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Where Can I Find a Stylish Winter Boot?

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My usual suggestion of first resort when it comes to cold weather dressing ideas is simple: Look thee to the Sundance Film Festival.

After all, nowhere else are there so many concentrated examples of people (or, to be fair, people’s stylists) who have had to consider dressing stylishly for both the snow and public opinion, yet in a relatable way. Unlike award show red carpets, Sundance involves celebrities dressing for the day and a casual setting. And there are so many different solutions for various ages, personalities and aesthetics to choose from!

Sadly, however, Sundance, like many other January events, has gone virtual. That’s the bad news. The good news is snow-boot style is largely perennial. So while it’s not exactly possible to shop the look, you can shop the inspiration by taking a scan through prior years.

Indeed, there’s not much difference between the footwear that was popular in 2012 and the footwear that was popular in 2020, which also means that investing in a good pair of boots, which is simply a smart choice from a protective-gear perspective, is also a good choice from a style perspective. Ideally, this is a one-and-done shoe situation.

Historically, the dominant brand at Sundance, hands down, has been Sorel. It even offers a wedge-heeled winter boot as part of its Joan of Arctic collection. But whatever brand you choose, the idea is to combine the necessary tech specifications (waterproof, insulated, with a no-skid sole, according to the experts at Lowa) with enough flair to make your boots not just a necessity, but an accessory.

Then you can go one of two ways.

First, embrace the sheer snowiness of the snow boot, and opt for a big puffer style that is unapologetic about its performance values. This may seem a weird choice when you go indoors, but it has an ironic appeal that is also a useful conversation starter.

See, for example, the North Face ThermoBall ankle boot, which looks as if you just stuck your foot into your pillow, or the Columbia Paninaro. Or the classic Moon Boot, which, given our current space obsession, seems entirely apropos. (Also, the company just did a collaboration with Chloé, which speaks to the boot’s rising trendiness.)

Or, second, opt for one with a thinner profile, more akin to a leather boot. Eddie Bauer offers waterproof fleece-lined knee-high boots that barely look like snow boots at all. Dr. Martens has a winter grip-soled Chelsea boot. And the Rogue 10 from Kamik has a fleece-meets-festival vibe. Trends aren’t just for Coachella, after all.

Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.





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On New Podcasts, the Sound of Falling in Love

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Love is hard to find these days. Apps turn people into play things. The pandemic is fatal for vibes. Adele reigns atop the Billboard charts, singing her tales of longing and woe.

Is romance dead? Not in the frothy world of podcasts, where two recent audio dating shows — “This Is Dating” and “It’s Nice to Hear You” — aim to reinvent matchmaking in a time of isolation.

“This Is Dating,” from the independent studio Magnificent Noise, follows four daters looking to break out of old patterns and start meaningful relationships. In exchange for their participation (the show uses real voices but fake names), the subjects get a team of fairy godmothers tasked with rehabilitating their love lives.

A dating coach, Logan Ury — the director of relationship science at the dating app Hinge and author of “How to Not Die Alone: The Surprising Science That Will Help You Find Love” — helps each dater identify his or her bad habits. Producers do the matchmaking, recruiting a stable of potential partners based on the dater’s preferences. Listeners hear one actual date per episode, conducted over Zoom because of Covid, and the producers and Ury help there, too. Sitting in as (mostly) silent participants, they drop occasional icebreakers into the chat to keep up momentum.

“It’s an incredible exercise in trust,” said Jesse Baker, a co-founder of Magnificent Noise and co-creator of “This is Dating,” which premiered earlier this month and is produced by Baker, Hiwote Getaneh and Eleanor Kagan. “You talk to us about the problems you feel you’re having, and we offer this one kind of whack-a-doodle way to approach things differently.”

Baker, an executive producer of the popular couples therapy podcast “Where Should We Begin? With Esther Perel,” which she helped create, brought some of that show’s analytical sensibility to her new podcast. The show balances MTV game-show-style elements — separately recorded sideline commentary is intercut with audio from the dates — with the more earnest ambitions of modern social psychology.

Over the course of the season, listeners will follow the daters as they go on multiple first dates, each one presented as a step on the road to self-discovery.

“We didn’t just want a voyeuristic half-hour in someone’s awkward blind date,” Baker said. “It was important to us to show growth.”

“It’s Nice to Hear You” also applies narrative framing to the dating game. The show, which ended a six-episode first season last spring (a second is in development), follows three couples who are allowed to correspond once a day for 30 days. In a twist, the couples use pseudonyms and can only communicate via voice memo, with no photos or other identifying information exchanged. At the end of the experiment, each finds out whether their connection is more than one-dimensional.

