Friday, September 1, 2017

The strange power of fashion

I find it both interesting and rather disturbing to note a fashion statement which reveals very clearly some of the confusion there still exists among even the brightest and most obviously liberated of women in relation to their footwear.  I am not a historian of fashion, but it is obvious even to my untutored eyes that the very high heels all professional women now wear appear to be a statement of what is called power dressing, because it is in these circles where these high heels are usually accompanied by extremely elegant suits with very short, tight skirts, revealing as much leg as possible accentuated by the height of the heels. Rather incongruously the wearers remind me of girls from a Folies Bergère chorus line.  It is as though we are being sent two quite conflicting messages: the first, the ostensible one, the image of the successful woman in whatever career she has chosen, whether as a BBC journalist or a city banker, and the second, hidden beneath this one, a much more sexually explicit invitation of availability.

I remember some years back the uproar caused by an employee at Harrods being forced by the management to wear higher heels than she wanted to.  Now the height of heels has become so entrenched in what women feel they should be wearing to work that it would probably cause an equal outcry if somebody appeared on our TV screens wearing flat shoes.

This was driven home to me most forcibly when I observed that most down-to-earth BBC presenter, Clare Balding, sitting uncomfortably in the TV studio wearing the most ridiculously high-heeled shoes for somebody of her sturdy build.  I always think of her as striding through the countryside wearing gumboots or flat sensible shoes.  The same thought occurred to me when I saw the BBC announcer, Gaby Logan, at the recent World Athletics Championship tottering over to a screen in the most uncomfortable looking, but undoubtedly highly fashionable high heels I had ever seen.  It somehow seemed a sad example of women’s almost schizophrenic approach to fashion that, at an athletics meeting where all the young girls wear the most comfortable trainers they can possibly find, the BBC announcer commenting on the races felt compelled to wear the most inappropriate shoes.

I watch business women coming out of their offices, taking off their high heels, reaching into their bags and with relief putting on their trainers to make the journey home in comfort. For the working day they must have squeezed their toes into shoes which my chiropodist says are crippling more and more of their feet. What a sad indictment of women’s slavery to fashion, and something that at one level can almost be seen as mimicking a return to the days of bound feet in China!

As a postscript to this, I have just heard Alexandra Shulman, Ex-Editor of Vogue, talking on BBC Radio 4 this morning.  She said that wearing high heels for her is like “being a bit more in control.”  How interesting!

Finally, Ivanka Trump can apparently see nothing incongruous in squelching across storm-soaked grass in high heels from the aircraft when accompanying her husband on a flying visit to hurricane-battered Houston.




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