Bright Lights & Grunge-Slum Charm

The total fashion freedom which pairing boots with skirts affords is sublime, offering a thrilling opportunity to reach back into the early 90’s while stretching forward into 2011 and beyond. As every well-heeled, autumnal shoe-shopper knows, Fall ushers in an abundance of boots, but rarely do we see real paradigm shifts. For the first time in a long time, those on whom the lens of stylish approbation is focused confirm a convincing air of free choice, serious style purpose, and witty good humor. Two things have the Grand M all atwitter this season: the influx of grunge redux short boots with a masculine edge, and the confluence of this grunge-inspired style with fancy, modern pieces.

The Grand M is at this moment besotted with a palette of black and white, realized in monochromatic pieces of luxe fabrics and textures, and appearing in irregular proportions. Think black-on-black sequins, wispy loose-weave knitwear, cropped tops, super maxi skirts, and rugged, muscly shoes. Jeffrey Campbell has a gorgeous selection of boots this season featuring red-blooded structure atop feminine heights, all of which look stunning with skirts of every length. With its turned-out, crenellated, black faux-shearling cuff, and throwback Grandma bootie lace-up suede upper, the Milton is a Grand M favorite. Buckle detailing adds an element of punk to the boots’ already saturated selection of style references; in the Milton, 90’s grunge hallmarks “lumberjack chic” and “prairie propriety” converge. A 2 and 3/4″ wooden heel lends sex appeal and makes this a wonderful ankle boot to pair with short skirts. The ultimate fantasy fulfillment here consists of a black leather mini ornamented with lacy, cut-out panel overlays, and paired with the gauzy decadence of Malene Birger’s Baquilla Mohair Sweater. The boots and sweater bespeak easy 90’s slouch (thanks to Liv Tyler and Seventeen Magazine, mohair is always 90’s to me), anchoring the modern, futuristic styling of the skirt (any mini would do, in either black or white, so long as it’s contemporary).

The intrigue of putting together a three-item, all-black, skirt-and-boot ensemble wherein each piece presents a look entirely self-contained and totally different from the other two is too strange and too alluring to ignore; admittedly, it is tricky to achieve, both practically and theoretically. In culling a group of must-have favorites, the Grand M pulled out these three pieces: a glossy, loose-knit sweater from Alexander McQueen, a sequined satin maxi by Malene Birger, and Dolce Vita’s macho leather Storm boots. These adorably virile short boots are a classic motorcycle style redux, all soft leather, square heel, and pliable shaft. The chunky, treaded sole is typical of 90’s footwear, and the Storm would pair well with a healthy variety of pieces from jeans to dresses. A simple snap allows these ankle boots to be worn up or down, and dual side buckles add to their boyishly tenacious, renegade charm. Use this charm against them and opt for a dramatic maxi, like Birger’s Acier sequin-embellished beauty. The skirt’s evening wear style is elaborately exaggerated by a sweeping fishtail hem, satin construction, and high-waisted fit: all in perfect contrast to the DV boots’ low-brow, wall-hugging attitude. Top it off with McQueen’s acetate cable-knit, a glamorous interpretation of a good-natured, homespun confection with a round neck, long sleeves, and elegantly casual ladder-knit panels of shiny thread. The getup is welded tenuously using creepy, Goth contours alongside gravel-crunching, bike gang pit stop irreverence, and white-gloved, Lincoln Center opera night sobriety. On reflection, the completed look is an outlandishly flippant whole composed of totally serious parts.

Last year, we were bound by the desires of the designers to dress ourselves in ideas already completed; we added or removed accessories to announce our various points of view. Now, we are being invited to demonstrate our own techniques using finely crafted, solid separates. The key to this type of success starts in a system of separates selection, i.e., an approach or MO for buying and wearing pieces. The Grand M’s MO includes the following intentions: to browse and shop at a slow pace, to refrain from building an outfit based on the intention of showcasing one item, to keep her wardrobe organized by texture rather than by season, color, type of item, or style, and to test every conceivable closet-content combination at least once. Whatever your style, part of your methodology should include picking only those particular pieces that you really, really love and then translating them so that the whole, of which they form parts, speaks your style language.

