Friday, May 22, 2009

Celebrating of the (Unofficial) Start of Summer: A Review of 3 J.Crew Strappy Heeled Sandals

I had been stalking the Cinema T-strap Chunky Heel Sandals since they came out. My mission: to find a pair of summery, light-colored sandals that could pick up a lot of the pinks, fuchsias, yellows, aquas, and blues that I tend to wear in the warmer months. I also wanted shoes that would look good with gray and silver pieces in my wardrobe. Plus, they had to be comfortable and city-proof, so no sharp stiletto heels or light-colored satin confections. The heel I sought had to be higher than 2.5 inches but no more than 3 so I wouldn’t be teetering around painfully during the outdoorsy summer months. The Cinema T-strap Chunky Heel Sandals in Metallic Stone fit the bill perfectly, with one small problem: the almost $200 price tag. Out of principle, I balked at paying anything more than $100 for a pair of sandals. However, visiting them daily on the website was starting to wear down my willpower (imagine that), so I made a mental decision to just bite the bullet and stop torturing myself already.

Armed with the justification that they would likely work with half of my wardrobe and embodied everything that I was looking for in a summer shoe made me feel slightly less guilty. I prepared myself mentally to take the plunge and plunk down the $200, knowing that waiting for them to go on sale would probably mean kissing them goodbye. I knew better than to wait too long – it’s darned near impossible to find my size as it is, let alone to risk waiting for the rare shoe that is made in my size (usually 5 in peep toe pumps or sandals, and 5.5 in closed-toed heels). I had learned this the hard way by missing one after another gorgeous heels in past seasons, most of which I could never find again on eBay in my size. So, I took a deep breath and approached my online cart, which had been ready and waiting for a couple of weeks.

Then, a sign came from above: the 20% Private Sale email arrived. I rejoiced vastly, for this was truly an auspicious omen. Regrettably, it took me no more than 5 minutes to decide that this was also a good opportunity to test out a couple of other sandals that I had been eyeing.

I had taken a liking as well to the Kendra Patent T-strap sandals, which looked so delicate and graceful, yet stood on a sturdy 3-inch heel. Magazines and J.Crew associates had been urging me in recent months to try a nude shoe on the premise that it could elongate my leg. Not one to pass up any feature that might make my 5-foot frame look taller and my legs look longer, I finally heeded their advice. I picked out the Kendra in a nice nude Champagne, which not only came in a 5.5 but also instructed shoppers to “order a half-size up.” This made my chances of fitting into them even more likely. Besides, I rationalized, Champagne was the ultimate neutral. Furthermore, the price of $168 wasn’t as hard to swallow with an additional 20% discount.

As an afterthought (and not wanting to waste a precious opportunity to not only get my size but try on a bunch of shoes before the dread Final Sale hit), I decided to take a chance on one more shoe: the Carina Metallic T-strap heels in Metallic Gold, the Kendra’s more glittery sisters. In addition to a shoe that worked with all of the aforementioned shades, I had also been searching for a new pair of gold heels for quite some time. My sandals from previous years, though lovely, were starting to wear out, and in addition, they were purchased more for special occasions than for everyday use. Thus, the heels were not suited for frequent walks along the broken bricks and the cobblestone streets that I call home. In the past, it didn’t matter much, because I didn’t wear as much metal in the way of accessories. But now, thanks to copious baubles and metallic accessories that flooded in over the past several seasons, I now was no longer afraid to be a gilded lady.

The other issue with my older metallics was, well, with the metal. You see, platinum had been my bling of choice for as long as I can remember. This had aligned perfectly with previous incarnations of metallic heels such as the Lucie, Twyla, and Savoy. Then, somewhere between the deluge of golden yellows and an outpouring of gold jewelry into every store, platinum was simply not sunny enough anymore. I needed warm, glowing, and unapologetically yellow gold.

Armed with my discount, I placed an order for all 3 pairs of sandals. The days that followed were filled with restless anticipation. To channel my energy into something productive, I once again performed a clean-out of my closet, this time reaching deep beneath the guest bed to pull out several old pairs of shoes that I had been reluctant to part with. They had, after all, served me faithfully all these years, but now they had all lost their allure for one reason or another.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long before the giant box of goodies arrived (the benefit of living 3 hours from Lynchburg). After tearing it open and unleashing the plastic box straps without cutting my fingers (always a potential hazard in my haste), I unearthed the pricey specimens.

