Monday, November 20, 2006

The Height Of Dangerous Fashion

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

Photo from the Washington Post

Caption: "[A] platform-wearing model tripping and then falling at Vivienne Westwood's Paris show last month."

Having once fallen off my platform shoes back in the 70's and having been on crutches for over two weeks as a result of the fall I took, this article in the November 18, 2006 edition of the Washington Post brought an I-told-you-so smile to my face:
Platform shoes could be the eighth architectural wonder. They are remarkable examples of design but, like most of the seven fabled monuments of the ancient world, surely these extravagant pillars of footwear cannot last.

However exhilarating the shoe's concept, those wearers who equate inches with power must finally acknowledge the obvious:

Platform defies function.

At the recent Paris fashion shows, towering soles topped out at seven inches, with designers such as Christian Lacroix and John Galliano showing all manner of sparkles, tassels and lacings up top. At such heights, the platform shoe ranks as the skyscraper of footwear, but runway models were toppling over them.

"It's like walking on stilts," says Washington podiatrist Arnold Ravick, or "falling off a hill. You're up so high that the center of gravity and balance is off. It's much harder to walk."

Historically, shoes were made for walking, of course, as the Italian Cultural Institute's "Walking Art" exhibition makes clear. Roman soldiers marched to Hadrian's Wall on sturdy thin-soled sandals (which looked a lot like Birkenstocks), so it's fair to surmise that the Roman Empire would have been a lot smaller had those soldiers tried that trek on platform shoes.

Common sense would consign such footwear to historical oblivion. But the wobblies, in fact, have endured a long time. "Walking Art" traces the first elevated shoe to 16th-century Venice.

A pair of 12-inch burgundy velvet platform shoes stands out in the display. The exaggerated soles of these chopines are sculpted like inverted ocean liners, with small, ordinary lace-up booties on top. They were not mere fashion statements. Chopines were designed to elevate Venetian women -- literally above the floodwaters and garbage, and metaphorically above the lowly stature previously attached to their sex.

There has also long been the suggestion that courtesans wore them to stand above the crowd, so potential customers could see them. The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art argues that the height of the shoe rose in tandem with the nobility of the wearer, rather than her downfall. The curators of "Walking Art," Luciano Calosso of the Colosseum Associazione Culturale of Rome and theatrical designer Enrica Barbano, take no position.

There is no argument that these early platform shoes were only relatively stable for standing and almost useless for walking. Unlike modern fashion victims, the Renaissance women of Venice did not try to go it alone. Instead, they relied on walking sticks and a gentleman, who could balance the lady on his left arm while leaving his right free to draw a sword.

Fast-forward to the 1970s, when such acts as David Bowie and Elton John and Kiss rocked onstage in platform boots, and fashion designers picked up on the style. The fad faded, only to be revived in 1993, when Naomi Campbell walked the runway alone in Vivienne Westwood platforms and fell.

More women wear high heels than platforms. The high heel was invented in 1533 to give Caterina de Medici the stature of a platform shoe but with more stability at her wedding to the Duke of Orleans. The kings of France adopted high heels, as did the aristocracy, which explains why poor people who couldn't afford them were said to be "down at their heels." After the French Revolution, flat shoes -- the populist flip-flops of that day -- came back in style.

But high heels made a roaring comeback in the 20th century. After World War II, shoemakers acquired steel that made the stiletto possible. Spike heels have mostly supplanted platforms ever since. Their appeal is made obvious by a Donna Karan design that resembles a corset of black velvet and brass, with a zipper snaking up the back.

The form is great, but function gives spike heels their appeal, according to Ravick.

"The appeal is the way high heels make a woman walk," he says. Not so appealing is that "it's easier to fall off and break your leg."

He considers two-inch platforms potentially safer than six-inch stilettos.

Glass cases at the embassy offer examples of both, along with white leather thigh-high boots crafted for Sophia Loren in the 1966 movie "Arabesque," and soccer star Francesco Totti's shimmering silver-and-blue World Cup boot. Among the historic shoes, there are two examples of poulaines: slippers with long, pointed toes, which fashion-conscious men were willing to trip over for a few hundred years during the Middle Ages.

