Posts Tagged ‘heels’

Watch out men! We are taking your pants

Logical fallacy: If women wear pants, men must either be in skirts or naked from the waist down

Jennie recently shared an interview with New York Times columnist Gail Collins, author of When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present.   The interview is here:

The world has seriously changed since our mother’s generation.  Not surprisingly, a lot of these changes involve clothing.  There’s always been a tension between feminism and femininity (must we act masculine to have the opportunities men have?) Collins debunks (again) the urban legend of literal “bra-burning” (never happened).  And asked whether a “feminist” identity is distasteful to modern young women, Collins says, “even back in the ’20s women were writing that there was something about the word ‘feminism’ that suggested bad shoes.” 


Woman doing housework (see apron), 1959

My name is Robin, and I’m a feminist. Who won’t wear bad shoes.  Women my age (36 in 2009) know we can aim for pretty and powerful.  We’re not shocked when it’s a struggle to have both, but we know we deserve it.  If we want, we can run the world in skirts and heels . . . or at least we should be able to.  And we’d love to argue about why we’re not. 

Just don’t force us into skirts and heels.  Because seriously, it was not that long ago that women were supposed to wear dresses all the time. They might wear pants at home, but there aren’t even that many pictures of that before 1960.  Because if they were photographed (or depicted in art at home, see left) they would have put a dress on.  Does that seem absurd?  As Gail describes:

. . . when I went to college we weren’t allowed to wear slacks out of the dormitory, except if you were going bowling. And later on, the younger women had demonstrations and they all went out in slacks and a lot of them had picket signs, and they got rid of the law. But when I was there I just signed out to go bowling every night. I was absolutely not one of the great cultural heroines of my time, I guarantee you.

How. Dare. She.
BOWLING. Seriously. I guess pants were better because they ran and bent over? What was up with this? Mom?

Skirt vs. pants is still a big debate for many working women. Does it sex us up, or reduce us to an gender-specific expectation? And if we play along, is this necessarily a bad thing? At least we have a choice (or do we — when we hear that a Federal Judge might really prefer female attorneys to appear before him only in skirted suits).  If we dress  like men to be treated as well as them, do we concede that the Masculine is the default, the power ideal? (Because gender is something extra that women “have” and men are “normal?”) More importantly, will it make us look fat and dumpy if we tromp around in heavy, practical shoes? Heels are so slimming.

hard to be a man

Anti-suffrage cartoon circa 1910. The man and children are unhappy because the woman is leaving the house to go cast her vote. I don't think this was ironic.

Gail Collins is a little ambivalent about the clothes issue. Which is fine with me, because she’s awesome.  But around here, it’s important.  When I was pregnant with my daughter, I got some flack for wanting to buy her dresses right away — but it turns out, sturdy cotton knit dresses can be comfy and fun for girls.  She’s so cute! Then I’m conflicted when she argues too much about which PRETTY DRESS she’s going to wear in the morning. She is only 2, and there are more important things in life.  But it’s GOOD (and I’m getting to this, with Teens and Twilight) that she’s opinionated, self-possessed and determined — even when it comes to flowered pants. Should I worry that she wears too much pink? On the other hand, should I encourage my son to wear dresses (at least just for play?)

Gender-blindness may never happen, and we aren’t even totally “equal” yet.  And even for women who aren’t personally interested in equal career opportunity, the world needs it:  Opportunity builds confidence, confidence builds esteem. Girls’ self-esteem helps them stand up for themselves.  This keeps them safe and free from domestic violence and predation (TWILIGHT ARGH).  As adults they’ll be confident enough to demand equal healthcare and equal pay. 

We’ve still got a long way to go on this road.  Does it slow us down to wear a dress along the way? As Collins says, there are “walls you are never going to climb over, and separating women from really ridiculous but incredibly sexy shoes is one of those.”

. . . Unless you can climb over those walls in heels.  I’m not saying you have to try.  Just don’t tell yourself you can’t.

