Even for someone who is used to wearing stilettos and monster platforms, the shoes for spring present a special challenge. You just can't escape the fact that they are taller, more outrageous, involving a great deal more design and expense but also, it must be said, a great many more opportunities to humiliate yourself. Who pictures herself on a gurney? And how do you explain it?
"It's not like you broke your leg skiing in St. Moritz," Candy Pratts Price, the editor of Style.com, said the other night. "That's a good story. But 'I fell off my platforms'?" Price smirked.
The desire to be taller, Amazonian, seems to fit with a society that likes things pumped up - lips and SUVs, for example - but that is only a conjecture. A lot of women, in truth, don't need a McLuhan-like explanation of why they want the new shoes.
Lisa Anastasia Reisman, who is blond and tan, was in Barneys recently, shopping with girlfriends. She had on a pair of jeans and an aqua sweater with black peace symbols on it. She strapped on a pair of 5-inch, or almost 13-centimeter, Dolce & Gabbana platforms with little flowers embroidered on the sides and stood up.
"Now I'm tall," said Reisman, who is 5 feet 3, or about 1.6 meters, as she set off in the direction of the Lanvin display.
Then there is Esther Chetrit, a mother of five. Earlier this month, Chetrit was at Bergdorf Goodman. She had already been to Saks Fifth Avenue, where she bought a pair of Yves Saint Laurent heels - "the bondage ones," she said - and now she was on the plumped cushions at Bergdorf, in her jeans and bare feet, looking down at a pair of python and cork platforms from Oscar de la Renta and another style, from Azzedine Alaïa, with black patent leather straps and a curving raffia- covered heel.
"I'm only looking for platforms now," Chetrit said. "I feel much more balanced in them." She studied a pair of clubhouse green Gucci shoes with a stiletto heel and a 1-inch platform. Besides, she added, "I need to be taller than my kids when I yell at them." She shrugged. "I have big kids."
And how tall is she? Chetrit gave one of those great deadpan New York looks. "I don't know anymore," she said.
Store executives and sales clerks, as well as outfits like the NPD Group, which tracks clothing and accessory sales, say that more women are buying higher heels this spring. Perilous or not, some of the highest shoes quickly sold out, the salesmen at Barneys and Bergdorf say. And before Chetrit left she put her name on a reorder list for the Alaïas. (They sell for $795.)
Novelty styles, like Balenciaga's towering silver gladiator stilettos, which require the control of a ballerina, are among the hardest to find. And the shoes will get even bigger for autumn. Balenciaga's suede platforms top 7 inches.
Four weeks ago Kimberly Oser, a public relations executive at Barneys, received a call from a saleswoman at the store, alerting her to a new shipment of Christian Louboutin platforms called Miss Marple.
"When I got there, five women were buzzing around the same pair," said Oser, who bought the shoes, for $710. Later she saw the same style on eBay for $1,500.
Louboutin said the style, among his tallest, sold out in Paris. "And you don't typically see French women in shoes like that," he said, speculating that such shoes have touched off some sort of tribal feeling among women. "They don't want to be the smallest member of their group," he said.
When I was at Barneys, with my peep-toe Lanvins, I took one off and placed it on a table. People came by and admired it as if it were a piece of Zulu sculpture. One guy started to grab it to show the woman he was with.
Anyway, as I was saying, I had this idea to wear the Lanvins to lunch at Michael's. The place would be jammed. As I would find out in a few minutes, Joan Rivers was there. So were Anna Wintour, Ralph Lauren and Tina Brown.
At Avenue of the Americas and 55th Street I got out of a taxi. Taking the R subway train there was out of the question: Not only are the heels high and slanted, but they also taper to a point the size of a nail head. I had thought to take along a pair of ballet flats, which many bright women in New York on their way to a date or a party have no trouble rationalizing. It's like having a limousine without the expense and bother.
I mounted the curb. Now 6 feet tall, I suddenly felt less invincible than wretchedly vulnerable, to gross stares and gusts of wind. Michael's, barely half a block away, seemed a journey of several miles.
I clumped toward the big "Love" sculpture. I thought: "This won't do. Lunch will be over by the time I get there." Looking around - oh, what was the point! - I ducked behind a pillar and put on my ballet flats. Then I hurried on to Michael's, bolting past Wintour and the noontime crowd.
In other circumstances, like walking on the wall-to-wall at the office or at a party where I mostly stood, the Lanvins were actually comfortable, and I enjoyed my new height and the giddy looks of fright on the men in the office.
In reality you don't wear a pair of shoes like that if you carry a book bag and share trains with commuters. You invite looks of pity. Shoes like that serve a different purpose: seduction, fun, making men bark.
A friend of mine compared the shoes' glamorous constraint to wearing a tight Hedi Slimane suit to a party. "All you can do is lean at the bar," she said. "And make sure your drink comes with a straw."The above article is from The New York Times.
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