Long before Karl Lagerfeld stamped the double C logo on every Chanel bag, belt and button and the Vuitton fleur de lis became a knockoff cliche, a woman of discriminating style was known by the quality of her shoes and handbag. That meant perfectly crafted pumps and a structured purse of the finest leather. Those who could pay the price wore alligator -- the status turnout, a discreet message of belonging to the fashion sorority. The '30s, '40s and '50s were the dressy decades.
Fashion evolved and we had the decades when plastic go-go boots, combat boots, sneakers and schlep totes became acceptable wear for a day in town.
But now the sneaker generations are beginning to see the charm of dressing up.
Clothes this season have retro roots and along with dressier silhouettes, the alligator bag and shoes have been brought out of the storage closet of ideas. Gator and croc finishes are everywhere.
Real skins are still found at the fanciest specialty houses, but like their predecessors, their cost is stratospheric. Donna Karan's alligator pump retails at $1,500 with matching clutch at $745. Other labels can cost as much as an economy car, but those are for the showoffs.
Mock croc patterns, however, are the reality for women who want the look without going bankrupt. Although virtual copies of retro styles abound, today's designers give faux reptiles a playful spin. They can be had in pressed shiny black vinyl totes, gator print backpacks large and small or on primary colors which never occur in nature.
The classic brown or black pump with a set-back or louis heel makes an appearance everywhere this season, but there are updated gators for the sportier set. Loafers may be mounted on lug soles with a clunky mod heel. Gator boots may be set on a spike heel. There are even alligator mules.
Sophisticated crocs are now tinted dark green, bright red or navy for a shot of color in a season of neutrals and spare clothing.
How to wear mock croc?
Tailored brown walking shoes are a natural with traditional suitings and the camel-hair coats which are enjoying a revival, too.
Slick black heels finish the curvy-yet-conservative suits, which are the wardrobe staple of the season.
A pretend alligator belt gives jeans a city finish.
An alligator watchband, or even a printed headband, is a small way to go gator.
Women who want to accessorize in a wilder way can choose even more exotic finishes. This is also the season of pony prints, cow patterns, dalmatian spots and painted snakes. It seems that mother nature is the designer who is most often copy-catted.
ON THE COVER
* Styling by Suzin Boddiford
Hair and makeup by Matthew Van Leuwen for Makeup Forever
Model: Amy Nussbaum/3 West Casting
Headband, $10, at Macy's. Croc bag, $285, at That Handbag Place. Loafers, $110, at Joanna Gray of London.