When I get involved in a book or a film, my first question is always, “What about the clothes?” I love period pieces; I am a lover of the BBC Masterpiece Theater melodramas, particularly those from the 1970s with such stars as Diana Rigg and Jeremy Brett. The stories are fascinating, the dialogue excellent, but for me, it is almost always about the clothing. I study every button and flounce. I look at the tailoring to see if it is perfect. Hats, gloves, small bags, shoes . . . nothing escapes my scrutiny. Several years ago, I read a fascinating article about how Victorian clothing for women was all about keeping them constrained. I knew about corsets and of course, long, almost unmanageable skirts with voluminous petticoats beneath, but one thing I was surprised to read is that women in these times wore shoes that were a size too small. Of course, we assume they did this in order to appear to have tiny feet, but the article I read (I have not had any luck finding it again, but if I do, I will post it) was written by a feminist who posited that in fact, the shoes were too tight and too small in order to keep women from taking long, quick strides. Women were meant to take small, dainty steps, and the shoes forced them to do this. But she took it further. She supposed that the shoes were created by men for women for the purpose of keeping them close to home and under control. I had to think about this. At first, it sounded ridiculous. But then I went into my closet and put on a pair of shoes that I cannot wear because they are so painful. I kept them on my feet for an hour, just walking around the house, and I realized that there was no way I could keep them on, and certainly I could not wear them out of the house to run errands. Are shoes something that can be considered positively diabolical? Look at the shoes some of our modern celebrities wear. Lady Gaga teeters out on stage in 10-inch platforms shaped like claws. Women wear gorgeous designer heels as high as 5 inches, knowing that they make our legs look better. It certainly does slow us down. And the top shoe designers are men. There are women who will wear anything for fashion; as we age, we become more sensible and realize that perhaps comfort is the way to go. But I never, until I read this article, considered ladies’ shoes a means of restricting their freedom. Now when I watch a film about the Victorian era, I will have one more thing to watch for: how do the women walk?
Posted by: cialci | October 23, 2012
Walk a Half-Step in Her Shoes
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