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New boots and panties

Oddly enough, I seem to have both...

Burgundy FlyFlots

Every January I try to decide what I really need from my wardrobe and makeup in the coming year.

I will be 50 in the spring, and I feel that my style, such as it is, is condensing ever more tightly: clean lines, knit skirts, stretch trousers, block colours and a bit of vintage interest.

However, I'm pretty well catered for in my daily uniform of long-sleeved tees, jeans, cashmere knitwear and winter fleeces. What constitutes my principal, over-riding sartorial problem is shoes. 

Footwear has become a bloody nightmare over the past few years, as I can find very little I can actually walk in. Not only do I seem to have absolutely no padding in the soles of my feet any more, so I feel every step as a jarring pain, especially down the outer edges of my feet and in my second toes, I am also plagued with surgical scars on my left sole. And wearing Crocs, as advised by my podiatrist, means my feet have spread.

Heels above 2in are now out of the question, but it is very hard to find heels under 3in, and many flats are just too flat - a 1.5in heel is about perfect, but they seem so very hard to find. The soles on women's shoes are normally paper thin, so you can feel every grain of sand on the pavement, so I now need thicker soles, and I also need support from my shoes - something that actually grips and supports the foot (you know, like MEN wear every bloody day without even thinking twice about it).

Dainty little shoes like ballet slippers are no use at all and even my Lands' End loafers are only good for short periods, as the heel is too low and there is no way of tightening the shoe across the foot in order to provide support. I feel brogues heading my way...

The only shoes I now feel really comfortable in are my Aigle wellies, Ecco trainers, Trex walking boots, Crocs and Fly Flot sandals, which have a shock-absorbing conformable sole. All very well, but - other than the sandals, which are fine for summer - what does one wear with a dress?

It looks to me very much like I am about to have a complete change of style and become that dress-with-biker-boots chick I've never been in my life, dammit.

Turquoise suede knee boots

The thing is, I crave girly boots like this green pair, which have been my best boots for a fair few years now. They're everything I love - suede, coloured, pointy toed, stiletto heeled. The only problem is, I can't actually walk very far in them any more. They're fine for car to bar but utterly useless for anything over a few minutes walking. 

What I would like now is something styled like this but with a cushioned sole and a lower heel or a wedge. And affordable, otherwise I'd be heading straight for Arche, but sadly, at $400 a pop, these are way out of my price range.  

So the other day, I bought myself a pair of Fly Flot boots (top right) - far more affordable at about £70 in the sale, including postage (you can take it as a given, btw, that I will not be buying footwear here in France, where it is two or three times UK prices).

Fly Flot, with their conformable soles, are a brand I trust. These little babies in burgundy Portuguese leather can be tightened across the top and I think the shade is kinda pretty and will go with most things, including jeans and my new jersey dresses from Wall. The sole is an Air Function anatomic wedge and the boot gets 4.7 stars on the Pavers website, which is where I ordered from. 

M&S VPL pants

Panties was just something I put in to have a headline, but come to think of it, big sis bought me some pretty near perfect new pants - M&S no VPL low leg full briefs. Laser cut microfibre, a bit of lace, plenty of coverage and they don't head for your bum crack as soon as they're on - just fire and forget. 


The definite dozen

If you have these items in your wardrobe, you'll always have something to wear.

When it comes to getting dressed, I like to be quick, as a rule. I can't be bothered with faffing about trying on this and that, so over the years, I've narrowed down my choices to things that all work together and can be put together as a no-brainer, leaving me more time for a G&T.

Some years ago, I wrote a list of 12 essentials an over-40s babe needs to keep in her wardrobe. If you keep all of these in, you'll always have something to wear. I've discovered other brands since then, so today, that updated list looks like this: 

1 Microfibre shorties. Go for a slightly low waist, and nude for the colour so that it goes under everything. Shorties give you a better line under clothing than a thong or brief and if your tummy or bottom are starting to sag, look out for those with butt-lift and tummy panels built in. The best are made by Jockey and Hanro but I because I live in France, I mostly buy Dim.

2 Nude-colour microfibre bodies or long camisoles, or a thermal camisole in silk jersey. If you choose the camisole rather than the body, make sure it's long enough to come down to at least your low hip, then it won't budge under clothing when you bend or stretch. If you choose the body, consider one with a built-in bra to minimise bulk and strap-show. Wearing underwear of this kind allows you to don low-waist or sheer clothing secure in the knowledge that you're properly covered up. It also has the secondary effect of smoothing over a bra that has lace or other additions, which many of the best support bras do. Check out Figleaves for ideas, or Winter Silks for thermal camisoles.