The collection of shoes was lent by the legendary Italian shoemaker Rossimoda, which supplies the world's fashion houses, and Arditi, a maker of theatrical costumes.

Why haven't platforms gone the way of poulaines, which men abandoned some six centuries ago? Perhaps because fashion has always exerted a more powerful pull on women, enticing them to apply a separate standard. In the design of shoes, fantasy matters more than function.
The long-ago damage to the ligaments in one of my ankles has forced me to abandon wearing outrageously high platform shoes and to choose practical footwear. After a few more close calls with falling off my own shoes, I've decided that the risks of wearing high heels of any kind far outweigh their appealing look. But I miss wearing shoes which used to bring me closer to eye-level with those whose company I keep!

52 Comments:

At 11/20/2006 8:12 AM, Blogger nanc said...

although i never had any accidents in my heels or platforms - my feet told me about 15 years ago - ENOUGH! and they meant it.

now, nothing taller than about an inch and one-half. comfort all the way.

 
At 11/20/2006 8:55 AM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

Amen and amen!
I fell off a pair of wooden half platfom half really high heels in '79. No give in the sole and going down stairs at my dorm. I sprainned the side of my foot and messed up my achilles tendon. 1-1 1/2 inch is just fine! Thank you very much!
Right now my daughter "loves" her stilletos and other high heels. I'm waitting for the tumble!
Good morning, G*D bless and Maranatha!

tmw

 
At 11/20/2006 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AOW

I am trying to remember who made the 12
pound sequined gown. I do remember it sold to my astonishment.

 
At 11/20/2006 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AOW

I am trying to remember who made the 12
pound sequined gown. I do remember it sold to my astonishment.

 
At 11/20/2006 9:55 AM, Blogger Farmer John said...

Sorry folks, but over the last five years I've spent more money on point shoes for my daughter then I have for any other article of clothing. I predict "heel-less" shoes will be the rage in Paris in the Spring of '07... and Podiatrists dealing with "hammer- toes" will add $10 billion to federal Medicare/Medicaid expenses by 2020.

 
At 11/20/2006 10:12 AM, Blogger Gayle said...

When I dress up, I wear open-toed wedgies; the heal is elevated, the toe isn't, the toes aren't pushed down into a tight little enclosure that really damages them; ingrown toenails can also be a result of enclosed high-heels.

But I'm one of the lucky ones. I stand nearly 5'10", so height isn't something that has ever concerned me. When I was very young I always wanted to be shorter! LOL! Some of us are just never happy. :)

 
At 11/20/2006 10:26 AM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

My daughters latest purchase was a pair of black patented leather "roach killers"! With stilleto heels! Pain... She swears they are comfortable, I think she's a liar!

tmw

 
At 11/20/2006 10:55 AM, Blogger Brooke said...

I don't even own a pair of dress shoes! HAHAHAHA!

I haven't been anywhere class in... well... My daughter is five and a half years old now.

 
At 11/20/2006 11:48 AM, Blogger Farmer John said...

Of course the real height of "dangerous fashion" lies in the way we fight our enemies in the Middle East. We fight them Western Fashion in the expectation that they'll reciprocate or respond in the same manner as civilized westerners would who lived in a unified nation-state.

Can you imagine that the American Revolution would have ever started if a "federal constitution" had been proposed at the outset of the resistance effort instead of a "colonial confederacy" under the Articles of Confederation?

The USA didn't have a "federal army" until after the Civil War... before then, each colony had its' own army/militia.

And the USA is currently demanding the dismemberment of militias in Iraq and training a "federal army"... isn't that simply NUTS???

 
At 11/20/2006 12:15 PM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

Brooke- Ah to be young, foolish and thinking yourself invulnerable! Reality bites, or in this case, trips you up! Growing up can make one sadder, but wiser and healthier!

tmw

 
At 11/20/2006 12:37 PM, Blogger Elmer's Brother said...