Diving Into Discounts & Deals

With the dawning of 2010, the Grand Mademoiselle anxiously awaits all those discounts on gorgeous shoes, once just out of reach in 2009 and now deliciously affordable. Traditionally, the post-holiday sales are a letdown, mainly because the most stylish shoes are already sold out, and all that’s left is last season’s oft-rifled, passed-over rejects, once trendy and cutting edge, but now woefully passe.

However, the key to making the most out of seasonal discounts is to forget what the trends were (and truth be told, what’s “trendy” is often grossly misunderstood) in favor of focusing on footwear transcendence, eschewing the labels conjured up by those “in the know” (who tend to be so focused on what’s hot now, and so driven by their superiors to conjure up the latest catch phrase to trap us into believing that if we don’t have this shoe immediately, to wear with this outfit to this event, we’re all of us doomed to a lifetime of suffering through our waking fashion lives in purgatory; trapped aimlessly in some circle of fashion hell as the Editors look down on us with pity for our lack of vision).

How misguided the Editors are, poor saps, for believing that what’s new is what’s best, and for denying the possibility of a visionary, post-trend renaissance among the style mavens who would rather find their own way in the fashion forests, looking more like icons and less like paid advertisements for the latest runway concoction. Getting cash and other incentives to showcase newborn trends is hardly fashionable, and lately, design houses and stylists seem to have more in common with pharmaceutical companies as the mission statements that once clearly articulated their optimistic ideals are tossed into the shredder. When someone tells you what’s hot right now, ask them who they work for, and who paid for the shoes they’re convincing you to buy.

Forget them, and find yourself a good deal. Here are two that the Grand M intends to take advantage of: Barefoot Tess (a Grand M staple) is offering 30% off all Barefoot Tess brand styles to honor patrons in “appreciation week”, loaded with lovely shoes which reveal that the company has come into their own as far as designing their own brand goes. Simply enter code “BFT30” at checkout to redeem your discount, and might I suggest picking up the following fantastic finds: The All Black for Barefoot Tess ‘Quilted Flat, with its sumptuous satin upper and patent leather cap-toe, replete with a decidedly frayed yet unfussy bow is pure bliss – a fantastic admixture of satiny comfort and coquettish suggestions. Likewise, the All Black for Barefoot Tess ‘Banded Flat, available in a variety of patent leather hues with color-complimentary patent bands across the toe add just the right touch of flair to a sleek pair of black straight leg pants (be they dark-rinse jeans, leggings, or high-waisted, gabardine trousers).

Another fabulous deal awaits the Grand M’s readers at a site dedicated to broadcasting Shoebuy coupon codes and alerting the public to other great discounts. Site owner Beth has neatly categorized savings possibilities into categories, namely, coupons, promo codes, discount items, and free shipping, allowing visitors to find the best of what’s around for a great price on Shoebuy. Access the homepage directly via http://www.shoebuycoupon.net, and peruse the amazing finds Beth has clearly laid out. Check out the coupons page and the promo codes, which are chock full of fantastic finds and remarkable deals.

Punched-Up Pairings

Certain elements inescapably compliment each other in a multitude of arenas, from the rustic simplicity of a perfect wine pairing with a buttery brie, to the devout conviction in harmonious zodiac attunements.  With the spirit of made-to-be-together in mind, the Grand Mademoiselle would like to burglarize the elite enclave housing fashion’s elemental edicts.  Perhaps the perfect pairing is achieved by mixing an impeccably tailored coat with rugged boots, or a delicate chiffon Marchesa gown with a bomber jacket (a la Ralph Lauren’s inimitable grace and genius for intuiting what makes a combination sing).  Let the halls of Harper’s Bazaar adumbrate with carefully conceived, exquisitely executed, irreverently polished pairings.  The key is to keep them within the bounds of good taste, and to choose breathtaking, well-tailored pieces as anchors to align the intended effect, which should be luxurious, playful, and thoroughly intelligent.  The perfect pairing demands wit, first and foremost.

