Miss Meghan, Fashion Advice

August 4, 2007


You know I am always, always talking about the power and confidence of a Stiletto. Apparently the Wall Street Journal agrees:

"Heelpolitik: The Power of the Stiletto

Why Female Executives Keep
A Pair for Clashes and Crises;
Ferragamos to Be Fired In
August 2, 2007; Page D8

Look under many a powerful woman's desk and you'll find a serious pair of heels. Whether they're on her feet or tucked in a drawer, the shoes' key attribute is a three-inch spike that, if redirected, could put your eye out.


A pair of black Richard Tyler pumps -- pointy-toed, matte leather, very skinny heels -- live under the desk of Dana Thayer, senior vice president of marketing for Chelsea Piers, a sports and entertainment complex in Manhattan. She pulls them out for important meetings. "They turn me into this different person," Ms. Thayer says.

Amy Swift, who runs a women's business incubator called Women Who Launch, opts for a pair of beige snakeskin Jimmy Choos that "have an all-business quality to them." She calls them "quiet but fierce."

Flats are this year's much-hyped shoe trend, with sales of comfy shoes shooting skyward, according to retailers such as Nordstrom and Zappos.com. But those friendly flats tend to disappear at key moments -- the biggest meetings, confrontations and transactions. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, 77% of women wear heels to special occasions, which probably explains why Zappos still sells more designer heels than flats, at a substantial ratio of 65-35.

"High heels indicate power," says Stuart Weitzman, designer of many a power heel. "For some reason, it's a natural instinct for human beings."

This is partly a factor of height. At 5'9½ in bare feet, a pair of heels leaves Kristin Bentz, who runs a fashion-investment blog, towering over many men in a room. "I totally use the shoes for the intimidation factor -- for women and for men," she says.

Yet, as much as I'd like to argue that this is all about the added height, I'm afraid it's not. High heels are sexy. They offer an inherent contradiction: They make us more fragile, but conquering them to stride alongside men in their sensible flats creates mystique.

In an elevator at Lehman Brothers, Ms. Bentz's former employer, a couple years ago, a senior executive stared at Ms. Bentz's chocolate-brown crocodile four-inch pointy-toe pumps and asked, "Where do the toes go?" she recalls with relish.

The empowerment of women in the office has actually opened the door for sexier looks, even in conservative offices like the insurance brokerage where Darla Brunner works in Los Angeles. High heels were once less acceptable because of their alluring connotations, says Ms. Brunner. They were a distraction. But "in this day and age when it is more accepted that females are capable in the business world, those same high heels now command more business respect," she says.

Even if sex is still power, it must be carefully constrained in the office. Step across the line to blatantly sexy, and you risk moving into the dumb zone, or worse. Hence, Christian Louboutin's red-soled heels, with their hint of bondage, are best left out of the monthly budget meeting."

Read the rest of the article here.