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Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

One Hundred Year Feet — er, Feat!

A local shoe retailer in Fremont, Michigan will celebrate its centennial mark this coming September, according to a local newspaper. Vredeveld Shoes opened September 9, 1909 and has been serving its community by selling shoes ever since. The current owner, Lon Vredeveld, is the great-grandson of the shoe store’s original owner — meaning the store has seen four generations at its helm. As a result, the store is filled with all kinds of shoe-related antiques — so many, in fact, Vredeveld plans to start a mini-museum on the second floor of the store. Like many other businesses though, Vredeveld Shoes has suffered at the hand of the economy, but Lon still sees hope in the future. “We’re not getting to 100 years and stopping,” he told the paper. And I must say, an 100 year-old independent shoe retailer is an impressive accomplishment. Now, if only shoes would last that long

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Monday, July 27th, 2009

Espadrilles: A Historical Legacy of Natural Elegance

Deerskin Moccassin with grass lining from Arnold Research CaveDid you know that modern espadrilles are related to shoes Native Americans were wearing over 8,000 years ago?  Espadrilles are shoes with cloth uppers and rope soles.  According to the journal Science, some of the 8,000-year-old shoes from the Arnold Research Cave in Missouri resembled espadrilles, in that they were woven from tough, fibrous plants.  Leather was also used in some specimens, including the one shown here.

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Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Too Many Shoes? Go Miniature!

Photo taken at the Maryhill Museum of Art.Seeing the incredible exhibit of Theatre de la Mode fashions at the Maryhill Museum of Art has me thinking more and more about fashion as art.  Personally, I choose comfort if given the choice between killer fashion and killer pain, but I’m beginning to see why some women strap on incredibly fierce (and incredibly uncomfortable) shoes for a few hours now and then.  (Call me a dork if you will, but I don’t encourage it! Wearing poorly fitting shoes, especially for long stretches, definitely causes foot health problems.) Miniature shoes offer all of the art of fierce heels–without any of the pain. Today, I’m exploring the world of miniature shoes, both from the Theatre de la Mode exhibit and the many websites that offer collectible miniature shoes.

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Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Haute Couture in Hard Times: The Theatre de la Mode

A New York Times article titled “Haute Couture Faces Uncertain Times” summarizes the challenges the exclusive circle of Haute Couture designers face in these days of economic difficulty.  Apparently, for the lavishly rich, paying up to $30,000 for a masterpiece of a dress was more justifiable before the economy tanked. Now, designers like Christian Lacroix are filing for bankruptcy.  Some designers have braved these rough economic seas by scaling back at Fashion Weeks, offering more mid-priced merchandise, and hosting Haute Couture shows in house.  Still, this isn’t the first time that the fashion world has been forced to get creative in the face of economic instability.  In fact, compared with the designers in Paris following WWII, today’s designers seem downright spoiled.  A recent visit to an exhibit called Theatre de la Mode at the Maryhill Museum of Art in Maryhill, WA, increased my appreciation for the creativity and determination of post-war European designers.

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Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

The Height of Fashion Then and Now: Chopines

The current craze for big, brash shoes is making waves in the fashion world.  With the advent of five-or six-inch heels decorated with everything from pearls to pistols, the shoe has come back into its proper role as the “it” accessory.  The demand for deliciously outlandish shoes is even overpowering the economic crisis, as shoe sales, especially for gladiator shoes, are strong.  Still, this trend only represents the new wave of a larger ocean of towering, extravagant shoes.   Shoe history is merely repeating itself; impossibly tall, unusual shoes have enchanted divas for centuries. (more…)

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

How to Protect Your Feet at the Beach

It’s been quite a while since humans had feet tough enough to withstand the natural environment. Our ancestors’ feet were huge, hairy, and hard.  Ancient humans could withstand the pressure of walking barefoot on hard surfaces thanks to a tough layer of built-up callouses.  Now, because they are almost always protected by shoes, our feet are soft, narrow, and offer very little protection against the natural environment.  As beach season approaches, it’s important to know how to protect your feet when you do decide to go sans footwear. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind at the beach, via the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons: (more…)

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

What do shoes today tell us about tomorrow?

QueenI read an interesting article last week called “Shoeconomics.” The author interviewed Elizabeth Semmelhack, curator of a Toronto shoe museum who also published a book about the history of heels. The premise of the article is basically about answering the question, “Can the heels of today tell us about the economic conditions of tomorrow?” Surprisingly, the two seemingly unrelated topics, well, aren’t unrelated.

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Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Shoes on Show: UC Davis

Candela by Sam EdelmanI read today that the Design Museum at the University of California, Davis is hosting a footwear exhibit. Is it just me, or does exploring the history, influence, and impact of shoes seem to be a growing trend? As one curator of a shoe museum in Toronto puts it, shoes are a “really interesting stepping stone into larger cultural issues.”

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Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Do your shoes have stories?

journalIf your shoes could speak, what would they say? Better yet, if your shoes could tell stories, which ones would we hear?

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Thursday, February 5th, 2009

How Shoes are Made

Yesterday, I encouraged all thrifty fashionistas to visit the cobbler to make your favorite shoes last longer. Today, I’m going to take you inside the world of the cordwainer, or shoe maker. The world’s top shoe making school may be Cordwainers Technical College, now a part of the London College of Fashion. Alumni include Emma Hope, Patrick Cox, and Jimmy Choo. Cordwainers Technical College has been around for more than 100 years–long enough to see the transition from hand-made to manufactured shoes. Cordwainers worked in a specific area of London, which came to be known as the Cordwainers ward. The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers is the organization that still sets the standards for shoe making professionals.

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