It seems obvious for the Grand M to begin with the shoes and work from there.  To provide inspiration for this theme, it is entirely fitting to select two pairs on opposite sides of the footwear spectrum; one epitomizing lavish opulence, and the other imparting a decidedly guileless, enthusiastic, bucolic vigor.  The ‘Zoe Fur‘ flat by Maloles is ornate beyond compare, fashioned of sumptuous leather with all the freshly-mined luster of pewter ore.  The golden, coppery nappa upper is delightfully twisted in a chic pleat across the vamp, and adorned with a simple espresso grosgrain ribbon tie.  What’s more, this ridiculous confection is fully lined with honey-toned fur, complete with feathery tufts peeking down along the seams on each heel.  To find a perfect pairing for these fanciful Maloles ballet flats, look no further than an artfully tailored blazer in an unassuming solid color.  Proenza Schouler provides the perfect piece with a lily-white stretch cotton fold-over blazer.
The low V-neck, single button front closure, and deco-revival double lapels bring the ‘Zoe Fur‘ flats down a notch, thus preventing one from looking too “made-up”, which the Grand M never finds flattering.  The simple cotton fabric, demure white tone, and innocently structured long-sleeved blazer pairs perfectly against the over-the-top golden, fur-lined, pleated, Maloles extravaganza.  Although, just to raise some eyebrows, I’d coyly tuck Matthew Williamson’sAtomic‘ structured clutch neatly in the crook of my elbow and demonstrate my fearless love of fashion.

In truth, the rigid construction of the clutch pairs nicely with the Proenza blazer, and the multicolored silk, neatly embellished with bands of mirrored sequins in a gentle gradient of surprisingly muted neon tones is dazzling to behold.  Additionally, it has nothing in common with the Maloles ballet flats and looks marvelous against the stark white of the blazer.

Now, let’s take a different approach to the perfect pairing by grounding our ensemble with the TashkentStoney‘ boot, crafted of a ruggedly refined rich brown leather upper, rising to a 16.5″ shaft atop a 1″ heel and endlessly entwined in layer upon layer of sturdy leather strips, encircling the ‘Stoney‘ from top to bottom in tone-on-tone hide.  Tashkent is one of the Grand M’s favorite shoe designers, marrying a solid, work-horse mentality with the innovative delicacy of an imaginative, couture sensibility.  What to pair with these gorgeous boots?  To the Grand M, they scream for a modern, crisply-cut dress coat to add an excitingly body-conscious and painstakingly proportioned dimension to the Tashkent’s haphazard richness.  The ‘Lantern Hem Coat‘, sold by Topshop is the perfect piece to pair with the ‘Stoney‘ boots.  Made of a fantastic alpaca and wool blend, the ‘Lantern‘ remains true to its moniker, featuring a futuristic, spirited bell-shaped hem
, lovingly fitted waistline affixed with a dual-button flap closure, slightly flared sleeves, and a deliciously over-sized collar.  The shape is at once retro and fashion-forward, barely able to conceal its intended purpose of flawlessly exhibiting a woman’s figure.  Furthermore, the unexpectedly sedate teal color lends an extra layer of originality, steering it away from becoming just another well-shaped, black, boiled-wool Park Avenue peacoat.  The point of the perfect pairing is to pay attention to what each piece contributes on its own, that is, what it has to say.  Then, find another piece that has a different point of view, but with enough common ground to carry on a delightful conversation.

New Beginnings: Luxury In Lean Times

Yes, yes, the economy stinks. Yes, yes, fashion has reacted to the current downturn very poorly by churning out uninspired, drab, been-there-done-that cheap-looking blazers to pair with terribly boring flats. It seems as though we’ve lost our ingenuity, our slightly crazy bravado in our attempt to express solemn solidarity. The Grand Mademoiselle thinks we need to put our noses firmly against that grindstone and wear a pair of goddamn fantastic shoes. Mind you, not just any shoes. No, no, the Grand M sees shoes that express an expansive gusto, a forward-thinking yet patiently cautious anticipation of what works for us now. What is that exactly, you may ask? It’s a brilliant homage to 1970’s playfulness, capturing a fearless desire to embrace odd shapes that blend the beautiful with the bizarre, thereby creating something different to lift us from a silly rut toward higher goals. Rather than waste words describing my favorite picks, allow me to drown you in bravely feel-good footwear. Drink it in, my dear Grand M’s, and savor every drop.

