High Heels (This Woman In Clothes)

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be responding to questions on the Women In Clothes survey.  For more on the book Women in Clothes, go here.  


*shoes 3

This past weekend, the Globe and Mail published an article about Vince Camuto, the designer who co-founded the company that makes my favourite shoes: Nine West.  Near the end of the article, Camuto declares that “a woman needs a lot of pairs of shoes today. It’s not just one. You want to buy hundreds of pairs. Women need a flat, they need a mid-heel, they need a high heel, they need a dress sandal, they need a low boot, high boot, flat boot.”

This sort of pronouncement makes me throw down newspapers, sputter, and storm into the living room to explain to my confused husband that women do not NEED anything but a good pair of walking shoes and some winter boots.

In a similar vein, a few weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast in which there was a discussion of the necessity of giving up your seat on the subway for pregnant women, the elderly, the disabled, and WOMEN IN HIGH HEELS.  I sat straight up in bed (where I listen to most of my podcasts) and said, out loud, “You have got to be f*&#ing kidding me.”

Dear Woman in High Heels: from a woman who has spent her whole life in flats because she wants to be able to stand, walk and dance like a human being: you are not getting my seat just because you have made a deliberate decision to cripple yourself.  Did you know you would have to ride the subway?  Then why did you wear something that makes it difficult to ride the subway?

Let me get the sour grapes out of the way: it’s not that I never like the look of high heels.  (When I say “high,” I mean “anything other than completely, totally flat and even.”  Kitten heels, mid-heels, low pumps are all “high heels” to me.)  I acknowledge that a raised heel often flatters the female leg, and my legs could use some flattering.  I’m aware that many of my outfits would look more elegant if I made myself a bit taller.

In fact, occasionally, in a moment of total self-delusion, I buy a pair of heels.  A couple of years ago, I went shoe-shopping in slim burgundy jeans and a loose sheer magenta top, and came across an amazing pair of fuchsia stacked-heel pumps that made the whole ensemble look better than anything I’d worn in recent memory.  I walked around the store in the shoes for about twenty minutes and convinced myself that they were “surprisingly comfortable.”  I bought them – they weren’t expensive, but they were more than I could afford – and wore them out of the store.  By the time I got home, I had 1. twisted my ankle on a rut in the sidewalk, causing me to spill, skin my palms and draw pitying stares from passers-by, and 2. driven my kneecap into the edge of a bus seat so painfully that I couldn’t walk well for about six weeks.  I have worn those pumps exactly once since then – I carried them to school, wore them to class, and regretted it.

I have oddly shaped feet: they’re medium-sized, but the toes are square and wide, and the arches are high.  I also have a neuroma (pinched nerve) in the front of my left foot.  Any shoe that puts pressure on the sides or arch of my foot or throws my weight forward causes me problems.  So I’ve given up on high heels, and frankly, I rarely find them attractive, on me or anyone else.  I do like the look of a chunky boot with a bit of height to it, or a wedge heel on certain sandals, but pointy, precarious heels? Stilettos baffle me – those are shoes?  They look like a satirical art project to me.

I wore low heels to my high-school graduation, and took them off halfway through the night.  At that moment, I absolutely relinquished the idea that women have to wear heels for special occasions.  I wore gold ballerina flats (purchased, in fact, from Nine West) under my wedding dress.  If I ever receive an important award, I’ll have to find myself the perfect pair of flats and then choose a dress to match them, because there’s no way I’m walking up onto any stage, anywhere, in heels.

So no, Mr. Camuto, women do not “need” most of the shoes you describe.  If I were able to prance around with my heels three inches higher than my toes, I’d probably have more fun with shoes, and would spend more money in your stores.  Instead, I content myself with the impressive variety of flats you provide me with, including an orange patent-leather pair that I love but wear only occasionally because they gall my ankles a bit.  I have learned over the years that I accomplish less when my feet hurt, and as much as I would love to look sexier, it’s more important that I be useful.


What are your thoughts on shoes?  Are there fashions that you refuse to adopt?  Please leave your own answers in the comments, or link to a response on your own blog.




4 thoughts on “High Heels (This Woman In Clothes)

  1. I just can’t get on board with skinny jeans. First of all, I’m not skinny. I’m a pretty big girl. Secondly, even when I am thinner, my thighs and hips are not. This style would never flatter my figure and I don’t understand how this item of clothing is described as universal. Clearly, that isn’t the case.

    I like heels, but I don’t often wear them anymore. I’m busy chasing a toddler so it isn’t reasonable.

    I’m also not a fan of the ombre hair trend.

    • CH: as a big-butted woman, I’ve been surprised by how well certain types of skinny – or rather, slim, not skin-tight – jeans can work on me. The key seems to be big, well-placed back pockets.

      Yes, I’m not crazy about ombre anything, and it wouldn’t work on my frizzy hair in any case…

  2. Totally agree about the skinny jeans. And I’d expand that to tight leggings in general. As in so tight they hurt and/or ride up.
    I agree about high heels, too. We collectively react in horror to stories of Chinese foot binding but are supposed to go into raptures over shoes like the ones that have damaged Sarah Jessica Parker’s feet.
    The thing that I hate about most women’s fashion is that is refuses to let us be useful. Where are the comfortable yet tailored to the female form clothes *with functional pockets* that will permit us to walk briskly down an urban street without teetering or having to carry a purse, otherwise known as being an “easy target” for snatch and grab thieves? Where are the clothes for regular moms, not yummy mummies? It’s like the fashion world hates real women. Bah to them. I should learn to sew for real.

    • CT: I’ve been giving some thought to sewing lately. I tried when I was a teenager and was terrible at it, but I love the idea of being able to make myself tunics and nightgowns and shirts that actually fit.

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