Don't stop at sexy sandals or barely-there flip flops. The look is bejewelled feet.
Once reserved for natives of Thailand, India and other exotic climes, or dancers named Gypsy Rose, toe rings and ankle bracelets have sashayed their way into mainstream North America.
"I'm definitely noticing more women and young girls wearing (foot jewelry) -- It's way more popular than it used to be," said Vancouver-based jewelry designer Benee Rubin. "Everybody is into it -- especially in the summer, especially when they have a tan."
Rubin has had many requests, from as far afield as the U.K., for turning the bracelets on her Web site (www.benee.com) into ankle bracelets, also known as anklets. Her creations range in price from $65-$200.
Many jewelry designers don't post photos of toe rings and anklets on their Web site or even keep them in stock; feet come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are a little more intimate to size than a finger at a local jewelry shop.
Having been brought up just outside Calcutta, jewelry designer Julie Prescott has had a long love affair with foot jewelry. She has noticed that the recent retro hippie trend and the Hollywood/Bollywood influence have led to the increased popularity of jewelled feet among Canadians.
"Women of all ages are wearing them -- I'm in my late 40s and I wear them," said Prescott, of North Vancouver. "There are no boundaries now. I think women are meant to be adorned -- don't hold back!"
While Prescott's designs are available in boutiques in the lower mainland, Vancouver Island and Whitehorse, Yukon, she receives many requests after Internet savvy fashionistas see her Web site (www.julzandco.com).
A bride-to-be wanted something special for her day and requested an anklet made of aurora borealis Swarovski crystal and cream pearls. Some of her clients want something to catch the light against their foot, others want colour.
"One woman called me to say her favourite toenail polish is red, so she wanted a red anklet," said Prescott, who will be leaving for India shortly to look at jewelry trends and to buy gems for her creations. "In India they adorn every part of the body, so you never know what I'll come back with."
Prescott does the custom designs -- which range in price from $25-$125 -- either with a silver clasp or, her favourite, on stretchy monofilament.
"It slips on and off easily... there's no catch to get caught on the edge of a pant leg," said Prescott, who has worn anklets since she was a baby. One of her monofilament designs has been in her stable of much-used jewelry for five years, so fragility isn't a concern.
But it's not just the patrons of made-to-measure, designer jewelry that seek to satiate the newly accepted foot fetish appetite.
"It's the whole open-toe phenomenon we've been seeing in footwear starting in the spring and ending when the snow flies. Women want to show off their feet as they are not wearing hosiery as they did in the past," said Kari Emond, fashion director at Zellers.
Many department stores have affordable foot jewelry that can be co-ordinated with necklaces and earrings. At Zellers the toe ring is the more popular of the two types of foot jewelry and Emond said what is really taking off is an invisible stretchy band toe ring.
The band itself can't be seen. The only thing visible are the beads, stones or jewels on the top of the band. "They are phenomenally comfortable and can stretch to fit all different foot shapes," Emond said.
While there is foot jewelry to fit every style, budget and foot, not everyone is stepping into the tootsie trend.
"You may see some gay men at the beach with (foot jewelry) but it's not a straight guy thing at all -- you can barely get them to wear a wedding ring," said Vancouver's Rubin.
-- Canadian Press