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WW Active: The Good, the Bad, and the WTH?

So. Yesterday in my inbox, I found an announcement of Woman Within’s new WW Active line. It’s a collection of activewear, exercise equipment, and blog for fat… er… plus sized women. So far the blog only has two entries, so I can’t say much about it other than it’s got cheerful graphics of straight-sized women and has not yet specifically mentioned weight loss.

While I haven’t seen the clothes up close and personal, I did take a bit of a gander at the offerings on tap to see what I thought of them. Overall, they look practical and comfortable. Most of the pieces do include polyester and/or spandex, but I did find a couple all-cotton shirts, which is nice. Let’s encourage more of that, shall we? And most of the pieces in the collection do seem to include some cotton along with the synthetics.

Most pieces offer color choices, some of them a positively dizzying number, which pleased me to no end. For instance, those yoga pants shown above? come with your choice of twelve color combinations. Okay, all that changes on these is the color of the stripe down the leg, but many pieces come in eight, twelve, even sixteen completely different colors.

Speaking of choices, most of the pants come in petite sizes as well as regular, and quite a few also come in tall. And while the largest size I found among the pieces I actually looked at was 6x – and I only found a couple of those – the size chart tops out at 7x. I have high hopes that that means we’ll soon see attractive, reasonably priced activewear for women up to size 46w/48w. Most of the pieces in the collection seem to go up to 5x, though I did find a couple pantsuits that only went up to 1x. Still, if you’re super sized, there’s a good chance you can find something to wear in this collection. And chances are it will come in a pretty color. I even found athletic shoes up to a 13xww!

Another thing I appreciated was the fact that the line includes exercise equipment. On the downside, nearly half the section is made up of scales and juicers, with only a couple actual pieces of exercise equipment. On the very upside is the unfortunately named Love Handles Exerciser.

What do I think is so great about this machine? Well, basically it consists of two handles which, according to the write up on the site can be attached to nearly any chair or wheelchair. Yes, this site is actually willing to acknowledge that an inability to walk doesn’t necessarily mean you have no interest in fitness.

On the downside of the fitness equipment is the constant talk in the write ups about fat burning, which, I know, is to be expected, but still disappoints my little activist soul. On the even more downside, many pieces of equipment are designed to hold no more than 250ibs. and the treadmill is only rated up to 225lbs. I hope that more equipment for the super sized will become available as time moves on. As things stand, I would break the treadmill, since I’m somewhere in the 240 range.

So yes, there are some downsides. But compared to what has been available for the larger athlete (aka: virtually nothing), Woman Within has done a pretty darn good job, and I applaud them for it.

Oh, and right now? Most of the items in the catalog are on sale. Plus, to sweeten the pot, WW is offering a 20% discount on your entire WW Active order with sales code WWActive20 until 2/28/12.

Let’s support a good effort, and keep our criticisms constructive.

Fat Foot Week! Five Great: Tall Boots for the Fatted Calf

You know what? “Wide calf” boots can just go ahead and bite me. They SAY “wide calf” but are like, 16″ instead of 14″ and it makes me insane. I do not have freakishly large calves and they are almost pure muscle –which is what happens when a girl genetically predispositioned to muscular calves goes to college built into the side of a mountain– so WHY is it so damn hard to find boots that fit my damn legs?

I get SO. MANY. EMAILS. asking for a good pair of knee high boots for under $100. Honestly I think that’s aiming a little low for a real leather boot, even if it is made in China, but it shouldn’t be impossible to find an at least marginally better than average quality solid leather –I HATE those stupid elastic panels– boot for $200.

Which brings me to the subject of Good Boots.

There are some shoes where you can cheap out. Fabric evening shoes? You can get a nice pair of Nina’s for $60 and no one’s the wiser, but boots take up too much visual space and attention to go cheap and cheap boots look cheap. Which isn’t to say I didn’t wear the hell out of my white stretch vinyl boots when I was doing burlesque-flavored go-go on the weekends (good times) but that is not this.

Obviously you could go with calf-fit boots from Duo. Right now they’re having a HUGE honking sale so this might be your best bet if you’re looking to buy boots right now.

That being said,  I also have been Less Than Impressed with the Duo customer service. I ordered two pairs of boots on January 1st. They warned that shipments to the US might take a bit longer than the seven day delivery thanks to slowdown in customs. But it’s been 15 business days since I ordered them and they haven’t even made it through customs. Not only did they not send a tracking number automatically (and doesn’t EVERYONE do that these days?) when I contacted customer service they were not especially polite or friendly.

They finally provided me with tracking numbers. Turns out my boots haven’t even made it through customs yet, and I find it awfully unusual that I can get a pair of shoes shipped from Italy and have them get through customs in two days, but these boots from England are taking the better part of a week.