Slacks “loose trousers” first recorded 1824, originally military; O.E. slæc “loose, careless” (in ref. to personal conduct), from P.Gmc. *slakas (cf. O.S. slak, O.N. slakr, O.H.G. slah “slack,” M.Du. lac “fault, lack”), from PIE base *(s)leg- “to be slack” (see lax). Sense of “not tight” (in ref. to things) is first recorded c.1300. The verb is attested from 1520; slacken (v.) first recorded 1580.

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Pink snakeskin-embossed Bandolino slingbacks

Pink snakeskin-embossed Bandolino slingbacks

Shoes are one of our first and most primary possessions.  Even little kids get way into their shoes* —  they’re the first objects which are exclusively “mine” but yet not fully “me.”  In the folktale of Cinderella, shoes are emblematic of transformation (from isolation to community, loneliness to love, loss to rediscovery)**.  Cinderella’s coach turned back into a pumpkin at midnight, so how did the glass slipper remain? Because shoes are magic. They connect our transformed fantasy with our everyday reality. They are ours, but just beyond us.

Shoes are intimate but public.  Shoes are functional, they are decorative. And I do believe they have the power to transform us.  I think there might be two kinds of women — those who believe in Shoe Magic and those who deny it.  I was a skeptic for like 20 years.  Shoes are personal, so I can’t presume to tell you exactly what shoes to wear.  But I will tell you that shoes are an opportunity and if you haven’t yet taken it, your life can change if you do.

Of course we have to wear the right shoes at the right place and time.  Wear the shoes that are required for your vocational or recreational activities.  But think beyond the demands and limitations on shoes — allow them to be happy and fabulous.   If you have hang ups about your body, spare your feet. Your feet are not fat (the late Diana, Princess of Wales wore a size 9 and did she not look fabulous?) Almost everyone’s feet are a bit quirky, but it’s possible to find beautiful shoes that fit.

Today I’m posting pictures of my heels.  Don’t think of heels as a single kind of shoe. Heels are place on the shoe – on many, many kinds of shoes — where a shoe may be elegantly elevated in a flattering way. I wasn’t convinced until I read it in O Magazine (as a general rule, I trust O to shit me not) that if you’re looking to improve your professional wardrobe, “wear heels.” If you think all heels are uncomfortable, “keep shopping.” A good heel makes your legs look great, makes your walk more confident, and improves the look of your outfit. If you wobble, keep shopping – it’s not just the heel height but lateral support and heel structure that give a shoe stabilitiy.

Cole haan red loafer; Pink Patent leather slingback wedge; Circa Joan & David toe-tone leater; Purple Kate Spade Stiletto

Cole haan red loafer; Pink Patent leather slingback wedge; Circa Joan & David toe-tone leater; Purple Kate Spade Stiletto


Cole Haan Carma Open-toe pump; Fred Meyer brown heel with bow.

Lower heels:
Three low-heeled shoes. The one on the right I only wear with pants.

Three low-heeled shoes. The one on the right I only wear with pants.

I have a variety of heel heights because I have a variety of pant lengths — theoretically you should hem your pants to the shoe, but I haven’t perfected that art, so I do a lot of switching around.  Cute shoes can be slipped on with an otherwise boring outfit (Me: blue trousers. brown sweater) and make a cool outfit.   Great shoes can be worn with a nice outfit and make a superstar outfit.  Heels are pretty and once I got used to them, they seriously improved my stature and presence whenever I wear them.  This used to be way out of my reach, and now it’s not, I’m really into it. It’s a joy I wish on everyone.

Coming up: pictures of my old, boring shoes, as well as my comfortable flats and loafers, summer sandals, my “weekend shoes” (that I’m not totally happy with right now). And boots, which should not be worn in summer!

