CSSB: Kitten Heeled Black Shoes

Following on from the little black dress, it’s time to look at the little black shoes.

I have a couple of pairs of black shoes, but I picked up these in January to go to a formal (black tie and party gown!) event with work, and I needed something I could walk in and wear for a whole evening. I found these at the Cancer Research Campaign shop, and they were just £1.99! I think they were clearing out their stock of party shoes, just after Christmas.

Finding these was a stroke of luck on many levels. One, I’m a size 6.5, and finding half sizes in second hand shops is a massive improbability at the best of times.

Second, they were practially new! The tread was unworn on both the heels and soles, and the print on the inlay was unworn. Second hand new shoes is one thing, second hand NEW shoes? That’s unheard of!

Third, just look at them…


Aren’t they just divine? Simple, elegant, not too over-blinged but with a narrow patent strap across the front to add a little extra detail. The toes are narrow, but rounded, so a little more gentle on the tootsies.


Now, normally, I hate little narrow heels. But these were just so comfortable, that I had to give them a shot. The heel isn’t too high, there’s a low enough centre of gravity that I can still walk in them without crippling myself. Sure, it’s narrow, but it is still pretty sturdy for all that.

And last but not least, check out the brand:



BRAND: Footglove (Marks and Spencers)

PRICE: £1.99

I adore footglove. I have more than one pair of this brand, they are simply divine. They have moulded soles, which fit to the shape of your feet, filling out the curve under the arch of your feet. These are, without doubt, among the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn.

I am seriously considering never buying another brand of high heels again. These are just so lovely. If I could change one thing about them, it would be that they have this velveteen exterior, which does take a bit of a battering sometimes, when I pack them or wear them for a long period of time.

Guess it’s just lucky that they’re black, so the scuffs don’t show!



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CSSB: Assumptions about women and shoes

How many pairs of shoes do you have?

I don’t have that many.

No, really, I don’t have that many. That wasn’t code for ‘not that many for a woman’.

So here’s the role call:

Black work shoes (slightly broken, but still wearable, I wear these most days)

White pumps (bought to wear with summer clothes)
Black slip on pumps (bought to wear with summer clothes and around the house)
White patent pumps (My wedding shoes)

Black lace up tennis shoes (bought for wearing on the canal boat – lightweight and sturdy)
Black trainers (bought for working on a summer scheme, now used for the gym)

Black fur lined winter boots
Brown knee high boots (bought for me as a gift)

Black high heels
Brown heeled court shoes
Purple heeled court shoes

I also have a couple of pairs of flip flops for use when I go swimming and some slipper socks for the winter.

My husband thinks I have too many shoes. Sometimes when I’m tidying them up and putting them away, I agree with him but given that they are all useful for different purposes I would struggle to choose which ones to throw out. Many of them cost less than £5, some of them were from charity shoes, some were bought from supermarkets. I don’t really go in for the expensive shoe shopping thing.

Truth is, I find shopping for shoes intensely frustrating. I’m an annoying size, 6.5 – size 6 is too small, size 7 is too loose. So just finding some that fit comfortably can be difficult. I don’t wear that many outlandish colours, I know what suits me and what colours are in my wardrobe, and they are fairly easy to accessorize – brown, black and white does the trick pretty nicely.

I don’t understand the compulsion that drives some women to have a pair of shoes to match each outfit. How many colours can there possibly be that need an exact match? I mean, black goes with most things. For ten years I had one pair of black high heeled shoes from Barratts which served me for every wedding, party, every night out, fancy dinner, college ball and social event. I wore them until the elastic in the ankle strap snapped and then replaced them with another pair, as similar as I could muster, purchased for £3.99 on Ebay.

I really don’t get the fascination that the media paints the women as having with shoes.

My female companions, being practical geeks, may not be the best straw poll of examples, but I don’t know anyone who obsessively collects shoes. If anyone does, it’s generally the vintage variety for larping and period costumes. But everywhere I turn in the Media, there’s an assumption that a women desires, more than anything, new shoes – it’s literally become a caricature in the form of Sex And The City’s Carrie Bradshaw and her Manolo Blahnik obsession.

