Comfort is cool as flat shoes cut it in the fashion stakes

When actress Emma Thompson walked shoeless on to the stage at the Golden Globes, she confirmed what the rest of us have known for a while. Comfy shoes make sense. Clutching her Christian Louboutin heels in one hand – and a martini in the other – she joked that their trademark red soles were stained with her blood. “I’ve taken my heels off as a feminist statement really, because why do we wear them? They’re so painful. And pointless, really.”

With brogues and ballet shoes filling the fashion pages and shops, financial investors have started to take notice. Comfortable shoe brand Hotter, which started life as a slipper manufacturer, has just changed hands for £200m, while the Griggs family, which owned the Dr Martens brand for 50 years, has sold up to private equity giant Permira for £300m.

Flat shoes are selling well on the high street, with more than three-fifths of women polled on their shoe shopping habits by Mintel confessing to having bought a pair in the past 12 months.

“Under-35s are willing to sacrifice fit for fashion,” said Mintel fashion analyst Tamara Sender. “By contrast, over-55s place the most importance on well-fitting shoes. Overall, three-quarters of consumers favoured fit over fashion.”

Alexa Chung is credited with making flat shoes fashionable as, amid a sea of stoic women in skyscraper Jimmy Choos, she regularly pads up the red carpet in her Oxford lace-ups. But a change in attitude was signalled by the catwalk front rows last year when some of the industry’s most influential players turned up to fashion week shod in flats. The signal that comfortable is OK was further affirmed last week, when Karl Lagerfeld sent models down the Chanel runway in sparkly couture trainers.

Lorna Hall, head of retail at trend consultancy WGSN, said that popular shoe styles are a reflection of the clothing that is in the shops. “The reason flat shoes are selling so well is that they go with the androgynous silhouette that is fashionable at the moment,” she said. “Heels look good with dresses, but brogues and flats help you carry off slim-leg trousers and oversized jacket shapes.”
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Earlier this month, Dr Martens reported bumper Christmas sales, up nearly 70% in December. The brand, famous for its close ties to music and subculture, manages to hit both fashion and comfort buttons at the same time. It has benefited from the patronage of Miley Cyrus, who has made its rubber air-cushioned soles her boot of choice, while design collaborations with the likes of model Agyness Deyn have helped it appeal to a new young audience.

With a goal to make “shoes as comfortable as slippers”, Lancashire-based Hotter may sound like the antithesis of fashion, but the firm is now big business. Each year it sells more than two million pairs of shoes whose USP is a sole featuring thousands of air bubbles, and sales hit £75m in 2013.

“We want people to put our shoes on and have that ‘aah’ moment,” said its chief executive, Peter Taylor.

Hotter’s target market of over-45s is proving lucrative against a backdrop of ageing populations. “We are not in the sexiest area of the marketplace, but in demographic terms it is an area that is growing,” said Taylor. “Once you get over 40, your feet do start changing shape. It’s a balancing act, but there’s no reason why you can’t have comfort and style.”

Independent footwear chain Shoon is also targeting growth in this specialist area. It has been bought by entrepreneurs Ken Bartle and Peter Phillips, who previously revived the fortunes of high street chain Jones the Bootmaker.

“It is very difficult to design a pointed three-inch heel that is really comfortable,” said Bartle. “What is comfortable, though, is nice leather. Comfort doesn’t have to be ugly.”

9 Shoe Shopping Rules Everyone Should Know

Contain yourselves ladies, because we’ve got all the secrets and insider tips you need to know to finally score that perfect pump at the perfect price! Or, you know, pumped up kicks or whatever you like.

1. Beware of your budget.

Already own three pairs of black heels? Remember: just because they’re on sale, doesn’t mean you need them. “Don’t impulse buy,” warns on-air fashion stylist and author Dawn Del Russo. “Instead, keep a list of the shoes that you’re actually looking for on hand and stick to it.”

2. Shop at the end of the day.

Believe it or not, your hands and feet swell throughout the day, so purchasing a pair of shoes in the morning could cause you major pain later on, explains Rebecca Raleigh, an LA fashion stylist, educator and costume designer. To get a “true size,” Jacqui Stafford, style expert and author of “The Wow Factor: Insider Style Secrets for Every Body and Every Budget,” recommends shopping at the end of the day. “Once your feet have been moving, your shoes will fit better and be more comfortable.”

3. Know your arch type.

If tracking down a pair of comfy athletic shoes is more like mission impossible, a high or flat arch may be to blame. To find out for sure, Erica Lynn Stanley, Design Director of …me Too shoes, says to wet the bottom of your foot and step on a piece of white paper. Based on the wet parts of the paper, you should be able to determine your arch type. For example, if you have a flat arch, you’ll see most of your footprint. If you have a high arch, the middle part of your footprint (your arch) will be missing. And if you have a normal arch, about half of it will wet the paper. Armed with this knowledge, you can then shop for the right shoe for you.

4. Try on three sizes before you buy.

Better safe than sorry, right!? First, suggests women’s footwear designer Anyi Lu of ANYI LU International, try on the shoe size that you typically wear. “Then try on a half size smaller and a half size larger. Many people are stuck on the numbers,” she notes, “but different brands—and even different shoes within a brand—vary. Your feet will tell you what size to buy.”