Part of the appeal of “It’s Nice to Hear You” is its implication that appearance and other physical concerns are superfluous to romance. The show’s creator and publisher, Heather Li, developed it after watching the Netflix dating series “Love Is Blind,” in which contestants, who get to know their prospective partners over the span of one week, agree to get married without ever seeing them.

“It’s Nice to Hear You” avoids such lofty stakes, but it’s remarkable to hear just how intimate the couples become within its constrictive framework. Two weeks into the project, one woman declares that she has already shared more with her match than she had in any previous real-world relationship. “I feel like I’ve known him for years,” she says.

Li, a retail consultant who created the podcast while in a dating slump of her own, said the restraints helped some participants get out of their own way. “You’re not being distracted by what someone looks like or what’s in their background,” Li said. “I think it’s harder to prejudge someone if you don’t have as many data points.”

On both “This Is Dating” and “It’s Nice to Hear You,” the limitations of the medium are turned into strengths. The inability of the listener to see the shows’ daters makes it easier to project oneself into his or her shoes. And the relatively unobtrusive nature of the production apparatus — a smartphone recorder in the case of “It’s Nice to Hear You” and a Zoom account for “This Is Dating” — all but eliminates the “I’m not here to make friends” observer effect stoked by the presence of reality television crews.

Among the biggest challenges were finding enough participants to make plausible matches — both shows said they had far more women apply than men — and ensuring that interactions on the dates were entertaining to listen to. On “This Is Dating,” the virtual daters make cocktails, play improv games and give each other bedroom tours, among other mood-enhancing activities.

“None of us are professional matchmakers, but creating an environment where people could have fun and feel a connection felt like something we could totally do,” said Getaneh, one of the producers of “This Is Dating.”

One question both shows faced was how to deliver satisfying resolutions. Here, Li got lucky. Shortly before she began “It’s Nice to Hear You,” she had been ghosted by a guy she had been seeing casually. Li decided to include her personal journey as a multi-episode story line, confessing her struggles with intimacy and communication to the same relationship coach who had interviewed her subjects.

When she eventually meets her current boyfriend, whom she has now been with for more than a year, her happy ending becomes the podcast’s.

“Listening to so many hours of other people communicating so openly helped me realize that I needed to be bolder and more assertive,” Li said. “If they were doing it, why couldn’t I?”



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The Choker: Versatile and Varied

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LONDON — The choker, a neck-hugging jewelry style, seems to be riding a new wave of popularity.

Its appearance on women’s, men’s and couture runways and in fashion-world look books was featured in the 2021 annual roundup by Tagwalk, a search engine that tracks fashion trends. It noted that the use of chokers had increased 25.6 percent compared with the previous year.

And the style figured prominently in the spring 2022 fine jewelry and costume jewelry collections from Chanel, Dior, Coach and others.

Chanel, for example, offered a diamond-studded 18-karat white gold bouton de camélia choker — featuring the house’s signature camellia motif — for $38,400. The necklace has a sliding clasp that adjusts to fit different neck girths.

Several less expensive styles are included in Chanel’s spring 2022 costume jewelry range, including a double-strand gold-finish chain with interlocking white resin C’s ($775) and what the label called its Pearls Cascade choker, made with glass beads, rhinestones and resin ($1,475).

Dior also offered several choker styles on its website, including what it called a “bold and assertive” D-Punkish choker in gold-finish metal with more than 100 white resin pearls and pointy conical studs for $3,900.

One fan of the choker style is Tyler Chanel, a Los Angeles-based 27-year-old who writes the lifestyle and fashion blog Thrifts & Tangles to encourage sustainability. (A recent blog post was headlined “How to Politely Decline Gifts for the Holidays.”)

“Choker-style necklaces are my favorite,” she said by email. “They are so versatile.

“Necklaces of certain lengths only work with certain necklines, but chokers work with everything. They look great with V-neck tops and button-up tops (which make up the majority of my wardrobe).”

And, she said, she has noticed “a lot more people wearing bold gold chokers recently.”

Still, “chokers are not something new,” said Beatriz Chadour-Sampson, a jewelry historian based in England’s Hampshire county.

For example, she said by telephone, “the pearl necklace worn tight around the neck is something that recurs throughout the centuries from Roman times and even up to the era of the Hollywood stars from the 1940s and ’50s.”

One of the earliest documented cases of such short necklaces, she said, are the portraits that were painted on boards and then incorporated into the mummy wrappings of upper-class women throughout the Fayum Basin in Egypt, circa A.D. 150. These portraits show finely dressed women wearing layered chokers of pearls and precious or semiprecious stones.

