In stepPeople either love or hate Birkenstocks...


In step

People either love or hate Birkenstocks -- those oversized, cork-soled sandals and clogs. Despite the mixed reactions, Sierra Leather at Towson Town Center has been selling about seven or eight pairs a day this year, according to Tony Mirarchi, the assistant manager of the store.

Those who love them come in two forms: trendy types catching on to the fad and ailing types looking for relief from back, knee and foot problems, Mr. Mirarchi said.

Those who hate them think the shoes are ugly, no matter how comfortable they are.

"They're styled for comfort, not for beauty," said Kathryn Reynolds of Severna Park, who has been wearing Birkenstocks for five years. Her orthopedic surgeon recommended she try the shoes to ameliorate a degenerating nerve in her foot. She did, and the pain went away.

The Birkenstock's wide, thick foot-bed lets the big toe and heel form a straight line, said Mr. Mirarchi. Most shoes force the toe to curve inward, he said.

The new direction in fashion toward comfort over looks has made the clogs and wide-strapped sandals a fashion statement of growing importance. Sales figures from Birkenstock headquarters in California prove this. Overall sales increased by 40 percent from 1990 to 1991, and in Maryland sales jumped 360 percent. Maryland now has 40 stores that carry the shoes.

Prices range from about $60 to $120. Children's sandals cost about $50.

@ Whatever works for evening wear was worn to Vogue's 100th anniversary party last week. And the best was in black.

The glittering crowd wore everything from bell-bottoms to ball gowns. A few outfits were modest. Many were elegant. Others were daring. And more than one was a touch shocking.

The slinky black stretch jersey dress from Jean-Paul Gaultier worn by Jenny Capitain, a Vogue fashion director, was laced from the ankles to the top of the thigh. She wore it with ink-black sunglasses. She said she dieted for three days to get into the dress.

Donatella Versace, the sister of the Italian designer Gianni Versace, was bound into her black leather costume. The bodice was a crisscross of straps, while the petticoated leather skirt was caught up at one hip. Karl Lagerfeld's assistant Victoire de Castellane burst in, bristling in yards of black tulle.

Liz Tilberis, editor of the rival magazine Harper's Bazaar, was sedate in a svelte silk Chanel dinner suit. Georgette Mosbacher shone in black sequins.

There were a few glimmers, though, to indicate that black's envelopment might fade by next season. The hostess, Anna Wintour, looked sharp and sophisticated in Geoffrey Beene's long white silk crepe gown with crystal beading. And it's possible that by next winter, the torrent of reds that were released at the recent Paris fall collections may have taken over.

If you believe the perfume manufacturers of the world, fragrance formulas inspire and are inspired by all manner of emotions, such as passion, obsession and joy. Now a Chicago socialite has found a way to put revenge into a bottle -- and between the covers of a book.

In honor of Sugar Rautbord's second novel, "Sweet Revenge," (Villard Books; $20), a fragrance company has created an exclusive scent called, of course, Sweet Revenge. In conjunction with the June launch of the book, bookstore customers will be able to order a complimentary sample of the fragrance through a toll-free telephone number.

There is a possibility the fragrance will be on sale to the general market -- especially if the test samples are in greater demand than the book, said Random House publicist Deanne Chalk.

Sweet Revenge, the fragrance, is a mix of sexy, spicy accords with an exotic top note, press information said. "Sweet Revenge," the book, is a mix of sexy, spicy writing about flamboyant millionaires, Eurotrash and corporate treachery. As book marketing becomes increasingly creative, one can look forward to scent-strips among pages.

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