*Toddlers and shoes are discussed in Your Two Year Old: Tender or Terrible, by Louise Bates Ames & and Frances Ilg. These books are the gold standard in explaining phases of early childhood development (their “advice” can be dated and weird but the underlying research is reliable). It’s so reassuring to see that my kids freakish behavior is developmentally normal. Once I remember that, it’s easier for me to empathize and develop age-appropriate expectations and discipline tools.

**The Cinderella story has been repeated through cultures and over the centuries, but it is almost always about a shoe: in Strato’s Rhodopis, 1st c. B.C. it is a sandal; Ye Xian, China 860 AD it is a slipper.

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Us, Dressed Up

When you’re invited to watch your little girl cousin, grown up into lovely Princess of a woman and marrying her best friend in front of all their loved ones — it’s time to get dressed up.  My family had been looking forward to this wedding for months, and we were each a little worried (in our own way) about what to wear.  I know we’re not alone.  For people who don’t dress up for work or daily life, getting ready for a special event can feel like putting on a costume.  Even if you go shopping just for the occasion, it’s hard to feel like yourself if you haven’t worn a dress for a year.

From left: niece, sister, niece, sister, Dad, sister, Mom, Me, kids. My Dad is sometimes asked if he's unhappy that he had four daughters and no sons. Does he look unhappy?

From left: niece, sister, niece, sister, Dad, sister, Mom, Me, kids. My Dad is sometimes asked if he's disappointed that he had four daughters and no sons. Does he look disappointed?

Everyone in my family was pleasantly surprised, then, to see each other looking individually and authentically fabulous this past weekend.  Even in dresses.  Even in heels (some of us) and even in New Accessories — we didn’t look or feel fake.  We fit in with the other guests.  We admired but eventually forgot about our clothes because we were busy having fun.  When my mom commented on this today, I tried to think of why this worked out so well for us.  For anyone else stumped or intimidated by this summer’s Dress Up occasions, here are my observations on how we stayed true to ourselves:

Anne's Wedding 025

1. Wear clothes that fit.

If you haven’t dressed up for awhile, your old Nice Clothes might not fit you anymore.  If your clothes don’t fit you won’t look your best. You’ll be uncomfortable with your body and won’t look like you. 

2. Don’t expose too much.  Virtually all women look their best showing some knee, but take care pushing it to a shorter length.  Whether you bare shoulders or show cleavage depends on your comfort level.  If you find yourself tugging at your dress or reaching for a sweater to cover up, find something else to wear — you will feel more like yourself if you’re not overexposed.

3. Get the right foundations.  The time to worry about bra straps and pantylines is when you’re shopping in the Intimate Apparel department. Buy the right underwear, and you won’t be worrying once you’re dressed up.

Beautiful pattern and cut! (She was hiding behind everyone else in the other picture)

Beautiful pattern and cut! (She was hiding behind everyone else in the other picture)

4. Dress head-to-toe.  Some Convicted Casual Wearers will concede the skirt, but refuse to pay a little more attention to the rest of their look.  Then the dress doesn’t fit with the rest of you, like you’re playing dress-up.  Wear at least one piece of jewelry.  Whatever your look is, take a few extra minutes to smooth it out and polish it up. Stick to the general style and colors that you’re used to; avoid anything bright or glittery.  Unless it is your Prom, or you want to look as uncomfortable as you did at your Prom, don’t go crazy on Special Event Hair (updos, back-combs, or heavily sculpted curls).

5. Get new shoes. Budget as much for your shoes as you do for your dress.  Don’t try finding a pretty dress to match your 5-year-old black Dansko sandals.   Old clunky shoes will bring down your whole look. If you don’t know where to start, ask a salesperson for a cute shoe to go with your new knee-length wedding-guest dress.  They should steer you away from career pumps or trouser shoes.   Seriously consider heels; there are comfortable ones made for all sizes and shapes of feet (even orthopedically-challenged).  Don’t wear any heel too high to walk steadily — you won’t look like yourself if you wobble.  If you can’t do heels, wear the prettiest flats or sandals you can find and paint your toenails.  