From the suede pleated, gold-foiled oriental vibe of All Black for Barefoot Tess’ Japanese Boot to the reflective sheen of Corso Como’s Carro low-heeled lace-up oxford, Fall/Winter 2009 ushers in the dawn of fashion lawlessness and unbridled creativity. There’s nothing subtle about snakeskin and suede, and Andrea Carrano’s gorgeous Boa wedge is the new version of demure office attire, the beauty of which is that the Boa is decidedly not demure, despite its ladylike pointed toe and sweeping accents. Beyond your office walls, try something thoughtful, delightfully designed, comfortable, and a chic, unexpected cold weather surprise. The Barefoot Tess Halia heel by Faryl Robin weaves strands of autumnal leather into a low-heeled, strappy, buckled, closed-toe sandal masterpiece. The Grand M intends to pair hers with sheer metallic gray tights and a cashmere tunic. Good heavens, I’m positively swooning with pleasure at the endless succession of glorious possibilities dancing betwixt my ears.

Inject a healthy dose of high-class glitz into your end of 2009 wardrobe with the Bernardo Drama black patent scrunch flat, cheekily embellished with geometric, deco-inspired rhinestones across the toe. Never having pegged myself a rhinestone toe flat kind of lady, imagine my surprise when I discovered that I had fallen deeply in love with the Drama. No frills here, just pure womanly acumen, as if the wearer could design the Chrysler Building during a quiet daydream. I am, quite frankly, freaking out about this season’s creations, all of which caught me by surprise and re-awakened my slumbering shoe sensibilities. This October has effectively reminded me why I care, and why I love (and need) to love shoes. Not quite following me? Take a good long look at Dolce Vita’s Nathan boot. This deliciously exuberant thigh-high, over-the-knee, low-heeled kid suede boot demands a reach for a wad of tissues with which the Grand M may daub her dampened ducts before trying them on with everything she owns … all at once. I’m thinking steely skinny jeans and a loose-knit dark gray mohair cable sweater that hits just a teeny tiny bit above the Nathan’s heavenly hem.

Chic Shoes, Chic Home

Of the numerous fashion burdens plaguing the Grand Mademoiselle, perhaps none is more frustrating than finding a chic way to store so many chic shoes. When the shoes are beautiful, the home decor should be beautiful as well, and that involves finding a way to seamlessly blend your collection with your furnishings. Speaking of chic shoes, here are my latest picks that I desperately need to find a home within my home for:

Quite possibly the most beautiful boot I’ve seen in years, the ‘Lark‘ by Tashkent by Cheyenne has quickly become a staple of my Fall/Winter 2009 wardrobe, and is an absolutely essential investment piece. It seems like everyone is pairing leggings or skinny jeans with tall riding boots or chunky-heeled booties in black or brown, indicating my hesitation to follow the trend. The ‘Lark‘ changed my opinion entirely, and I found a fabulous way to follow the trend by twisting it to become my own. This two-tone boot has a gorgeous, dove gray suede shaft, reaching a remarkable 21″ and a sturdy 1″ heel, but what makes the ‘Lark‘ so spectacularly, ridiculously, mind-blowing is the front-zip, over-the-knee style with a sweet surprise at the top, wherein you’ll discover an adorably unexpected pink posey suede insert. Wear them all the way up, or fold the shaft down to expose the pink lining, and you’ve got two totally different looks. I’ve also fallen in love with the Barefoot TessFabriziaby Faryl Robin. The elfin slip-on style is enchanting, and with three colors to choose from (sasso silver, black, and purple) it’s hard to know which to pick. My personal favorite is the sasso, with its slightly burnished silver metallic leather upper, 2″ hidden wedge, and of course that deliciously deep V cut vamp. I’ll be wearing the ‘Fabrizia‘ with just about everything.