And interestingly, when I asked where exactly the boots were made, the response was “Our boots are made in small family owned factories throughout Southern Europe, using leather sourced from Italy.” and that sounds juuust a little shady to me, because to me when you say Southern Europe instead of Spain or Italy that means Turkey and Croatia and I’m just not super comfortable with the idea of boots being made in non-EU European countries. Anyway, I had two DUO boots listed as recommended, but they’ve left a bad taste in my mouth, I’m taking them off until I get the boots (and they had better be PERFECTION).

ANYHOODLE let’s have some boots, shall we?

Fat Foot Week! Five Great: Heels for Day

Day heels are a big blind spot for me. I mean sure I’ve got ’em, I’ve been bouncing around all day in a pair of 4 1/2″ DVF peep toes that I can wear for 8 hours without a pinch and I wish I’d bought them in every color, but when it comes time to drop bank on shoes, I’ll usually pass by the day shoes because they’re not special enough to justify that sort of money. Don’t let this happen to you. Splurging on top-quality day shoes is an excellent investment as your cost-per-wear is lower and as we all know, an expensive shoe can make a bargain basement outfit look posh, but a cheap heel will ruin your head-to-toe Dior.

I like to err on the side of basic when it comes to a day heel, particularly if I’m wearing it to the office, because it’s more about polish than fashion. I’ve found if you go too capital F Fashion at most offices you run the risk of the Fabulous overshadowing the Competent.

On to the shoes!

The first offering that’s About The Look and not about the shoe is the Stuart Weitzman “Bonjour” in a lovely slightly gilded taupe leather with a 3″ heel and half inch platform.  I’m not usually a bow girl. Even most of my Valentinos –and Valentino is known for them– are sans bows, but the bow here makes the shoe special, and provides visual interest without being too twee.  Also, when you’re dealing with this sort of leather, a scuff here or there actually adds character to the leather, so you can abuse them a bit more than a pair of delicate kid kicks.

One good Stewie deserves another, and I am All About these Stuart Weitzman “Mocup” heels (on BIG sale). Listen, I don’t know how Stewie does it, but he makes THE most wearable high heels I’ve ever worn, and honestly at this point, I’m pretty sure I’ve worn every major designer so I’m not just whistling Dixie. Once upon a time I had a pair of Stewies with what must have been a 5 1/2″ heel and I swear I could traipse up mountains in them. There’s something about the  way they balance the heel. It’s amazing.

These have a 4″ heel and a 1″ platform with ample padding. They’re available in black patent, a deep olive suede,and a tobacco leather, all worth having.

Okay, that’s enough of the spendy shoes, let’s go to something a bit more cheap and cheerful.

Fat Foot Week! Five Great: Flats for the Fat of Foot

Okay, well it’s Fat Foot Week and there’s no better place to start than the bottom. Flats. Love ’em or hate ’em, a girl’s gotta have at least a pair. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have any personal experience with most of the brands we’re going to be dealing with today, so caveat emptor and whatnot.

First up are these little “Neve” ankle-strap skimmers from Gabriella Rocha. I’ve never worn any of her shoes, but they’re pretty cute and modern-looking, with good lines and fun colors. We’ll be seeing more of them this week.

Next is the Geneva from Romantic Soles. They come in a mess of colors, but the beige looks very much like the Chanel and Delman flats with the sculpted leather flowers on the vamp, both of which I’ve always liked.

Speaking of Chanel, you can definitely see the Coco influence in the cap-toe “Buffy” by Fitzwell. They’re all man-made materials so these might be a good pick for those of you who don’t like to wear leather.

Also animal friendly are the “Gable” slip-ons from Annie that come in wide and double wide. They come in five colors, but I like the purple velvet suede treatment the best.

Finally we have the grossly misnamed “Burlesque” from Hush Puppies. These are the exact sort of shoes that people go nuts over because they think they have some sort of “naughty librarian” thing going on and I just have to shut up and try not to make faces because I just.don’t.get.it. But here they are and they come in narrow, medium, wide and double wide so have at ’em.

Fat Foot Week: The Preamble

I’ve always felt guilty for not writing about wide-width shoes.

Here I am, slingin’ verbs for Manolo the Shoeblogger, I own…well I don’t know how many shoes, but I can see <countcountcount> 14 pair and six stragglers, and that’s just on the baby grand I spite-bought a few years ago because you know, I’m mature like that.

Anyway, I’ve got fat feet, the best or maybe second-best (Style Spy still probably beats me) shoe collection of anyone I know, and a whole awesome audience full of women who just want pretty shoes to fit their fat feet. It ought to be a no-brainer.

Yeah. Well.

You know how there are writers who do research and write complex, beautifully articulated prose? Yeah. Those people are suckers. I’ve been at a newspaper since I was 22 and still I resent having to Google, so funk that unbiased reportage noise. I am at heart a gonzo journalist. If I can’t talk about it from personal experience, I’m probably not gonna talk about it at all.

