Aldo steps up

Times Staff Writer

Aldo, the store that once specialized in shoes just short of being great, is having its moment, and at just the right time. Gone are the granny-like round-toed flats, the extremely pointy and plastic looking pumps and the high-heeled boots that look like the zipper could go at any moment. Knocking off Prada’s ombre patent pumps with thick elastic straps and Marc Jacobs’ cone heels, Aldo has caught up with current trends and is even offering a few inspiring styles that look to be Aldo originals. Its competing mall mates, Nine West and Steve Madden, had better watch out.

Winter’s must-have flat boots, for instance, are sleek and perfectly ‘70s without any of the bells and whistles that once cheapened the brand. The Pasiansi flat boot is shin-height with buckles on the back and comes in several colors from neutral to a fun cornflower blue. For $170, the style would work well with slim jeans or a short dress and tights. The Commerce City boot ($170) has spat-like details subtle enough to fit into any wardrobe. For designer chic on the cheap, the slightly pointed-toe Atlantic City platform pump ($110) comes in basic brown, tan and black, and if you squint, you might mistake it for McCartney’s Mildred pump from last fall. There’s also the Aldo Collection, a small group of more extreme “fashion” styles that seems to take its cues from the runway. But don’t bother with it. It’s costumey to the point of looking like John Galliano’s handiwork, but in a bad way.

The Aldo accessories boutiques, which opened in 2000, have also miraculously come of age. Ignore the tiered rhinestone earrings and adjustable cocktail rings and look, instead, for the jewel-toned snake and panther bracelets a la Cartier. The Firojian and Errona bracelets ($30 and $40) don’t have the weight of the real thing, but the colors pop and the designs carry the same Bianca Jagger vibe. Don’t try to pass these off as anything more than they are. Mix them with a stack of gold bangles for a deliberately kitschy disco glam look. An Aspen-meets-downtown bohemian suede bag with looped fringe called the Darovina is also a steal at $100, and there are several other bags you’d swear were Chloe.

If you thought cheap chic couldn’t get any more, well, chic -- think again. The next time you hit the mall, you’ll just have to add another step to your usual route.