Beauty Q&A: She’s Got Legs

Listen, this isn’t a makeup question, but still important for the overall *Lady Effect*:

Part 1. I live in a college town and there are a lot of formals this time of year, shorrrrt tiiiight dresses, big blowout hair, and extremely tall shoes. Very few of these pretty ladies know how to walk in high heels … resulting in weird crouch-monster gaits. It has also made me paranoid that maybe I walk like that in heels? HOW DO YOU WALK IN HEELS LIKE A LADY?! I checked YouTube for tutorials, but they weren’t that helpful.

Part 2. ALSO, I walk to/from work everyday (uphill. Both ways. I swear) and am always irritated about what shoes to wear. Should I wear walking shoes to walk in and change once I get to work? Should I (as a very classy lady) wear the heels I’d like to wear all day, no changing? But they hurt me, so I don’t want to. Is there a perfect shoe? FYI: I usually wear flats because I’m afraid of the issue in Part 1 and the problems in Part 2.

Last things first: Please don’t hurt yourself! You should definitely wear cute walking shoes to work, yes. Please, do not wear hose and cross trainers! Worishofer’s (below, in red) for your summer foot-commute perhaps? If you can afford to have a couple pairs of Sexy Date Heels in your closet at home and a few Comfortable Work Heels under your desk, you’ll have it made. Before we talk about how to walk in heels, let’s get you some painless but still cute/sexy pairs. My podiatrist (yes, I have one, whatever! I’m old!) says if you (I) can’t afford Prada, these will lean slightly chunky/crunchy, but here are a few great and reasonably priced brands with a comfortable toe box and sole.

Indigo by Clark’s (left) makes high heels that are very wearable (a friend of mine wears them to the hospital she’s doing her residency at and swears by them), and they keep coming out with hotter, trendier styles. And I have these saddle shoe heels from Bass (above) that are sooo comfy and kiiinda hot. As far as super-sexy shoes go, I find it’s hit or miss. I have one pair of Chinese Laundry platforms that never hurt (one of my friends has the same pair, same feeling), one pair of Guess, and, not to make a sweeping statement, but after a bit of Googling, it seems my three other comfy pairs are from Jones Group brands? Who knows? It’s a numbers game in the end. Unfortunately, the only wearable spike-heeled strappy insanely sexy shoes out there are usually uncomfortable and take a real pro to walk in them without injury.

OK, now that you have your shoes, how to get about in them without looking sad? Posture is key. Stand up straight, just as tall as you can, chin high-ish, shoulders back, eyes aimed straight ahead and try walking across the room in your new shoes. Pretend you are a model on ANTM. Do not look at your feet. It’s the same principle as being a good waitress: You only spill the coffee when you look at it. Don’t look; eyes straight ahead. If you feel your knees bending or your shoulders dipping/slouching a bunch, well, that’s not standing up as tall and straight as you can, now, is it? Is your ass slumping like it’s about to take a seat every step? Try again. If you’re finding this super difficult, I seriously, no kidding, think you should try the “balancing a book on your head” technique. Think these thoughts when you take it to the streets: “Not in a scary way, but seriously, every person I pass is so sad that they cannot throw me off my perfect balance and wife me right now.” As with most things beauty-related, you aren’t doing it right if you don’t feel, at least a little bit, like you look like an asshole. (Trust me that you don’t actually look like an asshole.)

And if none of this gives you confidence on your toes, fuck it and work the hell out of some flats. No heel is gonna make up for looking like an uncomfortable drunk baby deer.

I am about to embark on my official career after spending my entire life learning. The world I am about to enter is not one that demands suits or dainty dresses everyday but it IS a notoriously badly dressed profession (OK, OK I’m a librarian). I’ve been doing pretty good so far at remaining hip but still work-appropriate, but one thing plagues me: How in heavens does one figure out what color tights/nylons/stockings/what have you to wear with what. I’ve been doing the fleshy colored ones pretty exclusively, but I know it likely looks ridiculous half the time.

Any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated, probably by the entire librarian world.

I promise you librarians & hosiery = hot. First though, do me a favor? Throw away any flesh colored hosiery you own right this minute. If you want the look of bare skin, it is perfectly acceptable these days to go bare at work with a knee length or longer skirt. If you feel too pale or bruised/veiny, use a little self-tanner or leg makeup! And though we’re headed into summer, I understand working in a cold, air-conditioned-to-all-hell environment every day can be torture (I run a space heater under my desk all summer). So, other rules of thumb: Only wear hose with mid-calf or higher cut skirts/dresses, never wear them with capris, and a fun trend right now is opaque tights under shorter shorts so long as you choose a not-too-sexy shoe — boots or Mary Janes work well. And before we shop, browse some of these styles for inspiration.

OK, for most looks, you’ll want the following on hand:

One pair of patternless plain opaque black tights and a few pair of plain opaque colored tights. (Opaque meaning solid but not necessarily thick.) Colored tights are a chance to have fun with your look: they do not need to match whatever else you’re wearing especially if you’re wearing neutrals. Sure, get a brown and grey pair, but also try jewel tones (I am partial to the burgundy/magenta range) and for now avoid fluorescents or anything iffy. Spend an afternoon trying on at home with your different outfits.

Three or four pairs of textured tights in neutral colors. By this I mean like a semi-opaque pair with a textured stripe or knitted look, a pair of faux fishnets, some lacy-looking tights, and a few wool or cotton knitted numbers. Again, first get the hose, then figure out what they go with once you’re home with your wardrobe.

Two pairs of very nice sheer black hose, possibly with a seam up the back or side. Obviously, these will go with most fancier things if you’re opposed to bare legs.

I know this sounds expensive, but wait! Department store clearance joints are, I swear to god, the most ridiculously amazing places for hosiery. Think Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Filene’s Basement, Nordstrom Rack. I’ve only been able to notice the irregularity that landed them there once or twice, and I don’t remember it ever stopping me from wearing them. The prices are low enough that you won’t be scared to take a risk and buy ’em just to try ’em. (You’re welcome, TJ Maxx for your new slogan. Freal, “Maxxinista”??) Seriously though, you can even find Wolford’s for like $25, which is insane. Once you’re totally a hose pro, all bets are off. Go have fun at, say, Anthropologie, where they have awesome crazy tights or, better yet, write me back and I’ll take you into garter territory. ; )

Previously: Wedding Makeup.

Jane Feltes produces the radio program “This American Life,” and no makeup companies pay her to say any of this. Do you have a question for Jane?