“A woman’s dress should be like a barbed wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view.”
-Sophia Loren
When a woman’s body is the carnal equivalent of Mount Vesuvius, she can afford to make such pronouncements with a straight face. No doubt, Sophia Loren is that kind of woman. Nicknamed ‘The Stick’ as a child, Rome’s answer to the femme fatale also once famously quipped: “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”
Be that as it may, there are two things I know for sure:

#1.  Not all views are created equal. Some female forms wrapped in strategically draped fabric are bound to evoke comparisons to the Grand Tetons, while others are more the topographical equivalent of the Great Plains.
#2.  No matter how much pasta most of us pack away, the molecules will never rearrange themselves into the silhouette of an Italian bombshell. Basta.

I feel obliged to disclose that as a woman endowed with a rather– hmmmm, how shall I put this… demure bust line– I am not judging the sisterhood of women whose bodies were built for speed, not comfort. (This, of course, is one way to come to terms with your physique once reconciled to the fact there has not been a push-up, potion nor pumping iron routine invented that can alter what Mother Nature has granted.) But in spite of the curvier woman’s distinct advantage in the cocktail dress arena, there is one accessory at every woman’s disposal that can level the playing field: allowing us all to float like a butterfly, sting like a bee and unleash our inner-knockouts!


I speak, of course, of the high heel.

Have you ever seen a woman looking depressed, defeated or disgusted with herself while shopping for shoes? Of course not. Because such a woman does not exist. And until the Mad Men figure out a way to get into our heads: convincing us that our feet are too… whatever… you’re about as likely to see a deflated woman at a shoe sale as you are to see a kid crying at Disney World. And that’s because a beautifully crafted shoe is nothing short of transformational. 

When cobbled correctly, the alchemy of raw materials like leather, fur, feathers, satin and steel can result in a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts. And when selected with discernment, a woman’s shoe can elevate, elongate and eroticize the wearer’s foot– regardless of what’s going on above her ankles. 
Shoe departments are the DMZ of shopping malls: a place where weight, height, body types and age simply do not matter. A place where those niggling voices of self-doubt and impossibly high standards of beauty are banished from our heads. A place where every shopper gets to feel like Cinderella (or, even better, Sophia!) when slipping into a shoe that instantly grants stature, improves posture and changes one’s stride. Hell, some shoes can even give you cleavage! Granted, it’s toe-cleavage, but why quibble?

Although the great ones always do…
Manolo Blahnik, for example, feels that women “must only show the first two cracks” when taking the plunge. While Christian Louboutin has his eye trained a tad higher, decreeing “The curved inside part of the foot, the instep, is the most sexy part so I like to close the heel and reveal the arch.” 
As for me, I’m just happy to be walking the earth in the same era as these geniuses so I can benefit from their wisdom. Which is why I cannot wrap my brain around the self-sabotaging trend women have been going gaga over for the past few years. Namely, voluntarily appropriating  those hoof-like appendages that appear better suited to Sea Biscuit than any two-legged filly.
 
Blame Alexander McQueen, Lady Gaga or her shoe-svengali Noritaka Tatehana if you must, but please don’t believe the hype. Any shoe that can do double-duty as an anvil or a doorstop is not fashionable. In fact, it is the opposite of sexy and best left on the shelf.

“She looked like a crippled giraffe trying to walk in high heels.”
-Anonymous
If I attributed the quote above to the friend who said it he would have to kill me for messing up his dating game, so I’ll just call him “Bill”. 
Bill is the kind of bachelor women love to hate. He is smart, successful, well-traveled, handsome, somewhat mysterious, available yet totally phobic about long-term commitment. Bill also loves women. After sizing up a prospect at his gym recently he determined she had tremendous potential and asked her out. But when this “sharp, confident woman with great style”, as Bill described her, showed up for their first date sporting a pair of ill-fitting clunkers (my words, not his) things got off on the wrong foot. And went downhill from there. Hence, his colorful characterization as quoted above.
Now, before you blast Bill for judging a woman based on one sartorial misstep, can I just express my glee? Sexist pig that I am, I have long assumed that the emergence of stripper-heels in polite society was driven by women trying to please men like Bill. So it pleases me to no end to learn that men are also stumped by the on-going popularity of shoes that not only look awkward, but hobble the wearer. 
When did footwear that’s pretty, delicate and feminine go out of style? Why would any woman embrace a shoe trend that makes thick legs look thicker and skinny legs look skinnier: as all chunky heels do? Why would anyone forfeit her comfort and mobility for something that’s not even cute? This is not to say that’s it’s rational to do so for a thing of beauty… but a woman’s prerogative to suffer for beauty makes a hell of a lot more sense than suffering for the sake of something that makes her look as if she just leapt off a pole.  No? Does fashion-victimhood know no boundaries? Or are women doomed to a monkey-see-monkey-do mindset where trends are concerned? 

Of course, it should come as no surprise to any of us that a shoe which bellows “LOOK AT ME!!!” might be in vogue in the age of Facebook and Reality TV.

But whatever the reason for this temporary insanity, I am consoled by two immutable facts of fashion: 

#1.  La donna é mobile. (“Woman is fickle.”)
#2.  The classics never go out of style.

** Illustration courtesy of Alvaro  www.alvaroartz.com

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