Now the dreaded issue: where do I put them? No sooner had I expressed my frustration then, poof! There it was, an email from Kathy at ShoeStream with a fabulous solution to my problem. While perusing the site, I found the perfect item for my needs. Since I abhor standard shoe storage units (all those ugly plastic boxes, ick), I want something that will serve as a part of my home decor, as a piece of lovely furniture that provides the dual function of storage for my precious shoes and adding to the design and functionality of my home. Problem solved with the ‘Decorative Shoe Storage Bench‘, a richly-hued, deep hardwood masterpiece of fashion and architectural ingenuity. Fabulous. Must have. Deep enough to store a ton of shoes, and amazingly thoughtful by including dual top doors that permit you to sit down on the bench while opening one side at a time. I can see it in my home now, perhaps in the sitting room, casually adorned with splendid pillows and throws.

What pillows you ask? I’m so glad you wondered! Anthropologie is the Grand M’s go-to spot for amazing home decor (if I could pull it off, I would decorate my house with every hanging lamp they sell), and their selection of throw pillows is spectacular. Pick a few in wild patterns and colors to offset the monochromatic bench. Here are my favorites: The ‘Octopus Pillow‘ is Thomas Paul’s unique creation, depicting a mysterious and intriguingly stark black-and-white octopus print on both sides of a 22″ square brown linen pillow. A bit spooky and definitely a good addition to the stern solidity of the storage bench’s clean lines.

Toss some color into the mix with the ‘Orimono Pillow‘, a luscious
melange of unique strips of brightly colored fabrics, each inspired by Japanese yukatas. At 16″ by 22″, it will add a new twist to your collection and dilute the curious, odd quality of the ‘Octopus‘ (plus, it reminds me of the ‘Fabrizia‘ with its oriental quality and lush tones). Finally, mix it up even more with the ‘Wild & Wooly Pillow‘, bewitching with its majestic, monochromatic outline of a powerful deer, leg raised, head poised, antlers up. At 20″ square, the pillow depicts this buck’s bravado as he appears to emerge from a forest of lush, emerald green leaves, pink paisley swirls, odd symbols and numbers, and brightly colored flowers. The Grand M finds this pillow to be the perfect finishing touch to her new shoe bench, and it compliments the other pillows in an odd but surprisingly pleasing way. I can’t wait to look at that buck as I reach in for my TashkentLark‘ boots and imagine chasing him through his colorful paisley forest.

Gold-Plated Art Decoratif

The Grand Mademoiselle has always harbored a secret hatred of studded embellishments, whether on shoes, bags, lapels, what have you. However, there remains a certain intrigue to this style, spawned by the decorative art of the 1920’s, that is both harshly industrial and artistically irreverent. The gilded, art deco appeal of studs currently conveys a lack of originality, yet the Grand M is simply positive that when done right, it’s really right. The key, as with most things fashion, is to keep it simple, unexpected, and well-blended. No black leather bags engulfed by geometric, metal adornments, no jeans with gold studs running up the inseam, no faux leather cuffs crammed with gilded pyramids. In an attempt to get into the swing of the stud, the Grand M has selected a few pieces that work wonderfully together, to be mixed and matched with decidedly un-art deco additions.

Delman has turned out a gorgeous example of how this trend can work successfully with the ‘Ami‘ heel. Fashioned of luxurious black kid suede and resting atop 1.5″ worth of chunky heel, the ‘Ami‘ takes the stud and gives it a good hard shake to knock all the silliness out of it. The lovely rounded toe is elegantly capped with row upon row of tiny golden dots, adding a softer dimension to the triangular studs that wind their way around the rim. Leave it to Delman to make the stud look elegant. This is artful adornment, an homage to a classic design motif, significant to both fashion and architecture, not some punk attempt to exude an edgy ennui.

If you must jazz them up a little, make sure to wear simple clothing and add the jazz in the accessories. Steer clear of studded bags, gloves, or hats, and instead, add a sensual Parisian element with Maison Michel’s breathtaking ‘Sasha multi-strand pearl headpiece, dripping with delicate amber pearls and golden hardware. This headpiece plucks the stud from its modern associations and delivers a ravishing throwback to the roots of art decoratif, exuding the excitement of a fresh burst of style invention.