Chokers also appeared in paintings of royalty and the wealthy merchant classes of the Renaissance. When fashion called for an expansive décolleté, or a lower neckline on a gown, a choker was often “worn close to the neck and in combination with a longer chain,” Ms. Chadour-Sampson said.

For example, a portrait in the National Gallery in London that Hans Holbein the Younger painted of Jane Seymour, who became the third wife of King Henry VIII in 1536, showed her wearing a choker of pearls and gemstones with a jeweled pendant, as well as a long matching necklace.

Style may not have been the only reason for royalty to layer on chokers. In the early 1900s, Queen Alexandra, the wife of King Edward VII, was often seen in ornate multistrand chokers. “She is thought to have had a scar on the neck due to a thyroid problem,” Ms. Chadour-Sampson said, “and wore these very high and full-neck ornaments to cover it.”

Chokers stand out among the offerings made by Sophia Forero, 55, who has been selling her own-label jewelry in the Chicago suburb of Burr Ridge, Ill. It was a career switch after getting a master’s degree in international relations at the University of Chicago in 1990 and then going to Hungary with the Peace Corps.

“I thought I was going to try to work for the State Department, but instead — JEWELS,” she wrote in an email. She would spend weekends in Hungary, Russia and what then was Czechoslovakia, she said, gathering stones and beads, some of which she still has in her studio.

Her collection includes chokers that she calls Aphrodite’s Sea, made of hand-hammered silver, pearls, aquamarine and apatite ($2,420); Axios, a double-strand of fine gold chain with ruby accents ($1,440); and One Giant Leap for Mankind, with peach moonstones, hand-hammered copper discs, a ruby and sapphire mosaic, and a hook in rose gold ($2,420).

“Jewels are my mojo, and so is the history behind them,” Ms. Forero wrote. The choker style can be found in many cultures and for both for men and women, she added, “from the Maasai and the language of their beaded necklaces, to the Celtic torc, to the neck rings of traditional Thai (Kayan) women.”

Possibly the most famous choker of the modern era was the one created for Diana, Princess of Wales, that combined a sapphire and diamond brooch given to her by Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and a short seven-strand pearl necklace.

Diana famously wore it in 1985 when she danced with John Travolta at the White House and, in 1994, to set off the décolleté of what would become known as her “revenge dress,” an off-the-shoulder black silk style that she wore to a fund-raising dinner in London on the same day that Prince Charles went public about his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. A statement piece, indeed.



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Fashion Dispenses a Happy Little Pill

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PARIS — It probably isn’t surprising that a current of conservatism was seen in the men’s wear shows here, a link connecting storied labels like Dior and Hermès, where the designers Kim Jones and Véronique Nichanian produced fall collections that highlighted their design chops by doubling down on heritage.

An inveterate and lifelong traveler (he has often said he works mainly to bankroll his wanderlust), Mr. Jones often operates within a geographic thematic. Last season, it was a collaboration with Travis Scott, inspired by the rapper’s Houston hometown. (The collection was postponed indefinitely following the Astroworld tragedy.) This time Mr. Jones detoured to safer territory and, for a 75th-anniversary homage to the house at Dior Men, chose as his destination — drum roll — Paris.

Mr. Jones’s City of Light was a conjured as a place of Gallic elegance and refinement with a set that not only reproduced the gilded Pont Alexandre III bridge for its backdrop but went on to mine just about every French cliché in the postcard rack.

Think (gorgeously) tailored coats of slate or dove gray, some with a complicated draped wrap at the front. Think blazer coats with white overstitching and cut as if to reveal the selvage edge of the fabric. Think sling-back suede Birkenstocks patterned on the soles with the Dior logo. Think, for Pete’s sake, berets.

True, the berets were the work of Stephen Jones, the inspired British hatter who has worked with Dior for a quarter-century. True also, tourist shops all along the Rue de Rivoli still sell five euro versions of this felt pancake for your head. Yet there is no avoiding the fact that Parisians wearing berets are rarer than Parisians walking down the street with baguettes tucked under their arms.

Ms. Nichanian, too, plays on these French idioms, though at an even more elevated (and pricier) level. Season after season, she makes clothes suitable for the clientele of a brand that started in 1837 as a saddlery and remains a purveyor of goods for a traditional carriage trade. (Well, sort of: The company’s vaunted Birkin, the Brabus of handbags, has now been joined by the Rock, a new and jacked-up version ostensibly for guys.)