Podiatrist Dr. Steven L. Rosenberg, DPM, adds that if you’re unsure, to always go with the half size bigger. “You can doctor it up by placing an insole or Instant Arches in the shoe, which prevent foot slippage,” he says.

5. If you can’t walk in it, don’t buy it.

This is what Baroness Monica von Neumann, owner and founder of Baroness von Neumann Candles (she was most recently featured in the documentary God Save My Shoes), calls a “sitting pretty shoe.”  In other words, it looks fab, but realistically, you can’t wear it. Save your money, and purchase something practical instead.

6. Befriend the sales associate.

For the best deals, become besties with the sales associate! Okay, not literally, but you know what we mean… “They’ll help you find exactly what you’re looking for within your price range. Sometimes they’ll even give you an extra little discount if you really hit it off,” says Raleigh. As an insider, they can also alert you to upcoming sales. “Yes, the associate wants that commission, but the most important thing to them (or it should be) is building a relationship with you so you’ll become a repeat customer.” Hey, loyalty pays!

7. Wear something cute.

Everyone feels good when they look good, so yeah…trying on an amazing pair of heels while sporting yoga pants? Probably not the smartest idea ever, warns Karen Parker O’Brien, President of Style Room Shopping Tour Experiences.

8. Consider wedges.

According to midtown Manhattan podiatrist, Dr. Jacqueline M. Sutera, DPM, high heels can cause or make worse conditions such as bunions, hammertoes, ingrown toenails, blisters, bone spurs, neuromas (pinched nerves of the foot), sprains, stress fractures and tendonitis/tendon injuries. Eek!

“While the American Podiatric Medical Association recommends a heel height of 2 inches or less,” notes Jacqueline, “for people seeking a bigger boost, a wedge can be a great option! If the shoe has a platform, the front height will basically make it so you’re wearing a shorter heel. Plus, wedges have a larger surface area to distribute your body weight across, giving you that much more support.”

9. Forget trends.

If the shoe doesn’t work for your body, put it back and keep on shopping! For instance, an ankle bootie or shoe with an ankle strap can cut off your leg, making it appear shorter,” says Accessories Stylist at ShoeDazzle Anya Sarre. “That’s not a good look for someone who already has short legs, even though it may be the trend.

Tips on Choosing the Perfect Plus Size Steampunk Clothing

In a world of modernity, infinite changes and a host of stereotypes, where do the plus size women fit in? Lane Bryant has the answer. The brand started in 1904, focused on plus size clothing by Lane Bryant, whose name being misspelled on a bank application form paved the wayfor plus size clothing. Later came the plus size Steampunk clothing style for people who won’t compromise on style for any reason. This clothing style represents the aesthetics of a steam-powered society, integrated with the look of classic Victorian England and the American West.

Steampunk clothing can be formal or informal, fantastic or practical. Most attire of this sub-culture includes a set of goggles or other elementsof fictional origins. One major aspect of the Steampunk genre is its ever evolving aesthetics and inclusion of neo-modern ideas. The basic ideology behind crafting plus size Steampunk clothing is to showcase the body in a grand and spectacular way. You might assume that buying your first plus size Steampunk clothing will be expensive and tiresome, but the truth is that you can have a enjoyable shopping experience if you follow few simple guidelines.

Tips on Buying Plus Size Steampunk Clothing

Eden Miller didn’t have really think of creating history when her first plus size designs hit the ramp in the recent New York Fashion week. So, if that is a cause of inspiration for you, whatever size you might be, plus size Steampunk clothing will have something interesting to offer you. Here are some useful guidelines to follow while shopping:

Pricing

While making a budget for your plus size Steampunk clothing collection, keep away half or three quarters of the estimated spend on one major costume, such as a gorgeous Steampunk inspired leather corset, an extravagant Gypsy dress or a chic collared waistcoat. The rest of the money can be spent on accessories, but at least one piece of clothing should be on the shopping cart that defines you distinctly as a Steampunk lover or Victorian fashion fan.

Colors

Plus size Steampunk clothing need not always be in browns, blacks, whites and greys. Although these coloursare the most common, you don’t really need to stay with convention. As Steampunk fashion is partially based on Victorian aesthetics, where the women enjoyed bright and bold colors, you too can choose colours that best define you. You are free to your attire in vibrant chemical dyes or even machine-woven patterned fabric that is colourful, intricate and highly decorative.

Eye on Aesthetics

You could look for inexpensive plus size Steampunk clothing at thrift stores and retail units near your home.The only thing to keep in mind is theaesthetics in whatever you choose. Lacy Victorian-style corsets, brown and red patchwork jackets, Black Magic Woman styled bustiers or even a butterfly patterned gypsy dress are just a few items to look for. Don’t lose your focus while trying to fit in with the fashion trends; match your clothing with not only your budget but also with your personal style.

Simple plus size Steampunk clothing is just perfect and can make you stand out among the crowd. The important thing is to choose wisely.