Something’s happening on the high street at the moment: there’s a ballet pump revolution. Because all of a sudden, the hottest shoe in Topshop, ASOS and Office is the ghillie. But what even IS is a ghillie anyway?
Like ballet pumps, ghillies have their origins in dance. They’re traditionally used by Irish dancers, as well as Scottish country dancers and Highland dancers. Their distinguishing feature is the leather laces that criss-cross the foot and tie around the ankle, or sometimes all the way up the leg. Now that they’ve appeared on the high street, it turns out that they look brilliant with jeans and skirts as well as traditional country dance costumes. The fashion versions have an almond shaped toe, too, which is far more flattering than a round toe that you’d usually get on a ballet pump. Oh, and they’re not exactly expensive, either – some of them are less than thirty quid!
I don’t own a pair myself (yet!), but a couple of my friends have been wearing them and looking awesome over the past few weeks. Maxine, who writes for InStyle.co.uk (top) has posted a few pictures on Instagram of hers from Topshop (follow her on Instagram @maxfashwriter) and my pal Alex from The Frugality blog has been rocking her pair from Next, too (above: she’s on Instagram at @thefrugality). I think they’re really elegant, stylish and a great summer option for weddings, work and the pub. Oh, and dancing of course! Plus they look really expensive even though you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a really good pair. Here are the best ones available to buy right now.
So you’re going to a wedding this summer but you can’t face wearing heels? Don’t worry! En Brogue is here to help. I’ve written about this a few times before, but I had a request this week for an update, because let’s face it, there’s going to be loads more flat shoes on offer now than there was last summer. If you’re still worried about ditching your heels for a posh do, I hope I can persuade you to switch to flats because you’ll have a MUCH better time. Tricky staircase to manoeuvre? No problem. Cobbled street to get to the venue? Bring it on. Amazing band playing you want to dance all night to? Just try and stop me!
This was me at my brother’s wedding last summer. I went about as unconventional as it gets – well, I didn’t wear jeans and a T-shirt, but you get the drift. No dress AND no heels. And I can tell you this: I had the BEST time on the dance floor. I even stole an older gentleman’s orange braces to complete my outfit and use as a dance prop…
Anyway, I digress – what about you? There are a few tricks that might help in your transition. If you still want to look feminine and have a similar effect to a pair of heeled courts, try a pointed toe flat. I’ve said it many times, but there’s something about that pointed toe that mimics the feeling you get from a pair of heels, and it also helps to lengthen your legs. Plus, if you find a shoe with a low cut vamp (that just means it shows more of your foot, and preferably some toe cleavage) you’ll give your legs even more of a helping hand. These are the perfect shoes to wear with a shift or fitted dress. There are lots of metallic styles around at the moment.
How about a bit of embellishment? I know some women feel they need to compensate for the lack of heels by wearing really snazzy flats (like those poor women who got turned away from the red carpet in their rhinestone flats at Cannes earlier this week) and although I don’t agree that you have to do this, there are some lovely shoes in the style that work really well for a wedding. If sparkles aren’t your thing, look for snake-effect leather or this season’s hot feature – ghillie laces. Just avoid it on round-toed ballet pumps or risk looking like you’re on your way to an 8th birthday party.
I also think white shoes are an absolute winner, particularly if you’re going for something more masculine. I felt great in my monks from Northern Cobbler (sadly they’re not available anymore). This is a good option for anyone wearing trousers, though I would advise picking something cropped or rolling up the hems so you show your ankles. It’s MUCH more flattering.
I hope that helps any of you looking for wedding guest shoes (or brides-to-be come to that – because why shouldn’t the bride wear flats too?). The best thing of all is that you can invest in a pair of shoes you’re likely to wear again; all of these would looking brilliant just with a simple white shirt and jeans. I’d love to see what flat shoes you’re wearing to weddings this summer, so tweet me a picture to @EnBrogue or tag me on Instagram.
OK I admit, the shoes in pictures above and below are verging on a flatform. But it’s from the catwalk of one of my favourite brands – Marni – so you’ll forgive me having a little perve over these sandals as they look pretty comfortable, as well as being totally amazing. Not only that, they demonstrate perfectly a lovely little trend that’s emerging on the high street: track sole sandals.
“Has she gone mad?” you cry! “It’s February and she’s telling me about SANDALS?!”
Well no, actually. I’m a firm believer in buying the best of the new season before it sells out so you’re fully prepared for any unseasonal barmy weather that might unexpectedly come along. I remember one Valentine’s Day in the Nineties when it was 21 degrees! Of course, I was ready with my sandals – Converse One Star suede slides – remember those? Anyway, hear me out.