I mean, makeup I can kind of understand because it’s on your face. It’s in everyone’s eye line. The impact you create with a smile, with a first glance, with your expression, can all be enhanced with a little colour, powder and texture. I can also understand clothes. I mean, I blog about clothes – clothes are great, I love buying new ones, I love feeling comfortable in them and knowing that I look good. But shoes?

They’re on the end of your feet. They’re down on the floor. More often than not, they’re half concealed by your trouser ends or long skirts, or they’re tucked under tables or hidden under chairs. Shoes do not make that much of an impact. I never look at people’s shoes. My husband claims he doesn’t either, and I believe him. Do you know how many people have ever passed comment on my shoes since I left school? Not one. That’s why I don’t really bother changing them that much.

I did get some bullying at school over my shoes. Mostly because I wore trainers that were more than three months old and liked wearing sandals in the summer rather than mules. But truth be told, if I had changed my shoes those people would have found something else to pick on me for. When I wore boots instead, it was my Manchester United scarf that attracted comments. When it wasn’t my scarf, it was my hairstyle. When it wasn’t my hairstyle it was the fact I was often upset and depressed, especially after the death of my grandfather and grandmother. The problems I endured at school weren’t really to do with my shoes, they were to do with assholes looking for an emotional cut to rub salt into.

What is it about shoes for women? I honestly would love to know, because it seems like something about being a ‘Woman’ is eluding me in not understanding this. Anyone got any theories?

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CSSB: Favourite Item – The Business Dress

Sometimes at work, we have conferences or big meetings and if someone from the top brass executive layer of the company comes along, we get told that the dress code is ‘Formal Business Dress’.

This means it is time to put on the STYLE, big time.

Last November, we had our national conference for learning and development and yours truly was giving a presentation about our OFSTED inspection. Mega nerve wracking, and I absolutely required something new to wear. I had stuff that would have done alright, but sometimes wearing a new and stunning item of clothing carries that particularly ego boost which can carry you through an unusual occasion.

Being my thrifty self, I decided to go check out the clothes available in a supermarket. On my way home from another town, I spied a Tesco, something we don’t really have in my town, so I figured ‘why not’.

Tesco’s clothing has a reputation for being pretty good and hardwearing and also affordable, a lot of my colleagues had told me they wore Tesco brands because they have a good ‘formal’ selection of clothing which is suitable for work without being over-the-top. I genuinely enjoyed having a poke around in there, and after a few minutes I came across this:

Black Lace Overlay Dress

Bought from: Tesco
Price: £8

Now, I just ADORE this style of dress. They make me think of Jackie Kennedy who had this style down pat, and Audrey Hepburn too. It’s elegant, classy, formal and beautiful.

The colour hasn’t come out too well in this photograph, but it’s a rich deep plum colour with a black lacy patterned overlay. This meant I could accessorise it in black and purple.

I have a black suit jacket, very light and similar in cut to the grey one which I featured a couple of weeks ago. That did the trick nicely. A lovely silver necklace with amethyst stones added some detail jewellery wise, along with zirconia stud earrings. For makeup, I kept my eyes neutral and used a deep wine coloured lipstick. The only thing I was struggling with was shoes.

Yes I could have worn my go-to black high heels, but the heel is narrow and they would not have been kind to my feet if I had worn them all day. So instead I took myself charity shopping.

And struck gold!

20140101_125605 Purple Shoes

Brand: Clarks
Bought from: Cancer Research Campaign
Price: £3.99

Perfect. Good brand, right size, heel not to high and satisfyingly chunky and no pointy toes.

I ROCKED this outfit at my conference. Again, a few people commented on how smart I looked, and I stood out amongst the sea of linen trousers and blouses which most of the female staff had opted for. This was the closest I have ever come to power dressing. It was an awesome feeling, and I could absolutely see why heels got higher and shoulder pads got wider in the 1980s.

