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Ladies Who Wedge

Vivia Chen

August 26, 2010

Kate spadePostscript: I ran over to the Kate Spade store on lower Fifth Avenue--and the Halle is no longer in stock. I did try on other wedge pumps. They looked adorable, but run very narrow. Not comfortable, I'm sorry to report.

I swore no more shoe articles--at least until Labor Day had passed. But I would be derelict in my duty not to cover this one: The New York Times proclaimed on Tuesday--in the "A" section, no less--that the new It-Shoe for women aspiring to power is a three-inch wedge by Kate Spade.

Apparently, that $300 shoe (The"Halle," on left) was caught on the feet of former Davis Polk & Wardwell associate Reshma Saujani, who's challenging congresswoman Carolyn Maloney in the New York Democratic primary.

I doubt that NYT writer Susan Dominus intended to focus on Saujani's shoes when she started her interview. Thankfully, Dominus was appropriately self-conscious about asking the Yale Law School graduate about her footwear: "I know. We, the news media, are not supposed to ask female candidates about their hairstyle or their choice of pantsuits over skirts or their shoes. It is irrelevant. It is trivializing. It is sexist."

But ask she did, and Saujani couldn't have been cooler about the whole thing, which I find refreshing. “They’re the Kate Spade wedges,” she told the NYT, seemingly without hesitation. “They’re these politician-woman shoes.” Turns out that she was clued in to the shoes by "someone who worked for Hillary Rodham Clinton."

The big virtue of this shoe is that it's very comfy. "Despite the three-inch wedge heels on her black patent leather shoes, after hours of walking, Ms. Saujani, a former hedge-fund general counsel and a successful political fund-raiser, seemed as calmly cheerful as she did at the outset of the day."

It also gives Saujani a nice hip look that separates her from the pack. Says the NYT:

There was something distinctly next-generation about the sight of Ms. Saujani, in a red dress just above the knee, legs bare atop her three-inch wedges. Ms. Saujani’s comfort level with fashion, with showing off her own good looks, could be considered progress--the latest evolution for female candidates, who first wore versions of male drag, then graduated to the salmon or aqua skirt suits that seemed sold out of a catalog distributed exclusively to female members of Congress.

Trouble is that every time a woman in a conservative field (I'd put both law and politics in that camp) decides to be a bit fashion-forward, she seems to risk compromising her credibility. (If you don't know already, a woman's credibility is easily compromised.) In Saujani's situation, it comes down to whether voters will take her seriously. "Those hip heels run the risk of undercutting Ms. Saujani’s credibility with the people she needs to convince of her gravitas (a wedge issue, even?)," says NYT.

And what about women lawyers--is it also risky to wear the wedge to a law firm interview? No one will say that the wedge is a career-killer, like flip-flops, Birkenstocks, or Crocs. But some do think they are a bit clunky, if not funky.

"They must be more comfortable," says one lawyer dismissively. "Not feminine and traditional enough for me." A shoe aficionado, she sniffs that she doesn't recall seeing any wedge shoes at Manolo Blahnik.

But others say that the wedge can find a home in a corporate setting: "I think they can be terrifically stylish if worn with the right outfit. Classic, polished versions go with just about everything," says one female lawyer who often sports Gucci loafers. "On the other hand, the rope-soled, espadrille, or strappy sandal versions are probably too casual for a law office."

My opinion: Go wild and break out those wedges. If they actually manage to combine comfort and style--not an easy mix in a three-inch-high shoe--they're bound to boost your confidence. And isn't having confidence at least half of the battle in the career game?

Tomorrow, I'm going to check out these shoes myself at the Kate Spade store near me--assuming there isn't already a run on them. I'll let you know if my feet feel the power.

In the meantime, what do you think--would you wedge or not wedge at your next interview?

Related article: "Little Toe Peep"

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email The Careerist's chief blogger Vivia Chen at VChen@alm.com.

Photo: Kate Spade

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I actually have these shoes. They are not as comfy as they claim. They have an odd way of slipping out of your feet mid-walk which can be quite embarassing and generally not a good look. So I beg to differ.

I've heard so much about Kate Spade. There isn't a single branch were i live, and so far the reviews from friends were too good. Thank you for not making me feel the great loss in not having them. As for me, i love my Prada's :)

If I were interviewing, I wouldn't wedge as I don't think that wedges are attractive, feminine, or formal enough to wear for a job interview.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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