The presentation was held in a national storehouse for furniture and against a backdrop of projected tapestries from state collections, and before it, Ms. Nichanian spoke to some journalists about her intended “dandy effect.” Conceivably that means a collection generally pitched toward the younger guys everyone in the business has been trying to advance from hoodies to suits. Here one was rendered in a two-button calfskin with a wide leg that made you wish Miles Davis were alive to rock one. Davis, though, would certainly take one of those silk cashmere scarves Ms. Nichanian substituted for a cravat and knot it outside his shirt.

Elsewhere on the roster were designers with all kinds of promise, but also with positions and ideas. At GmbH, Serhat Isik and Benjamin Huseby produced a finely tailored collection that seemed destined, as usual, to influence designers at much larger houses. Whoever cast Virgil Abloh’s final, and predictably mournful, collection for Louis Vuitton, for instance, must have had an eye on GmbH’s runways.

Diversity is a GmbH signature. So, too, are references to Islam, here in the form of calligraphic texts in Arabic of a kind that Ottoman soldiers would tuck under their armor as talismans. On the field on ideas, Mr. Huseby and Mr. Isik consistently confront the tensions between their lived realities as racially blended (Isik is Turkish and German, and Huseby is Norwegian and Pakistani), cisgender gay men and the broader culture.

Unlike in recent seasons, there were few “unisex” shows and a certain amount of collective amnesia about the goal of upending of gender binaries. That said, the GmbH show contained elements that could initially read as transgressive (thigh boots worn with shorts under crisply tailored one-and-a-half breasted blazers) until a viewer recalled that museums chockablock with imagery of leggy 16th-century dudes in pantaloons, codpieces and tights.

“It’s the most formal collection we’ve ever done,” Mr. Huseby told Vogue.com. “But I feel it’s also the kinkiest and sleaziest in a strange way.”

Hybridity, though of a different kind, is far more than a modish buzzword for the British designer Grace Wales Bonner, whose award-winning work has consistently mined the tensions inherent in racial, cultural and sexual intersection. In Ms. Wales Bonner’s collection, which drew on her experience of being mixed race and of Afro-Caribbean ancestry, there were suggestions of a wardrobe for a return to a somewhat remote space: the office. In particular, a zip-front denim jacket paired with wide-leg cuffed trousers presented a plausible solution to a work uniform. Though the Wales Bonner digital show was presented on both women and men, little about it suggested much need to delineate a difference. Anyone could wear it, and that includes the skirts.

When we look back on this strange liminal period — not yet over the threshold of a pandemic — two designers will likely stand above the rest for pure ornery individuality. One is Rick Owens, who, seated on some steps inside the Palais de Tokyo last week, made the following pronouncement: “Men are pigs.”

Yes, and?

His show, titled “Strobe,” was inspired by the designer’s recent trip to Egypt and featured models wearing hieratic headpieces that were a cross between a Dan Flavin sculpture and a display panel at Just Bulbs. In many ways the collection was transparently commercial. (For all his runway antics, Mr. Owens is a shrewd merchant with a robust business in innocuous knitwear.) Balancing the linked-metal and torso-baring overshirt modeled by Mr. Owens’s friend Tyrone Dylan were plenty of shearlings and puffers. Some featured Ming the Merciless shoulders inspired by Golden Age Hollywood as filtered through the sensibilities of the 1970s designer Larry LeGaspi. Some had zipped-up executioner hoods.

What is unmistakably cool about Mr. Owens is how insistently he carves out his own distinct aesthetic space. The self-described “flamboyant small-town sissy” from Bakersfield, Calif., has taken outsiderness and driven it into the middle of the mainstream. Although speaking about this specific collection, he might as easily have been stating a credo when he remarked backstage, “I’ve decided to go directly into the Id.”

Likewise, Jonathan Anderson at Loewe has no problem facing off with the dominant culture. In this case it was the vaporous butch futurism of the “metaverse,” which he vamped with a craftsy collection based on technology that was itself once considered world-changing: fiber-optics.

Mr. Anderson sent models out from a forest of colored ribbons clad in sparkly bodysuits and sweaters illuminated from beneath with skeins of LED lights. As a funky counterbalance, he showed rubbery translucent flasher raincoats worn over what looked to be Y-fronts; shearling coats with innards exposed; and T-shirts, their fronts printed with faces, pulled up over models’ heads — a pretty direct quotation of those created by Matthias Vriens a decade ago for his label BL33N and sold at Colette.

As would also be true a day later at Nigo’s debut as the new creative director at Kenzo — a joyous presentation of blanket fringed coats, pillowy newsboy caps and Pop graphics drawn from house archives — the optimistic spirit prevailing at Loewe was like fashion Xanax, a fast-acting mood elevator everyone could use right about now.





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