Sandalled

With the spring season silenced, the Grand M is keen on throwing herself feet-first into the fantastic onslaught of summer sandals. Designers are ripe with eager yet age-old ideas and brilliant motifs, fashioning impeccably turned-out turn-outs reflective of a more modern, thoughtful, and mature design frame of mind. Flip-flops and espadrilles are so five years ago. The 2009 sandal draws heavily on the gladiator trend of winter and fall, bringing a refreshingly updated take on a cold weather staple to open-toed perfection. The twist lends a wise air to this summer’s sandals, demonstrating an abiding love of style and cool-headed know-how that unavoidably surfaces in toe-thongs, earthy brown hues, and historically-minded details (think Homer, Virgil, Ovid) displayed in perennially human, functional forms and eco-inspired flourishes. Drumroll please…

Easily the Grand M’s favorite this season, the GwynethZola‘ is an oasis in a desert of bad sandal memories, effortlessly restoring the multi-colored bead to new life and respectability among the footwear elite. The sumptuous sandalwood suede upper cascades in gentle blooms along a sturdy T-strap, each fold trimmed in charming, elementary school beads. A typically hokey-pokey, unsophisticated embellishment finds itself at home on the ‘Zola‘, and it makes the Grand M wonder what the uproarious outcry against Crayola-colored beading a few years back was all about.

For an edgier look, the Grand M raves about Chie Mihara’s summer collection of finely-crafted, off-beat, elegant sandals. The ‘Miosen‘ delivers on Mihara’s luxurious promise to perfection, combining a serious-minded, oiled amber leather ankle wrap with playful, huarache-esque scissoring, contrast stitching, and oversized jewel atop the vamp’s apex. This is a fashion veteran’s sandal, offering the best of what’s been in delightful conjunction with the best of what is. The Grand M intends to pair her pair with light, white tanks and slim denim capris in an assortment of washed-out watercolor hues.

To wear with everything, the Grand M is sticking with 80%20’s whimsical ‘Millie‘, ideal for everyday wear and decidedly female in form. The cut-out leather leaves and tri-buckled, ankle-hugging upper seamlessly blends the rough and tumble mold of a gladiator with elfin delicacy and measured confidence. The ‘Millie‘ rides the fence between casual and dressy, offering a perfect choice for those in-between ensembles and guaranteeing a generous handful of compliments from passers-by. The undertone of each sandal picked here is subtlety and a return to style simplicity – a welcome gesture after towering platforms, grotesquely contorted, futuristic wedges, and ho-hum, boring basic flats, inspiring the Grand M to be sandalled by irony and wit in 2009.

My Shoe Stock Stimulus Package

The title of this post is somewhat misleading. The Grand Mademoiselle has no grand scheme for retail reinvigoration, nor does she gasp in astonishment at the current state of economic affairs (if we promise to pay for something, but don’t have the money to fulfill said promise, isn’t the whole thing bound to collapse?). Just a thought. However, the Grand M has taken a page from the powers that be, and has decided to throw real money at the problem anyway, hoping it will all just go away. The fantastic part? My shoe collection (which was growing dusty from a general lack of enthusiasm) has been remarkably restored thanks to some brilliant new designs by some brilliant shoe designers! It’s time to wipe away the doom and gloom and step out in a gorgeous pair of decidedly different shoes. The Grand M had just about given up hope of finding anything really exciting to ignite her footwear fashion passion, when lo and behold, oodles and scads of delicious designs turned up (and all at once, it seems). The following are my four most recent acquisitions:

The 80%20Molly‘ open-toe hidden wedge heel, in a fabulously proletarian olive canvas, are made impossibly chic by oiled chestnut leather straps that adorn the vamp and twist and turn about the ankle, held closed by a darling buckle. The result is a bootie-slash-wedge-slash-sandal that makes the Grand M swoon with delight. The leather ankle straps cause the shaft to ripple, fold, and crease, creating a blooming blossom of green around your legs, while offering a hint of the red and white striped lining within. Plus, the 3″ hidden wedge heel adds effortless height without seeming garish or pushy. Truly, the Grand M has never seen a shoe like this before, and intends to wear it with everything from jeans to shorts to skirts to harem pants. Top the whole outfit off with some subtle but flashy jewelry. If you really want to pop, try wearing anything with princess cut diamonds.

