wasn’t born with shoes on her feet, but this shoe lover quickly found out what her favorite wardrobe item is, and has written The Perfect Fit: What Your Shoes Say About You (Chronicle Books, 2005), in which she maps out a woman’s ideal look, job and mate based on her favorite shoe to bring her gospel to the masses. The 33-year-old West Village resident has appeared on many talk shows, analyzing wearer’s shoe dates, is a recurring shoe expert on Soaptalk and Savvy, has written for the likes of Marie Claire and Time Out New York, and also blogs about shoe news. The extremely perky Cleary gave Gothamist the scoop on New York women’s shoe preferences and invoking your inner stiletto.
Have you always been interested in shoes? What’s the first pair you remember acquiring that you really wanted?
When I was five, I became totally obsessed with this pair of baby blue wedge espadrille sandals with flowered embroidery. They just seemed like the ultimate accessory–even though I probably didn't even know what that word meant then!! I bothered my mom till she bought them and I still have a picture of me in them with this hilarious pink lace dress that I thought went so well with them!
How did the book come about and how long did it take you to write? Did you have to do any research or was this all stuff you’d already observed?
Oh gosh, I think this book has always been inside me on some level. It wasn’t till my agent suggested I write about my little obsession that I even considered it something to actually merit writing about, but when I sat down to do the proposal it just all came flying out like it had been just sitting in there waiting to be written down. I think I wrote like almost half the book just in the proposal alone. Some of it came out of my own observations, some of it research I was doing with shoe designers, interviewing them for articles I was writing, I also did a little focus group online which is how I cemented my belief that every woman has a pair of stilettos somewhere in their closet and that usually they feel pretty hot when they put them on! I sat in on a shoemaking class with Emily Putterman who is like the doyenne of shoemaking here in NYC. Read a lot of magazines, researched a lot of shoe history. Took me about a year maybe from proposal to finishing.
Have you always been interested in shoes?
Yeah, I think so. I am passionate about a lot of things and shoes have definitely always been an item of fascination!
What shoes are you wearing right now and what do they say about you?
My second fave ballet flats–they are lavender Leopoldo Giordano ballet flats and they have a really cool slight, slight wedgeish heel and this ruched leather on the toe and suede accents. And they are so comfy and at the same time very fashion forward. I can motor around in them all day, in fact I walked from 23rd and Lex down to my office in the West Village this morning in them. They say about me mostly that I am feeling grounded right now and in a doer mode. I feel sort of sweet and innocent in these shoes-very class president, everyone's friend!
Out of all the types and signs in The Perfect Fit, which one are you and which are most of your friends? Are most people only one type, or does it really depend on their shoe/outfit?
I am definitely a split between ballet flat and stiletto girl. When I want to motor around and get things done, I'm in my round toed flat, and when I want to tower and feel my feminine power, I'm in a stiletto. I wear Stilettos to any important business meeting–it's crucial for business success!
Are there particular shoes that New Yorkers are more partial to?
New Yorkers love a really cool designer sneaker. Vintage, one of a kind, anything special that you can't get anywhere else. And there are of course lots of women who are absolutely devoted to their Manolos or Jimmy Choos in a way you won't see really anywhere else I don't think. We are talking about women who stand in lines blocks long for their sample sales and often buy like 5 pairs of the same shoe in different heel heights or colors. These are the true Stiltto women–who can walk a mile in their 100mm! I truly admire them!
Where are you on the comfort vs. style continuum? Do we have to sacrifice one for the other?
I have plenty of shoes I love but can only wear in very limited doses. You gotta be comfy and confident in your shoes or the rest of you will feel bad, that is sort of my philosophy. Saying that though, I have a pair of Sergio Rossi's that I can only wear for like an hour or so at a time–the key is to know your shoes and know when you need to change it up. If I am out wearing this one pair of Sergio's (they are SUPER hot tri-color python pump 100mm heel!) I know my time in them is limited so I wear them for the most important part of my eve then switch into other shoes I tuck in my bag. You've got to have a Stiletto strategy!!