----- waiting to respond until the ladies shoe expert Duhkkky makes a comment

 
At 11/20/2006 12:53 PM, Anonymous Seth said...

Back in the 1970s I had a girlfriend who, keeping up with the Joneses, insisted on wearing those idiotic platform shoes disco'ers wore back then.

(And me an Emerson, Lake and Palmer kind of guy who actually owned and wore a "Disco Sucks" tee shirt)

Whenever we went anyplace, I had to be ready to catch her as she lost her footing, which happened more than a few times. :-)

 
At 11/20/2006 2:10 PM, Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

Well Elmer, I would expect you'd defer to incompetent Secretary of State and shoe fetishist Condominium Rice for an opinion.

The right wings beloved useless twit is the Imeleda heir apparent after all.

 
At 11/20/2006 3:57 PM, Blogger cube said...

I survived platforms in the '70's too. I'll never go back.

 
At 11/20/2006 4:20 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

I'm glad I don't have to wear them but six-inch stilettos are undeniably attractive on the right set of legs.

 
At 11/20/2006 4:44 PM, Blogger nanc said...

a.c. - you rascal, you!

 
At 11/20/2006 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. Take a look on my shoes
Marina (from France)

 
At 11/20/2006 5:46 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Gayle,
When I dress up, I wear open-toed wedgies

That's my idea of dressing up, too--if you can pry me out of my SAS walking-shoes. In fact, my SAS walking-shoes and loafers are the only pairs of closed-toes shoes I have. I stroll out into the snow in open-toed shoes.

I do, however, have one wonderful pair of two-inch, stack heels--Red Cross. I've had them since at least 1981, and they still show no sign of wear.

I've given up on the spike heels. But when I was a principal, I wore them quite a bit. Were they comfortable? Not really, but they did give my appearance a polished look.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I stand nearly 5'10", so height isn't something that has ever concerned me.

Being as short as I am (5'1") has been a pain when it comes to fashion.

 
At 11/20/2006 5:48 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

TMW,
Right now my daughter "loves" her stilletos and other high heels. I'm waitting for the tumble!

Well, my mother warned me about those platform shoes. I didn't listen.

Nanc,
now, nothing taller than about an inch and one-half. comfort all the way.

Somewhere I read about how high heels also throw out the spine's alignment. With the "wrong" shoes, both the feet and the backbone talk back to us.

 
At 11/20/2006 5:51 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Brooke,
I don't even own a pair of dress shoes!

Then, you don't have to worry about putting dangerous shoes on your feet. ;)

Cube,
I survived platforms in the '70's too. I'll never go back.

Why did we ever think that we HAD to wear them?

 
At 11/20/2006 5:54 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Duck,
The right wings beloved useless twit is the Imeleda heir apparent after all.

I've got news for you....At heart, most women are Imeldas when it comes to footwear. Different shoes for every outfit and all that.

I'm not sure that this penchant is a sign of capitalism.

 
At 11/20/2006 5:55 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Farmer,
I predict "heel-less" shoes will be the rage in Paris in the Spring of '07... and Podiatrists dealing with "hammer- toes" will add $10 billion to federal Medicare/Medicaid expenses by 2020.

And not just hammer toes. Bunions too!

 
At 11/20/2006 5:58 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Farmer,
Of course the real height of "dangerous fashion" lies in the way we fight our enemies in the Middle East.

Shoes as a metaphor for how we've waged this "just war"? Well, maybe, though I didn't have that metaphor in mind when I posted this article.

We could extend the metaphor to "feet of clay," too. ;)

 
At 11/20/2006 6:00 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

MarinaMode,
No extreme platforms in that collection you've posted.

 
At 11/20/2006 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ducky

When did you trade in your platform shoes. Let me guess platform shoes and bhurkas do not go together

 
At 11/20/2006 6:12 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Seth,
Back in the 1970s I had a girlfriend who, keeping up with the Joneses, insisted on wearing those idiotic platform shoes disco'ers wore back then....