I pounced on the Cinema T-strap Chunky Heel Sandals in Metallic Stone right away. Let me sum up these shoes in 3 words: Work of Art. The design, while understated, is unique and striking. The skilled interplay of cream and silver patent leather with light pewter suede is nothing short of exquisite. They exude sophistication and refinement but still manage to channel a light and summery mood. The mix of colors also makes them highly versatile, which is a huge boon for when you're traveling and can only take one pair of shoes. They’ll be perfect with my ivory skirts, lemony summer sweaters, and all the aqua I plan to acquire this season. I am also looking forward to wearing them on a slightly overcast day when I’m feeling a little cooler-toned but the temperature is warm. I think they will look fabulous with my Nicky Skirt in Dark Fog paired with a Fuschia sweater, or my Cherry Blossom Frances Blouse (from last spring) over metallic linen shorts. They also add a touch of ingénue to jeans and navy suit pants.

Although they are called “chunky-heel sandals,” I definitely didn’t feel that the heel was too chunky. Instead, the heel is reassuringly sturdy and just wide enough to walk in the city, as I had hoped. But it’s still plenty polished and graceful to wear as a dress sandal. As soon as I slid my food in and tightened the ankle strap, I felt a wonderful comfort and support in the footbed. The toe straps, though numerous, were exceptionally smooth and didn’t cut one bit into my feet (unlike many prior strappy and cutout varieties). They weren’t too tight, either, but just right. I felt that my foot was securely in place but could still breathe without problems. I wanted to walk right out of the house at once and stroll through town. But alas, I had more shoes to try on, so that would have to wait.

Next, I tested the Kendra Patent T-strap sandals in Champagne. First, let me point out what these shoes are not: clodhopping, in-your-face gladiator sandals with lots of strappage and wide chunky heels like so many varieties of this season. Instead these are beautifully rendered, elegant sandals that can be worn with a summer suit, party frock, or your favorite lived-in shorts. The thin patent strips are designed to highlight less shoe, more foot – great if the point is to elongate your leg with a nice neutral. The Champagne color is truly a wear forever-and-with-everything shade. It doesn’t have any really tinge of brown, yet, it’s not cream either. It’s sort of the color of a café au lait if you like it how I like it – with lots of milk and a splash of coffee. The champagne patent leather in the Kendra sandals is basically the same shade and sheen as the Belle Clutch in Pebble (which looked a whole lot more white online than in person). The heel is classic wood, and not really that wide, either (I think my photo makes it look wider). It’s just ample enough to avoid getting caught in cracks and grates – not to mention moist perpetually rain-soaked grass – but still refined enough to wear with your fluttery skirts and gauzy dress. It won’t compete with your gold, but it won’t look dull with your silver, either. If you wear a lot of deep, vibrant colors, this could be just the thing to balance your ensembles. I put them aside for serious consideration.

Finally, I opened the Carina Metallic T-strap heels in Metallic Gold. As soon as I unwrapped them and beheld their beauty, it was love at first sight. If I liked the Kendra sandals in Champagne, I was instantly enamored by the Carina sandals in Metallic Gold. The are such a stunning, radiant shade of gold that they actually warmed up my skin, especially my very pale feet, which never adequately receive the rays of the sun. The slightly crackly finish on the leather – which on earlier, more substantial shoes seemed a bit too much – looked unique and eye-catching on the delicately-strapped Carinas. The color and the finish sets them apart for the hundreds of metallic shoes available now. The heel is exactly the same as in the Kendra, and with the super-gold body of the Carina, the wooden heel works to de-evening (just made up that word) them a bit.

The one fatal flaw in both the Kendra and Carina, however, is the single front strap that holds your toes in. Let me back up by saying that I have slightly wide feet, so a lot of shoes are a little tight on me. Unfortunately, the front strap in the Kendra was connected so low to the footbed that it left barely any space to slide my foot under it. While this is theoretically practical to keep your foot from sliding around given the barely-there nature of these sandals, it proved to be much too tight for me. When I managed to slide my foot completely in, my toes felt like they were being strangled. I couldn’t even walk around to test them out.

On a positive note, I loved how, unlike similar sandals I had tried, these have an adjustable ankle strap as well as main long center strap that linked the ankle strap to your toe strap. These are looped through and can be rotated in case you want to slide the buckle way off to the side or even wear it in the back, in addition to a buckle that you can tighten around your ankle. You can also slide the main long center strap to the right or to the left of both your toe strap and ankle strap. This did help a little as I found that sliding the long center strap slightly in the direction of my smaller toes (see close-up photo and please pardon my overdue pedicure) helped the toe strap to give a little. As far as the size, I felt that these two models definitely run a bit small, maybe about 1/2 a size.

Against my better judgment, I simply couldn’t resist the siren call of the gorgeously gilded Carina, so I put them immediately and decided to take them for a spin. I paired them with the Limoncello Mini, Corinne Sweater Jacket in Deep Yellow (from last summer)over a Natural Perfect-fit Tank, plus a few gold-toned accents including the Scattered Boule Necklace and the Sunburst Medallion Cuff.