For something a bit more tame, the Grand M went in search of the perfect, most comfortable, everyday-wear type of sandal, and was thrilled to find the Corso Como Santorini‘, which manages to blend simplicty and elegance to perfection. The supple leather upper, which comes in brown, black, and white, is effortlessly design-conscious with its T-strap contour and tiny stacked wedge heel. The footbed screams heaven to tired tootsies, and this is the kind of sandal one can wear all day and with anything, always pulling off that ineffable “I just look good” vibe that seems so out of reach. I intend to wear mine with a pair of dark rinse skinny jeans and a gossamer cotton men’s style broadcloth shirt, loosely tucked in, and perhaps a set of paper thin gold bangles.

For a sandal with a little more panache, the Grand M chose the ‘Moon‘ by Dolce Vita. This is a girl’s night out type of sandal, which also easily translates to both casual and elegant events. The unexpected pairing of metallic leather and dreamy suede ankle straps makes the ‘Moon‘ an archetypal shoe-lover’s fantasy. What’s more, the rubber sole makes this sandal extremely comfortable for traipsing about town in, and the flashy metallic vamp can easily be tempered by the subdued, elegant suede ankle wraps, and vice versa, lending a high degree of versatility to this sandal. Perhaps I’ve just been bored to death by last season’s turnout, but I feel absolutely captivated by this design and am newly inspired by the beauty of shoes. The Grand M will step out in a corseted, bustier-style maxi dress in some bold tribal print, or perhaps in some unexpected hue (emerald? garnet?) while wearing these sandals.

The Grand Finale: The Grand M stepped out of her comfort zone and got herself a pair of Dolce Vita Marcel‘ gladiator sandals. With their brasstone studs and buckles, impossibly tall shaft that hits just below the knee, and easy access back zip closure, the Grand M simply couldn’t resist. There’s nothing quite like walking around while wrapped in layer upon layer of leather straps; a cage for the calves, if you will. The toe thong is an unexpected treat, and the flat rubber sole keeps the ‘Marcel‘ from being too silly. In truth, the Grand M found it to be quite easy to pair with many wardrobe staples, and it seems to work best when it doesn’t have to compete with anything else that’s too showy. The ‘Marcel‘ is enough on its own. Wear them with an ensemble in a contrasting style, such as a demure, mid-thigh poplin skirt in cherry red, paired with a simple gray cotton tee and topped off by a delicately printed, monochromatic scarf and diamond studs.

In sum, to hell with the economy. My shoe stock has now been properly stimulated.

Me & My Maloles

The Grand Mademoiselle is a sucker for a high-quality, buttery-soft, rich leather shoe. Give me gentle folds of supple skins over immovable, stain-resistant, nylon and I’m a happy woman. Always in search of the perfect leather shoe, the Grand M can say with confidence that each design put forth by Maloles puts even the best of the rest to shame. Established in 2004, Maloles has earned its way to the top of the Grand M’s “It Shoes” list for its commitment to luxury and comfort, achieved through ‘Sacchetto’ artisan craftsmanship (translation: these shoes fit like a glove). Each piece blends the whimsy of ballet with an unrivaled air of refinement. Add gorgeous accents like cut-outs, gentle pleats, and dainty bows, and you’ve got yourself a truly classic set of shoes. The Grand M simply can’t get enough! Now, thanks to the creative lady-geniuses at Barefoot Tess, Maloles are available up to a size 13. Here are the Grand M’s favorites for Spring 2009:

If you’re looking for a little heel, opt for the kittenish “Zoe” heel in either basic black or this fabulous rosey-gold metallic. The pleated vamp, complete with tiny keyhole cut-out and leather bow, makes the “Zoe” a flirty way to up the dressy ante on an otherwise casual ensemble.