6. Avoid trends.  Trends are for people who know how to wear them. If you don’t have a natural feel for it (and don’t care enough to study up), stay classic and conservative.  Be careful with affecting a culture or style that is not Of Your Demographic.  This is real life, not a music video.

7. Bring it.  Sway, smile, spin around once or twice to watch your skirt flutter.  Take pictures, kiss the bride on the cheek, hug your relatives.  Compliment all the other well-dressed women you see.  Raise a toast to the happy couple and enjoy the day: You are you, and you are fabulous.

Authentic Bride: Annie, Being Annie

Authentic Bride: Annie, Being Annie

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My sister asked me to write about some of my favorite items of clothing (“clo” being my son’s singular for “clothes” when he was 3).  I looked through a ton of pictures of myself for inspiration.  Mostly I learned that 1. I’m the Mommy so there aren’t many pictures OF me and 2. Most clothes I LOVE to wear actually look like hell on me.  I need to dedicate a later post to “Clothes I love but it turns out they look like hell when see myself in a picture.” But for now:


Classiques Entier chocolate brown top, charcoal suiting skirt, Cole Haan pumps and cabana-striped bag

Classiques Entier chocolate brown top, charcoal suiting skirt, Cole Haan pumps and cabana-striped bag

I got this outfit at the Nordstrom Half-Yearly sale in May, and I like it so much I want to sleep with it.  It makes me smile when I see it hanging in the closet.  I could wear it every week  and maybe I do.  I try to aim it at meetings where I’m seeing different people so my coworkers don’t get bored, but really, I don’t care if anyone thinks it’s the only thing I own.

This top was pushed on my by the Nordstrom sales associate, which bugged me at first because it was not on sale.  She was wily and she was right.  Sigh, Nordstrom.  It has fantastic gathers and drape for a perfect fit and shape. Square neckline is current and works well with above-the-shoulder hair.  It is a gorgeous shade of brown, which I LOVE, it is my most confident and most genuine color.  I particularly love deep brown with charcoal gray, a color combination that is new for me (I used to segregate all outfits into brown-centric and gray-centric.  They can’t BOTH be the new black, can they?)

The pencil skirt is not perfect, actually it’s way high-waisted — like 1930’s style above the navel — so I can’t zip it up over my middle.  It’s actually folded over until I lose more weight, which is a no-no, and gives those weird groin wrinkles.  But the line ends up working — it cuts in at my relatively small shoulder and hip (I think of them as the poles), with ruching for shape at the bust/waist (I think of that area as the tropics and equator).  Yes, I have baby fat and am still nursing my 2-year-old.  It’s got a matching suit jacket.

These shoes deserve their own blog: Comfortable (Nike Air technology), sweet peep-toe (my first).  And tortoiseshell that I couldn’t believe I even tried on — isn’t tortoiseshell an ANIMAL PRINT, which as we all know is most appropriately rocked by funky, cute Asian girls?  But I went for it, and gasp, there I was, they were me.  They stable and sturdy so I can walk fast without teetering – critical to pulling off any pair of heels.  I was a little weirded by peep toe = bare legs with a suit, but I’m dealing.  This exact shoe (in a few colors) is going to be on sale at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale starting July 17.  Buy them, but please do not ask what I paid for them full-price.

The handbag is Francesco Biasia from Bloomingdales.com, where I had some killer discount with free delivery.  I love a satchel style, big enough to counterbalance one’s baby fat but doesn’t overwhelm  a short-end frame.  It’s a summery, stripey canvas with white leather trim and cute pewter buckles.  A fun cabana vibe that still says “trust me, I’m a lawyer.” It’s even got Mimosa Yellow, the Pantone 2009 color of the year , which I was determined to work into my wardrobe even though yellow is hell on me.

I recently sat by State Supreme Court Justice Debra Stephens (who is fabulous) at a brunch, and she said “THAT is a nice bag.”

And I said, “thank you, your honor.”

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