Shoes: a variety of shapes, textures, colors
This season's shoes come in assorted shapes, textures, and colors, many of them novel without being wildly extreme. Choices in pumps (the footwear of preference for most women) are almost unlimited. Combinations of linen (spring's fabric of preference) with calf and unusual versions of the spectator are among the latest offerings.
Much news centers on the sandal. That dependable airy style, which goes through its day-to-day paces from the first warm moments of spring on into the torrid months of summer, has changed notably.
It seems that the sandal we've known as ''strippy'' - the one that consists mostly of little spaghetti-like straps - is about to become as extinct as the dodo. According to Andrea Rosen, fashion director of the Footwear Council, ''There's not one strippy sandal making a fashion statement this season.''
Instead, we have sandals with one- to two-inch-wide bands that wrap around the foot, and sometimes the ankle as well. Flat or wedged numbers with broad straps in multiples have the look of gladiators' sandals.
The rule on wider straps applies to dressy higher-heeled models, too. The open sandal is still living up to its reputation as the ideal hot-weather shoe, but it's much more substantial than before.
Also newsworthy is what you might call the rise of the flat heel. Shoes with down-to-earth heels were featured at the showings of such sophisticated Europeans as Giorgio Armain and Karl Lagerfeld, who even went so far as to present a flat-heeled interpretation of the famous Chanel pump. American sportswear stars Perry Ellis and Calvin Klein are strong proponents of low heels , too, as complements to the rangy looks of their long, easy-moving clothes.
But, like the division of opinion over whether hemlines are better short or long, points of view on heel heights are quite divergent. Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass, who specialize in fashions for the leisure classes, prefer heels with plenty of height worn with skirts that graze the knee. The aim is to flatter an expanse of leg. Comfort in walking comes second, and most of their customers, being members in good standing of the limousine set, seem to agree.
Women who like medium heels should not, however, feel left out. The selection of middle heights is very generous. Whether flat, high, or in between, all heels this season are thicker (some being architecturally faceted) with nary a spindly stiletto in the picture.
While clothes are becoming more simplified, the design of shoes is taking intricate turns. This year's unconventional textures (besides linen, there's burlap, cork, snake, and stenciled, printed, grained, or woven leather, as well as mesh) are a case in point.
Patterns - animal, tropical flower, and batik prints, to name a few - are another new departure. The popular espadrille now comes in stripes, color blocks , and printed fabrics. The always experimental Norma Kamali does wedges in mattress ticking with a rosette trim. Perforations, studs, and cutouts form patterned effects, too.
Although neutrals predominate in a season when safari styles are on the rebound, many shoes are vividly colored. The Garolini line includes electric blue, canary yellow, and fuchsia in addition to pastels like pink, and pale yellow. In contrast are the classic black patents, sometimes combined with white. The man-tailored influence is strong in such well-crafted oxfords as the Perry Ellis white buck wingtips.