3 A decent bra. This becomes increasingly important as you age and the breast tissue softens, so keep your ideas updated - what suited you last year may not be right now. Wearing the right bra can take 10 pounds off your silhouette, so get properly fitted and when you find what you like, buy three of them (one to wash, one to wear and one to rest). Nude-colour is more flexible than white, then white, then black, then coloured items. If you're a C-cup or above, choose strong, wide straps that hoick your breasts forward and whatever your size, make sure the support comes from the band, not the straps (take your arms out of the straps and jump up and down to check). After 25 years of underwires, lately I'm a convert to the Doreen bra by Triumph, which is the best-selling bra in the UK. Sadly not the most attractive item to look at - though the Luxury option is an improvement - it gives a great shape under clothing, complete security as you move around and is so comfortable you don't know you're wearing it. I am also partial to the Grace bra by Royce and a very comfortable bra with padded straps by German firm Spiedel, which I found on Ebay. My latest purchase is a pack of three Ahh Bras to wear at home, when I don't need to hoick the girls up. 

4 T-shirts.  Only choose short sleeves if your arms are toned: long-sleeved tees are infinitely more wearable for most women and they cover a multitude of sins. When they appear in the shops with a neckline that suits you, snap them up, or order from a catalogue. I now rely on firms such as Lands' End and Gap for my cotton tees. Winter weight tees are usually better quality than summer tees - don't waste your cash on anything see-through unless you're aiming to wear it under a dress, in which case you want as thin as possible - American Apparel is a good place to look. A crisp white tee is as useful as a white blouse and can be dressed up or down accordingly, but almost any colour is wearable. Avoid logos and designs though - keep them plain if you're above an A cup, or you'll never make eye contact again. By and large a scoop-neck or v-neck is the most flattering neckline unless you're very thin, and cotton with some stretch - say 5 per cent - wears better than pure cotton.

5 Fitted white cotton shirts. Have a bunch of these in various styles - here's a good place to echo current trends, if that's your thing, or indulge a personal fetish for lace or embroidery. A shirt ending at around hip length means you can tuck it in or leave it out - keep it fitted, not tight nor too loose and baggy, so that you can layer both under and over. Vertical detailing such as pintucks, seams or pleats will lengthen your torso, making it looks slimmer - only choose items with horizontal details if you're small-busted. Whether you prefer collarless or collared is up to you, but generally, an ageing face benefits from a bit of tailoring and a shaped open rever or a standard shirt neck flipped up at the back are very flattering. Wear the neck open to give you a long, slimming, vertical line. Just above your bra is a good level, but if you feel this is too revealing, fill in the gap with a camisole or light t-shirt. White shirts are available everywhere, but Gap do good cotton ones and George at Asda do fab poly-cotton ones if you're short of cash. For investment pieces, consider Shirin Guild or men's shirtmakers such as Hilditch and Key.

6 Sweaters. By this I mean thin 2-ply cashmere or merino if you can stretch to it, something like Courtelle or a soft viscose if you can't. Choose crewneck for the most mileage, v-neck to be flattering, or poloneck if you're the chilly sort, and always buy them long-sleeved and at least hip length. These thin jumpers should be close-fitting - loose enough to get a blouse or tee underneath but still tight enough to go under a jacket. You need at least three - one in black, one in a paler neutral such as cream, beige or grey, and one in a colour that really makes your complexion sing - but having more won't hurt.

7 Well-cut black pants. Follow the style of the day, but not slavishly - avoid fashion extremes such as parachute legs and fiddly details like cargo pockets. Most women are well-served by a slightly low waist (ie: just under your belly button, not a low-rider), no pockets and a side zip to minimise bulk. This style of waist is very clean and allows you to wear your tops either tucked in or layered on top. Keep the leg bootcut, straight, full or flared. For fibres, anything matt and with some stretch is useful - wool/poly blends, microfibre and stretch velvet are all good options. I buy mine at La Redoute, from the supermarket, or from Lands' End.

8 Jeans. Choose a slightly low waist for minimum bulk, some stretch in the denim (2-10 per cent), dark indigo dye and a boot cut hemmed to the right length for either flats or heels. This type of jean will take you almost everywhere except formal offices and functions and it practically never dates - for this reason, avoid acid-washes, stonewashes, cropped legs, zips at the ankles, paper-bag waists or anything 'trendy'. A bootcut is not only flattering on every woman with hips or a backside, it also gives you the option of wearing long boots underneath in cool weather. You can wear these jeans with a t-shirt every day, with a jacket to smarten them up, with a white shirt, a sweater or a frilly blouse. When the denim starts to look tired, chuck it in the wash with a pack of Dylon dye and follow the instructions. Don't allow your denim to get stained, messy or faded unless it's strictly for casual wear - only young, thin people can get away with looking scruffy. After indigo blue, neutral colours such as black, grey and beige will give you the most mileage. Personally I favour Boden, which has a choice of bootcut width, and Lands' End.

