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For the Love of Shoes

Food, shelter, and clothing; these are the three basic needs for any human. Within the subject of clothing falls the category of shoes. Many people view shoes as a mere necessity, granted there are tribes of indigenous peoples, worldwide, who have never worn shoes, but for the majority, they are a necessity. They have developed through the ages either to serve a purpose, or to serve as a status symbol. Ancient civilizations created shoes such as flip-flop style sandals out of necessity. However, as villages grew to cities and the people became pided by status, the shoes became more elaborate.

As time progressed, so did the styles, and the ideals of what was sexually pleasing. In ancient China, the process would begin at around age three, creating "lotus" foot. The most pleasing was no more than 3" in length, and the process involved broken bones, a lifetime of problems, inability to stand without help. This barbaric tradition was reserved for the rich, but was later outlawed. In Europe, a similar procedure was done, to a lesser degre.&np;

In Europe, around the time of the Renaissance, people became more enamored with their personal presentation, and shoes of the time followed suit. Royalty and Nobles were quick to jump on the latest bandwagon such as Chopine style shoes, a dreadfully horrid design for shoes that involved a raised platform, without a heel; apparently, the style has tried to make a comeback. They did serve a minor purpose of aiding the wearer in keeping their skirts out of the mud and muck as they traversed the roads.

During the Baroque and Rococo periods more stylishly heeled shoes for both men and women were developed.  Again, the shoes were useful in salvaging dresses and clothing from mud, they also became the pattern for more modern footwear enjoyed today.

Skipping along into the future… 

Today’s society is not much different than yesterday’s, with regard to shoes, their need, and the status symbol of some brands. The fashion industry has become one of the largest venues of worldwide domination. What a person wears can make or break them in certain social settings or groups. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the shoe industry. Names such as Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Prada, and Valentino grace the red carpets of Hollywood.  Their shoes sell for upwards of $1000 or more. Occasionally one could hit the sale rack at Nordstrom and score with a pair of last year’s shoes for $500…if you are lucky enough to wear a size 11 or below.

Ah yes, herein lies the greatest form of discrimination the world has ever seen. Women who stand proudly above the average height of 5'8" and wear shoes sizes beginning with 11 and reaching up to a size 15, some even larger than that. These proud Amazons of the modern world find themselves scouring the planet for simple necessities. Clothing is painful enough. Average and petite women complain that they cannot find anything to fit them, garnering looks glowering with an “are you kidding me” ire. Sorry girls, you can hem things up, but once a finished product comes out of a factory, it cannot be let out.

Shoes present an entirely different set of issues. Many women enjoy wearing a nice pair of dressy shoes out to dinner or to Church on Sunday mornings. They enjoy dressing up, shucking the attire of the daily grind, and transforming into beautiful swans ready to impress others out on the town. A typical Saturday night for most women includes picking the perfect outfit, stunning shoes, makeup, hair, and accessories. For women with larger feet…the shoes become a painful reminder of their stature.

Let us begin with picking the shoes at a store, if they are lucky enough to find a store carrying their size. First, the lady (who does not have funds to pay $1000 for a pair of shoes) will go into said store, briskly walking past the beautiful racks of designer shoes all size 10 and below. They saunter to the back of the store where perchance there is a tiny display with approximately three styles in her size. Mind you, there will be the styles in perhaps one or two colors, that’s it, end of story. One style will be the God-forsaken old woman style orthopedic pump that comes in an awful shade of nude, that’s out. Next will be a classic pump in navy or black, but it is more suited for a business suit at the office. Then there is the third choice. It is the distant cousin of a beautifully crafted heeled sandal, however, this one appears to be designed by and ancient person with the design taste of dung beetle. Our lady begrudgingly chooses the pump, and looks at the boxes for her size. Typically, she wears a size 13 W, today however, she lucks up and they have one pair of regular 13's in stock. Anxiously she grabs the box, and sits uncomfortably on the miniature stools provided. She then pulls one shoe out of the box, crosses the corresponding foot over the knee and attempts to insert Tab A into Slot B. The toes slip easily through the leather, or extremely well made wannabe leather, then comes the heel…our lady scrunches her toes up as tightly as possible in a desperate attempt to fold her foot in half, slipping the heel into the back of the shoe. Perhaps the Chinese had something with the whole foot-binding thing. With a deep breath and a prayer, she releases her toes, and her foot is in! Oh, these are actually kind of cute, in a grotesque, torturous way. Our heroine, psyched that she actually got the shoe on, attempts to stand up. At this point, all her weight shifts into the shoe with its unforgiving leather upper. The toes gasp for breath, the heel shrieks in agony, and our lady sits with a resounding sigh, knowing they will not do.

