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With Enough Rope to Ground Itself, the Espadrille Regains a Foothold


Breezing back into the footgear limelight for spring/summer is the espadrille. The enduring canvas phenomenon has maintained its position on the forever-turning fashion wheel and has wound up on top . . . again!

Early versions can be traced to the Romans, who wore their own leather version of the espadrille, called the crepida, indoors. Of course, their sole-supporting role in the fashion cycle didn't emerge until recent times.

Grace Kelly, icon of classic style (and grace), gave the casual espadrille a cool sophistication in the '50s. Decades later, the hard-core preppy look had the espadrille losing its cool and stiffening up to accompany the equally stiff-looking kelly green skirt.

Times have changed, the government has changed, the new style is free-flowing and free-thinking-- voila !--the espadrille is back.

On the cutting edge with the wedge: The popular 1940s heel is an uplifting choice for the '90s espadrille, and top designers are putting a foot forward with creations that mimic the old classic but with new flare and attention to detail.

YSL and Donna Karan have the rope wedge sole topped off with flowers and brocaded texture at the toe. Baring the arch and winding up the ankle to an elegant finale with ribbon appeal, this wedge doesn't hedge.

Platform soul: Descending from all the '70s hip-hop hoopla into the espadrille scene as a pure matter of course, the platform is a welcome addition. Ralph Lauren's version in black and ivory (also available in navy) echo his change in direction from old guard to new Bohemia.

The basic flat-heeled espadrille is hitting the stores in vibrant colors from yellow, red, pink, orange and blue to rich ethnic prints. Adornments such as coins and straps add flare to the simple silhouette. For the claustrophobic, there's always the open-toe option, or even styles that have taken on a mule stance--slip on and go.

This ubiquitous canvas delight is matched with long, loose striped pants, drapey dresses, relaxed silk suits, transparent anything and everything, and the super hot mini-T-shirt and sweater that caters to the belly-button convention crowd.

Espadrilles hit the spot whether you're yachting out of Newport Harbor, hamming it up at Disneyland, discussing philosophy at a Laguna bookstore or grilling hot dogs in the back yard. Of course, they're also perfect if you happen to be on safari or summering in the south of France.

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