9 Knee-length skirt. Somewhere around your knee, from slightly above to slightly below there is a length that is perfect for you. Take the trouble to find it and your legs will magically slim down and lengthen. Once you do find it, have all your skirts altered to fit (this might entail a visit to the tailor, as if you shorten skirts you often have to narrow them too). The knee-length skirt is always appropriate wear for business but you can wear it to work all day and still go out in it in the evening. Black woolmix with some stretch is probably best, followed by a neutral with some texture, and pair it with dark tights and shoes or boots. I have skirts this length in wool flannel with a lace hem, microfibre with a beaded hem, wool crepe with a wrapover front, velvet and cord. 

10 A classic coat. You can't go wrong with a trenchcoat or fly-front polo-coat of the Burberry type in a dateless colour such as beige or navy. Bought with a zip-out lining it will take you through at least three seasons each year. The real thing is always worth the investment but cheap knock-offs can be found in microfibre with poly linings and they will go in the washing machine. If you're looking for a winter coat, the most flattering shape on women remains the classic wrapover camelhair with a standard or shawl collar, worn to the knee or calf, belted or unbelted. In a good colour like beige, navy or black, it will take you from office to night out to a weekend in the country with nothing more than a change of accessories. Wool-poly blends will last you 2-5 seasons, while a good cashmere will last a lifetime. Incidentally, this is the coat that has consistently tested as the most appealing to men, if that might sway you.

11 Black leather footwear. Shoes are a very personal thing. One of my friends has over 65 pairs and favours leopard-print stilettos; I have about 10 pairs and favour stack-heeled boots. One thing we're both agreed on, though, is that the black leather ones are the ones we really wear. However full your wardrobe is of spiky-heeled satin numbers, pink suede peep-toes and diamante-studded boots, the fact is that streets are dirty, driving takes its toll and your feet can get cold nine months of the year. Good-quality footwear is a must, whether it's Footglove sandals, Chanel slingbacks or Shelley's boots, and black leather requires the least upkeep. Decide on your style - flats, court shoes, spike-heel boots - and maintain them well.

12 Accessories. Here's where any woman can dress up her basics and really make the most of colour and trends without breaking the bank. So if there's a season's colour that you like and it suits you, buy it in a scarf or belt rather than something expensive like a jacket. If there's a fussy trend in bags or belts, such as studs, fringeing or crochet, consider carefully whether it works on you - nothing updates an outfit quicker than a change of bag, but nothing dates it quicker either. Also, few things date a woman of a certain age more than an unwise belt (my once-favourite 4-inch deep black elastic belt with gigantic double peacock bronze clasp doesn't look quite so good now that it's not teamed with football-player shoulders and a big swirly skirt...) Trends apart, you'll still find that the accessories you wear the most are in good quality materials such as silk, wool and leather, and in neutrals such as brown or black, or cosmetic colours that flatter your skin. This means items such as leather belts half an inch to one inch wide, silk foulard squares, long velvet scarves, dark leather gloves and classic hats such as berets and fedoras.

Where have all the pumps gone?

Oh how I wish I'd hung on to my low-heeled leather pumps.

I found this article in the Daily Mail the other day, which I greet with unabashed dismay.

It doesn't matter how flexible the sole of a shoe is, reducing foot pain. Foot pain is a SIGNAL - wear something lower, for Christ's sake. 

Why on earth do women succumb to stumbling around in utterly ridiculous shoes? I do sometimes wonder if this deliberate hobbling of women is a backlash against women beginning to attain some equality with men in our society. As we have gained at universities, and more women become doctors, lawyers, scientists etc, young women - at least in the UK - are simultaneously encouraged to disappear themselves, to attain size zero, to hide themselves behind makeup, to change the colour of their skin and hair, and to cripple themselves with footwear that is impossible and dangerous to walk in. 

Any podiatrist or orthopaedic surgeon will tell you that heels above 1.5-2in high are bad for your joints. For your back, hips, ankles, knees and feet. Double arthritis of the knee - a truly crippling disease - is almost unknown in men and you know perfectly well why this is a disease of women - heels. 

Thank God, most of us realise the error of our ways long before we have to resort to a knee replacement - our burning soles hint that it's time to switch somewhere around 35. So why, then, is it so bloody difficult to find attractive low-heeled shoes? 

