Belle on Wheels, Part 1: Inspiration

photograph by Henry Sansom

When I first moved to Toronto, I was pretty nervous about riding a bike. Between the traffic and the parked cars and those nasty, sneaky streetcar tracks, it can be sort of scary if you’re not used to it. What can I say – people change. Only five years later I overheard a friend talking about my cycling habits: “If she can’t go on her bike, she doesn’t go,” he laughed.

No parking, no transfers, no walking, no waiting: Bikes are fast, cheap, convenient, and fun as hell. The best part of all is you can get where you’re going in style. Ask any girl who rides in heels and she’ll tell you: It’s as easy as riding in flats and your feet never get sore.

From suit-and-tie office workers on the College St bike lane to the Queen West evening hipster brigade, every year that goes by I notice more and more people embracing bikes as the stylish way to travel. Hell, even Club Monaco is on the bikewagon, using Gazelles in their adverts and even selling them in their stores. Here are some bikespirational links to get you in the mood for the summer cycle.
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S-MOOCH! Announcing the Great Shoe Giveaway Winner

You are a wonderful bunch of moochers. I sent out the call and you rose to the challenge admirably. Picking a winner was harder than I thought. Everyone who responded had something to recommend them and, before I name the new owner of my pretty shoes, I want to start with some Honourable Mentions and favourite quotes:

Well done Martin for being first out of the gate, and for wanting these for someone else. Your describing your friend as having “superb taste” was lovely. (Why don’t we use the word superb more? It’s so deliciously swishy.) Props to Eline for offering this gem: “Also these are my size… and I love you?” The question mark made me laugh out loud. Likewise to TC, for shamelessly appealing to my desire to promote WORN. (Oh, you know me well.) Heidi, your offer to take photos was extremely tempting. I would hope our winner will do just that.

Hailey, you came very close indeed, with your plaintive and eloquent despair over being forced to wear terrible shoes to work. I loved the idea that the wedges would “bring beauty and glamour and pearly, suede-y joy to [your] otherwise dreadful repertoire of summer footwear.” Your photo proof was a brilliant touch. I have added one here as the images themselves were fantastic and worthy of repost.

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If the Shoe Fits, or How My Folly is Your Freebie

Please note: T-Rex is not to scale.

A couple of days ago I had an early dentist appointment. Afterwards I had some time to kill before work, so I thought I’d do a little window shopping. I wasn’t planning on buying anything – until I saw those shoes. They didn’t look like much on the shelf, but there was something that made me want to try them. A combination of pearly patent and black suede, their Deco lines and towering, knife-thin wedges made me think of the Empire State Building. What choice did I have? (One should never pass up the chance to try on footwear that looks like of architecture.)

I put them on and fell in love. Now, I’m usually at least an 8.5, but to my surprise, they felt quite roomy. I slipped into the 8s. They were a little snug, but not bad. That heel was going to force my foot forward, I thought, and the shoe would be sure to stretch. I didn’t want to get stuck with a shoe I kept slipping out of so, after walking around a bit just to be sure, I went with the smaller pair.

They don’t fit.
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Coco’s Blog: Dear New Model…

You are flawed – just like everyone else. You’re never going to be pretty all the time. That’s life. But you’re also a total stunner. By some happy accident of genetics, no matter what you’re wearing or doing, you’re about twelve times prettier (oh, subjective Beauty!) than anyone within a hundred feet of you. You could be three inches shorter or twenty-five pounds heavier and it would still be the case. These are The Facts; accept them and forget them.

The pictures they take aren’t really about you. You are a vehicle for an idea – but it is not your idea, so you don’t get to decide how it plays out. Whoever is directing you has put all kinds of thought into what they want. Take direction, even if you think it will make you Not Pretty (did I already mention this is impossible?). Good fashion is rarely about being attractive in the conventional sense. Editorials are meant to create an aesthetic, convey a mood, and show off some clothes. Again – no matter how impersonal it seems – it’s not about you. Not yet, anyway.

Listen to your photographer and your stylist. They have a lot riding on what comes out of a photo shoot. They probably already have careers and reputations and are even more invested in what goes to print than you are. Besides, the photographer is going to take ten times as many pictures as anyone can ever use, so you have lots of room for error. The reason for all this excess is to capture something unique, enigmatic.

I know you’ve seen a thousand pictures of models with scowls and pouty lips. It may seem counterintuitive, but (and I can’t stress this enough) DON’T MAKE THIS YOUR DEFAULT FACE. It’s not very interesting and, unless you’re really good, it’s going to look amateur and campy. The best thing is to try not to have a Default Face at all. Forget what you see in the mirror, forget your Best Angle. The magic pictures are going to happen in between your “modeling”.

And finally, remember that this is not everything you are. You might be really lucky and make a career out of this, but you probably won’t. Your success or failure here does not define you. You are a living, breathing, three dimensional human who is of infinitely more value than a two dimensional image. Try not to ignore the former: sooner or later it will be your backup plan.
And just please, try to relax.
I promise it’s going to be fine.


Photography by Mario Sorrenti