Because this is a personality-driven blog I really only feel comfortable recommending things I’d put on myself or someone I styled. I have a hard time pulling a piece for the blog that –however cute– doesn’t meet my personal quality standards. It just seems like dirty pool, particularly if I’m in the position to make a buck off it. It’s like “Oh I wouldn’t ever wear that rag, but it’s fine for you, since you’re infinitely less glamorous and stylish than I could ever be. Thanks for the cash though!” I mean I’m a jerk, but I’m not THAT big a jerk.

And yet.

I know not everyone has a ton of discretionary income to toss around. I certainly don’t and I don’t have kids or a mortgage or a scorching coke habit to deal with. It’s just me and the dog, and the dog is used. So while I know some folks read the blog as aspirational, I never intended to be that way.

When I first started writing for the blog, I wrote about my life; my stuff, my shoes, my utter incapability of maintaining a healthy adult relationship with a man who is in possession of both an American passport and his marbles. You know, the whole rich Plumcake pageantry. I purposefully didn’t make this an aspirational blog because honestly, unless you yearn to wake up in your shower naked except for fake hair, a roll of tin foil and a pair of cowboy boots (true story, 27th birthday party) I’m really not much of an aspirational figure. (No, I don’t know where the tin foil came from, but I do seem to recall a very short gay man holding my hair on while I danced. That happens to you guys too, right?)

So what does this have to do with fat feet?

Basically this: It’s slim pickings when it comes to wide shoes I’d actually buy. Aside from the aesthetic aspect, I don’t wear shoes made in countries known for sweatshop labor (you pick your battles, this is one of mine.) That pretty much leaves us with Stuart Weitzman and Salvatore Ferragamo and since I don’t wear Ferragamo, I’d pretty much be posting the same half-dozen Stewies over and over again. No one wants that.

Yet, like a baby in a tumble dryer, I can only ignore your cries for so long. You want wide width shoes, you’re gettin’ em. All week long. That being said, these get the Plumcake Seal of Approval on design alone. I don’t have experience with the brands. I’ve never touched ’em, held ’em, tried ’em on. You’re on your own out there, ducklings. Make your own call.

Shoe Month! Rossy and the Crocodile

I remember when I was but a young glamling, sitting in my friend Iolanda’s living room –her father was the Portuguese ambassador I believe, or something equally cool and mysterious– and watching my first Almodóvar movie, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

It’s funny, because I don’t remember being rocked by it in any profound way, although it’s one of my go-to fashion references now. We watched it and then spent the rest of the afternoon deciding which member of Color Me Badd we’d let go to second base as soon as we had second bases to go to.  You know, like you do.

What I do remember was being shocked at Rossy De Palma.  How could a woman who wasn’t conventionally beautiful be in a movie as a viable sex symbol? And yet the more I looked, the more fascinated I became, and now I think she is one of the most interestingly beautiful women I’ve ever seen:

Rossy de Palma by Ruven Afanador I

(also. See those shoes? I would stab you for those shoes. Yes, even you.)

Rossy de Palma by Ruven Afanador

(images courtesy of Château Thombeau)

Everything about her makes me want to look at her more.  There are a million and one bland, prettily perfect girls who get a look and nothing more (Katherine Heigl, I’m looking at you, briefly) but none of them are even a speck as intriguing as Ms De Palma.

“Uh, great Plumcake. Glad you like her…I thought this was a shoe post.”

It is. My reaction to the Vigotti Panya pump was much the same as my initial reaction to Rossy.

vigotti panya

I hated it. Historically, I have no great love for an angular Louis heel, and when I first saw this shoe I thought it was just another cheap kick with any old heel tacked on.  But I found myself going back to them over and over, and connecting them to Rossy de Palma in my mind.

Now perhaps it’s because they have a Spanish feel to them and I’ve got a deep fondness for Iberian chic, probably because of Almodóvar’s highly-stylized early influence, but the more I look at them, the more I love them.

The croc print is the best iteration for my fashionable farthing, but they’re available in several different treatments (and come in wide width) on sale at Zappos for under $75, which is no mean feat for a shoe that’s made in Brazil and not China.

No, Really, I Just Want Something to Wear on My Feet

Newsflash: I am neither an angel of mercy nor a bargain basement prostitute.

I just thought I’d get that right out there for everyone to see off the bat. Now I’ll proceed to explain why I feel it important for the general public to know this about me: shoes.

Last weekend was a frustrating one for me. The Manolosphere was blacked out by server troubles, the temperature rose some thirty or so degrees literally overnight, and my sandals chose that moment to die an irreversible death, leaving me with a choice of fleece-lined clogs or mid-calf boots to wear.