She leaves this store empty handed, grabs her trusty smart phone, and frantically searches for women’s plus size shoes. Instantly 3-4 store names pop up, unfortunately none of the stores are anywhere nearby. Then, she sees one more entry, a store 20 miles away, SCORE! Hurriedly she hits the road on a quest to procure shoes for the night.  Entering the store, a specialty boutique for plus sized women, she’s not quite plus sized, but her feet are. She browses the store for the shoe section, again tucked far in the back. She makes her way to the displays a notices a slightly larger selection of shoes, some cute, some ugly, but that is typical. She peruses the selections and finds a nice pair of heeled sandals, much nicer than the previous store’s offering. Looking at the shoe boxes, she finds a pair marked 13W, double score! Again, she lowers her frame to the little bench, and begins the arduous task of testing the shoes.  She slips her toes into the leather straps, the ball of her foot sitting easily on the sole of the shoe. Next, she finesses the heel strap over her heel, easy enough. Lastly, she buckles the shoe on and stands… they fit! Well, sort of. There is a slight hanging over of padding, like a muffin top bulging over the waistband of a pair of jeans. However, they will work. Delightedly she pays the $100 for the slightly ill fitted shoes, and walks out the door with a renewed bounce to her men’s sneakered step!

So, to conclude this diatribe of shoe history and adventure, why is it that women of larger foot proportion are so tortured by designers? Why is it they cannot walk into a local department store and pay $20 for a decent pair of cute shoes that may only last the season, but hey, that’s all she really wants. To be in style for a short time, instead of being force to purchase higher priced shoes that she must then use kid-gloves and guard with her life. Let’s face it, beautiful, affordable shoes are a commodity for any woman wearing a size 11 and up.  Most companies will produce only 2-3 styles, with limited colors to sell. To add insult to injury, they will produce such a limited amount of these shoes that women will engage in arguments with store managers, and will even have to fight off Drag Queens to secure the goods.

Dear Designers,

Please hear us!! IF YOU MAKE THEM, WE WILL BUY!!! But understand, not all of us want a pair of shoes that cost 2 mortgage payments. Not all of us want to buy shoes that we will be afraid to wear outside; for fear they might be scuffed. We want shoes; we want selection, color, and styles as varied as the cities and towns in which we live. We want what every other fashion forward woman wants…to be able to shop in stores where we can try on the product before purchasing, walking around admiring the look and feel before we buy a pair that will give us blisters the sizes of small islands on the backs of our heels.  We want as much choice as other women, the petite women and average women to which you cater. This plea does not apply only to dress shoes; we want flip-flops, sneakers, house shoes, and heels. We want to be on an equal playing field in the fashion industry.

Comments  

0 # Joerg Estelmann 2014-07-01 05:12
Excellent article, Amanda... As usual. Thanks a bunch!
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0 # christina 2014-08-31 03:41
We have come along way and the sizes are slowly getting larger but they are not moving fast enough. I'm tired. when I was 13 years old, I wore a size 13 shoe. At the time, I couldn't find a decent and affordable pair of shoes anywhere. I was forced to wear men's sneakers. Its been that way ever since. I aim 26 years old now and I'm happy to see that there are more styles and sizes in 12, 13, 14, and even 15- but I'm a size 17 now. There has to be a reason for this struggle because I'm exhausted. I cant be the only one with this problem.
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