Ladies, it's time to kick off those sky-high heels. The fashion forecast calls for chunky and kitten heels. It must be official because even The Wall Street Journal is reporting on it:
On the spring runways--where perilous stilettos and platforms have ruled for seasons--designers such as Chloé, Stella McCartney and Valentino squashed, kitten-ized and gave chunky mod treatments to heels, resulting in truly cute (and truly comfortable) shoes.
Cute and comfy--is that what women professionals want in a shoe? Personally, I feel torn about the issue. Being petite, I've always counted on high heels or platforms to give me that extra three or four inch boost. At the same time, though, I've been a bit alarmed by the escalating heights of women's heels in recent years--particularly those by shoe designer Christian Louboutin, whose signature red-sole stilettos usually sport at least a five inch heel (see right). As any woman can tell you, teetering at such height is not only excruciating, but scary.
So shouldn't all women be celebrating that foot fashion is returning to sensibility?
Well, not every woman. Far from it. "Professional women divide into two tribes," explains Susan Scafidi, the director of Fordham's Fashion Law Institute. "Second-wave feminists who've metaphorically burned their high heels along with their bras, and third-wave women who embrace the option of towering over naysayers." Scafidi adds, "I'm firmly in the latter camp."
Indeed, wearing stilettos, rather than those low, sensible heels, has become accepted--maybe even expected--as part of the power look. But the question is how high can you wear them without looking like--well--another type of professional woman?
Corporette founder Kat Griffin, a former associate of Cahil Gordon, says "four-to five-inch heels are inappropriate for most professional women and most offices." However, the blogger of EverySixMinutes, a former associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, says female lawyers there favor Manolos, Jimmy Choos, Guccis and Louboutins, up to four-inches, though most wear three inch high heels.
But Scafidi, who zips around Fordham Law School in her five-inch Loubotin pumps, isn't so strict about the height limitation. For her, wearing high heels is not a matter of appropriateness or comfort; rather, it's all about power. "When I'm in heels, you can hear me coming," says Scafidi, adding that she likes "the elegance and authority of a polished black pump with a heel named after a weapon."
In fact, many women agree that a pair of high heels give them a sense of authority. "Heels make us feel confident," says EverySixMinutes.
But no one seems too excited about low heels or kitten heels (right). "The only kitten heels I like are the paws on a real kitten," says EverySixMinutes. "They make one seem insecure--afraid of the sex appeal of a high heel, but not confident enough to go for the comfortable flats." For Scafidi, high, high heels are the only way to go: "Why embrace mid-level mediocrity when you can soar to the heights, in footwear or in life?"
Readers, are you celebrating or mourning the demise of those towering high heels? How high is too high in your office?
Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.
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Photos: top (Louboutin slingback & platform); center (Ferragamo pump); bottom
(Sam Edelman peep-toe with kitten heel).