What I like about this style of sandal is that they look cool and are REALLY practical. The track sole is meant to look like the treads in a tire, and what does that mean? Grip! As much as I love a beautiful pair of Italian sandals, leather soles can be a bit lethal for the first few wears. And those ankle straps mean they’ll be great for wearing on long walks. I do love a good long walk. I expect more styles to be available later in the season, but for now, here are my favourites.
There are many types of loafers out there, and spring seems a good time to start thinking about them. OK, so you’re not in a position to ditch your socks just yet, but there are daffodils and tulips in the shops which means that before you know it, it will be bare ankles weather again. And you can’t beat a nice pair of loafers when it’s bare ankles weather.
So what are loafers? Well, they’re simply masculine slip-on shoes, and can come with a tassel, or a fringe, or a metal bar, and even a slot to fit a penny in. Yes, really! Here are a couple of extracts from my book to explain further…
These handsome slippers are more dapper than their formal counterparts – penny loafers – and, with their dandy tassel on the toe, are for the more flamboyant loafer lovers amongst you.
Best worn like a stylish Italian man with turned-up chinos and bare ankles, or take inspiration from Alexa Chung and team with a preppy mini-kilt, buttoned-up blouse and satchel slung across one shoulder. Of course the joy of the loafer is the lack of laces, which makes them the perfect smart shoe alternative to Derbys or Oxfords if you’re feeling lazy.
pages 80 and 81, En Brogue: Love Fashion. Love Shoes. Hate Heels.
In the 1930s, a company called G.H. Bass Shoe Company began to produce shoes called ‘Weejans’, inspired by the slip-on shoes worn by Norwegian farmers. The story goes that the idea for the detail on the strap on the Weejan loafer came from Mr Bass’s wife, who would give him a kiss on the cheek every day when he left for work (it’s meant to look like a perfect lipstick stain).
Coincidentally, this ‘slot’ in the leather was also the perfect size to fit a penny into, which people often did in 1930s America – one in each shoe. It was just enough money to make an emergency call in the newly introduced phone booths of the time, giving the Weejan its new (and far more sophisticated) name: the penny loafer.
pages 56 and 57, En Brogue: Love Fashion. Love Shoes. Hate Heels.
You might remember back in September when I was at Milan fashion week that I was swooning over Moncler’s sporty sandals. This is a MASSIVE trend for the coming summer (Marni, Roksanda and Burberry were amongst the other brands showing them on the catwalk – read about that here) and one I’ll be grabbing with both hands. I mean, both feet.
Anyway, the Moncler ones aren’t going to be cheap, so I’m glad that it looks like the high street will be catching on to this trend. With Christmas not even a distant memory, you can already pick up a pair of Fondant strap sandals from Toppers, and they’re less than sixty quid. Bargain!
My favourites are the multi-coloured ones, as they mimic best the design of the Moncler sandals. It’s a shame the straps aren’t elastic (I mean, IMAGINE how comfortable) but they do give a pretty similar effect, even with that shiny finish. And for the less flamboyant amongst you, they’re available in plain black, too. I’m looking forward to seeing what offerings the rest of the high street comes up with, so watch this space!
Party season: a phrase that fills girls who hate sparkly dresses and heels with dread. I for one would much rather just sling on my best jeans, a cashmere sweater and a slick of eyeliner when I’m off to a mulled wine gathering. But, as you know, I am partial to a snazzy pair of shoes, so will sanction the use of metallics and glitter when it’s confined to a place you wouldn’t expect to see it, like a masculine pair of shoes. This Christmas I’m motioning for tomboys everywhere to buck the dress code and invest in a pair of amazing silver masculine shoes to wear with whatever the hell you like. Because when your feet are this well dressed, no-one cares what the rest of your outfit looks like.
I’d love to see what party shoes you’re wearing this festive season – don’t forget to tweet me pictures of your feet to @EnBrogue.
OK, I don’t usually do full look blog posts, mainly because I hate having my picture taken, but seeing as a) one of you lovely lot recently emailed me asking me to do a post with styling tips and b) I HAD to have my photo taken for my job at InStyle by a proper photographer, I thought it was OK just this once. So, here in all my full-length glory, are my London fashion week outfits (and why I wore them).
I’m well aware that this look is totally mental, but I LOVE it! There’s also no getting away from the fact that these trousers were designed for a tall person, but I decided to go with a late 1980s Madchester-inspired baggy look and I think I got away with it. Top tip: those trousers you think you need to wear a heel with? Opt for some Grensons with a stacked sole. They’ll stop the hem dragging along the floor and getting ruined.