Whenever we went anyplace, I had to be ready to catch her as she lost her footing, which happened more than a few times.


I tripped so many times in my platforms that I should have given them up long before that fateful day when I fell off one as I descended the steps at my parents' house. And when the family doc saw the shoes, he shook his head in disbelief as he thought I had more sense than to wear dangerous footwear.

But I had so loved platform shoes that I had two identical pairs. And they were expensive! I had to chuck that second pair without even so much as one wearing.

Crusader,
six-inch stilettos are undeniably attractive on the right set of legs

No doubt--until one breaks her leg trying to show off.

Beak,
I am trying to remember who made the 12 pound sequined gown. I do remember it sold to my astonishment.

I vaguely remember reading about that gown. Who in her right mind would wear such a thing?

Elmer's Brother,
waiting to respond until the ladies shoe expert Duhkkky makes a comment

Bwahahahaha! Duck did weigh in and take a jab at Condoleeza Rice. I note that he didn't take a jab at Nancy Pelosi, whose every outfit has been critiqued by the fashion police.

 
At 11/20/2006 6:31 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Beak (to Duck),
When did you trade in your platform shoes. Let me guess platform shoes and bhurkas do not go together

You should've posted a spew alert for that one!

Burka and platform shoes would be haram. Might expose an ankle. Hehehe.

 
At 11/20/2006 6:58 PM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

My daughter's former semi boyfriend works at One Thousand Steps, shoe store, they worship shoes together! Ugh, I can think of better things to do with my time!
And yes, every woman is Imelda Marcos at heart.

tmw
I won't tell you how many colors of one particular style I have...lalalalalalalala!

 
At 11/20/2006 7:28 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

TMW,
I won't tell you how many colors of one particular style I have

When I find a shoe which fits, I always buy at least two pairs. ;)

 
At 11/20/2006 8:40 PM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

It'sa wonderful open toed slide I got for $7 bucks a pair at Wal-Mart, Nanc probably knows the ones, 1 1/4 inch heel in light green, light blue, red, taupe, heh, they are comfortable and go with jeans, skirts and dresses. And great for hot weather! I may wear fur socks in the winter when I get to AR!

tmw

 
At 11/20/2006 9:21 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

TMW,
My foot is hard to fit, so I always have to shell out the bucks for good shoes. Even slides!

But one good thing....I'm easy on my shoes, so they last forever.

 
At 11/20/2006 9:57 PM, Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11/20/2006 9:58 PM, Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

Steel toe 18-eye Doc Marten boots. Slip resistant soles so you don't spill yourself when you curb stomp a leftist.

 
At 11/20/2006 10:11 PM, Blogger nanc said...

i do love shoes and believe you should have at least four pair for every outfit...and i do love slides, but not the between the toe kind - OUCH!

 
At 11/20/2006 10:12 PM, Blogger nanc said...

beamish? little spiky slides will also do the trick if one is a good shot...

 
At 11/20/2006 10:15 PM, Blogger Obob said...

Me, i decided to go back to China and I bind me feet. It's fun. As a teacher I can claim it as a cultural experience. I tried the platform and found out it clashed with my man-bag.

 
At 11/20/2006 11:06 PM, Blogger Elmer's Brother said...

oh snap Duhkkky you got me there...I guess I'll just have to run off in some kind of commenting disgrace now....as kuhnkat would say

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

YOU PODIATRIC CHALLENGED MORON!

 
At 11/20/2006 11:15 PM, Blogger nanc said...

i would say plucky is an expert on shoes as he's always got a foot in his mouth.

 
At 11/21/2006 2:02 AM, Blogger Pim's Ghost said...

AOW--thanks for posting this, and I mean it. Bless your heart! Now I'm a clutz and I mangled my knee last summer while running around in my Birks at home. But my feet are SOOO bad that I can't take wearing the shoes I like out much. Other than my Birkenstock boots! Nice and comfy. Those heels in my "Uncovered Meat" protest are my favorites at the moment, have been worn once and took two days to recover from.

