Thursday, January 26, 2012

shoe museum and some laboutins

christian laboutin, 2007, paris
i never got to toronto while my sister-in-law, who is writing a dissertation on shoes and french literature, was living there. i really, really wanted to visit the bata shoe museum.  one of the big regrets of my life is missing the window of opportunity to visit with the extremely brilliant emily.

then ingrid posted this great article on high heels from collector's weekly--sex, power, and high heels: an interview with shoe curator elizabeth semmelhack.  i read this article twice, all the way through.  i love semmelhack's feminist discourse that volleys back to her obvious devotion to the lines and sensuousness of a beautiful shoe.

shoes are wierd, no?

here's one of my favorite passages:

For example, in 2000, the “New York Times” wrote, “High heels are women’s power tools.” What’s problematic about that is that the power that is supposedly wielded by women in high heels is sexual power. And so it seems like what wins for women in the culture is not the Harvard education that you have and how many cases you correctly argue in court, it’s whether or not when you walk into a room, you make all the men want to drop to their knees.

For me that’s very problematic, because if the high heel is an accessory of female power—and if the definition of female power is sexual—that power has a very short shelf life. Is a 90-year-old woman in spike heels powerful or silly? Is a 12-year-old girl in spike heels powerful or inappropriate? So at what point is a woman allowed to be powerful? If her power is based simply on her sexuality, then that’s a very limited amount of time that women are permitted to be powerful.

Obviously, there are many, many different types of shoes, and even in one woman’s closet, she might have fabulous high-designer shoes, a pair of sneakers, and a pair of Prada bowling shoes. So it’s not that the high heel was making the only social statement in the 20th century. It’s just that the statement that high heels make is extremely complex and, by the end of the 20th century, it’s become intimately related to the construction of femininity and socioeconomic standing.

what are your favorite shoes, and why?  and where do you "stand" (ha ha) on the issue of the high heel?


p.s.--we might be conflicted about stilettos, but who on earth could have a problem with a warm, fancy pair of designer tights?  go leave a comment on this post to win a pair.

today's legwear:  dark blue jeans, a borrowed pair of black diabetic socks from christian's bottom drawer (omg--diabetic socks?  they're the best to make you feel all supported and comfy of a frigid january day.)

looking forward:  to sandals and bare legs.  some day.

inspiration:  a little kiss of red on the inside of a tall, thin heel.  & gabrielle hamilton's blood, bones, and butter.


  1. I have mixed feelings on heels in general (as a feminist specifically) but being 5'2" full time can be a challenge, and sometimes being at everyone else's level is a refreshing change.

  2. I've always wished I could wear a heel of significance without yowling in pain. Most of the time high heeled shoes are way too narrow for my block-like feet. And in my 20s when I wore a skirt, I usually wore combat boots or Doc Martens. 'Twas the pre-Sex in the City era, after all. I think the boot doesn't get enough attention, however. I do love a good boot.