Now it’s a grim confession for a Manolosphere writer to admit such a tiny collection of footwear. It’s also damn uncomfortable to go out in  ninety-odd degree weather in fleece-lined shoes. I bit the bullet and informed Mr. Twistie that we were on a Mission From God to find me a pair of sandals.

Mr. Twistie has been known to quake in his shoes at such a pronouncement. Why? Because my feet are notoriously difficult to fit coupled with the fact that my sense of style is extremely particular. My arch is ridiculously high, and my sense of balance is…well…I’ve been known to fall off my heels in flats.

Nevertheless, Mr. Twistie knows an implacable Twistie when he sees one and dutifully drove me to a large mall. Said mall contains approximately eighty-five gazillion shoe stores, give or take a couple. It also contains three – count ’em, three – department stores. I trudged through every single one of them in a desperate search for a pair of flat sandals I could stick on my feet right then and there and wear home. You’d think with that many sources there would be a fighting chance of finding one damn pair of shoes I liked that fit.

You would, apparently, be wrong.

Okay, I admit I didn’t try out the ‘sensible’ shoe store. It’s not even (forgive me, Manolo!) that I have a problem with wearing Birkenstocks. I’ve done it before, and I’ll no doubt do it again. They fit. I don’t fall off them. They last for freaking ever. It’s just that for once in my life, I wanted a pair of at least marginally fashionable sandals. Just once. Is that really so much to ask?

I started out at Payless Shoes. This is not because of high quality or even their generally very low prices. It was because I’ve seen them stock reasonable looking shoes in wide sizes before, so it struck me as a good place to start looking. I headed for the row with my size and began the hunt, fairly certain I could at least find a pair of sandals I could wear while looking for a sturdier pair to last me longer.

No dice.

There was one, single pair of shoes in my size. They were hot pink metallic patent leather platform stiletto hooker sandals. Let us count the ways in which these are Not Twistie Shoes. We begin with ‘pink’ and end with ‘hooker.’ The only two words from that list I wanted in my footwear were ‘hot sandals.’

Still, that was one store. There was an entire mall full of shoes just waiting for someone to buy them. Besides, while Payless carries wide widths, they don’t exactly specialize in them. Perhaps they were just low on stock that day. Nothing daunted, I headed for a store that had a lovely selection of attractive flat sandals in real leather colors. Some had pretty beadwork, others decorative stitching that caught my Ren-Fairy eye. Some were simple while others were elaborate. The thing they all had in common was that they looked like something I wanted on my feet.

Wiping away the unladylike drool from my chin, I proceeded in and took a closer look. Good materials, decent workmanship, reasonable prices…I was in Shoe Heaven! Then I asked the fateful question: do you carry wide widths?

The girl looked at me as though I’d just asked for permission to park my spaceship on the premises. She then informed me that, no, she was sorry to be unable to help me, but her store didn’t carry wide shoes at all.

The next store was worse. The shoes – while less inspirational than in the previous one – were quite nice. The saleswoman was not. She didn’t just look confused, but outright disgusted to have been asked a simple question about the sizes available. She then sneeringly directed me to the ‘sensible’ shoe store.

On and on it went. Store after store, I got one of the above reactions. There was either polite befuddlement or outright contempt that I might think I had any right to put something pretty on my disgusting fat feet.

My last ditch effort was Sears. Their shoe section had nobody to ask for assistance or other sizes. It had gone self serve. There were helpful signs all around the department informing me that more styles and sizes were available at their website. Great. That didn’t help me when I was searching high and low all over the department looking for a pair of shoes I could try on AND WEAR HOME IN THE SCORCHING HEAT INSTEAD OF THE DAMN CLOGS.

After some minutes of diligent searching, I found one, single pair of wide width shoes in the whole of the Sears shoe department. They were a pair of sensible white bucks clearly meant for someone in the medical profession. I’m glad they recognized that, say, a nurse who stands on her feet all day might need shoes for work, and that they might even need a wide width. I’m in favor of that. I, however, am not a nurse. Even if I were one, I would still need something to wear on my feet in my off hours. And when I need sandals, I really don’t need bucks.

Oh, and some of us need a bit more from a shoe than simple width. I, for example, need to know that my freakishly high arch will fit into a shoe before I buy it. Purchasing shoes over the internet is simply not a practical option for some of us, aside from the fact that sometimes you just need a shoe immediately because you don’t have anything functional and appropriate to the season.

So, stiletto hooker shoes or angel of mercy white bucks. I wound up swinging through a Target on the way home. No, they didn’t have wide shoes, either, but we had a gift card and I found a pair of kind of cute sandals that weren’t all that uncomfortable to wear for less than twenty dollars. They will have to do for me until I find someplace where I can get a pair of sandals that actually fits and that I actually like.

In fact, if they just came in my actual size, I’d be content with the sandals I bought.

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