Gayle--the grass is always greener, ain't it? My man is 6'7" so I just gave up. It was quite freeing really, knowing that no matter what everyone just looked short next to him. Besides, us teeny tiny chicks in giant shoes in person don't look tall, we just look like we're trying too hard. Pics are one thing. Real life is different. I can barely find clothes in the grown-ups section....LOL

 
At 11/21/2006 6:33 AM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

AoW- I'm really blessed, not that far from me is a wonderful, Christian owned shoe store! They have everything, in every color and about everysize! All the ladies are Christians, and the prices are so good, if I told you'd swear I was lying! I got a pair of Spainish dress boots, genuine suede leather on sale for $14.99! My bragging shoes, the red Italian numbers? $25.99 on sale, matching purse, $26.99! I can find a pair to go with anything! If you're ever in Melbourne, Fla. ask for Ladies House of Shoes, they have a whole walking shoe dept. and I've seen gorgeous shoes up tp 18's!
Good morning, G*D bless and Maranatha!

tmw

 
At 11/21/2006 7:51 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Pim's Ghost,
I mangled my knee last summer...

Nothing like knee problems to put an end to one's career in heels. I had meniscus repair (the "Michael Jordan" surgery) in 2000 and couldn't manage heels for nearly four years. Just as I was able to wear heels again, BAM! I got rear-ended at a stop sign. So I'm back to my flats again.

my feet are SOOO bad that I can't take wearing the shoes I like out much.

Last year, I was having foot problems. But I found a medical-massage therapist. She straightened out my foot problems in a matter of weeks. The podiatrist wanted to operate, but now I don't need any such procedure.

 
At 11/21/2006 7:54 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

TMW,
You are indeed blest! I can't find any shoes to fit under $75, and usually the cost is double that.

Not so long ago, I bought some running shoes on sale. And what was the result? Bunions within 6 months. Those bunions were directly caused by a heavy seam on the inside of the shoes. I chucked the shoes and got a massage therapist. In just a few weeks, no more bunions.

 
At 11/21/2006 7:59 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Mr. Beamish,
Slip resistant soles so you don't spill yourself when you curb stomp a leftist.

Important to take safety precautions!

Nanc,
little spiky slides will also do the trick if one is a good shot

Spiky with steel taps on those heels. Those really do damage!

 
At 11/21/2006 8:00 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Nanc,
least four pair for every outfit

I coordinate my shoes to my purse--or is it coordinate my purse to my shoes? I can always find inexpensive purses, but never inexpensive shoes.

 
At 11/21/2006 8:01 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

O Bob,
I tried the platform and found out it clashed with my man-bag.

But the bag to match the shoes, not the other way around. ;)

 
At 11/21/2006 8:04 AM, Blogger nanc said...

i don't carry a purse - i've had a fanny pack since our last two were born 15+ years ago - you never know when a mother needs that extra hand...

besides, all i carry is my dl, bank card and some gum.

 
At 11/21/2006 8:16 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Nanc,
I've tried to pare down what I carry in my purse. But I have too much to tote!

 
At 11/21/2006 12:00 PM, Blogger Brooke said...

Nanc: Look for the fanny pack line in this! LOL!

 
At 11/21/2006 4:24 PM, Blogger nanc said...

heaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy - mine's basic black, wonder where i could get a shiny one???

 
At 11/23/2006 10:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you think heels are bad, try pointe shoes. If you fall off pointe, you will twist your ankle!

What ladies will do in the name of fashion is amazing! :) If only we could channel that sort of dedication elsewhere...

-A.M.

 
At 11/23/2006 10:23 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Hello, A.M.!
You would know all about pointe shoes! ;)

What ladies will do in the name of fashion is amazing! :) If only we could channel that sort of dedication elsewhere...

A similar statement applies to the rabid fans of PlayStation.

 
At 11/24/2006 10:41 AM, Blogger Pim's Ghost said...

The best part is that I still admire and buy the darned things! I wear them once, or to be silly in videos or such.

 

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