Fashion: Step into the season's best looks with shoes adorned with miniature horses' bits.

BUCKLE UP

September 12, 1996|By Vida Roberts | Vida Roberts,SUN FASHION EDITOR

The shoes on the Today front yesterday were incorrectly identified. The shoes are, (from top): Stuart Weitzman brown croc loafer, $195, at Hess Shoes. Red lizard by Pappagallo, $55, at Hecht's. Burgundy patent by Two Lips, $60, at Nordstrom. Mint suede by Steve Madden, $60, at Nordstrom. Black suede chunk loafer by Berne Mev, $110, at Joanna Gray. Red/black spectator by Valerie Stevens, $50, at Hecht's.

The Sun regrets the error.

Will it be a snaffle or a ruffle this fashion season? It will be a snaffle, the part of a horse's mouthpiece which consists of two bars joined by a ring. You will see it on horses and more shoe styles than it is possible to track. To the horsy set, snaffle says tack; to the fashion set, it says Gucci.

That piece of equestrian hardware for seven decades has been a symbol of the house founded by Guccio Gucci in Florence in 1920. Guccio worked his way up from a life of service to the super-rich to the saddlery trade, establishing a workshop where he sold lavishly priced leather gear.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Horsy trappings have traditionally been linked with the affluent class, which can maintain a stable in style. However, when Gucci took tack from dressage to dressing, a fashion legend was born.

The Gucci horse bit first became an international status logo in the '50s when it adorned loafers, bags and belts worn by old royals like Queen Elizabeth, new royals like Grace Kelly and assorted tycoons, stars and pretenders. By the '70s, Gucci was spoken everywhere and understood by everyone, even the hired help.

In the '80s, status symbols fell from grace and the Gucci loafer along with other luxury logo wear was stepped down in class to nouveau riche cliche level.

Now status symbols are returning to favor and the Gucci label is stronger than ever, even though the name no longer belongs to the family who lost it in a rocky history of vendettas, brawls, slayings and financial intrigues.

The Gucci bridle bit motif, which over the years has been counterfeited, copied and modified, is being reinvented as trim in shoe collections from budget Payless styles to Gucci originals. It's the metal of the moment.

Gucci, however, is not the only retro revival in shoe and accessory styling. Mod and disco clothing inspirations with their narrower and leaner proportions call for a balance in shoe design. There are things to consider in shopping for a total look:

Silhouette

The body of shoes now is heavier, whether they be pumps, loafers or boots. Seen in profile, heels are chunkier and square with little or no taper to the tip.

Clunky is the operative word because a stolid, set-back heel does create that sound effect. Walk on a hard surface; if you clunk, the shoe is now. If you teeter; it's yesterday.

Heels hovering around 2 inches seem to work best with that added weight. However, even flats have a built-up and broader heel not unlike that of a man's wingtips.

Toes have gained weight, too, with a squarish cut giving a wider appearance and, perhaps, more wiggle room. Along with the snubby and girlish toe come strappy Mary Jane styles. Careful with these. They can look trendy with a short Carnaby Street mini, but they can easily tilt into Minnie Mouse mode. T-straps have the same currency, without the perils.

Moccasin and loafer stitching is popular on heavy casuals as well as more refined styles which are meant for longer skirt wear. Here again, the vamp is high for a substantial look.

Synthetic composition soles with some thickness and lug treads are moving up to dress styles.

Texture

Along with high-gloss leather finishes, there are matte treatments of suede and nubuck, embossed crocodile and lizard and pearlized color. A puzzling turn is a use of printed and solid pony skin in high-end designer lines because the fuzzy finish adds about three shoe sizes to the look of any foot. Not for the money.

Color

There's black always. Brown, however, is again being touted as the new black and shades reminiscent of good old Kiwi shoe polish like cordovan and oxblood do look new. Purply eggplants and black cherry reds could be the extra dressing.

Boots

Side-zipped, above-the-ankle Beatle boots are back in a big way. The Fab Four wore them with stovepipe mod pants and that's the only way. Booties are a good investment for a major pants season, but never to be worn with a skirt.

Mid-calf, shaped hippie boots are back too. Designers show a glimpse of textured stocking between boot top and hem. That's a tricky proportion to tame, so a safer bet is pairing them with a near ankle-length narrow skirt.

Big handy hint: After a summer of slipping into mules and going nearly barefoot, trying on boots can be a squeeze. Even with help from a trained sales clerk that push past the instep can hurt. Carry a thin plastic grocery bag. Place it folded lengthwise along the inside back of the boot and hold on to the handle. Let your foot slide along the plastic until it is past the tight spot. Done.

So what if this raises eyebrows in the Manolo Blahnik crowd? Smart is always in style.

On the cover

Styling by Pascale Lemaire. Shoes (from the top): Red lizard by Pappagallo, $55, at Hecht's. Burgundy patent by Two Lips, $60, at Nordstrom. Mint suede by Steve Madden, $60, at Nordstrom. Black by Berne Mev, $110, at Joanna Gray. Red/black spectator by Valerie Stevens, $50, at Hecht's. Black suede by Bis/Charles Jourdan, $165, at Joanna Gray. Inset: Boot by Via Spiga, $200, at Hess.

Pub Date: 9/12/96

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