The dress has done good service elsewhere too, at a concert around New Year in Manchester at the Bridgewater Hall, teamed up with the purple shoes again and a purple chiffon scarf wrap. This has the potential to be a very versatile dress because it can be accessorised in so many different ways. For £8, this was an excellent buy and one I will keep for a long time.

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CSSB: What Women ‘Deserve’

So this week I’m pootling about my business when my friend Mon messages me with a photo saying ‘Saw this in New Look’s window and thought of your blog’

As I believe George Takei would say:

Oooooh Myyyyyy!

Oooooh Myyyyyy!

” Repeat after me… I deserve new shoes”

I am awash with bile and disbelief dear fashion fans, I don’t quite know where to begin.

Let’s begin with the phrase ‘Repeat after me’.

Where else do we see that? Old fashioned teaching – learning by rote. Cramming an idea into someone’s head, sometimes against their will. One might even call it indoctrination. It is an imperative, a command, not just a suggestion. An enforcement of an ideal.

The sort of thing that might be used, dare one say it, by a cult…

This, albeit laced with humour, lays bare the influence that the fashion industry has AND KNOWS IT HAS over our shopping habits. Repeat after me. Do not think for yourselves. Do as you are told.

Now let’s look at the second bit.

“I deserve new shoes.”

This needs unpacking on so many layers. Beginning with the word ‘deserve’.

Pairing this up with the cult-instruction-like imperative command, this word shows something else about the fashion industry. They know, yes KNOW, that female shoppers are prone to low self esteem.

I mean, look at those shoes. A minority of men might wear them, but this is a display aimed at women, with the little ballet pump style shoes and those colourful high heels. This advertising campaign plays right into our insecurities and dissatisfactions as female shoppers. We as women have to be told, by a fashion chain window, INSTRUCTED no less, to understand that we ‘deserve’ things. Because deep down, we don’t believe it do we? Or so the idea behind this window display would have us believe.

Women work hard. That’s not to say that men don’t, but men aren’t the ones having their feelings and insecurities and senses of self played upon here, so I’m not talking about them as a demographic. Women do work hard, managing full time jobs, having children, raising children, taking care of house and home, doing the shopping… women do work hard. And whilst men do help with those things, the majority of them are still culturally seen as women’s work.  And there’s little time for luxury in amongst all that. And at the moment, in the midst of the western recession, there’s also a limit on the amount of disposable income available for things like fashion.

But women are told in this advert that we DESERVE new shoes.

Not just that we want them. If we were so inclined we could have worked that out by looking at them. But we are told that we deserve them. That these shoes – colourful and hopelessly impractical as some of them are – are our entitlement. That we can have them. That we SHOULD have them. And if we disagree we should listen to and obey that imperative – repeat after me, accept this idea. And the final implication which makes this campaign so disgustingly effective – that if we DON’T buy them – we are LETTING OURSELVES DOWN AND SELLING OURSELVES SHORT.

(I don’t usually use this many capitals in a post, as you will know by now, but seriously, this sort of mind game sets my teeth on edge and just like an angsty Harry Potter, this is the only way to express my displeasure at the concept!)

This advert plays into our low self esteem issues and falsely tries to boost us up. On the surface it seems quite a positive message. You are worthy, you are entitled, you should believe in yourselves as people who deserve things. But what is it actually trying to get you to do?

It’s trying to get women to part with that hard earned, much hoarded, much needed money in order to repair their self esteem (which they probably didn’t think was broken) and cure their dissatisfaction with their lives (which was at best dormant until they read that advertisement) for a pair of coloured high heels.

Let’s paint a picture of someone who is likely to see this advert when the shop is open for business.

Picture a young-ish, stressed out mother. She’s got one child aged nearly 3 years old and a 6 month old in a push chair. She’s on maternity leave. Again. Her partner’s at work and she’s slogging around town, picking up cleaning stuff from wilkos, getting the things for tea from Morrisons, maybe even popping to the doctors to arrange the next round of vaccinations for one of her children. In my home town, all of those places are within buggy pushing distance of New Look.