When at home, I spend my life in Crocs (podiatrist's orders) and if only someone would make boots and shoes with a 2in Louis heel I would stock up on loads to wear for the short periods when I'm in town. A Louis heel is beautifully and femininely shaped and gives a wide, secure base quite unlike a stilletto, but it seems to have almost disappeared from fashion. 

It is also easy to obtain complete flats, especially ballet flats, but these aren't particularly good for your feet either - a small heel is a better option for your back. Nor are flats very easy to wear with a skirt, though you can easily tuck a pair of sandals, loafers or trainers under your jeans. Even in Paris, home of all that is chic, I noticed older women dressed to the nines in skirt suits, but clad in trainers.

When I visited London recently, I did so with a large budget for shoes, but came away without a single pair - there was simply nothing in the shops that I liked. I spent my time in Nike trainers and FlyFlot sandals, quite unable, in the heat, to wear the 3in pink suede courts I'd brought with me for a business meeting. But an inch lower, and they'd have been fine.

Where, oh where, is the Chanel slingback of yesteryear with the easy, 2in heel? Why oh why did I give away my black and navy leather pumps with the narrow Cuban heels in 1.5in and 2in, which were so easy to obtain in the days of that gigantic stork, Lady Diana? 

I can only hope, I suppose, that Kate Middleton, doubtless a new fashion icon, has a fondness for low-heeled shoes....


Little boots

Here's a quick guide to warm boots for winter

Little article here from the Daily Mail on warm boots for winter.

My money's still on Uggs. When it's really cold, nothing beats them. The best, in my opinion, is the Celt boot from the Celtic Sheepskin Company, which has a big thick tread that really bites through the snow. This year, I'm wearing Jumbo Uggs - nice and warm, but they give you no grip in the snow. 


Converted to Crocs

OK - I admit it. They're ugly, but I love them.

CrocsThey say it's a sign that a woman's given up the day that she puts comfort before fashion.

Well, it's all bollocks, really, isn't it? Fashion, I mean. It is theoretically possible to have one without the other, but it's also true that fashion is about doing without comfort, by and large, from the medieval escarpin to the Tudor ruff to the tight-laced corset. And it's true that as I get older, I value comfort more and more. 

Nevtherless, my heart absolutely sank when my podiatrist ordered me into Crocs. 

"But they're so ugly," I protested. 

"But they're designed for your feet," he said. "They're the only shoes that are."

Unlike Uggs, which can be attractive in their cuddly way and which I defend to the hilt, Crocs really have nothing to recommend them in the looks department. They are resolutely ugly. With that in mind, and swearing that I'd only wear them in the house, I ordered a navy pair as being the most unobtrusive (they go with my jeans), and apologised to the DH for the fact that I'd now be clumping round the house like a duck. 

It took a long time for them to arrive, since for some unknown reason, they took a trip to the Cayman Islands before arriving back with the vendor and being sent on to me. And when they arrived, I thought there must be some mistake.

They seemed enormous. They were far longer than my feet. And wide too. The sizing was right, but I was so uncertain that I phoned a friend and she told me the sizing on Crocs is now all over the place, since they started making them in different factories. She herself wears Crocs in three different sizes and they all fit. 

It was the DH who thought to log on and see if Crocs are meant to be this large - and he found that they are. You're meant to have a finger's width of space either side of your foot, and at the end, but given that, I couldn't see how they were going to stay on my feet. Still, since they had come all this way, it seemed only fair to give them a try, and I duly put them on. 

At first they felt extremely peculiar, like boats. But as my feet moulded the soles into shape, I entirely forgot I was wearing them. After three days, I was a convert, which is something I thought I would never be.

I suppose I have made that discovery that everyone else who wears them has had - that wearing Crocs is like going barefoot, that it makes you feel like a child again. I have not thought about my pronating left foot since buying them. They weigh nothing. I can run and downstairs, I can drive, I can walk around the garden in the wet grass and be dry minutes later. I am no longer in pain.

I admit, also, that I am wearing them even outside the house, much to the amusement of my friends (Crocs wearers all). They said I would cave, and cave I have. 

Oh well. How the mighty are fallen. Can't wait to get another pair. 



Best foot forward

Oh how the mighty are fallen - I have to succumb to Crocs

I may hate ugly shoes, but it looks like I have no choice - welcome to the world of Crocs.

High heels could boost your sex life

It's official (well official-ish) - high heels are good for you

According to a news story in the Daily Mail this morning, wearing moderately high heels of 2 inches and above could be beneficial for your pelvic floor muscles.