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Fashion by Felicia

Felicia Caponigri | Monday, February 21, 2011

Billy Ocean once sang “When the goin’ gets tough, the tough get goin’.” Well, where I come from when the going gets tough, the tough get their stilettos.

Yes, I can just hear your mind, dear reader, screaming in collegiate fashionista fervor as it finds itself at this crossroads of the fashion jungle. You can feel your feet throbbing in pleasure and pain even as you imagine that most amazing, jaw dropping high-heeled creation you coveted on your last weekend jaunt to the Mall. You say: But high heels are for crazy nights dancing away my latest exam cares, for interviews in which they must be a sleek counterpart to my boring, “take-me-seriously-even-though-I’m-a-secret-glitter-nail-polish-wearing-die-hard-fashion-worshipper-who-hopes-she-fails-this-interview-so-she-can-go-work-at-VOGUE” black suit.

Sashay into class in a high pair of heels that proclaim my embrace and presentation of my aesthetic appearance to be just as important as my mind which I spend evening upon evening cramming with historical, mathematical and scientific facts? Actually, why the heck not?

If there was ever one kernel of inspiration we could take from our European counterparts it would be their dedication to their entire selves: the dedication to put on that extra layer of red lipstick when running to the open-air market, to spritz on Chanel No. 5 while on their way to swiftly pick up a bottle of wine for dinner, to put on killer heels even though 17th century cobblestones threaten them on every street.

Now, mind you, I’m not saying these same counterparts are elegant all the time. I myself was once part of a dastardly tumble involving high heels, a very eye-catching orange straw bag, a fruity drink and an Italian pop star — all in front of a beach full of people (feel free to pester me for more details). But they can, like the paintings of the Louvre, inspire us to do it our own high-heeled way, the American way: bigger and better!

When choosing a stiletto there are two things to consider: fit and height. Never buy a high heel too small or too big. No more than half an inch should be between the toes and the front of the shoe — this will be highly evident if the item in question is a peep-toe or a sandal. No more than a quarter of an inch between your heel and the back of the shoe — this avoids uncomfortable blisters on the balls of your feet. Never buy a pair of heels that is too high for you. The smallest stiletto will usually be about 3.5 inches high, while for the sky-scraping desirous among us, 5 inches should do. Examine your calf muscle while trying it on — too much tension (i.e. looking as if you are about to sprint) is not good, but “relaxed tension” is the look we’re going for. A platform stiletto may give you a better sense of security.

Wear a pair of stilettos with jeans and a sweater to spice up a casual look, pair them with fishnets to toughen up an elegant walking short, or go all out and pair them with your best dress. Color is a free-for-all. Match them to your bag, don’t match them to your bag, whatever you choose no one will be able to look away as you make campus your own catwalk. Forever 21 currently has a pair of red stilettos with a flirty bow for a cool $26.80. Tough never looked so chic.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Felicia Caponigri at fcaponig@nd.edu

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The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.

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Fashion by Felicia

Felicia Caponigri | Monday, February 7, 2011

Growing up in Florence, Italy, I remember being spellbound by color. I am sure that my fellow students who have jaunted abroad to this fair Renaissance city can completely empathize with my predicament.

I saw the sea greens of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, the golden hues of Giotto’s masterpieces and the shimmering blues and pinks of Michelangelo’s Tondo Doni. However, while some might see these brilliant colors in that holy of art holies, the Uffizi gallery, I saw them in a place which draws the mind to even greater aesthetic contemplation: my neighborhood glove shop.  

As I passed the windows of this small boutique I was assailed with color and glamour — seemingly inanimate hand mannequins insistently begged to shake my own hand, to supplicate me to feel the soft leather encasing them. What truly sold this product, however, was not the decadent window display, but the Italian women stepping out of the boutique.

In the cold, chilly air of the Tuscan weather, their hands were kept toasty warm in hues which brought their fashion ensemble to a whole new level of chic. Orange gloves brought out the brassy undertones of their brown leather jackets, red gloves highlighted the silk scarf imbued with the same tint tied at their neck.

In short, they were their own masterpieces, rivaling their fine art counterparts hanging just across the Arno. Indeed, to my 6-year-old eyes, Botticelli seemed absolutely dull in comparison to these fashion elements. This impetus to keep one’s hands warm in the face of the chill is certainly not unique to our fellows across the pond. Indeed, I doubt they could endure our Notre Dame winters with as much aplomb as we do! We can however, take inspiration from their accessory choices, and show our own hands the same tender, loving, stylish care.

When choosing a glove, fit cannot be underestimated. Leather proves to be an excellent choice as it gives over time, learning your hands’ unique personality and needs. While slight wrinkling is understandable, beware the sales associate who attempts to sell you an overly worn pair — they have obviously been tried on by one too many enthusiastic clients. The gloves’ lining will clue you in to its function — choose a cashmere lining for the colder months, or a silk lined pair should you wish to carry your look into spring.

This is not the time to hesitate in terms of color. Go wild! Leopard print, hot fuchsia, nude or electric blue are permissible and desirable. If you have wardrobe pieces in a color you thought would never go with anything, this is the time to find their long lost fashion accessory soul mate and make your closet their happily ever after!  

Of course, should you wish to remain with the classic minimalist look, navy blue, black, and brown never go out of style and will please every piece of your collective wardrobe.

The best part, however, of this accessory is the dry, cracked hands they will prevent. Fear no more the look of horror on your professor’s face when you shake his or her hand after a glove-less walk through DeBartolo Quad.

As you take off your glove your classmates will marvel at your fashion savvy.  Dillard’s currently offers this Italian luxury for $33.60. Winter, do your worst, our hands are girded and at the ready.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer. Contact Felicia Caponigri at fcaponig@nd.edu