What about guys, should they care as passionately about their shoes?
Guys really just need to make sure their shoes are in good condition, more than the actual type I would say. A man who takes care of his shoes has a high sense of self-esteem!
You’ve been on some of the new talk shows, such as Tony Danza and Tyra Banks. Is there any insider gossip you can tell us?
Only that Tony Danza wears Varda oxford wingtips and that Tyra loves flip flops!
What’s the most important thing to remember when you’re doing these talk show appearances?
To have fun and be in the moment. It can be a challenge only because there is really hot lights on you so you are sweating, you've got like a pound of makeup on your face, there are a million people around watching you and different producers and cue cards in front of you and timing and studio audience and you have to try and remember what you want to get across and at the same time have fun with the host and be yourself!
If you see someone wearing a really horrid pair of shoes on the street, do you say anything to them?
Oh gosh, no. I just mentally make them over in my head. Like wow-she would look so cute with a pair of Puma trainers instead!! What are your favorite places in the city to go for shoes? Definitely Bergdorf 2nd floor and 5th floor. The 2nd floor is like a magical land for me! I love it! I feel like I am in the enchanted forest! And 5th floor is where we had my book launch and it has all the fun young brands like Marc Jacobs. I also love Verve on Bleecker street and Cobblestones in the East Village for vintage finds. Also Marc Jacobs is down my street and I go by the windows a lot for inspiration because he stocks a lot of his attention getting stuff in the windows and it's fun to go by at night–has this otherwordly quality!
You’ve written a lot about finding the perfect shoe. Can you give us some tips on doing so?
Finding the perfect shoe is a blend of lifestyle assessment, evaluation of what you have and what your wear and don't wear and doing a serious audit on your shoe wardrobe to find out where you might have gaps. You have got to take a realistic look at where you are at–i.e. I have a closet full of Stilettos but the reality is, I wear my ballet flats for everyday. I could definitely use a fill-in on the Ballet Flat category. I have been doing a lot of research about this lately and created a methodology. I have actually started doing Shoe Therapy sessions where I come into your closet and do my evaluation and create a prescription for you each season. It's super fun and my clients get a lot out of it. Email me if you want the Shoe Therapist to come to your closet!!
How long should one plan on owning a favorite pair of heels? What’s the average lifespan?
This depends. I have shoes that are 10 years old–if you take care of them and get them re-soled and polish and condition them if they are leather you can get a lot of wear out of them. If you are constantly on your feet-i.e. if your job is like field producer, you will want to rotate your shoes to make them last longer.
Who do you turn to for shoe advice?
My friend Jason Campbell who edits jcreport.com or my friend Sarah Lukashok who is an amazing accessories designer. They both have an innate sense of both fashion and proportion and silhouette. For me, if I am asking for shoe advice it's mostly how do these compliment a certain look or how do they work with what I'm wearing. My friend Tracy Cox too who is an amazing stylist (doing The Devil Wears Prada movie right now) is also a great shoe advisor. He turned me onto the idea of the neutral shoe–placing the emphasis more on my ensemble than the shoe itself. But sometimes I just have to kick it in my red stilettos!!
When you’re not shopping for or talking about shoes, what do you like to do?
Watch Law & Order reruns (the ones with Jerry Orbach), go on "market days" which is also known as SHOPPING!, talk to store owners, discover new things and meet people in my neighborhood. I love to go out for really long delicious dinners, take a long walk in the West side river park where I live, or just curl up with a good book. The problem with me is that I am a totally obsessive reader so once I open the book, I won't stop very often till I finish, so reading a novel can be sort of a big commitment sometimes! I love reading fashion mags or just hanging with my girlfriends having brunch and dishing. Oh yeah, and I love going to the spa. Cornelia is my fave! They have these warm neck pillows they put on your neck and they feed you fresh berries!
Meghan will appear on The Tony Danza Show on ABC on Thursday, September 29th at 10 am. Find out more about Meghan Cleary at her website Missmeghan.con and her blog. The Perfect Fit: What Your Shoes Say About You is available now.