Important debates of our time

You may not have heard about it, but there is a great “peep-toe” debate raging out there. Are peep-toe shoes (and, God forbid, open-toe footwear more generally) appropriate for the office? In the olden days, the answer was unequivocal: no. In the more conservative work environments today, that dictum hasn’t changed. For my first job out of school, I had to wear closed-toe shoes and pantyhose — every single day. I wasn’t thrilled by that rule, but I wasn’t particularly bothered either; I had not yet accumulated the shoe collection I have now, so I had no divided loyalties — no gorgeous patent leather peep-toe vying for their turn in the spotlight. [Need I add, that situation has now been rectified]. Luckily, I have since moved on to a place that’s a little more relaxed, dress code-wise. Most of my shoes continue to be of the closed-toe variety, but my few toe-revealing choices don’t seem to bother anyone. As far as I can tell, my colleagues appear to be doing the same.

In truth, I don’t really understand the brouhaha over toes. Personally, I don’t like feet, but the (partial) sight of them doesn’t offend or scandalize me. That they should be somehow verboten seems as archaic as … well, Victorians’ supposed obsession over ankles. [Which, as an aside, has been mostly debunked]. Feet are not even particularly distracting body parts — except for the occasional fetishist perhaps — and they are so, well, out of the way. They’re not in your face; they’re just minding their own business. Why must they be always caged?

Joking aside, this ‘debate’ brings up the greater issue of office dress codes. It wasn’t that long ago that news outlets were salivating over the story of the Citibank employee fired for dressing “too sexy” — a category which, in her case, reportedly encompassed turtlenecks and other seemingly innocuous attire. Perhaps there was more to that story than met the eye, but it does make one think about the politics of clothing. Where do the boundaries of one’s autonomy end and an employer’s sphere of control begin? What standards are to be enforced — of morality? good taste? style? — and who gets to decide what they are? It’s easy enough to say: no peep toe shoes. But it should be just as easy to give a cogent, rational “why” … otherwise, it might be time to rethink the rules.

Over to you: what do you think explains the furor over toes, and is it ever appropriate to reveal them at work?

Friday wrap-up

For the blog’s 100th post (whoop whoop!), it’s only appropriate to go for something a bit bolder than usual:

Skirt, BCBG; camisole, Diane von Furstenberg;
cardigan, Mexx; shoes, Stuart Weitzman;
necklace, Banana Republic.

This outfit was all about taking risks with colour. As I’ve mentioned before, this chartreuse skirt can be a bit of a handful, matching-wise. It’s such a bold colour that my instinctive reaction is to immediately pair it with neutrals – black, white or grey. Take out the sting, as it were. The safe choices work just fine, but sometimes it’s good to venture away from the expected. This lavender-chartreuse combination was inspired by the camisole top, which had a hint of olive green in it – it doesn’t exactly match the chartreuse but it’s in the same tonal family, which is quite pleasing to the eye. Also, it suggested that the chartreuse might pair well with a pastel like the lavender. I love how the solid black band at the waist helps to ground the pattern of the top and accentuates my waist (being elastic, it also holds in, ahem, the general area — win!).

In defence of the Goop

I can safely say that I have lots of unpopular opinions. As an opinionated person, it’s a matter of statistics really. If my friends are anything to go by, my most unpopular opinion might just be the fact that I like Gwyneth Paltrow. For someone who, as far as I know, hasn’t committed any felonies, she is excessively reviled these days. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I like her – she’s become an underdog.
I know – it’s almost absurd to call Gwyneth an underdog; she’s wealthy, beautiful, smart, accomplished. What seems to gall people the most is that she doesn’t shy away from making it known. The terribly-named GOOP seems to have been the cherry on the unpalatable cake for some folks; I’ve never read it but, by the sounds of it, it’s not that dissimilar from what I do here. [Minus the cooking and the exercise tips. And, rest assured, without the detox cleanse stories. I’m keeping my colon to myself.] Sure, I write about Winners, and she writes about Balenciaga, but it’s all relative, isn’t it? Who’s to say that her target audience doesn’t regularly shop at Neiman Marcus – after all, she does. Gwyneth’s crime seems to be that she enjoys her affluent, privileged lifestyle (who wouldn’t) and that she’s occasionally tone-deaf to the way in which her statements come across. Hardly sins worthy of such public demonization.
Here’s why I like Gwyneth – she’s perfect. She projects an image that’s equal parts Grace Kelly and Martha Stewart, a sort of uber-WASP frozen on the pages of a timeless lifestyle magazine. She could be in 2010 or she could be in 1955; it doesn’t matter. She’s got perfect hair, and perfect posture, and perfect biceps, and perfect white shirts, and perfect house, and perfect kids, and perfect recipes for souffles – and she might as well be unreal because no one could write her any better. It sounds insufferable, and maybe in real life it is, but it’s also wonderful and oddly comforting – like a glossy J Crew catalogue or a 1950s Technicolour movie. [And it must take discipline; even if a lot of it is smoke and mirrors and servants, you still have to be on, all the time.] It’s pleasant to think that in some abstract, nondescript time and place, life is that simple and nice – like a warm dream you could slip into, for a little while, for a break from all the usual s**t that is your Tuesday afternoon or whatever. Gwyneth Paltrow is my escapist fantasy. There, I said it.
Also, she has major style cojones. To wit:
Not many people could pull off shocking pink … with jade … and a bouffant … and eyeliner overkill … but she does. It’s incredible! And judging by that picture, she, too, is amused.

Or this:

The lace. The sparkles. The smoking jacket. The brevity of that dress. Oh my!

And, for a change, this:

There are, like, a dozen people in the entire world who can pull off those jeans anywhere … and fewer still who can do it at Paris Fashion Week.

Also, did I mention that she’s besties with Stella McCartney?

The article on Gwyneth in August’s Vogue is, admittedly, pretty silly, but I mostly blame the writer for that; he sounds kind of insufferable and his writing is too precious and self-conscious by half. The photos, on the other hand … ahh!

Who knew that ripped (acid-washed?) jeans could be so chic? This picture does for ripped jeans what Breakfast at Tiffany’s did for “powder room girls” — makes the questionable, palatable … nay, adorable.

Oh, in case you were wondering … you can get those jeans at American Eagle Outfitters.