As predicted, the heel itself was very comfortable to walk in, and the footbed itself was quite supportive. But my poor toes cried out in pain for much of the time. They bore deep grooves (not quite welts) after wearing them for half the day. But what sweet agony it was, as I was showered with compliments.

The Carinas held their own amidst the bright Corinne and attention-grabbing Limoncello print. I didn’t even have to announce that I got new shoes; people just noticed instantly (but in a good way). I knew that I would reach for these often. But what to do about the pain? My only hope was something I read today on Patina Cabachon’s blog about some kind of shoe stretcher from QVC that she used for her Paige metallic heels (hmmm, is this a trend with J.Crew sandals?). Is this thing real, and how does it work? Anyway, I will not give up on my dazzling Carina heels.

All 3 sandals displayed signs of excellent craftsmanship and high-quality materials. They also seemed to have some kind of cushioned insole in the footbed, which is always a bonus. The Cinema T-strap sandals were more true to size in my opinion, while the Kendra and Carina T-strap sandals were a little smaller and tigher.

Let’s put it this way: if I were only going to buy only one pair of shoes to wear for the summer (and also in spring and fall), the Kendra Patent T-strap sandals in Champagne are hands down the most multi-functional. Between the ideal design, utterly perfect neutral-but-not-blah shade, and reasonable (for J.Crew) price, they could probably pull together every item in your wardrobe and work with every gleam of metal in your accessory collection. I did not, however, feel that the Kendra sandals were needed, as I had already embraced the Cinema heels in Metallic Stone for cooler shades and pastels, and the Carina heels in Metallic Gold for warmer and richer hues. It’s not that the Kendras in Champagne weren’t lovely and endlessly practical, it’s just that my heart would always lean toward one of the others. And since I couldn’t possibly justify keeping all 3 pairs (even after the 20% discount), I boxed up the Kendra sandals and took them back to the store.

Post Script:
As I finish writing this, I noticed that the Cinema T-strap Chunky Heel Sandals are completely gone in Metallic Stone online. I also saw the Carina Metallic T-strap heels are no longer available in a size 5.5 in any color. Sorry for those who are inspired by this review! If you still want them, I hope J.Crew can do a “we will find it” for you. As for me, I have certainly learned my lesson when it comes to J.Crew shoes in my size: you snooze, you lose.

Enjoy the holiday weekend, and happy (almost) summer!

Today I took the Cinema T-Strap Heel Sandals out for a few hours after my hubby came home from work. I tell you, if ever there was a pair of shoes to plan an outfit around, these were them. I deliberated for a while before trying them with an old ivory Wendy-like a-line skirt, magenta ruffled halter top, and the Georgia cardigan in Weathered Stone. After testing several accessories, I finally settled on the Skinny Mirror Metallic Belt and, surprisingly, the Sunburst Medallion Cuff again. When I first put on the shoes, I felt a slight twinge of concern as my toes rubbed little and my foot got stuck too low down. But then, after walking around a little, they seemed to mold to my feet fine and felt fine.

As soon as I put on the sandals, all of a sudden I was transported back to the 1940s and felt tragically chic. I started humming some Sarah Vaughan tune. My husband was perplexed and asked what I was singing, but I didn't want to give away my secret (or point out that I had bought new shoes).

We hit a few stores to run errands and to pick up food to cook over the weekend. While driving and walking in and out of the parking lot with bags in my hands, I almost felt like I was wearing wedges because the stacked heels were so comfortable. It was actually quite refreshing to not wear stilettos for a change. The insole also felt cushioned and provided good support. Although my toes stayed snug inside the front straps, they didn't hurt or chafe.

I had initially worried that the cream colored front strap and heel cover would scratch and get dirty easily. While it's much too early to tell, I will say that, during our trip to the grocery store, I sustained 2 separate mini foot injuries while walking. Once I stumbled into a metal stand that was partially hidden on the bottom when I went to gather fresh corn and stubbed my toe. I felt the impact on my shoe and looked to see if it scuffed, but it was fine. Then, after walking out of the store, my dear husband ran over my toe with the full shopping cart. I jumped and cried out some clean version of a profanity while I hopped on one foot. A nice gentleman actually came over and asked if I was okay, and I assured him that I was fine. He insisted that my hubby didn't mean to do it, to which my DH responded (jokingly of course), "No, I meant to run over her ankle but I missed." When the pain subsided and I was able to examine both my toe and the shoe, I was pleasantly surprised that neither had suffered any visible damage. I had expected there to be a big crinkle in the patent leather strap and at least a black mark on the white part, but no such thing was to be found. I silently applauded the excellent craftsmanship and quality of materials.