Every year, my New Year’s resolution is to wear more hats. And every year I make it to about January 3rd before feeling too self-conscious to continue. But if there’s one time I can guarantee there will always be at least one person looking more flamboyant than me, it’s at fashion week. So I wore a hat. But what about the shoes? These amazing beauts aren’t available until November but they’re a collaboration between ASOS and Le Coq Sportif and they’re comfy as hell. I like how they give this sweater dress a sporty edge.
I might look like I am (to quote Tyra Banks) “smizing” here, but the fact is I was probably about to sneeze (note the lack of a day 3 outfit due to illness). Anyway, socks and trousers are tricky territory at the best of times, but add an elasticated cuff into the mix and it can all go horribly wrong. I think the trick – as with all trouser-sock combos – is to make sure you’re showing a tiny bit of leg. It only needs to be a centimetre, but it makes all the difference.
I’ve recently taken to breaking all my own rules (“an A-line skirt that hits just above the knee is best for me because I’m short” – pah!) but this below-knee hem is my newest go-to skirt length. I don’t know why or how the addition of socks works (and you might not think it does) but it’s my new favourite thing. If I’m going somewhere less flash than fashion week, I’ll switch these red socks for something a bit more subtle, like a black crochet sock.
You can see what the rest of the InStyle team wore here (there are more flats!).
If, like me, you’ve become somewhat addicted to brogues over the past few seasons, you might be glad to hear of a development in the flat shoe department. While I was away at fashion week back in February, I noticed a trend on the catwalk that I’m pleased to say has been picked up by the high street.
Fringed shoes appeared on models at Suno and (my favourite) Marni. The latter took the idea and ran with it, morphing the leather fringe into a solid flap with a metal trim. They make the perfect alternative to brogues (in fact, you can find brogued versions of them) as you can style them up in exactly the same way. They just have a slightly snazzier feel.
The fringe itself is called a kiltie if it’s actually a removable piece of leather, and I think these shoes look their best when it is (or at least, looks like it is). It also means you have the added bonus of wearing the shoes two different ways! They were originally used by golfers to protect their laces from the dewy grass (more on kilties soon). You might also hear fringed shoes referred to as ghillies. The Russell & Bromley pair above comes in five different colours but this shiny burgundy pair best mimics the catwalk versions, as do the green ones below from Clarks and the blue from Office.
I also like the fringe on a monk shoe – I’ve been wearing the pair below from Toast for the last few summers and I LOVE them. Topshop is currently doing a very similar design, which comes in tan and black patent as well as the white shown here.
Sometimes, the high street really gets on board with a mad catwalk trend. With sporty embellished sandals it’s taken them a while – Christopher Kane debuted them in his spring/summer 2012 catwalk collection – but man, have they got it right this summer! When you’re investing in something silly like a sporty embellished sandal, you probably don’t want to spend a fortune on it, so I’m thrilled that there are so many reasonably priced options around this season.
You see, I recently went to Bicester Village and tried on a pair in the Marni store. Even at the discounted price, they were still more than £300, so although I really REALLY loved them, I left them behind and returned to London with a heavy heart.
But look what I could have instead, and for a fraction of the price! I’ve already featured the Zara pair once but they are so good I had to include them again. And I’m very tempted to invest in a glue gun and some massive glass stones and just customise my own pair of Birkenstocks…
If you’re a hardcore brogues and loafers fan like me, the arrival of summer either marks a complete change in your footwear habits (I tend to live in leather sandals) or months of very sweaty feet. Or perhaps you’re like my friend Jo. She has a thing about toes. She doesn’t like them (not even her own!), so the prospect of summer with its open toes and pedicures galore fills her with dread.
But last summer I discovered the PERFECT summer shoe for tomboys and toe-phobes alike: the cut-out. These shoes allow you to keep hold of your mannish aesthetic while getting some ventilation around your feet. The pair I bought last year were from Y.M.C. and are available again this year in navy or tan suede.
I sometimes refer to this closed-toe sandal style as ‘geek shoes’ (you can exaggerate this by wearing them with socks) and it’s a trend that has lived on for another year. I lived in mine last summer, so am very tempted to get some more. These by Northern Cobbler are BEAUTIFUL – I love the brogue detailing on the straps. And for a cheaper option, head to good old Topshop.
Seeing as I already have a pair like this, though, maybe it would be more sensible (and less greedy) to purchase a pair of the new breed of breathable shoes. These are more substantial lace-ups with panels of leather missing or, in the case of these beauties from Paul Smith, perforated holes in the leather. Either way, they’ll keep your feet and your outfit cool; a brilliant investment for the androgynous dresser.