you. That's okay. See me, I'm kinda into ugly... But only if it's sexy ugly.
Jessica: Sexy-ugly? Define.
Helen: Okay, well, um...I was gonna say Mick Jagger. He's the big one. Oh, Lyle Lovett, um, James Woods, Harvey Keitel.  Harvey Keitel. He's very sexy-ugly.

Meet: ArtLab

Otherwise known as Patricia, a designer/artist of incredible pedigree, who operates out of the NYC area.  I've been following ArtLab's work on etsy for a very long time now, and have always found her designs fascinating, haunting, like a creature from a Tim Burton film, except perhaps less stylized and more faded.

I first mentioned one of ArtLab's pieces, "Disjointed Series No. 6," in an old Wearability Challenge post for Jen McCabe.
Honestly, I think conceptually many of her items skate the edge of wearability, as most of them are probably just a tad too unnerving to go out and about without feeling a little self-conscious about it.  But in a way the pieces are intensely wearable, made of luxurious, comfortable fabrics that move easily with the body, and assembled in rather modest, if totally unconventional, ways.  And few can find fault with the neutral color palette that makes all her clothing look as if it had sprung up from the earth.

I especially love ArtLab's way of naming her pieces.  So poetic and dream-like:
  • Andromache's Deconstruction
  • Athena's Head Covering
  • I heard you call my name, in a dream
  • Blues before sunrise
  • Revolutionary Girl
  • Obliquely crossing

Not sure which trend I'm caving to...

Yes we're shoe-crazy here at wearability.  So is it a gladiator sandal, which I once called the trend that should die?  Or is it the more recent cage trend sparked by YSL's beauties?

I'm hoping these sandals I got from urbanoutfitters.com yesterday (in taupe, down to $39.00 from $58.00) are in a class all their own.  I'm looking forward to how comfy they look--hope there's still enough summer left for me to wear them.

For Men: Check Please!

In general - I like patterned dress shirts more than solid colors. Mostly because they're more visually interesting - especially since the dress shirt generally plays a supporting role in any given ensemble (under a suit, sweater, etc.)

Not to take away from a clean, crisp white shirt but sometimes you want something more fun - like this light blue checkered shirt a la Paul Smith. I wasn't the biggest fan of this pattern at first because it reminded me of a picnic blanket - but it's grown on me with more stores taking hold of this trend and playing with the size and color of the checks.

Paired with a light grey suit it would be dressy enough to wear to work (if you need to wear suits to work). One note of warning - I've seen guys try a bowtie with this pattern and unless you are incredibly British (think Prince Charles) it's really hard to pull off. Stick with a fairly muted (meaning not large print or crazy paisley pattern) or no tie at all.

My favorite look with this shirt - pair it with a darker pair of jeans and a dark chocolate brown tie. Many options if you need to layer for warmth - my personal choice would be a more casual black blazer (but you can go with a grey cardigan or a golf jacket of any color that is gaining in popularity these days).