Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, September 24, 2001

Mary King models the rocker look with a D&G black leather
dress, $675; Versace Jeans Couture embellished denim jacket,
$345; Prada black microfiber short boot, $490; Isabella Fiore
rock 'n' roll tote, $325; and Neiman Marcus black macro
fishnet stockings, $14. All are from Neiman Marcus.

These boots are made for stylin'

Get rid of those clunky, kid-stuff
stompers -- this season's boots will
sheathe your feet in sleek, sexy style

By Nadine Kam

If you hear people talking about great lengths in fashion these days, it's not a reference to skirts. While the boot modestly reappears every fall, nothing has quite prepared us for its sudden ascent as the season's must-have accessory. Designers have made them available in several styles, in lengths ranging from the down-to-earth bootie to trampy, lacy leather numbers that reach for the thighs.

Hawaii is not exactly a boot-wearing kind of place, with the exception of military, club kids and public-safety personnel in need of utilitarian gear. Our weather makes wearing boots somewhat impractical. I learned this at a tender age, after one particularly malodorous experience in the eighth grade, when a classmate deigned to remove her white go-go boots during an afternoon health class. Whew!

In spite of this, I grew up to become a big fan of boots. Doc Martens, cowboy, granny, bootie, knee-high styles -- I've worn them all and waited for the rest of the world to catch up.

This season, they have, with fashion houses delivering a plethora of ankle and midcalf styles embellished with zippers, shoelaces, grommets and buckles, plus 6-, 8- and 10-inch pant boots -- which in spite of the name are not meant to remain hidden under cloth.

If you're already a boot fan, note that the older chunky and platform styles of your club days just won't do. The new boots are sleek and polished, either elfin pointy, or with flattened, squared toes a la Prada. If you must have a platform, it's generally should be no more than a half-inch thick.

Those who've never worn boots before can ease into the movement thanks to casual -- but by no means boring -- styles that resemble ocean tabis or running shoes (Prada's sport bootie, $380 at Neiman Marcus) or bowling shoes (RBS booties in black and camel or black and red, $138.95 at Nordstrom). The rubber-soled RBS booties are a draw for everyone from teens to senior women, according to Nordstrom staffers.

The equestrian look at left starts with a moss-colored
sleeveless turtleneck, $148, suede jacket, $478, and
denim pant, $98, all from DKNY; Prada knee-high
riding boot, $690; and Marc Jacobs purse, $580.

Other booties have just a little more leather on top than your typical spike-heeled shoe, and the colors of choice are black, red, black, camel and more black.

This season, boots are not just mere afterthoughts chosen to finish an outfit. No, no, no. The boot comes first, the wardrobe is built around it, and you'd better get them while it's still hot out. In Hawaii, which is populated by an army of small Asian women and visited by even more small Asian women, sizes 5 to 7 tend to sell out quickly, according to Rita Gera, an assistant manager at Nine West, Ala Moana Center.

With so many styles available, she said it's typical for customers to try on as many as 15 pairs, returning two or three times before making a decision, especially because boot prices are about double that of shoes.

Boot virgins often ask the sales staffs what to wear with their new footwear, hardly the attitude of take-charge, spirited, boot-wearing wenches. The first rule of boot dressing is there really are no rules. Prance around in them for a while, and you'll understand why. They are the ultimate power shoes, as any police officer or soldier will avow. You'll feel like stomping on a few toes, and maybe that feeling of strength is just what we all need right now.

The New Romantic look of Miu Miu comprises a sheer
floral-print blouse, $430, denim pleated skirt, $200, and
granny boot, $520. Clothing courtesy of Neiman Marcus.

The rebellious nature of boot dressing invites contrary thinking, as in wearing solid black leather boots with the soft, "new romantic" look of lace and silks.

The most versatile of the boots for Hawaii wearers is the 6-inch pant boot, which can appear tame when worn with jeans, or daring when paired with a short skirt.

At Nine West at Ala Moana, Japanese visitors have been buying up the midcalf boots, a tough style for those with shapely daikon calves to wear, as boot makers wrongly assume all legs are straight. I warn you now, look for elasticized vents, or you may not be able to zip yourself in.

In any case, fashion's multiple directions this fall offer many personas to try on. Here are the key looks and a sampling of boots to look for:

>> City Slick -- Go pure urban in crisp, tailored jackets, pantsuits and dresses with no frills attached. At night, try on tuxedo styles in pantsuits or coat dresses. A 6- or 10-inch boot or pointy, stiletto-heeled bootie also says you mean business.

>> Equestrian -- Look for tailored luxury in the form of short, fitted jackets and pants in nubby tweeds and herringbone, and earthy tones. Knee-high boots complete the ensemble.

>> Mods, bohemians and rockers -- Rock 'n' roll may have died in 1994, but the look still lives. Look for form-fitting leather dresses and skirts, denim in every style, peasant blouses and gypsy dresses with corseted or cinched waists, and graffiti and mod prints, with a few feathers here and there, and boots in any length.

>> New Romantic -- Flowing, innocent and ultra-femme, think of soft and sheer silk blouses worn with fluttery skirts, pointy schoolgirl collars or ruffled necklines, and boots in midcalf and granny styles.

So what are you waiting for? Start walking.

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