If flats are more your style, pick the Zoe” flat, which carries through all of the lovely accents of the “Zoe” heel and is available in black and robin’s egg blue. In either color, the “Zoe” flat is a wonderful alternative to your run-of-the-mill, been-there-done-that basic old ballet flat. It’s girlish without being childish, and comfortable enough to wear all day. Additionally, the rounded toe is a welcome relief from the sea of silly pointed toe flats that seem to fill the sidewalks and crowd department store windows.

But the real show-stopper, in the Grand M’s opinion, is the “Cornelia” flat in scrunchy, patent navy blue leather. Humbly adorned with no silly vamp details, the “Cornelia” wows from behind with a cheeky surprise, namely, a preppy canvas striped bow on the heel. The Grand M deems the “Cornelia” the “It Shoe” of Spring 2009, and the mixture of simplicity, luxury, and one unique element to add a special twist are key themes for footwear in the coming year. For the Grand M’s smaller-footed friends, visit netaporter.com and pick the “Zoelie” silver metallic flat, with its adorable lace vamp cutout and over-sized whip-stitch bow trim. This is a driving shoe taken to the highest degree, and the Grand M is over the moon for the unexpected lace insert.

Phaethon’s Revenge

While winter shoes are exciting in October, January heralds the onset of a deep depression for the Grand Mademoiselle. One too many shearling booties is enough to render even the most devout shoe aficionado profoundly disturbed . Therefore, to celebrate the beginning of 2009 and to initiate a delightful departure from the depths of this frigid season, the Grand M offers a toast to Phaethon, the ill-fated son of Phoebus, Greek god of the sun. While dear Phaethon’s enthusiasm for his father’s professional duties led to his demise, his love of all things bright, gold, and shiny need not go unnoticed. Accordingly, the Grand M has selected two must-have favorite sandals, both in sunny metallics underscored by Grecian themes to relive Phaethon’s final and greatest adventure as a divine charioteer.

For a relaxed, easy look of unhurried refinement, opt for Miu Miu’s Scratched T-bar sandals. The burnished gold leather finish is reflective without being garish, and permits of golden excess without coming across as too pretentious or beachy. When looking for gold sandals, the tendency is to go too “Boca”, but Miu Miu ensures a classic shilouette bereft of gaudy overtones. The toe straps and ankle buckle guarantee a snug fit, and the shape is faintly reminiscent of 2008’s gladiator craze without risking a complete throwback. This sandal proves that all things old are new again, and the Grand M applauds Miu Miu for reviving a traditional form in an unmistakably modern mold.

If you’d prefer to up the modernity ante, footwear designer Matt Bernson will certainly provide the answer. Bernson is perhaps the most exciting shoe-man given to us in ages, and his creations are at once pratical and fantastic. What separates a Bernson sandal from the pack is his decidedly young, opportunistic approach, which imparts an air of trendy carelessness to his designs. Matt’s sandals don’t just act youthful, they are youthful, with all the glorious dreaminess and far-fetched plans that budding hearts entail. A bit like our hero Phaethon, don’t you think? The ‘Equus‘ sandal is a perfect fit for this motif, adorned with a copious splash of souffle leather metallics in gold, silver, and bronze. The fringe seems to spill effortlessly down a T-strap frame, twitching and dancing with each step.

No pair of gilded leather sandals would be complete without an equally exciting necklace to offer balancing support. In the spirit of Phaethon’s ambitious quest, the Grand M has chosen Alex Monroe’s Flying Swallow necklace. The delicately woven 22 karat gold chain, with deliciously oversized lobster clasp, is decorated with a single swallow, focused and quiet in flight. The piece exemplifies Phaethon’s love and dedication to Phoebus’ mission, and his unyielding desire to soar the world’s limits like his father. Scholars portray Phaethon as a stubborn fool, and his story is used to warn us against unbridled impulse and youthful exuberance. Rubbish, thinks the Grand M. We should all live to see such sights, and dear Phaethon reminds us that true courage is speeding headlong into the most blinding of lights…