After we made it home (with no further delays), I set to work right away preparing dinner. Too rushed to change, I kept the Cinema sandals on and donned an apron to cover my clothes. Amazingly, I continued to walk and stand in comfort as I hurried about slicing, dicing, and cooking up various dishes.

The best part? When we had visited our favorite bakery, the woman who works there -- who naturally knows us as we're regulars -- complimented my outfit and told me that I always looked like Sarah Jessica Parker. Assuming she was referring to the famous Carrie outfits from S.I.T.C. (I didn't have the heart to tell her I had only watched about 2 episodes, both times while at friends' houses), I thanked her graciously.

I'm so glad I got these - they are not only smashing but also highly practical and comfy. I can't wait to try more ensembles with them!
Update #2:
A huge thank you to Slastena who pointed out that she saw the Cinema T-strap Chunky Heel Sandals on sale today for $99.99. Curious, I went back to the website and, guess what, they were not sold out in Metallic Stone at all! They were, in fact, in the sale section. Even crazier, my size was still available. I immediately got on the phone with customer service to get a price adjustment. They did not only that (as I was within my 7 day timeline), but they let me take an additional 20% off the shoes! How cool is that? So I got these amazing sandals for just $80! It looks like sizes 5.5 through 10 are still available, so if you want 'em, now's the time to get 'em. I of course highly recommend these darlings.
On that note, have an awesome and restful Memorial Day weekend, and try not to shop too much!


dinagideon said...

Those sandals are SO pretty. I am so glad you found them in your size. As a lady with the same problem, but on the opposite end of the spectrum (, not 12s), I appreciate your angst.

I also LOVE your outfit...that mini is just darling on you!

HeidiG said...

Love the shoes - they are gorgeous and so versatile as well. Nice finds!!

Love the IRL pic of the mini with the Corrine - fab outfit!

Patina Cabachon said...

you look fab. please try the shoe stretchers and let me know how it works out for you

Summerilla said...

Super cute shoes and IRL pics of your outfits. I agree with everyone else the mini skirt is great on you.

Slastena said...

What a fantastic review! Out of those 3 pairs ,Cinema t-straps are hands down my favorite. Incidenatally, I wish I saw your review earlier. They were available in the am in my size for $99 . Now, they are gone. Sad!:(((
Loved all of your outfits and accessories. You have an amazing taste!

Have to vouch for the narrow strap on many of J Crew shoes. My foot is like yours- normal to slightly widish and the position of the front strap is too forward and my foot does not get in fully, little to is left behnd- I have trouble with last year's Santorini flats and Myla heels. But they are so pretty, and I agree to suffer for the beauty!!!:)

Petunia said...

What a great review! So happy that you were able to get them in your size!!

3-Penny Princess said...

Dina, Heidi, Patina, Sumerilla, Slastena, and Petunia - thank you so much for your compliments on the outfit and my skirt. I think it's going to be one of my favorite outfits for summer. This is the first time I've posted an outfit IRL, so I'm really glad you all liked it!

3-Penny Princess said...

Slastena - I cannot thank you enough for pointing out that you saw the Cinema T-strap sandals on sale for $99. I just checked the sale section and, lo and behold, there they are in Metallic Stone. In my size, not less. I called CS and they gave me not only a price adjustment but let me use my 20% off on top of it.

You are the best! You just saved me lots of $$$! Now I can actually justify keeping the Carina T-strap sandals as well.

Have a great holiday weekend!

Slastena said...

Yey! I am glad!:)

Cari (isnotfashion) said...

Maybe I should look into those heels... I am a super klutz and am always scratching up my shoes! xo Cari

cdp said...

Those heels are the last of my 20% off spree... I found them in the sale section only. Searching directs to the full price amber(?) shoe. They look fabulous on you, and I'm so glad you blogged on their versatility. Looking forward to more sets with them!

Happy Memorial Day

3-Penny Princess said...

Cari and cdp - I've been wearing the Cinema sandals for 3 days now and they're amazing! So comfy, I could run in them (at least through the city). I highly recommend them, especially at that price. The one irritation I have now though, after wearing them for 3 days, is that there are now scraches on the silver strap in front. Both the right and left sandal have gotten mysterious white scratches (big ones) on only the silver strap. I'm going to ignore them for now because they're on the inside strap (the one that doesn't face out the sides of my feet) so I'm hoping people can't see them easily. It's hard to complain at that price though... And they are really comfy and go with a lot.

HeidiG said...

Love the updated outfit! Sorry hubby ran over your foot. The other day at Target, E accidentally rammed the cart into the back of my heel. Poor girl, she felt awful, but I had to take the cart away from her because I needed to lean on it so that I could walk!

Needs Help said...

so glad you got the price adjustment!! very cute shoes :)

gigiofca said...

The cinema heels look so great! Nice to see a irl pic. :-)