She’s tired. She’s been up all night, the baby’s not sleeping and it looks like the older one is getting a cold from the amount of snot everywhere. Daddy’s working overtime, so she’ll have to cook tonight again. It’s cold. And it’s raining. And she’s fed up.

On her way back to the car, she passes this window. It’s been weeks since she went clothes shopping, even window shopping. And there’s this mantra. Repeat after me… I deserve new shoes.

And she thinks ‘Yeah. I bloody do. I haven’t spent a penny on myself since baby was born, I’m worn out, I’m bored to tears by Peppa Pig videos, I ache with weariness, I’m covered in snot and I yearn for the days when I used to be able to go out on the town with my friends, drinking vodkas and wearing high heeled teal coloured stilettos. Where’s my treat, I DO deserve new shoes.”

So what does she do?

Spend the last bit of money that’s left on new shoes? Perhaps she puts them on the credit card. Maybe she puts them on a new store card, which the assistant is only too pleased to sell to her. Does she dip into her savings? Make economies elsewhere? What can her baby do without for the next month?

Frightening isn’t it? How easily that scenario is believable. I’ve met women like this. I TEACH women like this. I have BEEN a woman like this. I’ve done it myself. Worn out and at the end of my tether I have finally decided no to hell with this, I DO deserve a treat.

And you know what happens afterwards? I feel guilty as hell. I feel duped. Manipulated. Fed up. Conned. Stupid. Because I’ve been manipulated into buying something that I didn’t need, didn’t really want and will probably never actually use.

The fashion industry has a good cure for that by the way. They try to convince you that the focus of next month’s fickle attention will fill that hole…

I mean, when is this young Mummy going to get chance to wear those lovely teal coloured high heels? Probably not for ages. And certainly not often enough to justify the £25-£30 she spent on them in a flash of dissatisfied anger.

Women do work hard, and do balance a lot of priorities, and they fight daily battles to successfully manage their modern lives. They deserve a lot. They deserve help with housework and childcare. They deserve thankyous. They deserve equal wages and equal opportunities. They deserve respect, kindness and consideration from the people they are working hard for.

They deserve an awful lot more than a high street store’s pair of shoes. And they should not be the focus of a marketing ploy designed to make them squander money in order to remind them of the fact that they are worthy. It’s an insult to their intelligence that it tries to manipulate them in such a meaningless way. The fashion industry is built around the idea of doing this to people.

Think about that next time you see an advert like this.

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CSSB: Favourite Accessory – Brown Heeled Shoes

Bought from: Oxfam
Brand: George at Asda
Cost: £2.99
Uses: Work Wear

There comes a time when a girl realises that she doesn’t have enough shoes.

Yeah, yeah I know insert Carrie Bradshaw joke here. But I’m not like that most of the time. You could once count the number of shoes I had on one hand. Trainers, sandles, work shoes, one pair of high heels and some boots for the snow.

But as they say on Top Gear, that was then. This is now. I have bought a few more over the years. A couple of pairs of long boots, some little canvas shoes and so forth. But  the time had come to make friends with high heels. I don’t wear them very often, I’m a size 6.5 to size 7, I have big feet for a lady and I can’t really balance in them too well.

However, I’m in a job now where I drive to work, sit down for most of the day and don’t walk very much, so I can wear heels (low, blocked, chunky heels) without completely ruining my feet. So I started looking for some.

I had two types of shoes I wanted – some brown heels and some purple heels.

You would not believe the effort I went to looking for some brown heels and purple heels which I liked, which fitted, which matched my outfits and which fitted my budget!

And then – while I was Christmas shopping – these appeared in Oxfam.

They even make my clod-hopping feet look dainty!

They even make my clod-hopping feet look dainty!

Brown Shoes 2

These little beauties were just £2.99, brown leather-look material, genuine leather soles, blocked heels, size seven. With some beige stitching and detail buckles on the front. Absolutely perfect.

What I learned from this was that good things eventually come to those who wait and persevere with their search. If you have something in mind that you want – don’t give up looking for it. It’s out there. You will find it. Just keep searching. Even if it’s just for a pair of shoes.

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